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26th May 2023
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Ed. Dept. shares AI recommendations
The U.S. Department of Education's Office of Educational Technology (OET) has published a new report which summarizes the opportunities and risks for artificial intelligence (AI) in teaching, learning, research and assessment. The report, entitled "AI and the Future of Teaching and Learning: Insights and Recommendations," addresses the clear need for sharing knowledge, engaging educators and communities, and refining technology plans and policies for AI use in education. It recognizes that AI can enable new forms of interaction between educators and students, help educators address variability in learning, increase feedback loops, and support educators. It also outlines risks associated with AI, including algorithmic bias challenges, and the importance of trust, safety, and appropriate guardrails to protect educators and students.
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Oregon to invest additional $300m in public schools
Legislative leaders in Oregon have announced an additional $300m investment in the state's public school system, bringing the total to $10.2bn over the next two years. The funding is less than the $10.3bn requested by K-12 school advocates, but it is a meaningful hike over the previously floated $9.9bn. The additional money could allow districts to keep class sizes low and add back or preserve some educator jobs. Lawmakers also proposed $140m to overhaul the way Oregon's youngest learners are taught to read. The funding would go toward grants for curriculum, materials, teacher training, and coaching that center on the science of reading.
States 'stepping up' against fentanyl dangers
Oregon has passed a bill that requires schools to educate students on the dangers of fentanyl. The bill, which has bipartisan support, requires the Oregon Health Authority, State Board of Education, and Alcohol and Drug Policy Commission to develop curriculum supplements that school districts must use. The materials will cover the potential risks involved in fentanyl use and the use of other synthetic opioids, and highlight laws in Oregon that provide legal immunity for people who seek treatment. At least three other states - Illinois, Texas and California - are considering similar legislation. Teen deaths from overdoses increased in 2020 and 2021, and overall population deaths from fentanyl have risen significantly since 2016.
Alabama Senate advances expansion of state scholarship program
Alabama senators have voted overwhelmingly to advance an expansion of the Alabama Accountability Act, a state program that provides scholarships funded by state tax credits for students to attend private K-12 schools. The legislation would raise the income cap for the scholarships from $55,500 for a family of four to $75,000, and gradually raise the cap on the tax credits that fuel the scholarships from $30m to $60m. The program gives people and companies income tax credits for donations to scholarship granting organizations. Eligible students can use the scholarships to attend a participating private school or to pay to transfer to another public school.
School construction and renovations 'a national concern'
In the context of New Jersey's struggling Schools Development Authority, a dedicated state body to secure money to repair old schools and build new ones, a report focuses on the potential solutions that educators and school finance experts have suggested across the country to tackle the staggering costs involved in renovations, particularly in underserved, overburdened urban districts that lack the property tax base to pay for such projects on their own. Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., has championed the issue, introducing the Rebuild America’s Schools Act, which would invest $100bn in need-based grants over the course of five years and $30bn in bond authority to high-poverty schools, and require state governments to publish databases on public school conditions. Education advocates however fear that states and local school districts are poorly equipped to tackle such an expansive and expensive challenge, as schools make up the second-largest chunk of public infrastructure spending after highways.
District disappointed as Fresno teachers vow strike
Over 1,000 teacher union members have agreed to give Fresno USD in California a September 29 deadline to reach a new contract deal. If the two parties don't reach an agreement, the Fresno Teachers Association – which represents over 4,000 teachers, nurses, social workers, and trades professionals – has vowed to take a strike authorization vote come October. The parties opened contract talks in November in advance of the current contract's expiration date of June 30. No agreement has been reached and tensions have been high as the union has accused the district of failing to provide an adequate response to their detailed plan to “reimagine education” in Fresno. The district meanwhile has been critical of the union for not adhering to its bargaining ground rules.
Strategies to improve bystander reporting in schools
A new toolkit from the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) and U.S. Secret Service details how schools can encourage improved sharing of safety concerns. The resource suggests five approaches for districts to improve bystander reporting; ensure confidentiality or anonymity and provide multiple reporting avenues, follow up on reports and be transparent about any actions taken in response, share public data about the impact of their reporting program, make reporting a part of daily school life by, for example using promotional materials and school events to remind students of their reporting options, and work to build a positive climate with strong student-staff relationships and where students and staff of all backgrounds feel “secure, important and valued.” Relatedly, a 2022 study by RAND Corp. found people are more likely to report school safety threats if schools use common communication strategies and accessible reporting options.
Open enrollment policies championed
According to EdChoice's March 2023 national survey data, 70% of parents with children in public schools favor open enrollment policies, while school districts often oppose such requirements. Open enrollment can provide an opportunity to attract new students, especially in the face of declining student populations caused by demographic changes or competition. The additional funds accompanying transfer students also helps districts, often small or rural, stay afloat. Jude Schwalbach, an education policy analyst at Reason Foundation and author of the report “Public Schools without Boundaries,” which analyzes every state's K-12 open enrollment policies, comments: "Ultimately, districts should embrace open enrollment as an important, straightforward school choice reform with wide-reaching benefits for the large number of students currently enrolled in traditional public schools."

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