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10th July 2024
Privacy, please: Education Dept. gives AI a hall pass with conditions
The U.S. Department of Education has released guidance called "Designing for Education with Artificial Intelligence: An Essential Guide for Developers" to ensure that artificial intelligence (AI)-driven innovations in schools are developed responsibly. The guidance recommends that educators work closely with vendors and tech developers to address the risks associated with AI. It emphasizes the importance of considering privacy, bias, and civil rights when implementing AI tools in schools. The guidance also highlights the need for educators to have the final say in AI recommendations and for developers to design products based on evidence-backed principles. Additionally, the guidance emphasizes the importance of protecting student privacy and being transparent about how AI-powered products are designed. The guidance is intended to shape the thinking of developers and school districts and does not impose any regulatory obligations. The report includes five key recommendations for vendors and educators, including designing with teaching and learning in mind, using evidence-backed principles, mitigating bias, protecting student privacy, and being transparent about product design. The guidance was developed through public listening sessions and input from various stakeholders.
Tennessee joins states allowing teachers to carry guns at school
Tennessee recently joined the growing number of states allowing teachers to carry guns at school. This strategy has gained popularity among Republican-led state legislatures as schools continue to face the threat of gun violence. While supporters argue that armed staff could respond to an active shooter within seconds, opponents believe that arming teachers would create more problems. The implementation of this policy varies across states, with training requirements ranging from 40 to 144 hours. A survey conducted by RAND Corp. found that 54% of educators believe arming teachers would make schools less safe. However, attitudes towards arming educators have evolved, with some supporters seeing it as a useful policy for schools that cannot afford school resource officers. The presence of armed officers on school grounds has also faced criticism for contributing to the criminalization and policing of students, particularly students of color.
Judge denies release of Covenant School shooter's writings citing security risk
A Tennessee judge has denied the release of the Covenant School shooter's writings, citing a potential security risk to the school. The ruling came in response to a lawsuit filed by several parties, including the National Police Association and Tennessee Firearms Association, seeking access to records related to the school shooting. The judge stated that immediate access to information must be balanced to safeguard the integrity of the legal system. The judge also mentioned that state law exceptions and statutes prevent the disclosure of materials related to school security. The shooter, Audrey Hale, had writings and artwork that were initially in the possession of her parents until they transferred ownership to the families of the victims. The judge ruled that no records held by the police department should be disclosed at this time. The court found that the shooter's writings and artwork would be related to school security and exempt from disclosure. The ongoing investigation into the shooting could result in future criminal action. The victims' families and the Covenant School argued that all the material and information held by the police department should be exempt from disclosure to prevent copycat attacks. Critics of the decision not to release the documents believe that the shooter's manifesto may reveal the motive behind the attack.
Colorado schools receive $11.4m in grants for vaping prevention
Colorado is using part of its $31.7m settlement with Juul Labs Inc. to fund vaping prevention programs in schools. A total of 21 school districts, seven charter schools, one cooperative education services board, and one youth residential treatment center in Colorado have been awarded $11.4m in grants over the next three years. The funding aims to educate and prevent vaping among students. The grants are part of a larger grant program focused on improving children's mental health. The smaller grants were announced by Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser. The grants will support various school districts, nonprofit organizations, and government entities in their efforts to combat vaping. The grants range from $36,181 to $273,870. Additionally, twelve nonprofit organizations and government entities received a total of $6m for vaping education and prevention programs. The grants will fund initiatives such as community engagement, youth substance use prevention, and peer-led programs. The funding will help address the issue of vaping among Colorado's youth and promote healthier choices.
Teacher uses therapy dog to help students heal
Ann Ott, a teacher at Osage High School, utilizes her therapy dog, Millie, to aid students in healing from traumatic experiences, drawing on her own comfort found in pets during childhood challenges. In various educational settings, animals are increasingly being recognized for their calming effects and ability to teach empathy and responsibility. For instance, in Des Moines, Greg Barord incorporates marine life into his biology classes to provide a tranquil environment for students. Similarly, Kyle Harris, the principal of Virgil Grissom Elementary School, and Connie Ryan, a fourth-grade teacher in Osage, involve dogs and a bearded dragon in their daily school routines to enhance learning atmospheres and support student well-being. These efforts are proving transformative, offering comfort and fostering life skills among students. Ann Ott reflects on the impact, stating, “It has been one of the most rewarding things I’ve done in my nearly 31 years in education.”
What would a world without property taxes look like?
Efforts are underway in several states, including Nebraska, to eliminate or reduce property taxes as a source of school funding. Nebraska Gov. Jim Pillen wants to replace property taxes with increased sales tax collections. While the details of the proposal have not been released, Pillen plans to push the issue during a special session of the legislature. Other states, such as North Dakota, Michigan, and Texas, are also considering property tax elimination plans. Finance experts caution that eliminating property taxes would be a dramatic step without precedent and could have far-reaching consequences. Critics argue that property taxes disproportionately burden low-income areas and rely on faulty valuations. Alternatives to property taxes include circuit breakers, improved property value assessments, and increased state funding for schools. The effects of eliminating property taxes would be novel and require further analysis.
Illinois school districts face budget crunch as corporate tax revenue dips
Illinois school districts are facing a budget crunch as corporate tax revenue dips. The surge in revenue that districts experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic is expected to end, leaving school officials with tighter budgets. The state's evidence-based funding formula, which uses data from previous years, means that districts may receive fewer state dollars in the future. The recent addition of $350m to the state's education budget is not enough to meet the needs of schools. Revenue from the tax on corporate profits helped bridge the gap between state funding and local funding for districts by $1.9bn. However, the state is projecting that this revenue surge will come to an end. The lag time in reporting Corporate Personal Property Replacement Tax (CPPRT) revenue will throw off the state's funding formula calculation, making it seem like many school districts are adequately funded when they may not be. Chicago Public Schools, for example, received less additional state funding due to the boost in revenue from the tax on corporate profits.
Alberto Carvalho: From immigrant teenager to superintendent of Los Angeles Unified
Alberto Carvalho, superintendent of Los Angeles USD, has had a remarkable journey from being an immigrant teenager to leading the nation's second-largest school system. Carvalho's experience as an educator and administrator in Miami-Dade County School District prepared him for the challenges he faced in Los Angeles. He has been focused on achieving a full academic recovery from the pandemic's impact on students, implementing strategies to improve attendance and address chronic absenteeism. Carvalho has also prioritized student safety, ensuring that schools are equipped with naloxone to combat drug overdoses and strengthening cybersecurity measures. However, he has faced criticism for communication issues and lack of transparency. Despite the challenges, Carvalho remains dedicated to his connection with students and teachers, seeing endless opportunities for growth and excitement in his role as superintendent.
Top NYC education officials swap roles In staffing shuffle
A pair of two high-ranking New York City Education Department officials are effectively swapping positions. Melissa Aviles-Ramos, who left her role as chief of staff for schools Chancellor David Banks in February to start a job as a college administrator, will return to the Education Department to take over as deputy chancellor for family and community engagement and external affairs. She will replace Kenita Lloyd, who has been named as Banks' chief of staff. In Monday’s announcement about Aviles-Ramos’ return to the Education Department, Banks said her “extensive experience and dedication to advocating for students and families make her exceptionally qualified for this role.”

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