State takeovers have 'limited effect' on struggling schools
A new national study, written by Beth E. Schueler of the University of Virginia and Joshua Bleiburg of Brown University, casts doubt on the notion that states are better positioned to run schools than locally-elected officials, finding little evidence that districts see test scores rise as a result of being taken over. The study focuses on the 35 school districts from across the country that were taken over by states between 2011 and 2016. These takeovers often happened in small cities and the vast majority of affected students were Black or Hispanic and from low-income families. Schueler and Leiburg used national test score data to compare districts that were taken over to seemingly similar districts in the same state that retained local control. In the first few years of the takeover, the schools generally saw dips in English test scores. By year four, there was no effect one way or the other. In math, there were no clear effects at all. Some places, including Camden, New Jersey and Lawrence, Massachusetts, did see improvements in the wake of takeover; others, such as East St. Louis, Illinois and Chester Upland, Pennsylvania, saw their academic records get worse, relative to other schools in the states. One reason results might have diverged so much is that there’s no single playbook for what happens after a state takes control from an elected school board. It’s also possible that state takeovers don’t typically improve student achievement simply because they often don’t lead to meaningful changes in per-student spending, class sizes, or the number of charter schools.
Cynthia Saunders praised during evaluation
The Manatee School Board praised the performance of Superintendent Cynthia Saunders during her latest evaluation. With their five opinions combined, including the one submitted by Scott Hopes before his resignation, the superintendent received an overall rating of “highly effective.” That rating includes a perfect score from James Golden, the board's vice chair. Saunders' contract allows the Board to award the superintendent incentive pay worth up to 10% of her annual salary, which currently stands at $204,918, according to information provided by district spokesman Mike Barber. Based on the recent evaluations, Saunders was entitled to a one-time payment worth 9% of her base salary. That payment was not a recurring boost to her annual pay.
Lee County School Board approves new student code of conduct
After almost four hours of discussion on Tuesday, the Lee County School Board approved next school year’s student code of conduct. The school board says the new code of conduct, effective from today, went through multiple drafts in response to LGBTQ advocacy concerns.
More districts drop mask mandates
Students and staff in Collier County schools will soon have the option to not wear face masks on school grounds, the school board decided Tuesday. Collier's school board voted unanimously to make masks optional in the district starting this summer and continuing into the 2021-22 school year. The Pinellas County School Board lifted its school masking order Tuesday too, but not before being upbraided for two hours by parents who have fought the rule all year.
Tampa Bay Times
Districts implement badge-based panic alarm systems
The Citrus County and Lee County school districts are implementing badge-based panic alarm systems. "We looked for a system that was not app-based and would be able to work with minimal dependence on additional infrastructure. This is cleverly designed to use minimal infrastructure," says Dwayne Alton, Technology Operations Executive Director at Lee County Schools. Dave Vincent, Citrus County school district's police chief and school safety specialist, comments: "I wanted something that was easy to use, something that was an immediate notification to our 911 center, and has an audible and visual notification on our campus." Earlier this year, the Florida Department of Education recommended the Centegix CrisisAlert badge-based solution, which does not rely on a mobile phone application downloaded to a personal device in order to comply with the law.
Teacher placed on leave over gender identity comments must be reinstated, judge rules
Judge James E. Plowman Jr. has ruled that Tanner Cross must be allowed to return to his job at Loudon County Public Schools in Virginia. Plowman concluded that the district's decision to place Cross on administrative leave was "an unconstitutional action … which has silenced others from speaking publicly on the issue." Cross, a physical education teacher at Leesburg Elementary School, said he wouldn't address students by their preferred pronouns and names, and challenged the district's "Rights of Transgender and Gender-Expansive Students" policy on May 25 at a district board meeting. Michael Farris, president and CEO of Alliance Defending Freedom, the legal group defending Cross, comments: "Educators are just like everybody else — they have ideas and opinions that they should be free to express. Advocating for solutions they believe in should not cost them their jobs."
'Summer slide' worse for special education students
Special education students had larger summer learning losses in K-4 compared to students who never had special education services, according to a new study conducted by NWEA that is believed to be the first analysis of seasonal learning patterns for students with disabilities. By analyzing performance results from spring testing and fall testing, researchers concluded there were steeper summer learning losses for students who, at the time of testing or previously, had received Individuals with Disabilities Education Act services compared to students who had never had special education intervention. Knowing that information can help schools determine if they need to provide more summertime academic programs for students, Johnson said, likening that knowledge to how a track coach may study patterns for maximizing runners’ performances. “If we identify that students are running really, really fast during the [school] year but they're losing a little bit of distance over the summer, that's a point of intervention that is really important to identify,” NWEA research scientist Angela Johnson said. “That's what we were able to do in this study is to figure out that summer is really the time when students need a lot more support than they currently have.”
Digital divide persists, latest survey indicates
While the country moves toward connecting more households to the internet than ever before, insufficient bandwidth remains a challenge for school districts and limits what tools students can use at home. The Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) has surveyed 400 districts across the country, finding that basic internet access is less of an issue in distance learning than an inability to use bandwidth-intensive content, such as video conferencing and streaming. Ninety-four percent of districts faced challenges with video conferencing during remote learning. For 66% of those districts, the problems were caused by insufficient bandwidth. Respondents listed slow connections and multiple users as the top technical problems they faced. CoSN chief executive Keith Krueger said that part of the problem is that the federally recommended broadband thresholds for households don’t meet the needs of remote learning. Families may have plenty of bandwidth to stream or download content, he said, but not enough to upload. Most households have two or more students, compounding the problem.
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Biden addresses graduating Parkland students
In a surprise video address to a Tuesday commencement ceremony, President Joe Biden said graduating seniors who were freshmen when a mass shooting left 17 people dead at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School have turned "pain into purpose and darkness into light." Besides surviving the most-deadly high school shooting in U.S. history, Biden also commended the students graduating this year for weathering the COVID-19 disruption. “Three years ago, your lives and the lives of this community changed in an instant. This class lost a piece of its soul. You’ve been tested in ways no young person should ever have to face –- from a freshman year, a year of unspeakable loss, to a junior and senior year upended by a pandemic.”