A daily round-up of education news and views for the Golden State.
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 Principal News
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Tuesday, 14th September 2021




White House launches Hispanic education initiative

President Joe Biden signed an executive order Monday intended to coordinate efforts across the federal government to improve educational and economic outcomes for Hispanics. U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona will serve as chairman of the White House Initiative on Advancing Educational Equity, Excellence, and Economic Opportunity for Hispanics; it will focus on policies that address “systemic causes” of challenges faced by students, improve their access to high-quality teachers, and address racial disparities in education funding, among other issues. Twenty-four cabinet departments or other agencies in the federal government will participate in a working group to collaborate through the initiative. “We must enable Hispanic and Latino students to reach their highest potential through our Nation’s schools and institutions of higher education,” the executive order says. “The Federal Government must also collaborate with Hispanic and Latino communities to ensure their long-term success.” Biden signed the executive order on the eve of National Hispanic Heritage Month, which runs from September 15th to October 15th.

Education Week 


Majority of U.S. schools yet to meet White House demand for testing and vaccines

For schools to stay open and safe, President Joe Biden said last Thursday, they need to require universal masking, vaccinations for teachers and staff and regular tests for unvaccinated people. So far, the largest U.S. districts are succeeding at masking, but only a minority are implementing the others. Out of 100 large districts, including the biggest urban districts in every state, nine in 10 are requiring students to wear masks, according to the Center on Reinventing Public Education at the University of Washington. A quarter are requiring teachers to be vaccinated, while 15 are regularly testing students. “What seems to be holding back many schools are the political and practical challenges — how do they handle positive cases and false positives, how do they address angry parents who don’t want to see their kids tested, or identified as a positive case, and children who don’t want to be swabbed,” said Scott Gottlieb, former Food and Drug Administration commissioner and a Pfizer board member. Complicating readiness on issues like testing was officials’ “intense desire to return to normalcy” heading into this year, when it looked like the pandemic was waning, said Sasha Pudelski, advocacy director of AASA, the School Superintendents Association. As a result, she said, some places were less prepared for another round of intense virus mitigation. “There was in many communities perhaps a false sense of security that masking and quarantining and remote learning wouldn’t be part of this school year. And they’re getting a rude awakening with delta that it is, and it has to be, to protect kids.”

New York Times  Washington Post 




Legislature reaffirms quarantined students must be in independent study to be funded

Before heading home for the year Friday, state lawmakers adopted a measure intended to make it easier for districts to educate students during a COVID quarantine, along with a way for districts to get funding if they can prove they tried but failed to find the staff needed to meet their obligation. Late Thursday, the Legislature passed Assembly Bill 167, an amended budget “trailer bill” that includes amendments to rules governing independent study that lawmakers passed only two months ago as part of the state budget. The legislation expands independent study to include it as an option for parents who are apprehensive about sending their children to school during the pandemic and added rules to ensure that schools assigned academic work and tracked students’ performance as conditions for funding. For students in independent study for a total of 15 or more days, which would include students quarantined more than once, legislators also added minimum requirements for live instruction and, for some grades, daily contact between students and a supervising teacher. It clarifies certain areas, including on the use of Zoom and other platforms for remote learning, and allows districts to assign substitute teachers for up to 60 days at a time, to make scheduling easier. 





Police respond to Grossmont high school student protest

A student protest over the dress code at San Diego County’s Grossmont High School “escalated” Monday afternoon, with apples and water bottles being thrown and students refusing to return to class after lunch, prompting a police response, a school district spokesman said. Officers from the El Cajon Police Department were sent to the campus after school officials called for a “secure campus,” a type of lockdown, according to Grossmont Union High School District spokesman Collin McGlashen. According to the school’s website, the dress code is “a dynamic document” that can be changed anytime throughout the school year, and consequences for breaking the dress code range from the school providing a change of clothing to suspension.

Los Angeles Times 


San Dieguito picks firm to lead search for next superintendent

The San Dieguito Union High School District board has tapped JG Consulting, a national search firm based in Texas, to lead its superintendent search. Following consultant interviews at a special board meeting last week the board approved an agreement for JG’s services not to exceed $25,000. 

The Advocate 




ACLU sues Bay Area district over special education program

Outcomes for disabled students, especially those who are Black or English learners, in one Bay Area school district are so poor that the district is essentially denying the students their right to an education, according to a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California on Monday. Pittsburg USD disproportionately placed Black students and English learners in special education classrooms, did not provide them the services they need, and was more likely to suspend or expel those students, according to the suit, which names the district, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond, the State Board of Education, the California Department of Education and the state of California as defendants. In 2016, a consultant hired by the district recommended dozens of improvements for how the district educates students with disabilities. The ACLU suit alleges that the district has not yet adopted many of those recommendations.





Dublin Elementary parents to rally for school improvements

Families pushing for improvements at Dublin Elementary School plan to rally ahead of Dublin USD's board meeting this evening. Protesters argue that the district should scale back its future plans for the new Emerald High School in order to make much-needed improvements at the elementary school, which opened in 1961. Board members will tonight consider six plans outlined by the district. Five of those plans, including the one recommended by district staff, would fully fund the approved $33m for Dublin Elementary modernization, but one plan would provide $12m for the project's first phase. The district would have to figure out later where it would get the rest of the $21m needed to complete the approved project.

The Patch 




Glasses lead to school improvement for short-sighted kids

A U.S. study has found that giving glasses to children who need them can result in "half a school year's worth of improvement". Lead author of the three-year Johns Hopkins University study, Dr Amanda Neitzel, said: "For students in the lowest quartile and students participating in special education, wearing glasses equated to four to six months of additional learning". Dr Megan Collins added: "The glasses offered the biggest benefit to the very kids who needed it most." However, academic improvements seen after one year were not sustained over two years, with researchers suggesting this could be due to children wearing their glasses less, or having broken or lost them. 

US News and World Report 




U.S. News & World Report releases its 2022 college rankings

U.S. News & World Report has released its 2022 Best Colleges rankings, featuring 1,466 colleges and universities that grant baccalaureate degrees. For the eleventh straight year, Princeton topped the National University list, followed by Columbia, Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which all tied for second. Williams College heads up the National Liberal Arts Colleges list, and UCLA once again claimed first place among Top Public Universities. 

Forbes  US News and World Report 




School officials continue to weigh roles of police on campus

The Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA) has contributed to the debate about the presence of police on school campuses, arguing in a new report that despite decades of funding and support for school policing, there is little evidence police cultivated positive relationships in schools or helped prevent school shootings. COPAA and other organizations have suggested instead of police in schools, schools should ensure staff are better trained in addressing challenging student behaviors; use evidence-based reading instruction and supports; use alternatives to suspensions and expulsions; increase the hiring of school counselors and psychologists; and fulfill obligations to provide behavioral supports to students with disabilities. COPAA also said that police presence at schools increases the likelihood law enforcement will be involved in less-serious school-based behavior. “Right now, the police are being relied on to handle all kinds of discipline and minor infractions or codes of conduct — things that do not need police intervention,” said COPAA CEO Denise Marshall.  But a complete dissolution of the school-police relationship is not recommended, Marshall said, because schools need police assistance in extreme emergencies and to help build evidence-based, trusting relationships within communities.

K-12 Dive 




Smartwatches become the new big classroom distraction

Parents opting to send students to school with wearables like Verizon’s GizmoWatch, and Apple Watches, as a less-distracting alternative to cellphones, are instead creating a new, subtler classroom disruption. Jeanne McVerry, a reading specialist and education-technology coach in Teaneck, New Jersey, said her district doesn’t specifically forbid smartwatches in its tech-use policy but she has taken a hard line on them. She asks students to put them in their backpacks during class. She learned students were using them to arrange bathroom meetups with friends to hang out during class time. “Technology changes so rapidly and in ways we can’t anticipate that we don’t know how we’re going to police every new thing,” Ms. McVerry said. While the children’s smartwatch market is still relatively small, making up about 20% of overall smartwatch shipments, it’s a growing segment of personal tech for young people. According to Pew Research, 13% of teens own a smartwatch. Kids’ smartwatch unit sales grew 12% to about 12m in the first half of this year compared with the prior-year period, according to SuJeong Lim, a senior analyst at Counterpoint Research. She said she expects the kids’ smartwatch market to grow by double digits annually.

Wall Street Journal 

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