<![CDATA[Chalkbeat]]>2024-03-19T09:04:39+00:00https://www.chalkbeat.org/arc/outboundfeeds/rss/category/national/2024-03-19T09:00:00+00:00<![CDATA[Germany, known for sorting kids into college and vocational tracks, takes a more flexible approach]]>2024-03-19T09:00:00+00:00<p><i>This story about German vocational training was produced by</i><a href="https://hechingerreport.org/"><i> The Hechinger Report</i></a><i>, a nonprofit, independent news organization focused on inequality and innovation in education. Sign up for </i><a href="https://hechingerreport.org/newsletters/"><i>Hechinger’s newsletter</i></a><i>.</i></p><p>COLOGNE, Germany — Neriman Raim, a 16-year-old student in this northwestern German city, thought that after finishing school she’d want to work in an office.</p><p>But two years ago, she did a two-week internship in an architect’s bureau, and it was tedious. Later, a placement working with kindergartners led her to consider a career as a teacher — but not of kids this young. The next school year, she spent three weeks supervising older children as they did their homework.</p><p>Neriman now plans to become an educator working with grade-school children. After finishing school this summer, she’ll participate in a year-long placement to confirm that teaching is the right career for her before going to a technical college. Her internships offered a glimpse of what working life could look like, she said: “I could see what a day is like with kids.”</p><p>Neriman is taking part in Kein Abschluss ohne Anschluss, or KAoA, — or “no graduation without connection” — a program that has been rolled out across the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia to help students better plan for their futures. Young people get support with resumes and job applications; in ninth grade, they participate in short internships with local businesses and have the option of doing a year-long, one-day-a week work placements in grade 10.</p><p>“You don’t learn about a job in school,” said Sonja Gryzik, who teaches English, math, and career orientation at the school Neriman attends, Ursula Kuhr Schule. “You have to experience it.”</p><figure><img src="https://www.chalkbeat.org/resizer/Or6tDdjfA8fw-Qd3Pg_tBsqO1pk=/1440x960/cloudfront-us-east-1.images.arcpublishing.com/civicnewscompany/IUDQJ7ODVRGQJCVSPLAWWZX2JU.JPG" alt="Neriman Raim, 16, thought she wanted to work in an office — until she actually tried it. The KAoA program allows students to get work experience in school and think about their future goals." height="960" width="1440"/><figcaption>Neriman Raim, 16, thought she wanted to work in an office — until she actually tried it. The KAoA program allows students to get work experience in school and think about their future goals.</figcaption></figure><p>Germany and other Western European countries have long directed students into career paths at earlier ages than in the U.S., often placing kids onto university tracks or vocational education starting at age 10. Students in Germany can embark on apprenticeships directly after finishing<a href="https://www.nuffieldfoundation.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/Review-of-vocational-education-%E2%80%93-The-Wolf-Report.pdf"> general education</a> at age 16 in grade 10, attending<a href="https://www.bibb.de/en/77203.php"> vocational schools</a> that offer theoretical study, alongside practical training at a company. College-bound kids stay in school for three more years, ending with an entry exam for university.</p><p>The apprenticeship system, which is credited with keeping youth unemployment low, has drawn strong interest in the U.S. amid growing <a href="https://hechingerreport.org/how-higher-education-lost-its-shine/">disenchantment</a> with university education. Youth apprenticeships have begun to<a href="https://hechingerreport.org/how-apprenticeships-bring-young-students-into-the-workplace/"> pop up</a> in several U.S. states, and career exposure programs are<a href="https://hechingerreport.org/the-path-to-a-career-could-start-in-middle-school/"> expanding</a>. “Many of the best jobs our country has to offer don’t require a college education,” wrote workforce training advocate Ryan Craig in his recent book “Apprentice Nation: How the ‘Earn and Learn’ Alternative to Higher Education Will Create a Stronger and Fairer America.”</p><p>But in Germany, the hundreds-year-old vocational system has faced headwinds. There is longstanding criticism that low-income students and those from immigrant backgrounds are channeled into vocational fields and away from more academic ones. More recently, despite the<a href="https://www.cedefop.europa.eu/en/news/germany-excellence-vet-brings-together-new-and-proven-initiatives-address-skill-shortages"> high demand</a> for workers in the trades, students and their parents are increasingly hesitant about vocational education. Germany’s labor market has become digitized, and young people are keeping their options open before settling on a career path. Meanwhile, the pandemic had an outsized impact on vocational training, forcing many programs to close for long periods. And recent immigrants may be unaware of voc-ed’s high standing.</p><p>All this has led more students to choose to attend university. Yet many drop out: According to recent data, up to 28% of students fail to complete a degree. The figure for students in humanities and natural sciences is even higher, up to 50%.</p><p>This high failure rate, coupled with labor market needs, has led policymakers to tweak traditional vocational models to make them<a href="https://labourmarketresearch.springeropen.com/articles/10.1007/s12651-015-0181-x#Sec9"> more flexible</a>. Students in the academic track increasingly have access to both apprenticeships and university, and some students who complete vocational qualifications can still go on to attend a university, where options for <a href="https://www.bibb.de/de/pressemitteilung_174895.php">combining</a> practical experience with academic studies are growing.</p><h2>German schools put more focus on career pathways</h2><p>The program Neriman participates in, KAoA, is part of a wave of efforts to engage all students, not just those bound for vocational programs, in workforce preparation. All ninth and 10th grade students in North Rhine-Westphalia must do a three-week-long practical internship. Those on a vocational track begin apprenticeships after completing 10th grade, while students hoping to go to university attend academic high school for three additional years. The program encourages students from all backgrounds to think about their futures in concrete terms, said Bernhard Meyer, a teacher at Ursula Kuhr who coordinates KAoA in 11 towns across the Northwestern region.</p><p>“We have every type of possibility,” Meyer said. “And there’s not only apprenticeship or university, there are some studies in between.”</p><h4>Related:<a href="https://hechingerreport.org/middle-schools-are-experimenting-with-themes-like-math-sustainability-and-the-arts-but-is-it-all-just-branding/"> </a><a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/newyork/2023/12/04/themed-middle-schools-student-engagement-or-branding/" target="_blank">Middle schools are experimenting with themes like math, sustainability and the arts. But is it all just branding?</a></h4><p>At<a href="http://www.ursula-kuhr-schule.de/Beruf/Aktuell/"> Ursula Kuhr Schule</a>, students in the school’s woodworking lab build birdhouses and toy cars. A state-of-the-art kitchen lets students develop their culinary skills. An<a href="https://www.instagram.com/uks_schulgarten/?hl=en"> extensive garden</a>, full of herbs, and boasting a hen house, offers an opportunity to test out horticultural skills.</p><p>Students take field trips to learn about different jobs. For example, on a trip to the airport they learn about positions such as flight attendant, fire service, security or aircraft mechanic. Employees from Ford, which has a plant in Cologne, visit the school to talk about their work with students and parents.</p><p>While university is free in Germany, students who study vocational fields can achieve financial security earlier on.</p><figure><img src="https://www.chalkbeat.org/resizer/3MK3uj3EuqQnVE6gbfeMSRSCA9Y=/1440x960/cloudfront-us-east-1.images.arcpublishing.com/civicnewscompany/MKIM2DC5JVGXPCJK7Q73WZXRJE.JPG" alt="Students build a rainbow lamp together with teacher Frank Rasche during a woodworking class at Ursula-Kuhr-Schule, a vocational school in Cologne Chorweiler, Germany. The country faces a shortage of students pursuing careers in the trades." height="960" width="1440"/><figcaption>Students build a rainbow lamp together with teacher Frank Rasche during a woodworking class at Ursula-Kuhr-Schule, a vocational school in Cologne Chorweiler, Germany. The country faces a shortage of students pursuing careers in the trades.</figcaption></figure><p>Businesses in Germany seem keen to participate in vocational training. Chambers of commerce and industry support company-school partnerships and help smaller businesses train their interns. Students are even represented in unions, said Julian Uehlecke, a representative of the youth wing of Germany’s largest trade union alliance.</p><p>The goal of apprenticeships is to offer training in the classroom and in the workplace. The system gives students “a pretty good chance of finding a well-paid stable job,” said Leonard Geyer, a researcher at the European Centre for Social Welfare Policy and Research.</p><p>Lukas Graf, head of the Swiss Observatory for Vocational Education and Training described the “basic principle” of Germany’s program as providing all-around training: “in the classroom, in the seminar room, and training in the workplace.”</p><p>Mile Glisic, a 15-year-old student at Ursula Kuhr Schule, is doing a long-term work placement at a hardware store and considering an apprenticeship in sales. Earning money while training for a career will help him understand financial planning, and prepare him for a future in which he has a house and family, he said. “I think it’s better because you start to learn what to do with your money when you’re younger,” said Mile.</p><p>While the KAoA program has rolled out across all 2,000 schools in this region of Germany, including those that focus on university preparation, Ursula Kuhr Schule prioritizes practical education. Students, more than half of whom come from minority backgrounds, begin career orientation when they are just 12 or 13.</p><h2>Parents hesitant on vocational options</h2><p>Backers of vocational training say it supports social inclusion by giving young people training that allows them to secure well-paid, stable jobs. But, as in the United States, many argue it limits the prospects of students from marginalized backgrounds and reproduces generational inequalities. This is “a huge debate,” said Graf, of the Swiss Observatory.</p><p>To Graf, the value of either a university degree or practical study depends on the particular courses chosen. A university graduate in a field like philosophy, for example, might end up with fewer well-paid opportunities than someone with vocational education training, he said.</p><p>The pandemic deepened many parents’ ambivalence about vocational training. While university teaching continued through online platforms, on-the-job training came to a stop when companies had to shut down, said Hubert Ertl, vice president and director of research at Germany’s Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training and professor of vocational education research at the University of Paderborn.</p><p>Parents have a big influence. Research by Ertl’s institute shows that when students express interest in a vocational program, their parents often talk them out of it and push them toward higher ed instead. “That’s often not doing the young people any favors,” he said.</p><p>His organization works with schools and parents to tackle preconceived ideas about vocational education. “We’ve started to engage with parents quite directly because parents often don’t know about the vocational programs at all, and they don’t know what opportunities they afford.”</p><p>Tim Becker, 20, is doing an<a href="https://www.ausbildung.de/berufe/fachinformatiker-systemintegration/"> IT apprenticeship</a> after completing the university entry exam at his academically oriented high school in Cologne. At first, his parents, who worked for CocaCola, were uneasy. German parents usually want their children to go to university, “especially if they go to a gymnasium,” Becker wrote in an email, referring to academic high schools.</p><p>But in school, his career classes urged students to compare the benefits of university to a practical qualification. For Becker, who’d always loved computers, hands-on training beat out academic theory. “I am just not that guy that likes to sit all day in any lectures at some university,” he said. Some of his old classmates have already dropped out of college and are pursuing internships, he added.</p><figure><img src="https://www.chalkbeat.org/resizer/uEdvopA57xc4SHKi0F-0yfLbdjY=/1440x960/cloudfront-us-east-1.images.arcpublishing.com/civicnewscompany/X32RKGADUBD6VLC3R65L22NMBM.JPG" alt="Teacher Frank Rasche oversees a student during woodworking class at Ursula-Kuhr-Schule. Germany is known for sorting students into academic and vocational tracks, but now the lines are blurring." height="960" width="1440"/><figcaption>Teacher Frank Rasche oversees a student during woodworking class at Ursula-Kuhr-Schule. Germany is known for sorting students into academic and vocational tracks, but now the lines are blurring.</figcaption></figure><p>Parents at Ursula Kuhr attend meetings, called “future conferences,” with their kids several times a year. Mile’s parents, who moved to Germany from Serbia when he was 9, have met his teachers frequently. “I know that they were very happy with it,” he said, referring to his career path. “They had some questions about it. But I think they’re thinking good about it because, I mean, it’s only doing good for us.”</p><p>Neriman’s mother, who is a nanny, “loved the idea” that her daughter would teach in grade-school, Neriman said. The teachers and staff at Ursula Kuhr help students gain confidence about their futures, she said. “The teachers do everything for us — they don’t want anyone to finish school and have nothing.”</p><h2>Labor market needs drive educational changes</h2><p>Other European countries are seeing similar labor market needs. Denmark, whose minister for education trained<a href="https://ec.europa.eu/migrant-integration/news/denmark-integration-minister-calls-more-apprenticeship-contracts_en"> as a bricklayer</a>, is facing a significant skills shortage in vocational fields, said Camilla Hutters, head of the National Center for Vocational Education, a Danish research organization.</p><p>In the 1960s, practical and project-based learning was common in Danish schools, Hutters said. That changed in the 1990s, when Denmark scored poorly on international rankings like the<a href="https://www.oecd.org/pisa/"> Program for International Student Assessment</a>. Now, economic needs are causing a swing back to vocational and career education.</p><p>Today, Danish students as young as 6 might visit a workplace or spend a week learning about a particular career, she said, and discussions are under way to further integrate practical learning in primary school. Danish leaders also want to improve collaboration with business across the education system, including at the university level, Hutters said, where an increasing number of courses are likely to involve working with a company. Political leaders are discussing reforms that would “improve practical learning in the whole system,” she said.</p><p>But a tension between on-the-job training and academia persists in Danish thinking, she added. Although policymakers want to expand the practical element across all levels of education, university still remains the goal for many students and their parents. “This is a little bit of a mixed tendency at the same time, right now in Denmark,” she said.</p><p>Back in Germany, Becker will finish his internship in September 2024 with expertise in IT services and network security. Throughout his training, he has earned money — and will get up to €1,260 (roughly $1,360) per month in his final year — which has meant he could avoid taking on part-time work as some of his college friends have done. “You don’t need to sit all day in university and go to work in the evening to pay your bills,” he said.</p><p>And it suits him. He grew up surrounded by computers, tinkering alongside his dad, and that love of technology persisted through his teens. He likes working with his hands and doing, “something where I can learn practical things,” he said.</p>https://www.chalkbeat.org/2024/03/19/germany-sorting-academic-vocational-tracks-takes-more-flexible-approach/Frieda Klotz, The Hechinger ReportPatricia Kühfuss for Hechinger Report2024-03-18T20:41:17+00:00<![CDATA[Long-awaited FAFSA fix means students from immigrant families can finally finish aid applications]]>2024-03-18T20:53:28+00:00<p><i>Sign up for </i><a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/newsletters/national"><i>Chalkbeat’s free weekly newsletter</i></a><i> to keep up with how education is changing across the U.S.</i></p><p>Many students breathed a sigh of relief last week when federal education officials <a href="https://fsapartners.ed.gov/knowledge-center/library/electronic-announcements/2024-03-12/update-technical-fix-2024-25-fafsa-form-individuals-without-social-security-number-ssn">announced critical fixes</a> to the federal application for financial aid that allows parents without Social Security numbers to contribute information to the form.</p><p>The change means tens of thousands of U.S. citizen students and others who are eligible for federal financial aid can finally complete their FAFSAs. But it also leaves families and college counselors scrambling to get through the process months after other students. And some families are still encountering problems.</p><p>“It can be very discouraging for students and families who feel like they’re doing all the right things and yet are still coming up against barriers,” said Amanda Seider, who oversees the Massachusetts branch of the college access group OneGoal.</p><p><a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2024/01/25/better-fafsa-challenges-for-students-and-parents-social-security-number/">Chalkbeat reported</a> in January that a technical glitch had blocked students with undocumented parents from completing their financial aid applications for over two months. That left many educators and college access groups worried that students who already face higher barriers to college would be deterred by the delays — piled on top of an already difficult rollout of the <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/colorado/2024/01/09/colorado-counselor-advice-on-filling-out-better-fafsa/">new, supposedly easier FAFSA</a>. Some colleges and scholarships award aid on a first-come, first-served basis, so students who apply later are at a disadvantage.</p><p>During that time, students were left to navigate a confusing array of options, including whether they should just sit tight and wait for a fix, or try a partial workaround that could <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2024/02/13/paper-fafsa-college-financial-aid-undocumented-parents/">put them at a higher risk of making a mistake</a> on their application or would require them to <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2024/02/21/better-fafsa-social-security-number-glitch-fix-announced/">come back and fill out more paperwork later</a>.</p><p>And there are still outstanding issues. As federal officials put the new fix in place, they <a href="https://fsapartners.ed.gov/knowledge-center/library/electronic-announcements/2024-03-12/update-technical-fix-2024-25-fafsa-form-individuals-without-social-security-number-ssn">uncovered two more issues</a> affecting the same group of students that still need to be resolved.</p><p>That means parents without Social Security numbers will have to enter their financial information manually, instead of having it pulled directly from the IRS. And in some cases — when a parent enters a name or address that doesn’t exactly match what their child put down, for example — parents are still getting error messages that block them from filling out the form. Federal officials said last week they would work to fix the issue “in the coming days.”</p><p>Federal officials estimated that around 2% of financial aid applicants were affected by the original Social Security number glitch, which would equate to hundreds of thousands of students in a typical year.</p><p>The issue caught the attention of dozens of Democratic House members, who <a href="https://huffman.house.gov/imo/media/doc/FAFSA%20SSN%20Letter_Huffman_Garcia_Allred_Barragan.pdf">sent a letter</a> to U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona urging the department to fix the problem quickly. <a href="https://chuygarcia.house.gov/media/press-releases/garcia-huffman-allred-and-barragan-applaud-permanent-fix-to-federal-student-aid-form-following-letter-they-led">In a press release issued last week</a>, U.S. Rep. Jared Huffman of California said the glitch was a “completely unacceptable error” that had caused “fear, stress, and missed opportunities for many kids across my district and the country.”</p><p>“I hope to see the Department take the steps necessary to ensure issues like this never arise again,” Huffman said.</p><p>The rollout of the new FAFSA has been riddled with <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/colorado/2024/01/31/colorado-families-students-experience-more-fafsa-delays/">problems and delays</a>. Education department officials have blamed <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/education/2024/03/11/how-new-fafsa-problems-began/">insufficient funding and significant technical challenges</a> in updating old systems. Republicans have <a href="https://www.insidehighered.com/news/government/student-aid-policy/2024/03/04/how-ambitious-plans-new-fafsa-ended-fiasco">accused the administration of being distracted by dealing with student loan forgiveness</a>. Outside observers have said <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2024/03/13/us/politics/fafsa-college-admissions.html">all these factors and more played a role</a>, according to news reports.</p><p>FAFSA applications are down 33% compared with this time last year, according to federal data <a href="https://www.ncan.org/page/FAFSAtracker" target="_blank">tracked by the National College Attainment Network</a>.</p><p>In the meantime, many colleges have <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/colorado/2024/02/29/colleges-and-universities-in-colorado-push-enrollment-other-deadlines/">pushed back deadlines</a> as they wait for student financial information that will help them assemble aid packages. And families are waiting.</p><p>Now, college counselors and advisers say they’re working to make sure students know what to do if they <a href="https://www.chronicle.com/article/the-fafsa-fix-for-mixed-status-families-is-a-work-in-progress">continue to encounter glitches</a>. They’re also trying to keep students’ spirits up and getting them ready to compare their financial aid and acceptance packages when they come in.</p><p>“The most important thing we can do is to share information about how to go about entering information manually, how to make sure that as they are completing those steps that it requires a lot of precision,” Seider said. “We really want to make sure that students and families are being proactive, and not experiencing this as their shortcoming, but rather saying ‘Hey, this system has been a little confusing, we need some help with it.’”</p><p><i>Kalyn Belsha is a senior national education reporter based in Chicago. Contact her at </i><a href="mailto:kbelsha@chalkbeat.org" target="_blank"><i>kbelsha@chalkbeat.org</i></a><i>.</i></p>https://www.chalkbeat.org/2024/03/18/better-fafsa-fix-for-students-with-undocumented-parents-social-security/Kalyn BelshaIrfan Khan / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images2024-03-15T19:08:39+00:00<![CDATA[Students, tell us what you think about efforts to ban TikTok]]>2024-03-15T19:19:23+00:00<p><i>Sign up for </i><a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/newsletters/national"><i>Chalkbeat’s free weekly newsletter</i></a><i> to keep up with how education is changing across the U.S.</i></p><p>Congress is trying to ban TikTok. The U.S. House of Representatives <a href="https://www.npr.org/2024/03/14/1238435508/tiktok-ban-bill-congress-china">overwhelmingly passed a resolution</a> that gives TikTok owner Byte Dance, a Beijing-based tech company, six months to sell the app or see it banned in the United States. Lawmakers have <a href="https://apnews.com/article/tiktok-ban-house-vote-china-national-security-8fa7258fae1a4902d344c9d978d58a37">raised data privacy and national security concerns</a> because of the foreign ownership of such an influential social media app. Opponents of a ban say there is nothing unique about TikTok — that all social media platforms have positive and negative features.</p><p>About two-thirds of U.S. teens say they use TikTok, <a href="https://www.pewresearch.org/internet/2023/12/11/teens-social-media-and-technology-2023/">according to Pew Research Center</a>, with 17% saying they are on the app almost constantly. While there are big worries about the mental health impacts of social media use, people also use TikTok as a creative outlet and to stay connected with friends.</p><p>We want to hear from students about how a TikTok ban would affect them.</p><p>Please take a few minutes to fill out the survey below, and let us know if we can follow up with you. We’ll keep your information confidential, and only publish your answers if you tell us it’s OK.</p><p>Not a student but know one who might have something to say? Please send them this survey.</p><p><a href="https://forms.gle/GoigHzCZzV6fQP6R6" target="_blank">Having trouble viewing the form? Click here.</a></p><p><i>Erica Meltzer is Chalkbeat’s national editor based in Colorado. Contact Erica at </i><a href="mailto:emeltzer@chalkbeat.org"><i>emeltzer@chalkbeat.org</i></a><i>.</i></p><p><iframe src="https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSeJ2DOOxYSHb57S4kt_i0vLtw0KzLOxeu1t-K5FBtJCP_KvEA/viewform?embedded=true"style="width:100%; height:750px;" frameborder="0" marginheight="0" marginwidth="0">Loading…</iframe> </p><p><br/></p>https://www.chalkbeat.org/2024/03/15/tik-tok-ban-attempt-from-congress-prompts-youth-student-reaction/Erica MeltzerThe Good Brigade / Getty Images2024-03-15T14:00:08+00:00<![CDATA[This New York City counselor used to teach math. Now she helps migrant students destress at school]]>2024-03-15T18:31:58+00:00<p><i>Sign up for </i><a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/newsletters/national"><i>Chalkbeat’s free weekly newsletter</i></a><i> to keep up with how education is changing across the U.S.</i></p><p>As a middle school math teacher, Lisset Condo Dutan’s days often revolved around fractions and equations. But when the pandemic hit, her virtual classroom became a place where students came to confide in her.</p><p>“I would only see them through a screen, and they would share with me: <i>I lost my grandma, I just lost my dad, I just lost my mom,</i>” she said. She tried her best to listen, but she knew they needed more. “They didn’t really have the emotional support that they needed.”</p><figure><img src="https://www.chalkbeat.org/resizer/mMRTXEu6UdGvDtkCei6AwEH-XgE=/1440x960/cloudfront-us-east-1.images.arcpublishing.com/civicnewscompany/OTNRI7XRERDSDBMXLVXJFMKOUY.jpg" alt="Lisset Condo Dutan works with newcomer students at an elementary school in Queens through the nonprofit Counseling in Schools." height="960" width="1440"/><figcaption>Lisset Condo Dutan works with newcomer students at an elementary school in Queens through the nonprofit Counseling in Schools.</figcaption></figure><p>Driven by those conversations, Condo Dutan went back to school to get her master’s in counseling — while she was teaching full-time — and became a school counselor.</p><p>Last fall, she took a position with the nonprofit <a href="https://www.counselinginschools.org/">Counseling in Schools</a>, which places school counselors in dozens of schools throughout New York City. Condo Dutan now works at P.S. 149 in Queens, not far from where she grew up. She was among a dozen bilingual or bicultural counselors that the nonprofit hired to meet the needs of a <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/newyork/2023/8/29/23851045/school-enrollment-delays-asylum-seekers-nyc-migrants/" target="_blank">growing number of migrant students</a> who’ve enrolled in the city’s schools.</p><p>Now, she spends her days popping into classrooms to see if newcomers need any help and meeting with students in small groups or one-on-one.</p><p>“Even though they went through a lot, they’re the strongest people that I’ve ever met,” she said. “I admire that.”</p><p>Condo Dutan spoke with Chalkbeat about how art therapy, breathing exercises, and sharing details from her visits to Ecuador have helped her connect with her students.</p><p><i>This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.</i></p><h3>What are some of the mental health or social-emotional needs that your newcomer students have?</h3><p>A lot of them have undergone some sort of trauma. Especially when they share their journey coming here to New York, either what they saw on their way here or what they saw at the detention centers at the border. It impacts them a lot.</p><p>Thankfully, a lot of the teachers pick up on these little emotions. Maybe they walk in sad one day or they look upset, or there’s a change in behavior. They’ll ask: <i>Can you please just check up on the student?</i> And when you check up on them, you realize that there’s a lot of things that are still bothering them.</p><p>They’ll share: <i>You know, I had this nightmare, I’m still thinking about this. I remember when we were crossing the river. </i>Or, honestly speaking, they’ve seen people pass away on their way here. Unfortunately, they’ve seen bodies and stuff like that. And these are third graders, second graders, fifth graders.</p><p>That’s still there for them. So, sometimes they do have days where they’re a little off. [It’s important] to provide them with that support and that safe space.</p><h3>When you’re starting to build a relationship and a rapport with a student who has been through a really tough journey, what are some of the things you do to help establish that you’re a safe person and that they’re in a safe place?</h3><p>I let them speak about their culture. A lot of these students are very proud of where they come from, so I give them that opportunity and that time to teach me about themselves.</p><p>Sometimes, we’ll share memories. But usually, we do a lot of art therapy. For most of them, that’s easier. Markers, crayons, glitter, pens, paints — anything that I have in the office.</p><p>They’re drawing their favorite dishes, their favorite places, or their favorite people that they left behind, as well as their pets or any traditional celebrations. For example, for Christmas, they shared that certain countries have a whole festival for like a week. They would draw bumper cars and parties, and certain cultural outfits.</p><h3>What are some of the acculturation struggles that you’re seeing?</h3><p>Usually, what they share is that it’s just hard overall. In their countries, they would have more freedom. There would be much more fresh air and free space for them to run around. Coming here and being in an apartment, or being stuck in school, it’s different for them.</p><p>They’ve slowly been getting accustomed to school life. It’s been a lot of teaching them how to schedule their time, time management, as well as asking them what other resources they need in order to feel comfortable.</p><h3>What strategies or coping skills have you taught students that they’ve found helpful?</h3><p>We’ve done a lot of breathing exercises. Sometimes [their exposure to trauma] does get them a little uneasy. They really like [an exercise called] smell the flower, blow out the birthday cake candle.</p><p>I usually ask them: <i>If I had a flower in my hand, how would you smell the flower?</i> And they would inhale and breathe in. And when I ask them to blow out a birthday candle, they blow out through their mouth. It teaches them how to not take quick breaths.</p><p>I’ve also done a lot of cooked spaghetti, uncooked spaghetti. I have students basically tense up every part of their body. So they’ll become very stiff, like uncooked spaghetti. And then I allow them to become like cooked spaghetti, very noodly, so they let go of everything.</p><p>It’s allowing them to take notice of what part of their body is under stress, and teaching them how to express themselves when they feel that stress.</p><h3>How does being able to speak Spanish allow you to connect with the students in ways that wouldn’t be possible if you didn’t speak their language?</h3><p>Instead of having to translate what they’re feeling, they’re able to just express themselves exactly how they feel.</p><p>If I don’t understand something, I do ask them: <i>Oh, what do you mean by this?</i> It could be because of cultural differences. I take that time to let them teach me about what they’re trying to say, or what they’re trying to get out.</p><h3>Do you ever share things about yourself with the students to help make a connection with them?</h3><p>My parents are Ecuadorian, and I do bring that to the table. When I go to Ecuador, I visit my grandpa, I go to the countryside, I go to the city, and I’m able to share that with them. Even if the child is not from Ecuador, they’re more open to opening up to me because they realize: <i>She’s been outside of New York, she understands what’s going on in other countries.</i></p><figure><img src="https://www.chalkbeat.org/resizer/j2HdGco8jCyAGMg1wlRSpIrB2S0=/1440x960/cloudfront-us-east-1.images.arcpublishing.com/civicnewscompany/JFOH7L3B6NDPXNTBTE7N56MCIY.jpg" alt="Lisset Condo Dutan often shares stories about visiting her family in Ecuador as a way to connect with the students she works with." height="960" width="1440"/><figcaption>Lisset Condo Dutan often shares stories about visiting her family in Ecuador as a way to connect with the students she works with.</figcaption></figure><p>They ask me: <i>Have you tasted </i><a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salchipapa"><i>salchipapas</i></a><i>? Have you tasted a traditional dish called </i><a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bNtd0VAgxOI"><i>tripa mishqui</i></a><i>?</i> I’m open to sharing that information with them, and they’re usually very happy [to talk about it].</p><p>Where my grandpa lives, it’s like a farmland. A lot of them came from farmland. So, me being able to say: <i>You know, when I go to Ecuador, I spend a week with my grandpa, and I help him feed the cows and feed the horses. </i>That usually sparks something in them. They look at me like: You did that? I used to do that! Little things like that have really helped me connect with them.</p><p><i>Kalyn Belsha is a senior national education reporter based in Chicago. Contact her at </i><a href="mailto:kbelsha@chalkbeat.org" target="_blank"><i>kbelsha@chalkbeat.org</i></a><i>.</i></p>https://www.chalkbeat.org/2024/03/15/how-i-help-lisset-condo-dutan-new-york-counselor-migrant-students/Kalyn BelshaImage courtesy of Counseling in Schools2024-03-11T09:00:00+00:00<![CDATA[Many migrant students need mental health support. Here’s why this program is a go-to for schools.]]>2024-03-15T14:39:37+00:00<p><i>Sign up for </i><a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/newsletters/national"><i>Chalkbeat’s free weekly newsletter</i></a><i> to keep up with how education is changing across the U.S.</i></p><p>When thousands of Syrian families fleeing violence resettled in Canada several years ago, Ontario’s school mental health agency wanted to give schools tools to help refugee children process their traumatic journeys and adjust to their new lives.</p><p>The children didn’t necessarily need intensive support. But kids were bursting into tears and struggling to explain how they felt. Parents, too, noticed their usually social children had become more withdrawn and were struggling to make friends. That was especially common after kids had been in Canada for a few months and the honeymoon period ended.</p><p>So a team of experts in child mental health put their heads together and developed a program for newcomers that focuses on their strengths and who they can turn to for support. <a href="https://www.strongforschools.com/">Known as STRONG</a>, the program is now used across the U.S. in several cities serving lots of newcomers, including Chicago, Boston, Seattle, New York, Minneapolis, Washington, D.C., and Little Rock, Arkansas. Many others are asking for training, as schools struggle to meet the needs of students who’ve been through difficult journeys with limited school mental health staff, and even fewer bilingual ones.</p><p>STRONG, which stands for Supporting Transition Resilience of Newcomer Groups, can’t solve everything. Some kids may still need more intensive mental health support — and finding the time and staff to run these groups can be challenging. But many experts, educators, and students themselves see the intervention as a promising tool to help newcomers forge connections and head off mental health struggles before they turn into a crisis.</p><p>“They’ve just really appreciated the opportunity to connect with other kids,” said Lisa Baron, a psychologist who trains schools to use STRONG and directs the Boston-based <a href="https://aipinc.org/trauma/">Center for Trauma Care in Schools</a>. “A lot of them said that they just had not really known that other kids were feeling the same way as they were.”</p><h2>Why some newcomers struggle with mental health</h2><p>Newcomer students can be refugees or asylum-seekers or the children of undocumented immigrants. Some arrive with families, some arrive alone. Some have been in the U.S. for just a few days or weeks, while others have been here longer. And while their experiences vary, they’ve often faced various hardships, from hunger to abuse.</p><p>Many children did not feel in control during their travels, and now crave stability and predictability.</p><p>It can also be difficult for newcomer families to access mental health services in the U.S. — driving home the importance of offering help at school. There’s often stigma around seeking treatment, and some families fear that doing so could put them at risk for deportation.</p><p>Here’s how STRONG typically works: The school identifies a group of students who are close in age and relatively new to the U.S. who could benefit from extra support. Then the school makes sure parents are on board, which can mean having careful conversations, especially if families are unfamiliar with schools offering mental health support.</p><p><a href="https://www.strongforschools.com/resources">The group meets for 10 sessions</a>, usually during the school day. Early sessions help students understand that it’s normal to feel overwhelmed or stressed sometimes. Kids learn different relaxation techniques, such as curling their toes into the floor as if they were standing in a mud puddle, or visualizing the sights and smells of a favorite place.</p><p>In later sessions, they learn coping and problem-solving skills, such as how to map out steps to achieve a goal. Kids who are shy about speaking English could identify people they’d feel safe practicing with.</p><p>“The coping skills [are] what will stay with you forever,” one Ontario student <a href="https://www.csmh.uwo.ca/docs/2019-STRONG-Final-Report.pdf">told Canadian researchers for a 2019 report</a>. “Whenever you are in a stressful situation, you will always remember what to do.”</p><figure><img src="https://www.chalkbeat.org/resizer/bnwvUl-MEGR7zwx2YEZBr50C5s8=/1440x960/cloudfront-us-east-1.images.arcpublishing.com/civicnewscompany/25WEWT2VBVCTNEX5E5C2SOW5AM.jpg" alt="In STRONG, students learn various problem-solving and coping skills. " height="960" width="1440"/><figcaption>In STRONG, students learn various problem-solving and coping skills. </figcaption></figure><p>What makes STRONG unique and appealing to many schools, said Colleen Cicchetti, a pediatric psychologist who helped develop the intervention, is that it takes a strengths-based approach.</p><p>“There were strengths that were inside you that you had in your home country that are still with you, here, today — how do we build on them?” said Cicchetti, who directs the <a href="https://childhoodresilience.org/">Center for Childhood Resilience</a> at Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago and now trains schools on how to use STRONG. “We really want young people and their parents to say: ‘This is a part of who I am and what I’ve experienced, but it shouldn’t define who I am entirely.’”</p><p>That’s what attracted the attention of mental health and school staff in the Madison, Wisconsin area. The district tried tweaking another group that addresses student trauma to help newcomers, but realized it wasn’t quite meeting their needs.</p><p>Kids need to “talk about good memories and coping strategies, not necessarily the exposure to the traumatic event,” said Carrie Klein, a school mental health coach for Madison Metro schools, which is considering using STRONG.</p><p>For Jennifer Moorhouse, a teacher who works with English learners at Brighton Park Elementary School in Chicago, STRONG has been transformative for her and her students.</p><h4>Related: <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/chicago/2023/10/27/23935304/chicago-public-schools-migrant-students-trauma-support-group-social-emotional-brighton-park/">Amid Chicago’s migrant influx, one school is trying to help newcomer students navigate trauma</a></h4><p>Over the last year, <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/chicago/2023/10/27/23935304/chicago-public-schools-migrant-students-trauma-support-group-social-emotional-brighton-park/">Moorhouse has run four STRONG groups</a> — known as “clubs” at her school — alongside school counselor Stephanie Carrillo. The program helped Moorhouse get to know newcomers’ families, and has made students comfortable to seek her out when they need essentials like toothpaste or body wash.</p><figure><img src="https://www.chalkbeat.org/resizer/0wsSDTOx46HLU0ZGT27XknNuNbQ=/1440x960/cloudfront-us-east-1.images.arcpublishing.com/civicnewscompany/XNHSTBKOSBEKPMWXPHVJYVJ2NQ.jpg" alt="Brighton Park Elementary School threw a quinceañera for newcomer students who were sad they would miss celebrating in their home country." height="960" width="1440"/><figcaption>Brighton Park Elementary School threw a quinceañera for newcomer students who were sad they would miss celebrating in their home country.</figcaption></figure><p>The group has helped in unexpected ways, too. When kids said they weren’t eating at school because they didn’t like the food, Moorhouse figured out they did like Ritz crackers and Skinny popcorn, so she keeps those on hand. And when she found out some newcomers were crying in the bathroom, upset that they were going to miss their quinceñera back home, the group threw a big party at school, complete with balloons and empanadas.</p><p>“The students really have created this bond with Ms. Moorhouse — that’s their person,” said Cecilia Mendoza, the assistant principal. “Every student needs someone. For someone new entering the country, entering a new school, having someone is even more important.”</p><p>Brighton Park is one of 83 schools across the district that’s been trained in STRONG, with another 50 schools in line to be trained next school year.</p><h2>Why talking about their journeys can help newcomers</h2><p>When experts first developed STRONG, they imagined it would be delivered by social workers, school counselors and other mental health staff, since many newcomers have experienced trauma.</p><p>But given that mental health professionals are often stretched or in short supply, more schools are asking for others to be trained, too, said Sharon Hoover, a psychiatry professor at the University of Maryland’s School of Medicine who helped create STRONG.</p><p>Now, many schools run STRONG sessions with two adults. A teacher with language or cultural skills can act as the interpreter, while the staffer with mental health training takes on tasks such as screening children for post-traumatic stress.</p><p>“We don’t want to be irresponsible with the curriculum and just throw it into the hands of anybody who has no mental health training at all,” Hoover said. “But on the other hand, we don’t want to restrict it in a way that’s going to lead to it not getting to students who might benefit.”</p><p>On a recent Tuesday morning, Hoover and Bianca Ramos, a STRONG trainer, showed what a one-on-one session that invites students to share about their journey can look like during a virtual training for two dozen school staffers.</p><p>The group, mostly social workers and school counselors from Connecticut, had gathered to learn strategies to help newcomer students from many parts of the world, including Haiti, Guatemala, Ecuador, Colombia, Brazil, and Ukraine.</p><h4>Related: <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/newyork/2024/02/05/nyc-schools-need-more-social-workers-amid-migrant-mental-health-crisis/">We are facing a migrant mental health crisis. More school social workers could help</a></h4><p>In the video demonstration, Hoover sat beside Ramos in the corner of a blue-walled room. Ramos, a Chicago-based social worker, played the role of a 13-year-old girl who’d fled Guatemala without time to say goodbye to family and friends after her father was killed. Hoover explained that talking about something hard can be like stepping into cold water.</p><p>“The more we do it, slowly and gradually, usually the more comfortable we get,” Hoover said. “You don’t have to dive right in.”</p><figure><img src="https://www.chalkbeat.org/resizer/2_K6Tq7FwiZ8xvSP8qmMkWJsr8g=/1440x960/cloudfront-us-east-1.images.arcpublishing.com/civicnewscompany/XAZ2XO4AENGDRIX4U4IIQ2E4CE.jpg" alt="In early sessions of STRONG, students learn various relaxation techniques and that it's OK to feel stress sometimes." height="960" width="1440"/><figcaption>In early sessions of STRONG, students learn various relaxation techniques and that it's OK to feel stress sometimes.</figcaption></figure><p>In the scenario, as the young girl neared the U.S.-Mexico border, robbers threatened to take her family’s few belongings. Hoover asked how she got through that time, using it as an opportunity to draw out the child’s strengths.</p><p>“I had this picture of my mom and I just remember looking at it, and trying to stay hopeful that I was going to be able to see her again,” Ramos said. And she had her little sister to watch out for: “I was like a mom to her.”</p><p>“That’s amazing,” Hoover replied, pointing out how brave and caring the child had been.</p><p>Later, Hoover asked if the girl was having trouble sleeping, reliving any memories, or feeling sad a lot. She wasn’t, but thoughts of her dad did pop into her head in class, making it hard to concentrate. Hoover made sure that wasn’t happening too much, and then kept the door open to talk more in the future if anything changed.</p><p>In Chicago, Moorhouse has seen that some kids feel relieved when they share about their journey. But she also cautions that it can be a lot for other students and teachers to take in. After one student shared details that made Moorhouse tear up later, she realized she couldn’t probe too deeply in her conversations with the student, and needed to let the school counselor step in.</p><p>“We’re not therapists,” she said. “That’s very important for teachers to realize.”</p><h2>STRONG can help students, but there are challenges</h2><p>STRONG is still being rigorously evaluated in the U.S. But research conducted by Western University in Canada, where STRONG was first piloted during the 2017-18 school year, has shown promising results.</p><p><a href="https://www.csmh.uwo.ca/docs/Crooks-Kubishyn-Syeda-STRONG-2020.pdf">Evaluations</a> from across Ontario <a href="https://www.csmh.uwo.ca/docs/publications/isulabpublications/EN_STRONG%20Case%20Study.pdf">found the program</a> helped kids build trust, increase their confidence, and develop a sense of belonging at school. Students reported that STRONG helped them feel more welcome and connect with their peers.</p><p>STRONG can also shift school culture and help the entire staff become more attuned to newcomers’ needs. When Moorhouse notices certain patterns of behavior, she shares that with other teachers, so they can keep an eye out.</p><p>That could be explaining why some kids may not want to take off sweaters or jackets — after border agents took everything they had except for what they were wearing at the time — or that playing certain sounds, like chirping birds or rushing water, could be upsetting to kids whose journey involved swimming or walking through the jungle.</p><p>There can be practical challenges. School leaders may be hesitant to pull kids out of class for STRONG when they are struggling academically. Elizabeth Paquette, who’s part of the team that trains school staff in Ontario, said it can be tricky to get enough kids together in smaller schools and rural communities without resorting to virtual groups that can make it harder for students to make friends.</p><p>And if groups use more than two languages, the interpretation needs can take away from the group’s conversational flow.</p><p>Still, Moorhouse said the group can be a place for kids to talk about those academic struggles, whether they’re lost in class or frustrated because they already know the content, but can’t yet express themselves. This year, especially, kids want to talk about school stress even more than their journeys.</p><p>“They were struggling with: ‘Do I give up?’” Moorhouse said. And her message was: “Let’s keep finding other ways to work through this. What are your thoughts?”</p><p><i>Kalyn Belsha is a senior national education reporter based in Chicago. Contact her at </i><a href="mailto:kbelsha@chalkbeat.org"><i>kbelsha@chalkbeat.org</i></a><i>.</i></p>https://www.chalkbeat.org/2024/03/11/how-strong-is-helping-migrant-students-newcomers-with-their-mental-health/Kalyn BelshaReema Amin2024-03-14T21:15:14+00:00<![CDATA[Grocery cards and car repairs: How COVID aid changed the way schools can help homeless kids]]>2024-03-15T13:50:31+00:00<p><i>Sign up for </i><a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/newsletters/national"><i>Chalkbeat’s free weekly newsletter</i></a><i> to keep up with how education is changing across the U.S.</i></p><p>Mollie Eppers tried for years to give students experiencing homelessness prepaid grocery cards that would allow their families to shop for food.</p><p>But the student services specialist in Juneau, Alaska, couldn’t devise a system that would satisfy the spending rules for both her local school district and the federal program that helps homeless students.</p><p>So when Congress sent schools COVID aid for homeless students <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2021/4/26/22404530/states-help-homeless-students-focus-on-finding-kids/">with fewer restrictions</a>, Eppers knew her first order of business: Get the grocery cards.</p><p>She found a local Safeway that accepted prepaid cards, then bought them in bulk. Families can get $100 to $200 cards at a time, depending on how many kids they have. The aid has made it easier for families sleeping in their cars or who don’t have a stove to choose foods they can eat. That’s been especially helpful as Alaska <a href="https://alaskapublic.org/2024/02/15/as-alaska-pays-millions-to-fix-food-stamp-backlog-lawmakers-suggest-systemic-fixes/">works through a huge backlog of applications</a> for food benefits that left many families <a href="https://www.ktoo.org/2023/01/02/state-workers-say-chronic-understaffing-caused-food-stamp-backlog/">waiting months to get aid</a>.</p><figure><img src="https://www.chalkbeat.org/resizer/HzVXcDlfAl3j8S3jK4rtwBWlZ1g=/1440x960/cloudfront-us-east-1.images.arcpublishing.com/civicnewscompany/Z652TZBAYJDARDFVCT7T6MJXXQ.jpg" alt="The Juneau School District in Alaska purchased $25,000 in grocery cards to help students experiencing homelessness buy food." height="960" width="1440"/><figcaption>The Juneau School District in Alaska purchased $25,000 in grocery cards to help students experiencing homelessness buy food.</figcaption></figure><p>“It’s been a lifesaver,” said Eppers, who’s spent $25,000 on grocery cards so far, and plans to buy more. “They don’t have anywhere else to go.”</p><p>Across the country, Eppers and other school staff are doing things to help homeless students that they’ve never been able to before. That’s in part due to the size of the aid package. But it’s also because <a href="https://oese.ed.gov/files/2021/04/ARP-Homeless-DCL-4.23.pdf">federal education officials said explicitly</a> that schools could spend this money on items like prepaid store cards, gas cards, and cell phones that schools were often reluctant to buy in the past for fear of running afoul of various spending and record-keeping rules.</p><p>That’s meant more schools are providing families with direct aid that allows them to choose which foods, clothing, and other supplies will best meet their children’s needs. It’s one more way that schools have <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2023/12/21/schools-help-homeless-students-navigate-housing-challenges-with-covid-aid/">stretched beyond their typical roles</a> and <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2023/12/18/homeless-children-family-homelessness-students-hotel-stays-covid-funding/">used pandemic assistance</a> to help families in dire straits in new ways.</p><p>But schools might stop doing this soon — unless federal officials spell out that other funds can be used like this, too.</p><p>“You can provide somebody a pair of shoes, but if you say: ‘Here’s a store card, pick out the shoes for your child that your child will wear,’ there is a sense of dignity, and there’s also a sense of agency,” said Barbara Duffield, the executive director of the nonprofit SchoolHouse Connection, which recently gathered data on how often schools are spending COVID aid in this way. “And what that has translated to is trust and engagement. A store card is much more than a store card.”</p><h2>Schools used to face more limits on helping students</h2><p>In a <a href="https://schoolhouseconnection.org/wp-content/uploads/2024/02/Overlooked-Almost-Out-of-Time.pdf">survey of more than 1,400 school liaisons</a> earlier this school year, SchoolHouse Connection found that 40% had purchased gas cards for families and 34% had bought store cards. That was double the share who planned to purchase cards when the nonprofit did a similar survey in 2021.</p><p>“These unusual uses may be the very ones that are the most impactful and strategic in meeting broader goals of increasing enrollment, attendance, and performance,” the report concludes.</p><p>In Washington state, one liaison said gas cards were now among the top-requested forms of assistance by families. The offering made families feel heard and open to more collaboration, the liaison wrote on the survey.</p><p>In Rhode Island, another liaison said that it had been a “huge plus” to give families store cards so they could buy sneakers and underwear. “I would argue that being able to make their own selections is better for the kids, physically and emotionally,” the liaison wrote.</p><p>In the past, some schools did provide this kind of assistance to homeless students. But Duffield said it often boiled down to a judgment call.</p><p>The federal education law that outlines the rights of homeless children, the <a href="https://uscode.house.gov/view.xhtml?path=/prelim@title42/chapter119/subchapter6/partB&edition=prelim">McKinney-Vento Act</a>, says that schools can provide “extraordinary or emergency assistance” to make sure homeless kids can attend school and participate in school activities.</p><p>While some schools interpreted that to include prepaid store cards, many other districts or states didn’t allow schools to buy store cards. Officials worried about how they would show the cards benefitted a particular student, Duffield said, and some feared giving away prepaid cards could be ripe for misuse or fraud — a long held, and often misplaced, complaint among <a href="https://time.com/4711668/history-food-stamp-fraud/">critics of public assistance programs</a>.</p><p>For that reason, Duffield and others are <a href="https://schoolhouseconnection.org/wp-content/uploads/2024/02/Overlooked-Almost-Out-of-Time.pdf">calling on the federal government</a> to issue guidance saying that schools can use McKinney-Vento funding in the same ways that were permissible with the COVID aid.</p><p>“Having clear federal guidance saying that you can, that then shapes what a state allows,” Duffield said. Getting something in writing is key, because many school business officers will ask: “Where does it say that?”</p><h2>How cell phones and car repairs help students</h2><p>Still, school liaisons like Eppers say they’re taking lots of precautions. The grocery cards Eppers hands out to families don’t allow for the purchase of alcohol or tobacco, and she locks up the cards in her office to keep them safe. Families have to sign for each grocery card, too.</p><p>“I don’t want anything to come between my ability to provide that to the students,” she said.</p><p>In the suburbs of Madison, Wisconsin, Claire Bergman used COVID aid to buy five cell phones with internet hotspots for homeless teens who live on their own without the support of their parents. Each month, the Sun Prairie Area School District pays their phone bills.</p><p>The new initiative has helped social workers stay in touch with students who tend to move around a lot and may be parents themselves. That’s helped ensure their ride to school shows up in the right place and that students are connected with child care.</p><p>The phone hotspots enable unaccompanied teens to use the internet on their school-provided Chromebooks, so they can do their homework wherever they’re staying. And the district also allows the teens to download certain social media apps so they can stay in touch with classmates — an added benefit for kids who <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2024/02/16/if-you-see-them-unaccompanied-homeless-youth-vicki-sokolik/">often feel isolated from their peers</a>.</p><p>“The phones have really opened up lines of communication and supported attendance efforts,” Bergman said. That success has helped Bergman make the case the district should keep paying for cell phones when the COVID aid is gone.</p><p>“Our business office has been really open to exploring different opportunities and understanding the connection piece of the phones,” she said. “Once these funds run out, it will be a little bit more of a: ‘Is this really a priority?’ question.”</p><p>In North Dakota’s Bismarck Public Schools, COVID relief funding has allowed Sherrice Roness to make more “outside the box” purchases that she is hoping to continue, too.</p><p>With COVID aid, the district now covers up to $500 in critical car repairs, such as fixing brakes or power steering. It’s a strategy advocates for homeless youth say can be more cost-effective than paying for a bus pass or taxi, and it has the added benefit of helping families get to work and doctor’s visits, in addition to taking their children to school.</p><p>“It gives them that pride of: They’re able to do that — provide that normalcy for their kids,” Roness said.</p><p>Roness has also paid for children’s medication for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder when a family’s insurance has lapsed, and she purchased a post office box so a 17-year-old who was no longer living with her parents could still get her college and financial aid letters in the mail.</p><p>When unique needs like that pop up, Roness said, it’s made a big difference to be able to tell students: “You know what? I can help you with that.”</p><p><i>Kalyn Belsha is a senior national education reporter based in Chicago. Contact her at </i><a href="mailto:kbelsha@chalkbeat.org" target="_blank"><i>kbelsha@chalkbeat.org</i></a><i>.</i></p>https://www.chalkbeat.org/2024/03/14/how-covid-aid-ushered-in-ability-to-give-homeless-students-more-direct-help/Kalyn BelshaJustin Sullivan / Getty Images2024-03-13T20:50:30+00:00<![CDATA[Florida settlement’s limits on ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law may give teachers and students breathing room]]>2024-03-14T03:19:57+00:00<p><i>Sign up for </i><a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/newsletters/national"><i>Chalkbeat’s free weekly newsletter</i></a><i> to keep up with how education is changing across the U.S.</i></p><p>Florida teachers can place a photo of their spouse on their desk. School libraries can stock books featuring LGBTQ characters. And anti-bullying efforts can protect LGBTQ students. But restrictions on classroom instruction related to sexuality and gender identity remain.</p><p>Those are the terms of a settlement agreement that puts an end to a lawsuit challenging what’s commonly known as Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law. Advocates are hailing the lifting of a “shadow” that had fallen over the state’s schools. Gov. Ron DeSantis, who made challenging “woke” ideas in schools a cornerstone of his political brand, also declared victory.</p><p>The resolution calls attention to the enormous gray areas created by laws restricting how teachers talk about gender, sexuality, race, and history. These laws simultaneously touch on issues of personal identity where federal law protects students and teachers, and issues of curriculum and instruction where states have broad authority.</p><p>Fearful of lawsuits and state investigations, teachers have emptied out classroom libraries, taken down Pride flags, and <a href="https://www.wusf.org/education/2023-11-30/teachers-say-they-cant-live-work-florida-anymore">quit their jobs</a>. A high school class president was told he <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2022/05/25/us/florida-curly-hair-graduation-speech/index.html">couldn’t mention being gay in his graduation speech</a>. State officials have blamed local leaders for going beyond the requirements of the law, but never formally clarified what was and wasn’t covered — until the settlement agreement was signed Monday.</p><p>Essentially, the agreement means that the law won’t force teachers back into the closet or prevent students from talking about who they are.</p><p><a href="https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/24480029-settlement-agreement031124">Under the agreement</a>, the Florida Department of Education will also disseminate guidance about the law to all 67 school districts.</p><p>“The vagueness of this law was intentional,” said Joe Saunders, senior political director at Equality Florida, a statewide LGBTQ rights group and one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit. “At any point, [state officials] could have offered deeper guidance and didn’t. The only reason they’ve done it now is because we sued them in federal court and forced them to end the most harmful aspects of this law.”</p><h2>Laws restricting teaching have wide-ranging impacts</h2><p>As classroom restrictions proliferate, a survey by the research group RAND found that <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2024/02/23/teachers-teens-not-at-ease-discussing-lgbtq-issues-in-school-survey-finds/">two-thirds of teachers reported self-censoring</a> how they talk about certain social and political issues in the classroom, whether they lived in a state with formal restrictions or not. RAND also found — in a <a href="https://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RRA134-22.html">study released this week</a> — that a majority of teachers thought these restrictions harmed learning and made students feel less welcome and less empathetic.</p><p>Teachers in Florida were the most likely to be aware of their state’s restrictions, and the most likely to report having changed instruction in response, RAND found. Florida also had more laws restricting instruction than other states.</p><p>A <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/education/2024/03/12/school-lgbtq-hate-crimes-incidents/">recent Washington Post analysis of FBI data</a> found that school-based hate crimes against LGBTQ students quadrupled in states that passed restrictive laws, which include laws governing teaching as well as which bathrooms and sports teams transgender children have access to.</p><p>The relationship between state policies and bullying has been in the national spotlight after the death of Nex Benedict, a nonbinary student who died in February after a fight in <a href="https://19thnews.org/2024/02/nex-benedict-oklahoma-lgbtq-community-resilience/">their Oklahoma high school</a>.</p><h4><b>Related:</b> ‘<a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2024/03/13/florida-dont-say-gay-settlement-clarifies-law-protects-students-teachers/" target="_blank">Am I not allowed to mention myself?’ Schools grapple with new restrictions on teaching about gender and sexuality</a></h4><p>Some state laws ban discussion of certain topics or require that lessons be “age appropriate” or avoid “divisive” framings, while others require parental notification and the opportunity for parents to opt students out of lessons. Many states leave enforcement to school districts and provide little guidance.</p><p>Advocates of these laws say parents have a right to know what their children are being taught, especially on issues that might conflict with their own values, and that schools should focus on core academic subjects.</p><p>Students and teachers in states with teaching restrictions <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2022/4/12/23022356/teaching-restrictions-gender-identity-sexual-orientation-lgbtq-issues-health-education/">told Chalkbeat</a> about LGTBQ student clubs receiving less support, and lessons in literature and history being scaled back to avoid talking about queer references in literature or the movement for gay civil rights.</p><p>Legal challenges to these laws are underway in a number of states, but how courts will rule could depend on specifics in individual states. Arizona’s teaching restrictions were struck down, for example, because lawmakers had wedged them into the state budget.</p><p>Keira McNett, staff counsel for the National Education Association, said the settlement is important in Florida and “for the national tenor.”</p><p>“Many states modeled their law after Florida’s and many are facing lawsuits of their own,” she said. “In many cases, they are overly broad. And when the state is required to actually explain what these vague laws mean, they explain it in a way that is a lot more narrow.”</p><h2>Settlement provides clarity for classrooms, activities</h2><p>Roberta Kaplan, the lead attorney for the lawsuit, said the settlement provides immediate relief to Florida students, parents, and teachers who were living under a cloud of uncertainty.</p><p>“Every kid should be able to go to public school and have their dignity respected and their family respected,” Kaplan said.</p><p>The settlement lays out examples of what’s allowed under Florida law, known formally as the Parental Rights in Education Act:</p><ul><li>Teachers can respond to students who choose to discuss their own families or identities and can grade essays that include LGBTQ topics.</li><li>Teachers can make reference to LGBTQ people in literature or history.</li><li>Student-to-student speech and classroom debates can touch on LGBTQ issues.</li><li>Schools can explicitly protect LGBTQ students in anti-bullying efforts, and teachers can have “safe space” stickers in their classroom.</li><li>Students of the same gender can dance together at school dances and wear clothing considered inconsistent with their gender assigned at birth.</li></ul><p>The settlement clarifies that restrictions on classroom instruction apply “regardless of viewpoint.” In other words, teachers can’t teach a lesson on modern gender theory to elementary students, nor can they teach those students that gender identity is immutable and determined by biological traits.</p><p>Kaplan said states have significant authority over curriculum, and that the part of the law specifying such restrictions was unlikely to be overturned on further appeal.</p><p>DeSantis’ office in a press release <a href="https://www.flgov.com/2024/03/11/florida-wins-lawsuit-against-parental-rights-in-education-act-to-be-dismissed-law-remains-in-effect/">emphasized that the law as written remains intact</a> and “children will be protected from radical gender and sexual ideology in the classroom.”</p><p>“We fought hard to ensure this law couldn’t be maligned in court, as it was in the public arena by the media and large corporate actors,” Florida General Counsel Ryan Newman said in the press release. “We are victorious, and Florida’s classrooms will remain a safe place under the Parental Rights in Education Act.”</p><h2>Settlement ‘allows for a reasonable conversation’ on instruction</h2><p>Suzanne Eckes, a professor of educational law and policy at the University of Wisconsin, said Florida’s law and others that are vague and broad potentially violate federal laws and protections.</p><p>As employees, teachers have limited free speech rights in the classroom, but states cannot discriminate against them on the basis of sex, which <a href="https://www.vox.com/2020/6/15/21291515/supreme-court-bostock-clayton-county-lgbtq-neil-gorsuch">forms the basis of many legal protections for LGBTQ people</a>. For example, they can’t penalize a teacher for having a picture of a same-sex spouse on their desk while allowing a colleague to have a picture of her husband. The <a href="https://firstamendment.mtsu.edu/article/equal-access-act-of-1984/">federal Equal Access Act</a> says that schools can’t limit extracurricular clubs based on their content. Bible study groups, future homemakers, and gay-straight alliance clubs all have the right to meet in school, Eckes said.</p><p>Eckes said the settlement suggests the challengers had viable claims on equal protection grounds, even as the state maintains the right to regulate curriculum and prevent teachers from offering personal opinions to a captive audience.</p><p>While the settlement creates no legal precedent, it could encourage some school district lawyers, even in other states, to reach less restrictive interpretations of their states’ laws. At the same time, even in Florida, there may be disagreements about what exactly constitutes instruction.</p><p>“If a teacher does give an opinion in class, there is this overall idea that teacher speech can be curtailed,” she said. “That is a grayer area than banning the gay-straight alliance or pulling all the books off the shelves due to your own ideology.”</p><p>Derek Black, a professor of constitutional law at the University of South Carolina, said the settlement could change the political and cultural calculus around sweeping prohibitions, even though it doesn’t set a precedent for other lawsuits.</p><p>“If DeSantis is willing to settle, maybe it’s OK for the governor of Oklahoma to settle,” Black said. “Maybe it denies cultural conservatives the ability to say that some governor or AG in another state is weak.”</p><p>The settlement also offers teachers important clarity, Black said: “This type of settlement rebalances things so you don’t have to be so afraid and that allows for a reasonable conversation about what’s instruction and what’s not.”</p><p>Michael Woods, a high school teacher in Palm Beach County who leads the Florida Education Association’s LGBTQ caucus, said he’s thrilled with the settlement even as he fears it will take decades to get back to the level of inclusion teachers and students experienced just a few years ago.</p><p>His school district’s guide for supporting LGBTQ students shrunk from 140 pages to 14 under Florida’s law, he said. And he stopped leading his school’s GSA club because he would have needed to send permission slips home, which led him to worry about outing students. He’s not sure that’s changed.</p><p>Woods also worries about colleagues in smaller, more conservative communities, and about trans educators who often face even more hostility than gay and lesbian teachers.</p><p>Still, he hopes teachers in other states feel inspired.</p><p>“One of the most hateful states in the nation for LGBTQ rights reached a settlement,” he said. “You have to fight, but it can happen.”</p><p><i>Erica Meltzer is Chalkbeat’s national editor based in Colorado. Contact Erica at </i><a href="mailto:emeltzer@chalkbeat.org" target="_blank"><i>emeltzer@chalkbeat.org</i></a><i>.</i></p>https://www.chalkbeat.org/2024/03/13/florida-dont-say-gay-settlement-clarifies-law-protects-students-teachers/Erica MeltzerChandan Khanna / AFP via Getty Images2024-03-12T20:59:32+00:00<![CDATA[How the anti-vaccine movement pits parental rights against public health]]>2024-03-12T20:59:32+00:00<p><i>This story </i><a href="https://kffhealthnews.org/news/article/anti-vaccine-movement-pits-parental-rights-against-public-health/" target="_blank"><i>originally appeared on KFF Health News</i></a><i> and is republished with permission.</i></p><p>Gayle Borne has fostered more than 300 children in Springfield, Tennessee. She’s cared for kids who have rarely seen a doctor — kids so neglected that they cannot speak. Such children are now even more vulnerable because of a law Tennessee passed last year that requires the direct consent of birth parents or legal guardians for every routine childhood vaccination. Foster parents, social workers, and other caregivers cannot provide permission.</p><p>In January, Borne took a foster baby, born extremely premature at just over 2 pounds, to her first doctor’s appointment. The health providers said that without the consent of the child’s mother, they couldn’t vaccinate her against diseases like pneumonia, hepatitis B, and polio. The mother hasn’t been located, so a social worker is now seeking a court order to permit immunizations. “We are just waiting,” Borne said. “Our hands are tied.”</p><p>Tennessee’s law has also stymied grandmothers and other caregivers who accompany children to routine appointments when parents are at work, in drug and alcohol rehabilitation clinics, or otherwise unavailable. The law claims to “give parents back the right to make medical decisions for their children.”</p><p>Framed in the rhetoric of choice and consent, it is one of more than a dozen recent and pending pieces of legislation nationwide that pit parental freedom against community and children’s health. In actuality, they create obstacles to vaccination, the foundation of pediatric care.</p><p>Such policies have another effect. They seed doubt about vaccine safety in a climate rife with medical misinformation. The trend has <a href="https://kffhealthnews.org/news/article/anti-science-vaccines-politics-polarization-partisanship-2024-elections/">exploded as politicians</a> and social media influencers make false claims about risks, despite studies showing otherwise.</p><p>Doctors traditionally give caregivers vaccine information and get their permission before delivering more than a dozen childhood immunizations that defend against measles, polio, and other debilitating diseases.</p><p>But now, Tennessee’s law demands that birth parents attend routine appointments and sign consent forms for every vaccine given over two or more years. “The forms could have a chilling effect,” said Jason Yaun, a Memphis pediatrician and past president of the Tennessee chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics.</p><p>“People who promote parental rights on vaccines tend to downplay the rights of children,” said Dorit Reiss, a vaccine policy researcher at the University of California Law-San Francisco.</p><h2>Drop in routine vaccination rates</h2><p>Misinformation coupled with a parental rights movement that shifts decision-making away from public health expertise has contributed to the <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/72/wr/mm7245a2.htm?s_cid=mm7245a2_w">lowest childhood vaccine</a> rates in a decade.</p><p>This year, legislators in Arizona, Iowa, and West Virginia have introduced related consent bills. A “Parents’ Bill of Rights” amendment in Oklahoma seeks to ensure that parents know they can exempt their children from school vaccine mandates along with lessons on sex education and AIDS. In Florida, the medical skeptic leading the state’s health department recently <a href="https://kffhealthnews.org/news/article/florida-defies-cdc-measles-outbreak/">defied guidance</a> from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention by telling parents they could send unvaccinated children to a school during a measles outbreak.</p><p>Last year, Mississippi began allowing exemptions from school vaccine requirements for religious reasons because of a lawsuit funded by the Informed Consent Action Network, which is <a href="https://252f2edd-1c8b-49f5-9bb2-cb57bb47e4ba.filesusr.com/ugd/f4d9b9_b7cedc0553604720b7137f8663366ee5.pdf">listed as a leading source</a> of anti-vaccine disinformation by the Center for Countering Digital Hate. A post on ICAN’s website said it “could not be more proud” in Mississippi to “restore the right of every parent in this country to have his or her convictions respected and not trampled by the government.”</p><p>Even if some bills fail, Reiss fears, the revived parental rights movement may eventually abolish policies that require routine immunizations to attend school. At a <a href="https://twitter.com/svdate/status/1764445855623291167">recent campaign rally</a>, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump said, “I will not give one penny to any school that has a vaccine mandate.”</p><p>The movement dates to the wake of the 1918 influenza pandemic, when some parents pushed back against progressive reforms that required school attendance and prohibited child labor. Since then, tensions between state measures and parental freedom have occasionally flared over a variety of issues. Vaccines became a prominent one in 2021, as the movement found common ground with people skeptical of COVID-19 vaccines.</p><p>“The parental rights movement didn’t start with vaccines,” Reiss said, “but the anti-vaccine movement has allied themselves with it and has expanded their reach by riding on its coattails.”</p><h2>When lawmakers silence health experts</h2><p>In Tennessee, anti-vaccine activists and libertarian-leaning organizations railed against the state’s health department in 2021 when it recommended COVID vaccines to minors, following CDC guidance. Gary Humble, executive director of the conservative group Tennessee Stands, <a href="https://rumble.com/v12kxem-hearing-on-mature-minor-doctrine.html">asked legislators</a> to blast the health department for advising masks and vaccination, suggesting the department “could be dissolved and reconstituted at your pleasure.”</p><p>Backlash also followed a notice sent to doctors from Michelle Fiscus, then the state’s immunization director. She <a href="https://www.tennessean.com/story/news/politics/2021/08/26/michelle-fiscus-tennessee-children-vaccine-official-fired-covid-pandemic-timeline/5574638001/">reminded them</a> that they didn’t need parental permission to vaccinate consenting adolescents 14 or older, according to a decades-old state rule called the Mature Minor Doctrine.</p><p>In the weeks that followed, state legislators threatened to defund the health department and pressured it into scaling back COVID vaccine promotion, as revealed by <a href="https://www.tennessean.com/story/news/health/2021/07/08/tennessee-halts-covid-19-vaccine-events-teens-wake-republican-pressure/7873131002/">The Tennessean</a>. Fiscus was <a href="https://www.tennessean.com/story/news/health/2021/07/12/tennessee-fires-top-vaccine-official-covid-19-shows-new-spread/7928699002/">abruptly fired.</a> “Today I became the 25th of 64 state and territorial immunization program directors to leave their position during this pandemic,” she <a href="https://www.tennessean.com/story/news/health/2021/07/12/covid-19-tennessee-fired-vaccine-official-michelle-fiscus-fears-state/7945291002/">wrote in a statement</a>. “That’s nearly 40% of us.” Tennessee’s COVID death rate climbed to <a href="https://www.thelancet.com/action/showPdf?pii=S0140-6736%2823%2900461-0">one of the nation’s highest</a> by mid-2022.</p><p>By the time two state legislators introduced a bill to reverse the Mature Minor Doctrine, the health department was silent on the proposal. Despite obstacles for foster children who would require a court order for routine immunizations, Tennessee’s Department of Children’s Services was silent, too.</p><p>Notably, the legislator who introduced the bill, Republican Rep. John Ragan, was among those simultaneously overseeing a review of the agency that would determine its leadership and budget for the coming years. “Children belong to their families, not the state,” said Ragan as he presented the bill at a <a href="https://tnga.granicus.com/player/clip/28379?view_id=703&redirect=true&h=451e421bc22411a01be25f3a126e06fc">state hearing</a> in April 2023.</p><p>Democratic Rep. Justin Pearson spoke out against the bill. It “doesn’t take into account people and children who are neglected,” he told Ragan. “We are legislating from a point of privilege and not recognizing the people who are not privileged in this way.”</p><p>Rather than address such concerns, Ragan referenced a <a href="https://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/530/57/">Supreme Court ruling</a> in favor of parental rights in 2000. Specifically, judges determined that a mother had legal authority to decide who could visit her daughters. Yet the Supreme Court has also <a href="https://www.skepticalraptor.com/skepticalraptorblog.php/parental-and-childrens-rights-vaccination-mandates/">done the opposite</a>. For instance, it <a href="https://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/321/158/">sided against</a> a legal guardian who removed her child from school to proselytize for the Jehovah’s Witnesses.</p><p>Still, Ragan swiftly won the majority vote. Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee, a Republican, signed the bill <a href="https://wapp.capitol.tn.gov/apps/BillInfo/Default.aspx?BillNumber=SB1111">in May</a>, making it effective immediately. Deborah Lowen, then the deputy commissioner of child health at the Department of Children’s Services, was flooded with calls from doctors who now face jailtime and fines for vaccinating minors without adequate consent. “I was and remain very disheartened,” she said.</p><h2>A right to health</h2><p>Yaun, the Memphis pediatrician, said he was shaken as he declined to administer a first series of vaccines to an infant accompanied by a social worker. “That child is going into a situation where they are around other children and adults,” he said, “where they could be exposed to something we failed to protect them from.”</p><p>“We have had numerous angry grandparents in our waiting room who take kids to appointments because the parents are at work or down on their luck,” said Hunter Butler, a pediatrician in Springfield, Tennessee. “I once called a rehabilitation facility to find a mom and get her on the phone to get verbal consent to vaccinate her baby,” he said. “And it’s unclear if that was OK.”</p><p>Childhood immunization rates have <a href="https://academic.oup.com/jpids/advance-article/doi/10.1093/jpids/piae006/7597167">dropped for three consecutive years</a> in Tennessee. Nationwide, downward trends in measles vaccination <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/72/wr/mm7245a2.htm#T1_down">led the CDC to estimate</a> that a quarter million kindergartners are at risk of the highly contagious disease.</p><p>Communities with low vaccination rates are vulnerable as measles surges internationally. Confirmed measles cases in 2023 were almost double those in 2022 — a year in which the <a href="https://webtv.un.org/en/asset/k1z/k1zjsjgbkd">World Health Organization</a> estimates that more than 136,000 people died from the disease globally. When travelers infected abroad land in communities with low childhood vaccination rates, the highly contagious virus can spread swiftly among unvaccinated people, as well as babies too young to be vaccinated and people with weakened immune systems.</p><p>“There’s a freedom piece on the other side of this argument,” said Caitlin Gilmet, communications director at the vaccine advocacy group SAFE Communities Coalition and Action Fund. “You should have the right to protect your family from preventable diseases.”</p><p>In late January, Gilmet and other child health advocates gathered in a room at the Tennessee Statehouse in Nashville, offering a free breakfast of fried chicken biscuits. They handed out flyers as legislators and their aides drifted in to eat. One pamphlet described the <a href="https://publications.aap.org/pediatrics/article/147/4/e2020027037/180774/Societal-Costs-of-a-Measles-Outbreak?autologincheck=redirected">toll of a 2018-19 measles</a> outbreak in Washington state that sickened 72 people, most of whom were unvaccinated, costing $76,000 in medical care, $2.3 million for the public health response, and an estimated $1 million in economic losses due to illness, quarantine, and caregiving.</p><p>Barb Dentz, an advocate with the grassroots group Tennessee Families for Vaccines, repeated that most of the state’s constituents support strong policies in favor of immunizations. Indeed, seven in 10 U.S. adults maintained that public schools should require vaccination against measles, mumps, and rubella, in a <a href="https://www.pewresearch.org/science/2023/05/16/americans-largely-positive-views-of-childhood-vaccines-hold-steady/#:~:text=The%20decline%20in%20support%20for%20vaccine%20requirements%20for%20children%20has%20been%20driven%20by%20changing%20views%20among%20Republicans%3A%2057%25%20now%20support%20requiring%20children%20to%20be%20vaccinated%20to%20attend%20public%20schools%2C%20down%20from%2079%25%20in%202019.">Pew Research Center poll</a> last year. But numbers have been dropping.</p><p>“Protecting kids should be such a no-brainer,” Dentz told Republican Rep. Sam Whitson, later that morning in his office. Whitson agreed and reflected on an explosion of anti-vaccine misinformation. “Dr. Google and Facebook have been such a challenge,” he said. “Fighting ignorance has become a full-time job.”</p><p>Whitson was among a minority of Republicans who voted against Tennessee’s vaccine amendment last year. “The parental rights thing has really taken hold,” he said, “and it can be used for and against us.”</p><p><a href="https://kffhealthnews.org/about-us"><i>KFF Health News</i></a><i> is a national newsroom that produces in-depth journalism about health issues and is one of the core operating programs at KFF — an independent source of health policy research, polling, and journalism. Learn more about </i><a href="https://www.kff.org/about-us"><i>KFF</i></a><i>.</i></p>https://www.chalkbeat.org/2024/03/12/anti-vaccine-movement-pits-parental-rights-against-public-health/Amy Maxmen, KFF Health News(Amy Maxmen/KFF Health News)2024-03-11T21:56:58+00:00<![CDATA[Biden education budget proposal includes $8 billion to extend pandemic recovery work like tutoring]]>2024-03-11T22:00:36+00:00<p><i>Sign up for </i><a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/newsletters/national"><i>Chalkbeat’s free weekly newsletter</i></a><i> to keep up with how education is changing across the U.S.</i></p><p>With a deadline looming to spend pandemic education dollars, the Biden administration has proposed making another $8 billion available to states and school districts to encourage better attendance and support academic recovery through tutoring and summer school.</p><p>The idea is a key component of President Joe Biden’s proposed budget for the U.S. Department of Education for fiscal year 2025, and represents an acknowledgment that <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2024/02/05/learning-loss-study-finds-surprising-academic-recovery-growing-inequality/">schools still have a lot of work to do to recover from pandemic learning disruptions</a>. The proposal comes a few months after the Biden administration <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2024/01/18/biden-white-house-focus-on-tutoring-summer-school-chronic-absenteeism/">called on schools to prioritize</a> spending remaining COVID relief funding in these same areas.</p><p>The <a href="https://www2.ed.gov/about/overview/budget/budget25/index.html">president’s budget proposal</a>, announced Monday, also calls for modest increases to federal programs supporting high-poverty schools, students learning English as a second language, and students with disabilities. The administration also wants more money to support the Office for Civil Rights, and a $750 increase in the maximum Pell Grant award to help make college more affordable.</p><p>The White House budget plan will almost certainly not be adopted as written. It heads to a dysfunctional Congress that has careened between threats of government shutdown and short-term spending resolutions. The Republicans who control the House have been particularly hostile to Biden’s efforts to increase spending in several areas , including the Title I program that supports high-poverty schools.</p><p>Overall the budget proposal calls for more than $82 billion in discretionary spending for the education department, a 4% increase from this year.</p><p>Officials emphasized that this budget proposal complies with spending caps agreed to in last year’s <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2023/06/03/us/politics/biden-debt-bill.html">bipartisan Fiscal Responsibility Act</a>, while still investing in initiatives they hope will improve student success.</p><p>“When it comes to education, this budget is about raising the bar,” Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said in a call with reporters. “There are historic investments promised on top of historic investments delivered.”</p><h2>Budget offers way to continue tutoring, attendance outreach</h2><p>American schools received a <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2022/2/3/22916590/schools-federal-covid-relief-stimulus-spending-tracking/">combined $190 billion in assistance across three pandemic aid packages</a> and have until September to spend any remaining money. Many schools have come to rely on their tutoring programs and want to keep them going after the pandemic aid expires.</p><p>But <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2024/02/01/how-schools-will-keep-tutoring-programs-after-esser-covid-funding-is-gone/">how they’ll fund them</a> has been a big question. Some states have pledged added tutoring funds, but many districts would likely struggle to keep providing intensive help to students without making cuts elsewhere in their budget.</p><p>Similarly, the rate at which students are missing lots of school <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2023/9/28/23893221/chronic-absenteeism-attendance-santa-fe-orlando-schools/">remains well above pre-pandemic levels in many parts of the country</a>. Many schools launched home visit programs or<a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/detroit/2023/9/1/23854755/detroit-chronic-absenteeism-school-attendance-agent/"> hired staff specifically to work with kids</a> who aren’t attending regularly, but school leaders say it will take additional time and investment to re-engage students and continue to boost attendance rates.</p><p>Expanded summer school programs were a popular investment during the pandemic, though they’ve been only <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2023/8/15/23833338/pandemic-covid-summer-school-learning-loss-recovery-research/">moderately successful in helping students catch up</a>. They’ve also been a <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2023/9/6/23851143/covid-relief-schools-esser-spending-learning-loss/">common place</a> school leaders have <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/newyork/2024/03/04/summer-rising-faces-reduced-hours-budget-cuts/">scaled back</a> as COVID relief funding has wound down.</p><p>The proposed $8 billion in new money isn’t intended to replace pandemic assistance but would supplement current efforts. Officials envision a competitive grant program that would prioritize high-poverty schools, schools in communities especially hard-hit by COVID, and schools identified as needing academic improvement under federal accountability rules.</p><h2>More money for English learners, civil rights investigations</h2><p>Biden’s budget proposal calls for a 1.1% increase, or $200 million, to local grants in the Title I program, which provides money to low-income schools. Earlier in his administration, Biden called on Congress to <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2021/4/9/22375692/biden-proposes-doubling-title-i-sending-high-poverty-schools/">double spending on Title I</a>, but that hasn’t come to fruition. Congressional Republicans have questioned whether schools need more money after the pandemic stimulus, and last year, they <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2023/7/14/23795314/republicans-education-budget-cut-title-i-low-income-schools-covid-aid-critical-race-theory/">sought to significantly cut Title I spending</a>.</p><p>Cardona characterized this budget as defending public education from a “slash-and-burn” approach that would endanger the futures of American students.</p><p>Similarly, the White House is proposing a 1.4% increase in spending to support K-12 special education services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, as well as additional money for infants, toddlers, and preschool students with disabilities and grants to recruit special education teachers. Advocates have long called for the federal government to increase special education funding. Federal law lays out disabled students’ educational rights but leaves most of the costs to states and school districts.</p><p>The budget proposal calls for a roughly 5% increase or $50 million in new spending for Title III, which supports English learners.</p><p>Biden’s budget proposal also includes an extra $22 million, a 16% increase, for the Office for Civil Rights, which conducts investigations into allegations of discrimination in schools. Recently, the department announced it is looking into several incidents <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2023/11/7/23951546/education-department-urges-schools-to-protect-jewish-and-muslim-students/">involving antisemitism or anti-Muslim discrimination</a> at colleges and K-12 schools since the war between Israel and Hamas broke out in October.</p><p>The budget also calls for increased funding for preschool, student mental health, and community schools, which <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2017/5/12/21100480/community-schools-are-expanding-but-are-they-working-new-study-shows-mixed-results/" target="_blank">provide a wide range of services to support students and their families</a>, as well as programs to encourage diverse candidates to enter the teaching profession.</p><p>The budget proposal includes a few cuts as well, including a 9% or $40 million reduction in a program that supports new charter schools and the replication of high-quality charter models.</p><h2>Budget seeks to mitigate college costs</h2><p>Biden’s budget blueprint would also increase the maximum Pell Grant award to $8,145, a 10% increase from current levels. Pell grants are available to college students from low-income families, and unlike loans, do not need to be repaid.</p><p>Budget analysts have warned of a looming shortfall in the Pell program after Congress expanded eligibility at the same time more students are heading back to college. The most recent continuing resolution to keep the federal government open <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/education/2024/03/01/pell-expansion-change-short-term-spending-bill/">walks back some of that recent expansion</a>.</p><p>Advocates have <a href="https://www.nasfaa.org/issue_brief_double_pell" target="_blank">argued that the maximum Pell award should be closer to $13,000</a> to keep pace with tuition increases and keep the door open to college for students of modest means.</p><p>The budget would increase funding for programs that allow high school students to earn college credit before graduating and for grants that help colleges support first-generation students and increase graduation rates.</p><p>The budget also calls for partnerships with states and tribes to make two years of community college free for students going to college for the first time and workers looking to change careers. <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/colorado/2021/5/5/22421898/biden-free-community-college-big-opportunities-new-challenges-colorado/">Free community college was one of several education proposals</a> that Biden ran on in 2020 that hasn’t gotten traction.</p><p>And the budget calls for more investment in the Office of Federal Student Aid amid a <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2024/02/21/better-fafsa-social-security-number-glitch-fix-announced/">rocky rollout of a new federal financial aid form</a>.</p><p><i>Erica Meltzer is Chalkbeat’s national editor based in Colorado. Contact Erica at </i><a href="mailto:emeltzer@chalkbeat.org"><i>emeltzer@chalkbeat.org</i></a><i>.</i></p><p><i>Kalyn Belsha is a senior national education reporter based in Chicago. Contact her at </i><a href="mailto:kbelsha@chalkbeat.org"><i>kbelsha@chalkbeat.org</i></a><i>.</i></p>https://www.chalkbeat.org/2024/03/11/biden-education-budget-would-support-tutoring-financial-aid/Erica Meltzer, Kalyn BelshaCourtesy of the U.S. Department of Education2024-03-11T13:26:56+00:00<![CDATA[Los Angeles students get free instruments. An Oscar-winning film shows who keeps them working.]]>2024-03-11T13:39:47+00:00<p><i>Sign up for </i><a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/newsletters/national"><i>Chalkbeat’s free weekly newsletter</i></a><i> to keep up with how education is changing across the U.S.</i></p><p>In the opening scene of “The Last Repair Shop,” a young girl with beads in her braids smiles at the camera. “I love the violin. … If I didn’t have my violin from school, I would probably, I don’t know what I’d do. Don’t even jinx me with that.”</p><p>The next scene takes us inside a violin, as a tool carefully moves along the wooden curves and an eye peers inside.</p><p>The Oscar-winning short documentary, directed by Ben Proudfoot and Kris Bowers, tells the story of the technicians who clean and repair more than 100,000 instruments for the Los Angeles Unified School District. The school district serving more than 400,000 students aims to have a music teacher in every elementary school, provides free instruments to all students enrolled in music programs, and operates its own repair shop. It’s one of the last operations of its kind in the country.</p><p>Bowers is a <a href="https://apnews.com/article/kris-bowers-ap-breakthrough-entertainer-2023-441a491a4cce606d339581997259e776">composer who has scored films such as “The Green Book” and “King Richard.”</a> He’s also a graduate of LAUSD. He was exposed to music early and started playing the keyboard before he even entered elementary school. But the piano in the school auditorium was still important.</p><p>“I just remember during recess or lunch, if there was a moment that I had free, more often than not, I would find that piano and try out new ideas or things that I was learning,” he said. “I hadn’t thought about who fixed those instruments when I was a kid. I just showed up and the piano was in tune.”</p><p>The <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HSLeqTWasO8" target="_blank">40-minute documentary</a> features interviews with young musicians talking about their instruments and technicians from each of the four shops — brass, string, woodwind, and piano — sharing their life stories, mixed with close-up shots of the instruments and the repair work bathed in golden light.</p><p>Chalkbeat spoke to Bowers and Paty Moreno, who repairs brass instruments, about the work, the instruments, the music, the students who make it, and more.</p><p><i>This interview has been edited for clarity and length.</i></p><p><b>In the film we see the stories of the people who work in the repair shop interspersed with kids talking about what their instruments mean to them. We don’t get a lot of exposition about the program, how it works, how it might be unique. What was driving that choice to present the story that way?</b></p><p><b>Bowers:</b> Starting with the people first and foremost and having that be the core of the story was a big North Star for us. As soon as we have these individuals being open and vulnerable enough with us to share their lives and share their stories, that’s going to be the thing that draws people in.</p><p>This job is about catalyzing the conversation, right? Our hope is that this film touches people on such a deep emotional level, that they’re then driven to walk away from the film and say, “How does that work? Where is this? Does my city have this? What happened?”</p><p>I think that putting too much of the explanatory context of how this system works would take away from the immediacy of the emotional connection we have with these people.</p><p><b>What were you trying to evoke with the title, The Last Repair Shop?</b></p><p><b>Bowers:</b> All of these major cities that have billions of kids and even cities that are known for music, they don’t have a program like this. It felt like not only something to be really proud of, but also at the same time a call to action that this can’t be the last one. There’s a feeling of concern for the scarcity of this type of program.</p><p><b>Paty, one thing that’s really delightful in the movie is your treasure jar. Tell us a little more about the types of things that you find inside instruments and why you decided to keep them.</b></p><p><b>Moreno:</b> I was working in the private sector in a music store for seven years, and it never occurred to me that the kids can put objects inside the instruments. And when I started working for LAUSD, I noticed that the instruments were coming in, and they were saying, “It doesn’t make any sound.” And then when I would start checking the instrument, they were having different objects inside, even pencils in the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leadpipe">leadpipes</a> or erasers, toys, batteries. I found a little rock inside a piston.</p><p>For me it was like, “OK, you send me an instrument like that as a challenge. I will try to fix it.”</p><p>I just started with a very small jar. And I started putting whatever I was finding in it. And it got to be more and more because I’ve worked downtown 19, 20 years. When I retire I’m going to keep them and I take them as my trophy, as my treasures, so that’s why I started calling them the treasure jar.</p><p><b>Sometimes we hear this as a reason we can’t give kids instruments for free or that we can’t let them take instruments home. When you’re working on an instrument where maybe a child was not as careful as they should have been, what are you thinking about when you’re repairing that instrument?</b></p><p><b>Moreno:</b> It’s not for me to judge the kid. A lot of times we have these moments in our lives where we get frustrated, and we don’t know what the feeling is for a kid. I don’t know what’s going on in their lives.</p><p>So yeah, when an instrument comes to me and I can see that it has been abused, I just try to do my best to repair it and put it back together and hopefully the instrument has a little bit more care and tenderness next time.</p><p><b>One of the other things that you talk about in the film is how much you struggled when your kids were younger. It made me think about the role that school districts play as employers in communities. How did your life change when you came to work in the repair shop?</b></p><p><b>Moreno:</b> I don’t live in L.A., and the school district where my kids went to school, the music program and everything [needed] to be paid for. So that’s the reason why unfortunately, when my kid asked me if he could join music, I [said], ‘No, you can’t,’ because I [didn’t have] the means to do it. When you have only one income and when you make less than minimum wage, it’s very difficult.</p><p>And when I started working for the school district, that changed, because they give me a full time [job], they give me benefits, they give me more flexibility. I was able to stay home and take care of my sick kid, which some other places where I didn’t have those benefits, I couldn’t do it.</p><p>But I want people to know that everything we do is for the love of our kids, not only my kids now, but for the love of the kids that play the instruments. We do everything based on hopefully they grew up to have a better chance than what I have.</p><figure><img src="https://www.chalkbeat.org/resizer/KSVA61WdzEktMF4ncnTGAQrr3dM=/1440x960/cloudfront-us-east-1.images.arcpublishing.com/civicnewscompany/DUK4U5X7LNCSPCBA4VQ7TCPFBQ.jpg" alt="Paty Moreno works on a tuba. Participating in the film "The Last Repair Shop" was an emotional experience, she said, knowing that instruments she worked on changed students' lives. " height="960" width="1440"/><figcaption>Paty Moreno works on a tuba. Participating in the film "The Last Repair Shop" was an emotional experience, she said, knowing that instruments she worked on changed students' lives. </figcaption></figure><p><b>There’s an incredible performance at the end, where you have kids who are students currently in the program, and you have people who graduated decades ago and have made their living in the music industry. What was involved in putting that together?</b></p><p><b>Bowers: </b>One of the things we were so struck by is this separation between these amazing craftspeople and the students that they’re impacting. We talked pretty early on about the idea of filling a room with generations of humans who have benefited from this repair shop.</p><p>Ben and I went to work on the piece of music, which was a lot of fun in our collaboration. I wrote a [first] pass of the piece of music, and then we listened to it and we visualized what we wanted the film to look and feel like. OK, the opening notes should be a little bit longer because we want a pullback shot.</p><p>The continuation of this outpouring of love was so emotional. All of these incredible musicians talking about the fact that they were going to donate their time, and making connections that this person went to the same school as this person, 10 years apart, and to have a young, middle school cellist sitting next to someone that played on half of the films that came out this year or someone that played on “Jaws” ... it was just an amazing day to be part of.</p><p><iframe style="aspect-ratio: 560 / 315; width: 100%; max-width: 100%;" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/HSLeqTWasO8?si=OEnPFrA7B-KHn2o7" title="YouTube video player" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture; web-share" allowfullscreen></iframe></p><p><b>What was it like to see the shop and yourself and your colleagues on film and to see just a few of the kids whose lives you’ve touched?</b></p><p><b>Moreno: </b>I always work with the instruments, I don’t have much interaction either with band directors or with the students at all. I feel very honored now that I met some of the kids. They helped me to raise a family myself.</p><p>I have seen those kids and how well they play and how professional the band directors are when they do the performances. I’m proud thinking how many kids really make it with music for their own passion, for their own life or their own living. I feel very proud to see how successful the kids are in the school district.</p><p><i><b>Editor’s note: </b></i><i>This story and headlines have been updated to reflect that “The Last Repair Shop” won best short documentary at the Academy Awards Sunday.</i></p><p><i>Erica Meltzer is Chalkbeat’s national editor based in Colorado. Contact Erica at </i><a href="mailto:emeltzer@chalkbeat.org" target="_blank"><i>emeltzer@chalkbeat.org</i></a><i>.</i></p>https://www.chalkbeat.org/2024/03/08/oscar-nominated-last-repair-shop-shows-technicians-for-lausd-music-program/Erica MeltzerFilm still courtesy of The Last Repair Shop2024-03-06T21:31:36+00:00<![CDATA[The SAT is going digital. Here’s what to know.]]>2024-03-07T13:59:16+00:00<p><i>Sign up for </i><a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/newsletters/national"><i>Chalkbeat’s free weekly newsletter</i></a><i> to keep up with how education is changing across the U.S.</i></p><p>No more No. 2 pencils. No more bubble sheets. The SAT this year is entirely digital. And that’s not the only change for the test.</p><p>The new SAT is shorter — just over two hours compared with the roughly three hours for the previous SAT and its main competitor, the ACT. It’s adaptive, meaning students who score relatively low on the first half of the test will get easier questions in the second half. There are fewer questions. And students have more time to answer each question.</p><p>The College Board, which oversees the test, made all of these changes with the hope of creating a less stressful experience. But the SAT’s status is in flux.</p><p>The first U.S. students are taking the new SAT this week; the digital SAT launched internationally last year. The College Board is rolling out the digital test after hundreds of U.S. colleges and universities ditched test score requirements for admissions in recent years. More than 1,800 colleges, including large state systems in Texas and California, won’t require applicants to submit test scores for the fall of 2025,<a href="https://fairtest.org/overwhelming-majority-of-u-s-colleges-and-universities-remain-act-sat-optional-or-test-blind-score-free-for-fall-2025/"> according to data tracked by FairTest</a>, a research and advocacy group. At the same time, <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2024/03/05/us/brown-university-admission-test-optional.html">some of the country’s most elite institutions are bringing them back</a>.</p><p>The test optional movement, as much as the spread of technology during the pandemic, shaped the College Board’s thought process.</p><p>“If we’re launching a test that is largely optional, how do we make it the most attractive option possible?” said Priscilla Rodriguez, the College Board’s senior vice president of college readiness assessments. “If students are deciding to take a test, how do we make the SAT the one they want to take?”</p><p>Rodriguez said the College Board feels confident that a score of 900 or a 1300 will tell the same story about a student that it did a year ago.</p><p>But critics of the test remain skeptical. They question how the SAT can purport to provide objective information about students while changing the test so much from previous years and giving different students different tests. They worry the College Board is essentially conducting an experiment.</p><p>“The College Board gets to do what they want, and we have to trust fall into it,” said Jennifer Jessie, an independent college counselor and tutor based in northern Virginia who is steering her students away from the SAT this year.</p><h2>Digital SAT is shorter — but that’s not all</h2><p>Rodriguez said the pandemic pushed the College Board to create a digital SAT after several years of internal discussion. Most students have school-issued devices, and they’re used to working on a computer, she said.</p><p>“We were hearing that this was the last high-stakes test students took on paper, and it wasn’t natural, and getting those bubble sheets was more stressful,” she said.</p><p>The digital test is not just the old test moved to a computer, though.</p><ul><li>Reading passages are much shorter — a single paragraph — because the longer passages didn’t render well on the screen.</li><li>Students will read more than 50 short reading passages with a single question each, instead of nine long passages with multiple questions.</li><li>Students can use a built-in graphing calculator on the entire test rather than having separate calculator and non-calculator sections.</li><li>The test is adaptive. Based on their performance on the first section, students will get an easier or a harder second section.</li></ul><p>Making the test adaptive is what allows the test to be shorter, Rodriguez said. Because it changes based on how students answer early questions, the test can hone in more efficiently on what students can do.</p><p>Students who get the easier second section won’t be able to get the highest score of 1600. Rodriguez said that’s because students need to get a lot of questions wrong in the first half to end up with the easier second section.</p><p>“The mechanics itself does not preclude you from getting a certain score, but the student performance might,” she said.</p><p>Students can take the test on a school-issued or personal device, but they can’t take it at home and they can’t take it on a cell phone. Rodriguez said the College Board will provide laptops for students who indicate at registration they don’t have access to a device.</p><p>Students must download and take the test in the College Board’s Bluebook app. It requires minimal bandwidth and can go offline without disrupting the test, Rodriguez said. If a device loses its internet connection as a student is submitting their test, their work should be saved and re-encrypted until the connection is restored.</p><p>Students should get their results in a few days, instead of waiting weeks.</p><p>Rodriguez said in addition to wanting a better testing experience for students, the College Board wants a test that’s easier for schools to administer, now that two-thirds of students take the SAT during the school day rather than at a Saturday testing site.</p><p>In addition, teachers no longer need to store and protect boxes of paper tests or monitor calculator use. And the test takes up less of the school day.</p><h2>The testing landscape is shifting</h2><p>The SAT has evolved a number of times since its origins as an aptitude test closely related to IQ tests, said Derek Briggs, director of CADRE, the Center for Assessment, Design, Research and Evaluation at the University of Colorado’s School of Education.</p><p>In the last decade, the College Board has pushed dual purposes for the SAT — as a predictor of college success and as a way for states to meet federal accountability requirements.</p><p>The ACT has also marketed itself that way. Now the SAT is notably shorter — and potentially less burdensome for schools to administer — than its chief rival.</p><p>“You can reframe all of these test changes in terms of this battle between these two companies,” said Sheila Akbar, president and chief operating officer of Signet Education, which provides test prep and college advising.</p><p>Briggs said a shorter, adaptive test makes sense when entire state populations of students, including those who aren’t thinking about going to college, are taking the test.</p><p>An option that includes easier questions might make for better testing experience, Briggs said, and “perhaps students who didn’t think they would go to college would think, ‘Oh, maybe I can’” after taking it.</p><p>But Jessie said she’s seen the other scenario as well, where a lower-than-expected score leaves a student feeling like they aren’t cut out for college when the reality is they could be successful at a lot of institutions.</p><p>The adaptive aspect of the test concerns skeptics like Akbar and Jessie. They worry students who take longer to warm up or who are prone to small mistakes on easy questions won’t get a chance to show they can answer harder questions correctly.</p><p>They’re encouraging students who have to provide a test score to take the ACT, which is available in both paper and digital formats and hasn’t changed much in recent years. They also feel more confident that ACT practice materials align with the test.</p><p>The College Board has said both versions of the SAT have a mix of easy, moderate, and hard questions, and there is significant overlap between the tests.</p><p>Students can take up to four practice SAT tests through the Bluebook app and get used to the interface before taking the test. Heather Waite, director of college admissions at Kaplan, a company that provides test prep services, said it’s important that students practice with up-to-date materials, not previous year’s prep books.</p><p>Waite said students have provided positive feedback about the shorter test.</p><p>College advisers expect more universities to bring back test score requirements, and a good score can boost an application at some test-optional schools.</p><p>“At Kaplan, our students are looking for an edge over other students, and submitting their scores is something that makes them more competitive,” she said.</p><p><i>Erica Meltzer is Chalkbeat’s national editor based in Colorado. Contact Erica at </i><a href="mailto:emeltzer@chalkbeat.org"><i>emeltzer@chalkbeat.org</i></a><i>.</i></p>https://www.chalkbeat.org/2024/03/06/digital-sat-launches-as-college-admissions-go-test-optional/Erica MeltzerSkynesher / Getty Images2022-09-27T04:01:00+00:00<![CDATA[Schools scale back home internet help as remote learning fades]]>2024-03-04T16:01:14+00:00<p>With students off Zoom and back in classrooms, many schools have stopped helping students get online at home, new federal data shows.</p><p>Just 45% of public schools are providing home internet access to students who need it this school year, down from 70% earlier in the pandemic, according to August survey data released Tuesday by the National Center for Education Statistics.</p><p>The sharp decline in schools giving students <a href="https://in.chalkbeat.org/2020/12/15/22177176/indianapolis-launching-pilot-program-offering-private-reliable-wi-fi-to-thousands-of-students">Wi-Fi hotspots</a> or <a href="https://chicago.chalkbeat.org/2020/6/25/21303339/chicago-launches-groundbreaking-initiative-to-connect-up-to-100000-students-to-the-internet">covering the cost</a> of home internet coincides with the end of widespread remote learning, first caused by school closures then by COVID quarantines. Yet even with schools fully reopened, students still are likely to need home internet for homework, sick days, temporary school shutdowns, <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2022/6/29/23186973/virtual-tutoring-schools-covid-relief-money">virtual tutoring</a>, and <a href="https://ny.chalkbeat.org/2022/9/22/23367355/parent-teacher-conference-virtual-nyc">parent-teacher conferences</a>.</p><p>And while home internet and device access expanded during the pandemic, 1 in 4 low-income families still did not have broadband internet at home a year after schools shut down, according to <a href="https://www.pewresearch.org/internet/2022/06/02/how-teens-navigate-school-during-covid-19/">a 2021 survey</a>. Instead many students had to put up with frustratingly slow internet speeds or work on their phones.</p><p>As recently as <a href="https://www.pewresearch.org/internet/2022/06/02/how-teens-navigate-school-during-covid-19/">this spring</a>, about a quarter of teenagers living in very low-income households said they sometimes can’t complete their homework because they don’t have reliable computer or internet access.</p><p>“I think there’s an inaccurate belief that more students and families actually have connectivity than actually do,” said D’Andre Weaver, chief digital equity officer at Digital Promise, a nonprofit focused on expanding student access to high-speed internet.</p><p>Weaver suspects that schools’ retreat from home internet assistance also reflects a new wariness of online learning based on the negative experiences had by many families and educators during the pandemic. But he argues that schools should try to improve online learning and expand internet access rather than turn away.</p><p>“Now it’s like, ‘Let’s throw the baby out with the bathwater,’” he said. “And that’s the wrong viewpoint.”</p><p>Just over 900 public schools participated in the survey, which was conducted August 9-23.</p><p>While less than half of schools said students will be provided with internet at home, 56% said students can get online at other locations, such as public libraries. Laptops and tablets appear to be much more readily available, with 94% of schools saying that students who need a digital device this academic year will be provided one.</p><p>Funding is another likely factor in schools’ scaling back support for home internet access. The federal stimulus money that school districts used to pay for hotspots and free internet plans is drying up, forcing schools to find other funding if they want to keep providing assistance.</p><p>Also, the $1 trillion infrastructure bill that Congress passed last year <a href="https://apnews.com/article/technology-business-132d8f9709979039c8ea310273b672af">included $14.2 billion</a> for the <a href="https://www.affordableconnectivity.gov/">Affordable Connectivity Program</a>, which provides a monthly subsidy to help low-income families pay for internet service. Several major internet providers <a href="https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2022/05/09/fact-sheet-president-biden-and-vice-president-harris-reduce-high-speed-internet-costs-for-millions-of-americans/">agreed to lower their prices</a> so that the subsidy — up to $30 per month for most eligible households — would cover the full cost of a high-speed internet plan.</p><p>In a sense, the federal program removes schools as intermediaries by giving the internet subsidy directly to families. However, advocates say that schools still must support families who haven’t enrolled in the program or aren’t eligible.</p><p>New Jersey parent Nadirah Brown said she earns too much to receive the new subsidy but not enough to pay her more than $100 monthly internet bill without cutting other expenses.</p><p>“For the parents who don’t qualify, there is no program available for them,” she said, whose daughter is an eighth grader in a Newark public school.</p><p>The school lent her daughter a laptop and offered a Wi-Fi hotspot during remote learning, Brown said. But it did not offer either device this school year, even as teachers continue to assign homework that must be submitted online through Google Classroom, she added.</p><p>“It’s definitely still needed whether they’re working virtually or not,” she said about home internet.</p><p>A Newark Public Schools spokesperson did not immediately respond to emailed questions Monday.</p><p>In Newark, like many other cities, high-speed internet is widely available. The main problem is that many families cannot afford it, said Ronald Chaluisán, executive director of the Newark Trust for Education, a nonprofit whose mission includes <a href="https://www.newarktrust.org/broadband_equity">promoting equitable internet access</a>.</p><p>While they could benefit from the new federal subsidy, Chaluisán said many families are not aware of it. (Nationwide, <a href="https://www.usac.org/about/emergency-broadband-benefit-program/emergency-broadband-benefit-program-enrollments-and-claims-tracker/">less than 25% of eligible families</a> enrolled in a previous iteration, called the Emergency Broadband Benefit.) Some families also struggle to complete the multi-step enrollment process, said Chaluisán, whose organization is partnering with the nonprofit Project Ready to spread awareness about the subsidy program.</p><p>He added that one lesson of remote learning is that every student needs a computer and internet access at home.</p><p>“They’re not luxury items,” he said. “They’re just necessities.”</p><p><i>Patrick Wall is a senior reporter covering national education issues. Contact him at </i><a href="mailto:pwall@chalkbeat.org"><i>pwall@chalkbeat.org</i></a><i>.</i></p>https://www.chalkbeat.org/2022/9/27/23373910/schools-remote-learning-home-internet-access/Patrick Wall2024-02-22T19:00:00+00:00<![CDATA[Educators: How are you planning to teach about the 2024 presidential election?]]>2024-02-29T15:55:27+00:00<p>Dear high school teachers,</p><p>In schools across America, the 2024 presidential election will likely become increasingly dominant in hallway conversations, lunch table debates, and teacher-led lessons — planned and unplanned. This fall, American citizens will once again cast their votes, and the two leading contenders are poised to be the same ones from four years ago. 2024 might feel eerily similar to the <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2020/11/2/21547048/why-this-election-matters-to-teens/">tumultuous 2020 presidential election </a>and its <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2020/11/4/21547593/uncertainty-and-angst-what-the-day-after-election-day-looked-like-in-americas-classrooms/">aftermath</a>.</p><p>You all have the important task of teaching history at the very moment it’s being made.</p><p><a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2024/02/22/2024-presidential-election-students-how-do-you-feel/">High schoolers: How important is this year’s election? Tell us.</a></p><p>As the presidential election cycle ramps up, <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/section/headway">The New York Times’ Headway team</a> and Chalkbeat want to hear from you. How are your students thinking about this election? How are you planning to teach it? What questions do you have?</p><p>Let us know in the quick <a href="https://forms.gle/vXtzasrCwiX85Kbb7" target="_blank">questionnaire</a> below, and we’ll be in touch. (We’re particularly interested in learning from educators of current juniors and seniors in high school, but please don’t let that stop you from filling out our form. We want to hear from other types of educators as well!)</p><p><i>Do you have students we should talk to? We also have a questionnaire we are sharing directly with high schoolers. Do you know current juniors and seniors who would want to participate in this project? Please share the student </i><a href="https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSf1cXSVzSPD-pHJf06ge-4D8zEZeR7ibo3NzcEBPljIi9Yrcw/viewform?usp=sf_link" target="_blank"><i>questionnaire here</i></a><i>.</i></p><p><iframe src="https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLScrLD7XsYL9awtlWASTEKS8ev1Y_LsfaT8aCkbQSfSe-Oy2-Q/viewform?embedded=true" style="width:100%; height:2500px;" frameborder="0" marginheight="0" marginwidth="0">Loading…</iframe></p>https://www.chalkbeat.org/2024/02/22/teachers-how-will-you-teach-about-2024-presidential-election/Caroline BaumanLeeAndra Cianci / The New York Times2024-02-22T19:00:00+00:00<![CDATA[High schoolers: How important is this year’s election? Tell us.]]>2024-02-29T15:51:47+00:00<p>Dear high schoolers,</p><p>This year’s U.S. presidential election will dominate conversations worldwide. This fall, American citizens will once again cast their votes, and the two leading contenders are poised to be the same ones from four years ago. 2024 might feel eerily similar to the <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2020/11/2/21547048/why-this-election-matters-to-teens/">tumultuous 2020 presidential election </a>and its <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2020/11/4/21547593/uncertainty-and-angst-what-the-day-after-election-day-looked-like-in-americas-classrooms/">aftermath</a>.</p><p>Once again, inside your classrooms, history is being taught at the very moment it’s being made.</p><p><a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2024/02/22/teachers-how-will-you-teach-about-2024-presidential-election/">Educators: How are you planning to teach about the 2024 presidential election?</a></p><p>Since this could be the first election you’ll have a chance to vote in, we’re eager to know how important this moment feels in your classes and to you and your friends. Are you closely following the campaign? Or does it feel not that connected to your life?</p><p><a href="https://www.nytimes.com/section/headway">The New York Times’ Headway team</a> and Chalkbeat want to hear directly from you. Take a moment to complete our <a href="https://forms.gle/g98kQ8BKCgjvUJKk8" target="_blank">questionnaire</a> below, and we’ll be in touch with you soon.</p><p><iframe src="https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSf1cXSVzSPD-pHJf06ge-4D8zEZeR7ibo3NzcEBPljIi9Yrcw/viewform?embedded=true" style="width:100%; height:2500px;" frameborder="0" marginheight="0" marginwidth="0">Loading…</iframe></p>https://www.chalkbeat.org/2024/02/22/2024-presidential-election-students-how-do-you-feel/Caroline BaumanLeeAndra Cianci / The New York Times2024-02-27T13:00:00+00:00<![CDATA[My math teacher refused to let me fall through the cracks. It saved my life.]]>2024-02-27T13:00:00+00:00<p><i>Content warning: This essay contains references to self-harm and suicidal ideation.</i></p><p>I was 12 when I thought everyone had given up on me. Feeling like a burden to my family, my teachers, and even the mental health professionals I’d seen, I had given up on myself, too. Sixth grade marked the first time I’d wanted to die, and seventh grade marked the first time I tried to make it happen.</p><p>When you’re 12, six years feels like an eternity, so it’s hard to imagine making it to the finish line of a tumultuous adolescence. Many suicidal kids don’t necessarily want to die, but hopelessness is a powerful stranglehold when you have little or no control over your circumstances. Back then, I leaned into my persona as the weird, angry kid to push people away before I could get attached. I’ve since learned in therapy that it’s a common coping mechanism among those who feel rejected at home.</p><p>But there was one adult in my life who never gave up on me. One person who wasn’t scared off by my biting sarcasm, chaotic behavior, and tendency to shut down when I struggled with my schoolwork: my seventh grade math teacher, Mr. W.</p><figure><img src="https://www.chalkbeat.org/resizer/k8mA1Mxm47uRUGgrY3XcTDSUArc=/1440x960/cloudfront-us-east-1.images.arcpublishing.com/civicnewscompany/EYQ6OBG7ERC5VD3DF7J3CP7UZA.png" alt="Xandra Harbet" height="960" width="1440"/><figcaption>Xandra Harbet</figcaption></figure><p>Between coaching swimming and going for his doctorate, Mr. W was the busiest person I knew, but he refused to let me fall off the face of the Earth. Mr. W spent lunch periods painstakingly explaining each problem in my dreaded skill sheet assignment. The weekly worksheet consisted of problems unrelated to that year’s coursework, and my neurodivergent brain just couldn’t unravel what felt like riddles from the sphinxes that populated the fantasy worlds I used to escape reality.</p><p>When he saw that this particular assignment led me to stop trying altogether, he decided to let me skip it, so long as I completed my daily homework. Some teachers refuse to make allowances for kids who think differently. But Mr. W’s accommodations turned a dejected student into someone who made an effort. As a result, I was able to improve my grade.</p><p>Mr. W’s class was right before lunch, and I tend to tear up when I yawn, which was a common occurrence in math class. (Sorry, Mr. W.) During these teary-eyed moments, Mr. W would always make sure I was OK, despite the 20 other students in the classroom. That small act of care meant a lot.</p><p>My two-week stint in the psychiatric ward, which followed my suicide attempt, felt more like a prison sentence than a saving grace. The monotony of hours with only my thoughts and the yellowing walls to keep me company was excruciating. There was no music, TV, or any of the distractions that helped keep me afloat outside of these dirty walls. It was just about the worst thing you could do to a kid with my potent combination of ADHD and a mood disorder. Visits from Mr. W were the highlight of my time there, providing a dose of normalcy and lighthearted banter that allowed me to forget where I was for a little while.</p><p>I had plenty of teachers who cared about me in middle school and the years that followed. However, most of my relationships with adults — both in and beyond school — felt like obligatory transactions. But it was different with Mr. W. He wasn’t trying to turn me into someone I wasn’t or even into an A-student in math. He just wanted to remind me that I mattered; importantly, he remembered to carve out the time and space to do that.</p><p>Every day, he offered me five minutes of undivided attention when I could vent, talk about my life, or recap in detail whatever TV show I was obsessing over that week. This continued the following year when he let me eat lunch in his classroom during his free period, even though he wasn’t even my teacher anymore.</p><p>When I was in high school, I went back to visit Mr. W weekly, and I remember telling him about the gym teacher who asked how I could live with myself for not taking initiative during whatever tedious drills he was having us do. “He has no idea,” my former math teacher told me, and I have never felt more understood.</p><p>Years on, I would occasionally visit his classroom on breaks from college, and without fail, he’d set aside five minutes for me. It’s been a while since I’ve made it back to my old middle school for a visit, but I still keep in touch with Mr. W.</p><p>Life is messy, and it’s easy to get swept up in the grind. Too often, children and teens feel dismissed by the busy adults in their lives, which can have real and devastating consequences. I know from experience that the inverse is true, too. Five minutes of recognition and kindness can be lifesaving for a young person who is struggling.</p><p>If it weren’t for Mr. W, I might not be here today. On some level, he knew that his time made a difference for me, but it wasn’t until I wrote him a letter inscribed on the author page of my first published short story that he realized he had helped save my life.</p><p><a href="https://xandraharbet.com/"><i>Xandra Harbet</i></a><i> is a journalist, essayist, and creative writer with bylines in outlets including Salon, Insider, The Daily Dot, Regal, and StyleCaster. She has a BA in English with an emphasis on Creative Writing from the haunted halls of Randolph College. You can find her on social media @XandraHarbet.</i></p>https://www.chalkbeat.org/2024/02/27/for-a-teen-struggling-with-mental-health-five-minutes-made-a-difference/Xandra HarbetWillie Thomas/Getty Creative2024-02-21T01:24:04+00:00<![CDATA[Partial FAFSA fix lets students from immigrant families apply for financial aid]]>2024-02-26T16:11:40+00:00<p><i>Sign up for</i><a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/newsletters/national"><i> Chalkbeat’s free weekly newsletter</i></a><i> to keep up with how education is changing across the U.S.</i></p><p>Students whose parents lack a Social Security number can finally fill out federal financial aid forms after the Biden administration announced a workaround Tuesday for one of the most glaring problems with what was supposed to be a simpler, easier form.</p><p>U.S. Department of Education officials say these students can leave their parent or spouse’s Social Security number blank for now, and manually enter the person’s income and tax information. The department provided details about the workaround to Chalkbeat, and <a href="https://studentaid.gov/announcements-events/fafsa-support/contributor-social-security-number" target="_blank">plans to post them online Wednesday</a>.</p><p>Chalkbeat first reported in January that the Social Security glitch was <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2024/01/25/better-fafsa-challenges-for-students-and-parents-social-security-number/" target="_blank">preventing potentially tens of thousands of eligible U.S. citizen students from applying for financial aid</a>.</p><p>The workaround is meant to help students meet fast-approaching deadlines for certain state, college, or scholarship applications. The department promised a permanent fix is coming next month. It is also urging students who don’t have an urgent submission deadline to wait until then. Those who use the workaround will need to take additional steps in March to fully submit their application.</p><p>This puts significant pressure on school counselors and college access organizations to guide families through the process on a compressed timeline.</p><p><a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/colorado/2024/01/09/colorado-counselor-advice-on-filling-out-better-fafsa/">The Better FAFSA</a>, as the new version of the Free Application for Federal Financial Aid is known, was supposed to make it easier for students to apply for aid for college. While more than 4 million students have completed the form successfully, the rollout has been <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2024/01/25/better-fafsa-challenges-for-students-and-parents-social-security-number/">plagued by glitches</a> and <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/colorado/2024/01/31/colorado-families-students-experience-more-fafsa-delays/">delays</a>. Far fewer students have completed the form than in previous years, and frustration and anxiety is mounting among parents, counselors, and college administrators.</p><p>Department officials said they intend to fully resolve FAFSA submission issues for parents without Social Security numbers “in the first half of March.” After that, students won’t need the workaround.</p><p>The education department is also working to fix a separate problem that’s made it <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2024/01/25/better-fafsa-challenges-for-students-and-parents-social-security-number/">difficult for parents without Social Security numbers to create a login</a> for the FAFSA website. Officials said they will automate that process this month and add more Spanish-speaking staff to the call center that’s helping families navigate that issue.</p><p>Department officials estimate that 2% of federal financial aid applicants are experiencing issues due to the Social Security number glitch.</p><p>The announcement came the same day that over 90 Democratic members of the U.S. House of Representatives, led by U.S. Reps. Jesus “Chuy” García of Illinois, Colin Allred of Texas, and Jared Huffman and Nanette Barragán of California, <a href="https://huffman.house.gov/imo/media/doc/FAFSA%20SSN%20Letter_Huffman_Garcia_Allred_Barragan.pdf">sent a letter to Education Secretary Miguel Cardona</a> expressing concerns about the “flawed rollout” of the FAFSA.</p><p>They urged the department to quickly resolve the technical issues preventing students whose parents don’t have Social Security numbers from submitting their applications.</p><p>“Students eligible for financial aid have the right to access that aid, regardless of their parents’ citizenship status,” García <a href="https://chuygarcia.house.gov/media/press-releases/garcia-huffman-allred-and-barragan-applaud-new-fafsa-guidance-call-for-permanent-solutions">wrote in a press release</a>. “But because of a technical error in the new FAFSA form, many of my constituents from immigrant and mixed-status families were left without answers and no path forward as college financial aid deadlines crept up.”</p><p>García added that he and other lawmakers “spent weeks” urging the department to fix the issue, and that while the temporary fix was a good first step, “The Department must continue to rectify these errors in rollout so no student is blocked from the aid they need.”</p><p>The letter notes that federal officials <a href="https://fsapartners.ed.gov/knowledge-center/topics/fafsa-simplification-information/2024-25-fafsa-issue-alerts">identified the issue</a> affecting parents without Social Security numbers on Jan. 4. Tuesday marked the first update. On past calls with reporters, top education department officials said only that they were working to fix the problem.</p><p>A <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2024/02/13/paper-fafsa-college-financial-aid-undocumented-parents/">paper version of the FAFSA still exists</a>, but officials have not widely publicized it and there are downsides to using it, such as greater chance of making mistakes.</p><p>The letter writers also call on the department “to conduct outreach to proactively inform students, counselors, and other stakeholders about when families with undocumented parents can expect a solution and how to submit their forms once it’s resolved.”</p><p>Department officials said Tuesday evening that they would set up a new email list to keep students and families who’ve been affected by this issue in the loop on updates.</p><p>Without a fix, American high school students whose parents are undocumented could end up at the back of the line for financial aid, especially in the states — including Illinois, Indiana, and Tennessee — that distribute aid on a first-come, first-served basis, the lawmakers note.</p><p>Justin Draeger, who heads the nonprofit National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators, <a href="https://www.nasfaa.org/news-item/32914/ED_Announces_Resolution_for_FAFSA_Contributors_Without_SSNs_Coming_in_First_Half_of_March">said in a statement</a> that he worried the temporary solution would be “confusing and burdensome” to many students and families and that it was imperative that the department met its mid-March deadline for a permanent fix.</p><p>“Any further delays would be disastrous for both students and schools,” Draeger wrote.</p><h2>The Better FAFSA’s brief, rocky history</h2><p>The rollout of the new federal financial aid process has been troubled from the start.</p><p>The form didn’t become available to families until January, which cut months off the normal timeline for students to fill out the form. Students experiencing homelessness, students in foster care, and students whose parents are undocumented immigrants — all students for whom financial support is critical to their college decisions — have faced major problems even completing the form.</p><p>As of mid-February, just 22% of high school seniors had completed the FAFSA, according to an <a href="https://www.ncan.org/page/FAFSAtracker">analysis of federal data by the National College Attainment Network</a>, compared with 41% of the Class of 2023 by this same time last year. Completion rates are down more than 50% at high schools serving large numbers of low-income students and students of color.</p><p>Spurred by Republican lawmakers, the<a href="https://www.highereddive.com/news/colleges-extend-may-1-deadline-fafsa-delay/706487/"> Government Accountability Office has opened two investigations</a> into the FAFSA launch, <a href="https://subscriber.politicopro.com/article/2024/02/inside-bidens-fafsa-debacle-financial-aid-offers-in-limbo-for-millions-00142138">Politico reported</a>.</p><p>Meanwhile, the education department has said it won’t be able to share student information with colleges until mid-March, a delay that means colleges aren’t able to share financial aid packages with students until later in the spring. That’s left school staff and advocates worried that students will rush to make decisions before they have all the financial information they need.</p><p>Already, a slew of colleges have announced they’re <a href="https://www.highereddive.com/news/colleges-extend-may-1-deadline-fafsa-delay/706487/">pushing back their deadlines</a> for students to commit, a delay that has implications for those institutions’ own planning for the next academic year.</p><p>Advocates for first-generation college students and those from low-income backgrounds fear that a lack of accurate information about financial aid will cause many students to put off higher education or opt for community college.</p><p>Recent data suggests fewer than half of students who transfer from a community college to a four-year program <a href="https://www.insidehighered.com/news/institutions/community-colleges/2024/02/07/new-reports-show-fewer-half-transfers-complete">go on to complete their bachelor’s degree</a>, and the rate is lower among students from vulnerable backgrounds.</p><p><i>Kalyn Belsha is a senior national education reporter based in Chicago. Contact her at </i><a href="mailto:kbelsha@chalkbeat.org" target="_blank"><i>kbelsha@chalkbeat.org</i></a><i>.</i></p><p><i>Erica Meltzer is Chalkbeat’s national editor based in Colorado. Contact Erica at </i><a href="mailto:emeltzer@chalkbeat.org" target="_blank"><i>emeltzer@chalkbeat.org</i></a><i>.</i></p><p><br/></p>https://www.chalkbeat.org/2024/02/21/better-fafsa-social-security-number-glitch-fix-announced/Kalyn Belsha, Erica MeltzerRJ Sangosti / The Denver Post2024-02-23T21:21:25+00:00<![CDATA[Should kids learn about LGBTQ issues at school? Many teachers and teens say no, new surveys find.]]>2024-02-24T01:06:33+00:00<p><i>Sign up for </i><a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/newsletters/national"><i>Chalkbeat’s free weekly newsletter</i></a><i> to keep up with how education is changing across the U.S.</i></p><p>Should elementary schoolers learn that people of the same gender can love each other? Do teens want to learn about how slavery’s legacy matters today? Should parents be able to opt their kids out of lessons they disagree with?</p><p>As Republican-dominated state legislatures <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2021/12/17/22840317/crt-laws-classroom-discussion-racism/" target="_blank">limit how teachers talk about race</a> and <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2022/8/10/23298986/transgender-children-kids-students-rights-biden-lgbtq-title-ix/" target="_blank">restrict transgender children’s access</a> to bathrooms and sports, and as school board elections turn on book bans and parents’ rights, three new national studies from the Pew Research Center, the research corporation RAND, and the University of Southern California’s Center for Applied Research in Education shed light on how teachers, parents, and students themselves think about these questions.</p><p>For all the attention LGBTQ issues receive in national politics, teachers said topics related to gender identity and sexual orientation rarely come up. And many said they don’t believe these topics should be taught in school.</p><p>In fact, large swaths of the public also don’t think gender and sexuality should be discussed in school, the studies found. However, there were wide partisan divides, as well as differences along racial and ethnic lines.</p><p>Adults and teens felt more comfortable with teachers teaching about racism than LGBTQ issues. They were also more comfortable with teachers talking about past injustices than present-day inequality, and more comfortable with gay rights than trans rights. And they were more comfortable with any of these topics coming up at the high school level — though many teens reported their own discomfort.</p><p>So it is perhaps unsurprising that two-thirds of teachers in one study said they decided on their own to limit how they talked about potentially contentious issues. One reason: They feared confrontations with upset parents.</p><p>“The topics of race and LGBTQ issues are often lumped together in discussions about these so-called ‘culture wars’ and how that’s playing out in K-12 education,” said Luona Lin, a research associate at Pew. But teachers and students actually “feel very different about these two topics.”</p><p>Here are some of the major takeaways of the three new reports:</p><h2>Many teachers are censoring themselves</h2><p>More than a third of American teachers work in <a href="https://www.edweek.org/policy-politics/map-where-critical-race-theory-is-under-attack/2021/06">states with laws restricting</a> how teachers talk about issues that are considered divisive or controversial. But a <a href="https://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RRA1108-10.html">study released this month by the research organization RAND</a> found local restrictions and teachers’ own fears are having an effect as well.</p><p>In a survey of 1,500 teachers taken last year, two-thirds reported deciding on their own to limit how they talked about social and political issues in the classroom. Meanwhile, about half of teachers told RAND they were subject to either a state or local restriction. These limits could be formal, such as a school board policy, or informal, such as a principal’s comments.</p><p>More than 80% of those who were subject to a local restriction said they had made changes to their teaching, regardless of state law. That should not be surprising, said Ashley Woo, an assistant policy researcher at RAND.</p><p>“If your principal is telling you to do something, that is the person who is there with you at the school and can see what is happening in your classroom,” she said.</p><p>At the same time, more than half of teachers who were not subject to any restrictions said they had limited how they talked about certain topics, with self-censoring more common in conservative communities but still widespread in liberal ones.</p><p>A major reason teachers cited for limiting instruction, especially in communities with local restrictions, was a fear of confrontation with upset parents and that their administration would not support them if they faced a challenge.</p><h2>LGBTQ issues raised less often than racism in classrooms</h2><p>Though LGBTQ issues are prominent in local and national politics, <a href="https://www.pewresearch.org/social-trends/2024/02/22/race-and-lgbtq-issues-in-k-12-schools/">a report released this week</a> reveals a striking finding: Most teachers say gender identity and sexual orientation hardly get discussed in class — and many teachers say they shouldn’t be.</p><p>According to a nationally representative survey conducted last fall by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center, more than two-thirds of K-12 public school teachers said topics related to sexual orientation and gender identity rarely or never came up in their classroom last school year. Around 3 in 10 said the topics came up sometimes or often.</p><p>Half of teachers, meanwhile, said they thought students shouldn’t learn about gender identity at school, with an even higher share of elementary school teachers agreeing with that view.</p><p>The findings come as <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2022/7/8/23198792/lgbtq-students-law-florida-dont-say-gay/" target="_blank">anti-trans legislation</a> creates a <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2022/10/25/23421548/lgbtq-students-mental-health-school-safety-survey/" target="_blank">more hostile environment</a> for <a href="https://19thnews.org/2024/02/nex-benedict-oklahoma-lgbtq-community-resilience/" target="_blank">gender non-conforming youth</a> in many states.</p><p>In contrast, more than half of teachers said they discussed topics related to racism or racial inequality at least sometimes. Around 4 in 10 teachers said the issues rarely or never came up.</p><p>Nearly two-thirds of teachers said students should learn about slavery and how it affects the lives of Black Americans today, while just under a quarter said slavery should be taught only as a component of history — without any bearing on the present.</p><p>Lin, the Pew report’s lead author, says it’s likely that school board policies, local politics, and state laws are influencing what teachers discuss, though the survey doesn’t measure those factors.</p><h2>What should young kids learn about gender and sexuality?</h2><p>In Searching for Common Ground, a <a href="https://today.usc.edu/controversial-school-topics-how-americans-really-feel/">study released this week by a team</a> at the University of Southern California, researchers surveyed a representative sample of 3,900 adults, about half of them parents of school-aged children, and asked them about dozens of scenarios related to race, sexuality, and gender.</p><p>Democrats were more comfortable than Republicans with almost every scenario, with independents and others roughly in the middle. But even Democrats were less supportive of discussing gender identity or asking students’ pronouns in elementary school than discussing racism or different family structures.</p><p>Nearly half of all respondents thought it was appropriate for an elementary teacher to have a picture of their same-sex spouse on their desk. And almost as many were OK with elementary students <a href="https://www.simonandschuster.com/books/And-Tango-Makes-Three/Justin-Richardson/9781481446952">reading a book</a> about two male penguins adopting a baby penguin.</p><p>But just 30% of respondents and only half of Democrats thought it was appropriate for an elementary classroom to display LGBTQ-friendly decorations, such as a Pride flag.</p><p>Democrats were far more likely to want gay or trans children to see themselves reflected at school, while Republicans were far more likely to fear discussing these topics would change children, leading to them thinking they are gay or trans.</p><p>“The largest partisan examples seem to have to do with LGBTQ and family issues in elementary school,” said Morgan Polikoff, a USC education professor and one of the study’s lead authors. “Democrats think that kids can handle that and Republicans do not.”</p><figure><img src="https://www.chalkbeat.org/resizer/FxrEiAh7DUSeg8HTmYLUx6DRulA=/1440x960/cloudfront-us-east-1.images.arcpublishing.com/civicnewscompany/N7FVN746QNEMFLEH7AEIL7EJN4.jpg" alt="The rollout of Advanced Placement African American Studies reflects widespread interest among some students and teachers in learning more diverse history, but some conservatives have targeted the course." height="960" width="1440"/><figcaption>The rollout of Advanced Placement African American Studies reflects widespread interest among some students and teachers in learning more diverse history, but some conservatives have targeted the course.</figcaption></figure><h2>More students feel comfortable discussing racism than LGBTQ issues</h2><p>Students in grades 8-12 also tend to feel less comfortable discussing LGBTQ issues than issues of race and racism at school, and are more likely to say they shouldn’t be learning about them, the Pew report found.</p><p>In a nationally representative survey of 13- to 17-year-olds conducted last fall, around 4 in 10 teens said they felt comfortable when topics related to racism or racial inequality came up in class.</p><p>But only around 3 in 10 said the same about topics related to sexual orientation or gender identity. And just under half of teens said they shouldn’t learn about gender identity at school. That rate was somewhat higher for teens who identified as Republicans than Democrats.</p><p>Only 11% of teens, meanwhile, said they shouldn’t learn about slavery. Around half said they should learn about slavery and how it affects the lives of Black Americans today, while 40% said they should learn about slavery only in a historical context.</p><p>Black teens and teens who identify as Democrats were much more likely than white, Hispanic, or Republican teens to say they want to learn about how the legacy of slavery affects Black people today — a finding echoed among Black parents and Black teachers in other surveys.</p><h2>Bridging these divides is tricky</h2><p>The University of Southern California study found strong support for public education across the political spectrum.</p><p>But there’s a gap of nearly 39 percentage points between Democrats and Republicans on whether public schools should teach children to embrace differences. Nearly three-quarters of Democrats said yes, compared with just over a third of Republicans.</p><p>This underlying belief was a strong predictor of responses to specific scenarios. Those who said kids shouldn’t be taught to embrace differences also expressed more discomfort with race, gender, and sexuality being discussed in the classroom.</p><p>“Democrats on average think schools are exactly the place to do this — it’s one of the last places where everyone comes together regardless of their differences,” Polikoff said. “And Republicans don’t think that is an appropriate role for schools. And they think that because they perceive, in part correctly, that schools are a liberalizing force.”</p><p>There was broad support for parents having the right to opt their child out of certain lessons, but when researchers prompted respondents to consider downsides, such as their child missing out on the opportunity to learn critical thinking skills, support fell.</p><p>Understanding the values that drive differences and building on common ground, such as agreement that children should read books by authors of color and learn about historic injustices, could lead to a healthier conversation than what’s happening now.</p><p>“We need to have this conversation,” he said. “Instead we have Ron DeSantis saying we’ll ban everything, and Democrats sticking their fingers in their ears and saying you’re all bigots.”</p><p><i>Erica Meltzer is Chalkbeat’s national editor based in Colorado. Contact Erica at </i><a href="mailto:emeltzer@chalkbeat.org"><i>emeltzer@chalkbeat.org</i></a><i>.</i></p><p><i>Kalyn Belsha is a senior national education reporter based in Chicago. Contact her at </i><a href="mailto:kbelsha@chalkbeat.org"><i>kbelsha@chalkbeat.org</i></a><i>.</i></p>https://www.chalkbeat.org/2024/02/23/teachers-teens-not-at-ease-discussing-lgbtq-issues-in-school-survey-finds/Erica Meltzer, Kalyn BelshaJustin Sullivan / Getty Images2024-02-21T17:40:42+00:00<![CDATA[¿No puedes llenar la FAFSA en línea? Esto es lo que debes saber sobre la solicitud impresa]]>2024-02-23T01:13:31+00:00<p><a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2024/02/13/paper-fafsa-college-financial-aid-undocumented-parents/" target="_blank"><i><b>Read in English.</b></i></a></p><p>Como muchos estudiantes siguen teniendo problemas técnicos que les impiden presentar la solicitud de ayuda financiera federal en línea, existe una posible solución: un formulario en papel, como se hacía antes.</p><p>Pero las organizaciones de acceso a la universidad y los expertos en ayuda financiera advierten que para muchos estudiantes, ésta podría no ser la mejor alternativa.</p><p>Esto es lo que debes saber antes de llenar la versión impresa de la Solicitud Gratuita de Ayuda Federal para Estudiantes, o FAFSA:</p><h2>¿Qué es el formulario FAFSA impreso? ¿Dónde lo consigo?</h2><p>Los funcionarios federales han publicado durante mucho tiempo una versión en papel de la FAFSA, aunque solo una pequeña porción de los estudiantes presentaron una copia impresa en los últimos años, razón por la cual es posible que no hayas oído hablar de ella antes.</p><p>La copia impresa de la FAFSA en inglés está <a href="https://studentaid.gov/sites/default/files/2024-25-fafsa.pdf">aquí</a>, y en español <a href="https://studentaid.gov/sites/default/files/2024-25-fafsa-spanish.pdf">aquí</a>.</p><h2>¿Por qué podría considerar llenar un formulario FAFSA en papel?</h2><p>Ahora mismo, los padres que no tienen número de Seguro Social no pueden añadir su información a la solicitud en línea de ayuda financiera universitaria de sus hijos, y en algunos casos, es posible que no puedan obtener credenciales para entrar al sistema en línea.</p><p><a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2024/01/25/better-fafsa-challenges-for-students-and-parents-social-security-number/">Esto se debe a un problema técnico</a> y los funcionarios federales dicen que están trabajando para solucionarlo. Un alto funcionario del Departamento de Educación de EE.UU. le dijo a la prensa el lunes que los funcionarios se están reuniendo a diario para tratar de resolver el problema, pero en este momento no es posible decir cuándo se resolverá. Este problema ha impedido que miles de estudiantes cuyos padres son inmigrantes puedan llenar la FAFSA.</p><p>El formulario en papel permite que los padres y cónyuges sin números de Seguro Social llenen esa información con ceros, como podían hacer en años anteriores en línea, y que indiquen un número de identificación individual del contribuyente, o ITIN, si lo tienen. Los padres pueden llenar el formulario en papel sin pasar por el proceso de verificación de identidad que impide que algunos obtengan las credenciales de acceso en línea.</p><p>Si tu universidad, estado u organización de becas tiene una fecha límite estricta para presentar la FAFSA, y esa fecha se está acercando, quizás debas considerar llenar el formulario en papel como una forma de cumplir con esa fecha límite. Una vez que envíes el formulario en papel por correo, el día en que se reciba la solicitud en el correo se marcará como la fecha de recibo.</p><h2>¿Debo esperar a que se arregle el formulario en línea en lugar de llenar el formulario en papel?</h2><p>Si no tienes una fecha límite para presentar la FAFSA dentro de poco, podría ser mejor que esperes a que se arregle el formulario en línea, dijo MorraLee Keller, directora senior de la organización sin fines de lucro National College Attainment Network.</p><p>Esto se debe a que los formularios en papel se procesarán después de las solicitudes en línea, por lo que te arriesgas a estar más atrás en la cola de procesamiento si optas por enviar un formulario impreso. Esto es importante porque algunas universidades otorgan las ayudas por orden de llegada.</p><p>Los funcionarios federales anunciaron recientemente que no compartirán la información de los estudiantes en las solicitudes en línea con las universidades <a href="https://www.insidehighered.com/news/government/student-aid-policy/2024/01/31/colleges-wont-receive-student-fafsa-information-until">hasta marzo</a>. Debido a los retrasos en el proceso de la FAFSA, las universidades tendrán menos tiempo para preparar los paquetes de ayuda financiera y los estudiantes tendrán menos tiempo para revisarlos y tomar decisiones. Si llenas un formulario en papel, es posible que la universidad no revise tu solicitud de ayuda financiera hasta abril.</p><p>El formulario en papel también deja más margen para cometer errores, ya que las instrucciones pueden ser más complicadas de seguir. Si estás pensando en llenar el formulario en papel, acude a un orientador universitario de tu escuela o a una organización de acceso a la universidad para que te ayuden, sobre todo si nunca has llenado una FAFSA.</p><p>“Se trata de todas esas familias que no tienen a nadie que les guíe y que podrían cometer errores en el formulario en papel, aunque haya páginas y páginas de instrucciones”, dijo Keller. “Hay mucha más orientación en el formulario en línea”.</p><h2>Si lleno el formulario en papel, ¿puedo también llenar el formulario en línea?</h2><p>Sí. Si envías una FAFSA impresa por correo y luego llenas la versión en línea, el gobierno federal se basará en la versión en línea y tratará la copia en papel como un envío duplicado.</p><p>Y si cometes un error en la FAFSA, no te preocupes: también hay un proceso para enviar correcciones.</p><p>“Sólo queremos animar a las familias a seguir adelante”, dijo Keller. “No renuncies a la idea de ir a la universidad solo porque el formulario está siendo una barrera ahora mismo”.</p><p><i>Traducido por Milly Suazo-Martinez</i></p><p><i>Kalyn Belsha es reportera nacional de educación con sede en Chicago. Se habla español. Para comunicarte con ella, envíale un email a </i><a href="mailto:kbelsha@chalkbeat.org" target="_blank"><i>kbelsha@chalkbeat.org</i></a><i>.</i></p>https://www.chalkbeat.org/2024/02/21/formulario-fafsa-solicitud-en-papel-lo-que-debes-saber/Kalyn BelshaHelen H. Richardson2024-01-25T22:20:06+00:00<![CDATA[A glitch blocks thousands of immigrant families from a new, simpler FAFSA. The fix is TBD.]]>2024-02-21T18:05:58+00:00<p><a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/colorado/2024/01/31/fafsa-familias-inmigrantes-tienen-problemas-para-completar/" target="_blank"><i><b>Leer en español.</b></i></a></p><p><i>Sign up for </i><a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/newsletters/national"><i>Chalkbeat’s free weekly newsletter</i></a><i> to keep up with how education is changing across the U.S.</i></p><p><i><b>Update as of Feb. 21:</b></i><i> There are now two workarounds for the Social Security number problem, </i><a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2024/02/13/paper-fafsa-college-financial-aid-undocumented-parents/" target="_blank"><i>one a paper form</i></a><i> and </i><a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2024/02/21/better-fafsa-social-security-number-glitch-fix-announced/" target="_blank"><i>the other online</i></a><i>. Federal officials promise a permanent fix is coming in March.</i></p><p>Like many high school seniors, 18-year-old Jocelyn is trying to get through her college application to-do list.</p><p>She’s applied to 10 colleges so far. Northeastern University in Chicago and the University of Illinois at Chicago are her top picks. She’d like to study veterinary medicine and work with animals like her two cats, Strawberry and Copito.</p><p>With the help of her sibling, Jocelyn completed her portion of the federal application for financial aid in around an hour. But now she’s stuck. That’s because her mom doesn’t have a Social Security number, so she hasn’t been able to add her financial information.</p><p>The new Free Application for Federal Student Aid that debuted last month was supposed to be easier for students and families to complete. And in many ways it is: It’s shorter, and it pulls tax information directly from the IRS instead of asking families to enter it themselves. The goal is to get more students to apply for aid and attend college.</p><p>But the form was released <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/colorado/2023/11/20/fafsa-application-changes-college/">months later than usual</a>, leaving students much less time to complete it and schools scrambling to offer help. On top of that, many families <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/colorado/2024/01/09/colorado-counselor-advice-on-filling-out-better-fafsa/">have experienced glitches</a>. One of the biggest issues is that parents who don’t have a Social Security number <a href="https://fsapartners.ed.gov/knowledge-center/topics/fafsa-simplification-information/2024-25-fafsa-issue-alerts">can’t enter their information right now</a>, and workarounds from prior years are gone. Potentially tens of thousands of U.S. citizen students and <a href="https://studentaid.gov/help/eligible-noncitizen" target="_blank">others with legal status</a> — who are eligible for federal financial aid regardless of their parents’ immigration status — could be affected.</p><p>Federal officials say a fix is on the way, but can’t say when. Education advocates say there needs to be a stronger sense of urgency to resolve the issue, as some colleges award aid on a first-come, first-served basis.</p><figure><img src="https://www.chalkbeat.org/resizer/pClzHZBYXMfXDNGS2Zfs8Ow195I=/1440x960/cloudfront-us-east-1.images.arcpublishing.com/civicnewscompany/ZN56SE7BQVGUTHVC7NCLYBCUDQ.jpg" alt="Eighteen-year-old Jocelyn shows the Instagram video she watched to make sure she filled out her portion of the FAFSA correctly." height="960" width="1440"/><figcaption>Eighteen-year-old Jocelyn shows the Instagram video she watched to make sure she filled out her portion of the FAFSA correctly.</figcaption></figure><p>“We need to be working around the clock,” said Amalia Chamorro, who directs the education policy project for UnidosUS, a civil rights group that advocates to improve educational opportunities for Latino students. “We do worry that this is just another hurdle, another barrier, another way that they’re getting the message that they don’t matter, that they’re not as deserving of pursuing post-secondary education. That’s not the message that we want them to get.”</p><p>Jocelyn, whose last name Chalkbeat is withholding so as not to jeopardize her mother’s immigration status, is feeling stressed. But she’s trying to stay optimistic that she’ll be able to check this off her list soon, too.</p><p>“I didn’t want to turn in the FAFSA form late, and now I’m going to have to wait,” she said. “I know that my other friends have turned it in already, and I feel like I’m a little behind.”</p><h2>Why some students are getting stuck on new FAFSA</h2><p>Jocelyn isn’t the only one of her classmates having trouble.</p><p>On a visit in mid-January to Kelvyn Park High School in Chicago, just two of the 15 students in her class that helps students prepare for and apply to college had managed to complete the FAFSA. The high school serves predominantly Latino students from low-income families, many of whom will be the first in their family to attend college.</p><p>Some students got tripped up trying to <a href="https://studentaid.gov/apply-for-aid/fafsa/filling-out/parent-info">add their parents as “contributors” to the FAFSA</a>, a new step that requires them to sign up for an account and verify their identity. In the past, students could more easily fill out their parent’s portion for them.</p><p>That has presented challenges especially for families who are unfamiliar with the financial aid process, who have language barriers, or who worry about sharing personal information with the federal government.</p><p>When students are the first in their family to attend college, or there are immigration concerns, “You’re going to have a lot of paranoia, you’re going to have a lot of anxieties around it,” said Josh Kumm, who teaches Jocelyn’s class in partnership with OneGoal, a nonprofit college access organization that works in over <a href="https://www.onegoalgraduation.org/locations/chicago/">30 high schools in Chicago</a>.</p><p>Eighteen-year-old Breann Sanford was one of the lucky ones who got through.</p><p>It helped that her mom was familiar with the FAFSA — she filled one out when she took a few college classes — and Sanford’s college and career coach knew just what to do when Sanford accidentally entered her email instead of her mom’s in one instance.</p><p>“It was a big help,” she said. “I knew I had a lot of different support options that I could go to if I needed help.”</p><figure><img src="https://www.chalkbeat.org/resizer/GKNNbQlkPP8MMsHgy8Xf0tNAF2w=/1440x960/cloudfront-us-east-1.images.arcpublishing.com/civicnewscompany/D6TMFC33UVAKFNKANJCGKQ6O2E.jpg" alt="Breann Sanford, 18, was able to submit her FAFSA successfully by mid-January. In her class at Kelvyn Park High School in Chicago that helps students apply to college, only a few completed the form without challenges. " height="960" width="1440"/><figcaption>Breann Sanford, 18, was able to submit her FAFSA successfully by mid-January. In her class at Kelvyn Park High School in Chicago that helps students apply to college, only a few completed the form without challenges. </figcaption></figure><p>Others are struggling for other reasons. During the recent visit, 18-year-old Ángel Serrano said he was still trying to tell his mom that he’s applying to college and needs her help with the financial aid form. His window to do that is on Wednesdays — the only day she’s not exhausted or working, Serrano said.</p><p>Another student in the class needs financial information from his mom, but they’re no longer living together or on speaking terms.</p><p>“You’ve got all these other things going on,” Kumm said. “It’s not just socioeconomic, it’s also the social-emotional parts of the family dynamics … That’s complicated.”</p><h2>One-on-one help is key, but some FAFSA issues need federal fix</h2><p>One-on-one support has been crucial for students to navigate FAFSA hiccups, though school counselors and college coaches have been swamped with requests for help. Sometimes the fix is to sit on hold with the U.S. Department of Education for hours — a step that’s impossible for many working parents.</p><p>Elve Mitchell, the senior director of program operations for College Possible in Chicago, a college access organization that works with a half-dozen high schools in the city, said one big thing his organization’s coaches are working on is making sure students and parents know the right questions to ask when they finally do get through to a live person on the department’s helpline.</p><p>Another way school staff and coaches are trying to help is by finding other ways students can work on their applications, such as fine-tuning a personal essay or using a <a href="https://studentaid.gov/aid-estimator/">federal student aid estimator</a> to do some rough comparisons of college costs.</p><p>But for students whose parents do not have Social Security numbers, there isn’t much a school counselor can do right now.</p><p>When Jocelyn met with her school’s college and career coach this week, the advice was to sit tight, keep checking the federal government’s website, and wait for “the green light on what to do.”</p><figure><img src="https://www.chalkbeat.org/resizer/kLF2E93VtaBuK4Lg04Tw0ZDtfX8=/1440x960/cloudfront-us-east-1.images.arcpublishing.com/civicnewscompany/ZRGYPLWC75GB3G6TATWSIPIVOQ.jpg" alt="Schools like Kelvyn Park High School in Chicago have been stepping in to offer students help when they've struggled to complete the new FAFSA form." height="960" width="1440"/><figcaption>Schools like Kelvyn Park High School in Chicago have been stepping in to offer students help when they've struggled to complete the new FAFSA form.</figcaption></figure><p>In the past, parents without a Social Security number <a href="https://studentaid.gov/help-center/answers/article/how-to-report-info-about-noncitizen-parents-on-fafsa">could enter all zeros</a> and sign a paper form.</p><p>The education department <a href="https://fsapartners.ed.gov/knowledge-center/library/electronic-announcements/2023-12-22/studentaidgov-account-creation-individuals-without-social-security-number-beginning-2024-25-fafsa-processing-cycle-updated-dec-27-2023">set up a new process</a> for these parents to verify their identity through a credit agency, but educators say it’s not working consistently. Parents have had to call the federal helpline, open a case, and then share documents that prove their identity.</p><p>“For someone who’s undocumented, it’s very scary to give the federal government any documentation,” said Tony Petraitis, a college and career curriculum specialist for Chicago Public Schools, who’s been assembling how-to guides with screenshots to support school counselors. “For one of our most vulnerable populations, it’s a pretty big deal.”</p><p>Even if the credit agency produces a correct match, these parents still can’t share additional information on the FAFSA until the federal government comes up with a fix.</p><p>Chamorro, of UnidosUS, hopes the added delays and frustrations don’t deter students from applying to college.</p><p>“We don’t want them to give up,” she said.</p><p><i>Kalyn Belsha is a senior national education reporter based in Chicago. Contact her at </i><a href="mailto:kbelsha@chalkbeat.org" target="_blank"><i>kbelsha@chalkbeat.org</i></a><i>.</i></p>https://www.chalkbeat.org/2024/01/25/better-fafsa-challenges-for-students-and-parents-social-security-number/Kalyn BelshaKalyn Belsha2024-02-13T19:37:25+00:00<![CDATA[Frustrated with FAFSA? There is a paper form, but it might not be the best option.]]>2024-02-21T17:46:32+00:00<p><a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2024/02/21/formulario-fafsa-solicitud-en-papel-lo-que-debes-saber/" target="_blank"><i><b>Leer en español</b></i></a></p><p>As many students continue to experience technical glitches preventing them from submitting their application for federal financial aid online, there is one potential workaround: an old-fashioned paper form.</p><p>But college access organizations and financial aid experts caution that for many students, this may not be the best route.</p><p>Here’s what you should know before you fill out the paper version of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA:</p><h2>What is the paper FAFSA form? Where can I find it?</h2><p>Federal officials have long released a paper version of the FAFSA, though only a small share of students submitted a hard copy in recent years, which is why you may not have heard about it before now.</p><p>You can find a paper copy of the FAFSA in English <a href="https://studentaid.gov/sites/default/files/2024-25-fafsa.pdf">here</a>, and in Spanish <a href="https://studentaid.gov/sites/default/files/2024-25-fafsa-spanish.pdf">here</a>.</p><h2>Why might I consider filling out a paper FAFSA form?</h2><p>Right now, parents who don’t have a Social Security number cannot add their information to their child’s online application for college financial aid, and in some cases may not be able to obtain login credentials to access the online system.</p><p><a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2024/01/25/better-fafsa-challenges-for-students-and-parents-social-security-number/">That’s because of a technical glitch</a> federal officials say they are working to fix. A senior official for the U.S. Department of Education told reporters on Monday that officials are meeting daily to try to resolve the issue, but right now there is no timeline. This problem has prevented thousands of students whose parents are immigrants from completing the FAFSA.</p><p>The paper form allows parents and spouses without Social Security numbers to write in all zeroes, as they could in past years online, and to provide an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, or ITIN, if they have one. Parents can fill out the paper form without going through the identity-verification process blocking some from obtaining login credentials online.</p><p>If your college, state, or scholarship organization has a hard deadline to submit the FAFSA, and that’s coming up, you may want to consider filling out the paper form as a way to meet that deadline. Once you mail in the paper form, the day the application is received in the mail will be marked as your submission date.</p><h2>Should I wait for the online form to be fixed instead of filling out the paper form?</h2><p>If you don’t have a pressing FAFSA submission deadline, it may be a better option to wait for the online form to be fixed, said MorraLee Keller, a senior director at the nonprofit National College Attainment Network.</p><p>That’s because paper forms will be processed after online applications, so you risk putting yourself farther back in the processing line if you go the paper route. That matters because some colleges award aid on a first-come, first-served basis.</p><p>Federal officials recently announced that they <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/colorado/2024/01/31/colorado-families-students-experience-more-fafsa-delays/" target="_blank">won’t be sharing students’ information</a> from online applications with colleges until March. Already, because of delays in the FAFSA process, colleges have less time to put together financial aid packages and students will have less time to review them and make decisions. If you fill out a paper form, a college may not review your financial aid application until April.</p><p>The paper form also leaves more room for mistakes, as the instructions can be more complicated to follow. If you’re considering filling out the paper form, reach out to a college counselor at your school or a college access organization for help, especially if you’ve never filled out a FAFSA before.</p><p>“It’s all those families out there who don’t have someone guiding them that there would be potential that they could make mistakes on the paper form, even though there’s pages and pages of instructions,” Keller said. “There’s a lot more guidance in the online form.”</p><h2>If I fill out the paper form, can I still fill out the online form?</h2><p>Yes. If you mail in a paper FAFSA and then fill out the online version, the federal government will rely on the online version and treat the paper copy like a duplicate submission.</p><p>And if you make a mistake on your FAFSA, don’t worry: There is a process to submit corrections, too.</p><p>“We just want to encourage families to stay the course,” Keller said. “Don’t give up on the idea of higher education or going to college because the form is a stumbling block right now.”</p><p><i>Kalyn Belsha is a senior national education reporter based in Chicago. Contact her at </i><a href="mailto:kbelsha@chalkbeat.org" target="_blank"><i>kbelsha@chalkbeat.org</i></a><i>.</i></p>https://www.chalkbeat.org/2024/02/13/paper-fafsa-college-financial-aid-undocumented-parents/Kalyn BelshaReema Amin2024-02-20T21:56:42+00:00<![CDATA[Supreme Court will not hear case involving racial diversity at selective high school]]>2024-02-20T21:56:42+00:00<p><i>Sign up for </i><a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/newsletters/national"><i>Chalkbeat’s free weekly newsletter</i></a><i> to keep up with how education is changing across the U.S.</i></p><p>The Supreme Court <a href="https://www.supremecourt.gov/orders/courtorders/022024zor_7647.pdf">announced Tuesday</a> that it will not hear a case challenging the constitutionality of a highly selective Virginia high school’s admissions policy on the grounds that it discriminates against Asian American students.</p><p>The high court’s decision not to take the case means that <a href="https://www.ca4.uscourts.gov/opinions/221280.P.pdf">last year’s ruling by an appeals court </a>upholding the admissions policy will stand. The case, known as Coalition for TJ v. Fairfax County School Board, looked at whether the school board was legally allowed to change the entrance criteria for a prestigious magnet high school in Alexandria, Virginia, with the intent of enrolling a more diverse class.</p><p>The Supreme Court has long held that school districts can consider race-neutral factors to create more diverse schools. But the plaintiffs in this case alleged the school board used certain criteria as “proxies” for race, with the intent of reducing the share of Asian American students who were admitted to the school.</p><p>The case was closely watched because many school districts use similar methods to create diverse student bodies. If the Supreme Court had taken the case, it could have had sweeping consequences for magnet schools and other selective K-12 programs, legal experts say.</p><p>Still, observers say it likely won’t be the end of legal challenges to selective K-12 admissions. The same law firm that brought this case, for example, has challenged similar admissions policies for selective schools in <a href="https://pacificlegal.org/case/boston-exam-schools-discrimination/">Boston</a>, <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/newyork/2018/12/13/21106351/lawsuit-seeks-to-halt-program-designed-to-increase-integration-at-new-york-city-s-specialized-high-s/">New York City</a>, and <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/newyork/2024/01/17/new-lawsuit-challenges-program-to-diversity-college-stem-enrollment/">New York state</a>.</p><p>“I do think given the number of cases that are percolating through different districts and courts of appeals, that it’s probably true that there will be additional attempts to revisit this issue before the Supreme Court,” said Cara McClellan, a practice associate professor of law at the University of Pennsylvania, who has <a href="https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=4382209">written about legal challenges to race-conscious admissions</a>. “It continues to be a hotly contested issue.”</p><p>In a Tuesday statement, the chair of the Fairfax County School Board said the decision put to rest a three-year legal battle over the fairness of the admissions policy change.</p><p>“We have long believed that the new admissions process is both constitutional and in the best interest of all of our students,” Karl Frisch said. “It guarantees that all qualified students from all neighborhoods in Fairfax County have a fair shot at attending this exceptional high school.”</p><p>In a statement, the Pacific Legal Foundation, the libertarian law firm representing the plaintiffs, said by choosing not to hear the case, “the Supreme Court missed an important opportunity to end race-based discrimination in K-12 admissions.”</p><h2>Admissions policy changed to include student ‘experience factors’</h2><p>While the Supreme Court has shown a willingness to overturn years of legal precedent in other cases — notably by <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2023/6/29/23778335/supreme-court-affirmative-action-case-college-admissions-student-effects/">prohibiting colleges and universities from considering race</a> as a factor in higher education admissions last year — it was apparently not willing to revisit its earlier decisions here. Notably, <a href="https://www.oyez.org/cases/2006/05-908">the Supreme Court ruled in 2007</a> that school districts can take certain steps to racially diversify their student bodies, so long as they do not explicitly consider the race of individual students.</p><p>In this case, the <a href="https://www.supremecourt.gov/DocketPDF/23/23-170/275834/20230821153824839_FINAL%20TJ%20Cert%20Petition.pdf">Coalition for TJ alleged</a> that the Fairfax County School Board violated the equal protection clause of the Constitution in 2020 when it changed its policy to get into Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, a top high school that draws from five Virginia school districts.</p><p>Known as TJ, the high school offers advanced math and science classes that put its graduates on the path for elite colleges and careers. Historically, to get in, applicants needed to do well on a series of standardized tests and essays, and obtain high grades and teacher recommendations. Typically, students from just a few middle schools won most of the slots.</p><p>In 2020, shortly after the murder of George Floyd <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2020/6/2/21278591/education-schools-george-floyd-racism/">prompted a racial reckoning at many schools</a>, school leaders sought to change the enrollment policy, pointing out that very few Black and Hispanic students gained entrance. During the 2019-20 school year, the school of around 1,800 students was 71% Asian American, 19% white, 5% multiracial, 3% Hispanic, and 2% Black, state data shows.</p><p>After months of debate, the Fairfax County School Board approved a new enrollment policy that set aside a certain share of seats at TJ from each middle school in the attendance area.</p><p>Students eligible for those seats were evaluated based on their grades, an essay, a description of their skills, and a set of “experience factors,” including whether they came from a low-income family, were an English learner, had a special education plan, or attended a middle school that had historically sent few students to TJ.</p><p>In 2021, the <a href="https://coalitionfortj.net/">Coalition for TJ</a>, which includes parents of students who had applied to TJ or planned to, sued the school board. The group argued that the middle school seat set-aside and experience factors were being used as “proxies” to “racially balance” the school, with the goal of reducing the share of Asian American students.</p><p>The appeals court disagreed, and said the school board had used enrollment methods permissible under prior Supreme Court rulings.</p><p>According to Fairfax County Public Schools, in the most recent freshman class, which started last fall, Asian American students received 62% of offers to attend TJ, while white students received 19%, Black students received 7% and Hispanic students received 6%. Students from low-income families made up 12% of the incoming class, up from 2% in recent years.</p><p><a href="https://www.supremecourt.gov/orders/courtorders/022024zor_7647.pdf">In a dissent</a> issued Tuesday, Justice Samuel Alito, joined by Justice Clarence Thomas, said that the Supreme Court should have heard the Coalition for TJ’s case. Letting the appeals court decision stand, he wrote, was akin to agreeing that “intentional racial discrimination is constitutional so long as it is not too severe.”</p><p>“This reasoning is indefensible, and it cries out for correction,” Alito wrote.</p><h2>Figuring out ‘the goals of public education’</h2><p>Colleges and universities are still trying to respond to last year’s Supreme Court ruling banning affirmative action in higher education admissions. And K-12 schools are evaluating what they can and should do to address high levels of racial and socioeconomic segregation — on the eve of the <a href="https://museum.archives.gov/featured-document-display-70th-anniversary-brown-v-board-education-topeka">70th anniversary of the landmark Brown v. Board decision</a>.</p><p>“K-12 and higher ed is trying to figure out what to do,” said Erica Frankenberg, a Penn State education professor who studies school segregation. “There’s all of these things for us to really think about: What are the goals of public education in our society, and what [do] we want to allow school districts to take into account?”</p><p>Several other school districts<a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/newark/2020/11/24/21683672/newark-magnet-comprehensive-high-schools/"> with selective schools</a> have <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/chicago/2022/3/10/22971778/chicago-aims-to-revamp-its-admissions-policy-for-selective-enrollment-schools/">come under scrutiny</a> for <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/philadelphia/2021/10/6/22713281/philly-overhauls-selective-admissions-policy-to-be-antiracist/">admitting few students</a> from low-income families or few Black and Hispanic students in recent years. Some of them changed admissions policies — only to face <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/newyork/2022/10/14/23405193/nyc-pandemic-diversity-admissions-banks-selective-schools/">pushback from some parents</a> and others who say those changes are unfair.</p><p>Chicago, for example, considers the demographics of the area where a student lives as part of the city’s selective high school admissions process, and takes steps to ensure high-performing students from both affluent and low-income areas have access. The city has <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/chicago/2022/3/10/22971778/chicago-aims-to-revamp-its-admissions-policy-for-selective-enrollment-schools/">taken steps to revamp that process</a> to make it more fair for low-income students — and <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/chicago/2023/12/12/chicago-public-schools-moves-away-from-school-choice/">has signaled a desire to move away</a> from the current selective schools system.</p><p>Philadelphia, similarly, <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/philadelphia/2021/10/6/22713281/philly-overhauls-selective-admissions-policy-to-be-antiracist/">overhauled its selective high school process</a> to provide greater access to the city’s most coveted magnet schools, and moved to a <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/philadelphia/2022/8/18/23312285/philadelphia-special-admissions-lottery-boosts-black-hispanic-enrollment/">lottery system that boosted the share </a>of Black and Latino students who gained admission.</p><p>New York City, meanwhile, has <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/newyork/2022/6/15/23169817/nyc-specialized-high-school-admissions-offers-2022/">come under fire from integration advocates for its selective high school admissions</a>, particularly for eight prestigious high schools where a test is the sole basis for admissions. Some advocates have long criticized the test as a barrier for Black and Latino students. But other families have fought to keep the status quo, and parents in areas that are more affluent and have higher numbers of Asian American students have <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/newyork/2023/4/28/23702492/nyc-schools-community-education-council-elections/">mobilized around the issue</a>.</p><p>The University of Pennsylvania’s McClellan said the Supreme Court’s decision should encourage school districts that use methods like Fairfax County’s to create diverse schools to stay the course, regardless of future court challenges.</p><p>“School districts that are committed to diversity and inclusion shouldn’t become overly cautious,” McClellan said, pointing to examples of how <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2023/7/21/23803059/scholarships-race-affirmative-action-supreme-court-college-admissions-high-achieving-students/">colleges have rolled back diversity efforts</a> that go beyond the text of the Supreme Court’s recent ruling. “Part of the effect of having ongoing challenges to existing precedent is that there feels like there is a lot of uncertainty — even when the law is clear.”</p><p><i>Kalyn Belsha is a senior national education reporter based in Chicago. Contact her at </i><a href="mailto:kbelsha@chalkbeat.org" target="_blank"><i>kbelsha@chalkbeat.org</i></a><i>.</i></p>https://www.chalkbeat.org/2024/02/20/supreme-court-coalition-for-tj-selective-high-school-racial-diversity/Kalyn BelshaStefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images2024-02-16T01:00:00+00:00<![CDATA[Unaccompanied homeless youth are overlooked. A new book shows what it means to give them support.]]>2024-02-16T01:00:00+00:00<p>When Vicki Sokolik first started working with teens experiencing homelessness living on their own without a parent, she would host “lunch and learns” at local high schools.</p><p>Her goal was to explain to social workers, assistant principals, and other staff who qualified as an unaccompanied homeless youth, and how schools could refer those students to her nonprofit for housing and other services.</p><p>Sixteen years later, Sokolik says there is still a lack of awareness of these students and their particular social, emotional, and educational needs.</p><p>“People still — no matter if they’re in the schools, if they’re lawmakers, if their medical professionals — really do not understand what an unaccompanied homeless youth is, or even what to look for,” Sokolik said.</p><p>Her new book, “<a href="https://www.spiegelandgrau.com/if-you-see-them">If You See Them: Young, Unhoused, and Alone in America</a>,” details her experience working with these students in Florida’s Hillsborough and Pinellas counties.</p><p><a href="https://profiles.nche.seiservices.com/ConsolidatedStateProfile.aspx">The latest federal data show</a> that nearly 111,000 students were identified as unaccompanied homeless youth during the 2021-22 school year — a number many experts and advocates, including Sokolik, say is an under-count. <a href="https://nche.ed.gov/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/youth.pdf">Other estimates</a> that include older teens and youth in their early 20s put the number much higher.</p><p><a href="https://schoolhouseconnection.org/learn/unaccompanied-youth/">The needs these students have are often great</a>. Many are survivors of rape or sexual assault. Many have experienced suicidal thoughts or attempted suicide. Some were kicked out of their homes because they identify as LGBTQ. Many have had contact with child protective services, but were not removed from their homes. Often they have a juvenile record, sometimes for stealing basic necessities.</p><figure><img src="https://www.chalkbeat.org/resizer/SNzaS0d6K-lrRG_NsQJTGSSfbI0=/1440x960/cloudfront-us-east-1.images.arcpublishing.com/civicnewscompany/HQNNFQXM6FCRDCSDZ32WPYLZUY.jpg" alt="Vicki Sokolik's book looks at the particular needs of unaccompanied homeless youth. Shaq, now 27, participated in a program run by Sokolik's nonprofit and shares his experience with students." height="960" width="1440"/><figcaption>Vicki Sokolik's book looks at the particular needs of unaccompanied homeless youth. Shaq, now 27, participated in a program run by Sokolik's nonprofit and shares his experience with students.</figcaption></figure><p>It’s also common for these students to be <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2023/9/28/23893221/chronic-absenteeism-attendance-santa-fe-orlando-schools/">chronically absent from school</a>, and to have undiagnosed learning disabilities. Sokolik recalls one student who entered her nonprofit’s program a few years ago as a 12th grader who could not read. He needed intensive help from a reading coach and a special education plan.</p><p>And these students are caught between being treated as children and adults by various legal systems. A student Sokolik worked with lobbied Florida lawmakers to make it easier for youth living on their own to <a href="https://schoolhouseconnection.org/state-laws-on-vital-records">obtain their birth certificate</a>, for example.</p><p>Chalkbeat spoke with Sokolik about what she’s learned working with unaccompanied homeless youth through her nonprofit — <a href="https://startingrightnow.org/about/">Starting Right, Now</a> — and what educators should keep in mind.</p><p><i>This interview has been lightly edited for clarity and length.</i></p><h2><b>Why can it be hard for schools to identify students as unaccompanied homeless youth?</b></h2><p>This is a very invisible population because the kids actually don’t want to be found. They are so afraid of what will happen if someone figures out that they’re not with their parent or guardian. Will they put them in foster care? What will happen to their siblings? Because of that, they tend to hide.</p><p>There’s a lot of shame associated with being a homeless unaccompanied youth. They carry this burden of: They did something wrong. Until they get to the point where they just don’t know what to do anymore, they don’t seek help.</p><h2><b>Schools can refer students to Starting Right, Now. What are some of the gaps that your organization is able to fill in that schools can’t?</b></h2><p>Unfortunately, schools can’t get to the root of the problem for an unaccompanied homeless youth. The first thing is, obviously, stable housing. So we provide stable housing, we provide food security. We provide academic support, social services support, life-skills training, and then we help the kids plan what their next goal is going to be.</p><p>One percent of our kids go to the military, about 9% go to vocational training and the rest go to higher education. And then we provide case management to those kids until they actually get into their career. In addition to that, every single student in our program is matched with their own mentor, so they have this incredibly reliable adult in their life.</p><h2><b>You talk in the book about the link between being an unaccompanied homeless youth and chronic absenteeism. What are some of the barriers that prevent the students you work with from attending school regularly?</b></h2><p>The kids do what we call couch-hopping, where they’re asking a friend every night: Can I sleep at your house? And a lot of times they’ll get farther and farther away from school. We had a student who was walking six miles each way to get to school. And if it was pouring down rain, she wasn’t going. Transportation becomes a major barrier.</p><p>A lot of times, the kids work. And because they have to survive, they end up going to work during school hours. Their employer should not even allow that, but they do. And then the other thing is they don’t have access to laundry facilities. They don’t want to go to school because their clothes are not clean.</p><h2><b>The share of students you work with who’ve had a visit from child protective services at some point in their lives is incredibly high. And a lot of them do not have a positive experience with the state. How does that shape the services you provide?</b></h2><p>Most of our kids are so afraid of authority, in general, because they’ve watched their parents being taken away. They’ve watched their siblings being taken away. They’ve been taken away.</p><p>It shapes everything that we do. When a student walks into our program, we know for sure that they’re not going to trust anything we say or do. And they’re going to probably try to get kicked out because they just know it isn’t going to work out — they already have that in their head.</p><p>We have to develop trust by having our actions align with our words, and making sure that when we say we’re going to do something, it’s unquestionably done at the time we say. It takes a long time to build that trust. You have to show up day after day.</p><p>We do a lot of activities that require not only them to be vulnerable, but our staff to be vulnerable. We open up with the “Snowballs” activity in the book [which asks staff and students to write down and anonymously share something they’re afraid of, something they’re ashamed of, and something they succeeded at]. When the veil is lifted, I just think that kids realize we’re people, too.</p><h3><b>One student in your book writes about feeling like she’s disintegrated, and she’s having these intense feelings of loneliness. How do mental health struggles complicate the lives of the students you’re working with and their education opportunities?</b></h3><p>Trauma just creeps into everything. Because [our kids] have been so busy, just trying to survive day to day, their trauma gets a little bit pushed back. But the minute they get stably housed, after about 30 days of being in the house, [they] start having these horrible flashbacks of all different things that have happened to them.</p><figure><img src="https://www.chalkbeat.org/resizer/awbIc8cBcYMfJlaSemhFCqjClnc=/1440x960/cloudfront-us-east-1.images.arcpublishing.com/civicnewscompany/3A4KDU62CRFCHEJ3YVAVOTB47M.jpg" alt="Among the students featured in Vicki Sokolik's book is Taylor, who experienced homelessness as a youth and now works as a school social worker." height="960" width="1440"/><figcaption>Among the students featured in Vicki Sokolik's book is Taylor, who experienced homelessness as a youth and now works as a school social worker.</figcaption></figure><p>It can impact eating, it can impact sleeping — they just want to lay in bed all day. It can impact going to school, even being able to listen to their teacher. That’s usually the moment that we kick in the mental health specialists.</p><p>The other thing we see all the time is, because our kids are so angry — and rightfully so, people that should have protected them have let them down — they end up saying things to a teacher that they obviously shouldn’t say. And so they end up getting a [discipline] referral at school, and a lot of times end up being released for the day, when, really, they need help.</p><p>It’s so hard to point your finger at the schools and say: “You should be doing this or that,” because they’re doing the best they can with the resources that they have. I think they need more resources.</p><h2><b>You try to strike the right balance between providing meaningful guidance and support, and also letting young people advocate for themselves and make their own choices. You write that a lot of times, unaccompanied homeless youth have learned to be incredibly resourceful and resilient, but they also lack basic skills, like cooking for themselves.</b></h2><p>It’s hard. The way that I approach everything now — which is not how I did it previously — is that [I say]: I’m trying to look ahead for your future. [For example], every year we do an etiquette class. The majority of our kids have never been to a restaurant, they’ve never ordered off a menu. And we talk about: This isn’t about today. We’re not judging you. We don’t care that you don’t know. However, when you have your first interview over a meal, you’re going to be expected to know this.</p><p>It also comes down to: Is my help going to matter in that moment? Or should I back off, because it’s not dire right this second. I find that when I give the kids space, they’re more willing to listen. I let both of us just calm down, and then come back to it, and come up with a strategy that works.</p><h2><b>In the book, some students say: There’s this white woman in front of me asking me personal questions, I don’t know if I trust her, I don’t want to be seen as a charity case. How have you learned to navigate some of the racial and socioeconomic divides between yourself and the kids?</b></h2><p>I am who I am. I don’t think I try to change that divide.</p><p>There was a student in our program who said to me: “You’ll never understand me.” They’re in our program right now. And I said: “Well, try me, is there something going on?” [The student said]: “I can’t tell you, and you’ll never understand me.”</p><p>[Then one Saturday, the student called me] and she’s hysterically crying. And I find out that she’s so upset because her mother was investigated again by [Florida’s Department of Children and Families]. We probably were on the phone for an hour, just talking. By the time she hung up, she said to me: “Thank you for answering your phone.” And I said: “I’ll always answer my phone, that isn’t even a question. I’m here for you.”</p><p>And that changed everything. I do understand her now, in her eyes.</p><p><i>Kalyn Belsha is a senior national education reporter based in Chicago. Contact her at </i><a href="mailto:kbelsha@chalkbeat.org"><i>kbelsha@chalkbeat.org</i></a><i>.</i></p>https://www.chalkbeat.org/2024/02/16/if-you-see-them-unaccompanied-homeless-youth-vicki-sokolik/Kalyn BelshaOctavio Jones / Getty Images2024-01-26T12:00:00+00:00<![CDATA[A visit to Auschwitz changed how I teach about the Holocaust]]>2024-02-15T02:15:37+00:00<p>When I was in sixth grade, I read Anne Frank’s <a href="https://bookshop.org/p/books/the-diary-of-a-young-girl/18844129?ean=9789386450975">“The Diary of a Young Girl.”</a> This was my introduction to the Holocaust. I was so moved by her life — and subsequent death at the <a href="https://encyclopedia.ushmm.org/content/en/article/bergen-belsen">Bergen-Belsen</a> concentration camp — that I vowed to never forget Anne and the six million Jews murdered by the Nazis.</p><p>My 12-year-old mind could not fathom the senselessness of her murder. As I was reading her diary, I fully expected the outspoken girl who liked to read and disliked math, who had crushes and dreams for the future, to live. Anne reminded me of myself. To this day, it still saddens and haunts me that she did not survive.</p><figure><img src="https://www.chalkbeat.org/resizer/UiPC-gbtrjj8QP7pCZ-dTCQ_uhU=/1440x960/cloudfront-us-east-1.images.arcpublishing.com/civicnewscompany/YZ743FN4NBGCRB2X6Q6YZ2WKWY.png" alt="Nikia Garland" height="960" width="1440"/><figcaption>Nikia Garland</figcaption></figure><p>The similarities between the plight of the Jewish people and Black Americans were also not lost on me. I was moved by photos of <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/history/2020/02/11/black-soldiers-wwii-dutch-liberation/">Black American soldiers</a> helping to <a href="https://www.motl.org/united-we-stand-black-soldiers-liberating-hitlers-camps-jewish-activists-in-civil-rights-movement/">liberate the Jews from concentration camps,</a> and struck by the irony of those servicemen returning to the U.S. where they were denied basic rights, faced racial hostility, and were still not completely free. I am a high school English teacher, and I was determined to teach my students about Black soldiers, such as Cpl. <a href="https://www.militarytimes.com/military-honor/black-military-history/2020/02/13/seventy-five-years-later-the-netherlands-honors-the-black-liberators-who-helped-end-the-nazi-occupation/">James W. Baldwin</a>, who helped liberate Europe from Hitler’s rule.</p><p>Then, last June, decades after I first read Anne’s diary, I had the opportunity to travel solo to Poland and Germany as a <a href="https://www.fundforteachers.org/">Funds for Teachers</a> Fellow. I pursued this fellowship because I wanted to learn more about the Holocaust, as I teach a unit on the subject.</p><p>When I arrived at Auschwitz, where about <a href="https://www.auschwitz.org/en/history/auschwitz-and-shoah/the-number-of-victims/">1 million Jews were murdered</a>, the atmosphere was heavy. Despite it being a sweltering summer day, I felt a distinct chill flow through me as I entered the gates that read, “Arbeit macht frei,” German for “Work sets you free,” even though the millions who passed through those gates were killed or brutally imprisoned and forced to work.</p><p>At Auschwitz, I was not prepared for the artifacts that were left behind. There were suitcases bearing names, dishes, and bundles upon bundles of <a href="http://70.auschwitz.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=299&Itemid=179&lang=en" target="_blank">human hair that the Nazis used for textiles</a>. It was especially difficult to see the children’s clothing and shoes, photographs of grossly emaciated prisoners — including kids — and the squalid living conditions they endured.</p><figure><img src="https://www.chalkbeat.org/resizer/-FcNEixaiOXr6c7JdsTwNEVfUfw=/1440x960/cloudfront-us-east-1.images.arcpublishing.com/civicnewscompany/Y6FEVOSGO5HQJP7W4EVCCOPCDY.jpg" alt="Holocaust survivor Eva Mozes Kor stands outside the CANDLES Holocaust Museum and Education Center in Terre Haute, Indiana, during the filming of the 2014 Andre Singer documentary "Night Will Fall." Kor died at age 85 in 2019. " height="960" width="1440"/><figcaption>Holocaust survivor Eva Mozes Kor stands outside the CANDLES Holocaust Museum and Education Center in Terre Haute, Indiana, during the filming of the 2014 Andre Singer documentary "Night Will Fall." Kor died at age 85 in 2019. </figcaption></figure><p>Entering the gas chamber there was like being transported back in time. The sharp scent of death still lingered in the air. It completely overwhelmed my senses, and I was moved to tears.</p><p>I also visited <a href="https://muzeumkrakowa.pl/en/branches/oskar-schindlers-enamel-factory">Oskar Schindler’s enamel factory</a> in Krakow, Poland, which is now a museum. Schindler, a German businessman credited with saving more than 1,000 Jews, was the subject of Steven Spielberg’s Oscar-winning 1993 film <a href="https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/how-schindlers-list-transformed-americans-understanding-of-the-holocaust-180983408/">“Schindler’s List.”</a> Another museum visitor recommended the movie to me.</p><p>I watched it on my flight home from Europe — an emotional screening on the heels of an emotional trip. I was captivated by Schindler’s metamorphosis from an opportunistic industrialist to an upstander who, repulsed by the Nazis’ brutal treatment of Jews, developed a plan to save as many as he could. This year, I plan to have my AP students watch “Schindler’s List” and write a rhetorical analysis.</p><p>It’s one way my trip to Europe will shape how I teach about the Holocaust. I also created a PowerPoint about my trip to European Holocaust sites, and I have planned field trips to Indianapolis’ <a href="https://www.choosetoforgive.org/">Peace Center for Reconciliation and Forgiveness</a>, founded by a survivor of the <a href="https://www.ushmm.org/genocide-prevention/countries/rwanda">1994 Rwandan genocide</a> and to a live production of “Letters From Anne and Martin,” which highlights the parallels between Anne Frank and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.</p><p>In addition, my students will research a real Holocaust victim and learn their story. They will also hear about <a href="https://candlesholocaustmuseum.org/our-survivors/eva-kor/her-story/her-story.html">Eva Mozes Kor</a>, a Holocaust survivor who, along with her twin sister, Miriam, endured the experiments of the brutal Nazi doctor Josef Mengele. Kor lived for many years in Terre Haute, Indiana, and opened a <a href="https://candlesholocaustmuseum.org/candles/our-story.html" target="_blank">Holocaust museum and education center</a> there. When I was at Auschwitz, I saw <a href="https://images.indianahistory.org/digital/collection/EVA_KOR/id/99/">a large photo of Eva and her sister</a> being liberated by Russian soldiers in 1945. (Kor died in 2019 at age 85.)</p><p>I also hope to speak to my son’s eighth grade humanities class as they study the rise of totalitarianism in the 20th century. And I look forward to sharing what I saw and learned during my Holocaust education fellowship in other schools and classrooms, too.</p><p>My students, and all students, should know what happened during the Holocaust. They should understand the importance of empathizing with those who are suffering, regardless of race or creed, and advocating for justice on their behalf. They will read the famous verse <a href="https://encyclopedia.ushmm.org/content/en/article/martin-niemoeller-first-they-came-for-the-socialists">“First They Came For…”</a> by Pastor Martin Niemöller, to help emphasize the danger of being indifferent to those in pain.</p><p>In memory of Anne Frank, whose story captured my 12-year-old self and whose death broke my heart, I am determined to help shape a generation of upstanders.</p><p><i>Nikia D. Garland teaches British Literature and AP Language and Composition at</i><a href="https://myips.org/arsenaltech/"><i> Arsenal Technical High School.</i></a><i> She has taught a wide range of secondary and college-level ELA classes in the U.S. and internationally. Nikia has been a </i><a href="https://candlesholocaustmuseum.org/educational-resources/terry-fear-holocaust-educator-in-action-award.html"><i>Terry Fear Holocaust Educator in Action </i></a><i>recipient, a </i><a href="https://www.mshefoundation.org/"><i>Mark Schonwetter Holocaust Education Foundation</i></a><i> grant recipient, a </i><a href="https://lillyendowment.org/for-grantseekers/renewal-programs/teacher-creativity/"><i>Lilly Endowment Teacher Creativity Fellow</i></a><i>, a </i><a href="https://www.fundforteachers.org/"><i>Fund For Teachers Fellow</i></a><i>, and a </i><a href="https://www.nationalgeographic.org/society/education-resources/professional-development/grosvenor-teacher-fellows/"><i>Grosvenor Teacher Fellow</i></a><i>. In addition, she is a chair for the Indiana Teachers of Writing conference and president-elect for the Indiana affiliate of the National Council of Teachers of English.</i></p>https://www.chalkbeat.org/indiana/2024/01/26/indianapolis-teacher-travels-to-auschwitz-to-learn-about-the-holocaust-remembrance-day-eva-kor/Nikia GarlandOmar Marques/Getty Images2024-02-02T18:26:37+00:00<![CDATA[Amid a surprising pandemic recovery, academic inequality grew. What now?]]>2024-02-13T14:33:50+00:00<p><i>Sign up for </i><a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/newsletters/national"><i>Chalkbeat’s free weekly newsletter</i></a><i> to keep up with how education is changing across the U.S.</i></p><p>Academic gaps between students from low-income backgrounds and their more affluent peers have widened, even as American students as a whole are making a surprising recovery from the pandemic’s disruptions.</p><p>And in contrast to the initial sharp decline in test scores during the pandemic, <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2023/5/12/23721806/learning-loss-pandemic-community-district-student-homes-harvard-stanford-johns-hopkins-dartmouth/">when differences among districts drove much of the decrease for low-income students</a>, gaps have widened in the last year between students from different income levels within the same district.</p><p>Those are the findings of <a href="https://educationrecoveryscorecard.org/wp-content/uploads/2024/01/ERS-Report-Final-1.31.pdf">a new analysis of student progress</a> between spring 2022 and spring 2023 from The Educational Opportunity Project at Stanford University and a team of researchers that includes Stanford’s Sean Reardon, who studies inequality, and Harvard University’s Thomas Kane, an education professor and economist.</p><p>The analysis <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2022/10/24/23417139/naep-test-scores-pandemic-school-reopening/">defies some of the direst predictions about pandemic learning loss</a> even as it confirms others — such as the fear that students who already face the most challenges would fall much further behind and not get what they need to catch up.</p><p>The new analysis presents a sunnier picture than a <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2023/7/11/23787212/nwea-learning-loss-academic-recovery-testing-data-covid/">previous one from the testing group NWEA</a> that found that students learned at a similar rate or slower during the 2022-23 school year than in pre-pandemic years, meaning they weren’t making up lost learning.</p><p>The analysis relies on federal and state reading and math test data from 30 states accounting for roughly 8,000 school districts and some 15 million students. Because states use different tests and have different thresholds for proficiency, the researchers used a method to put the state test scores onto a common scale and to convert proficiency rates to grade levels, allowing comparisons among school districts in all 30 states. Some states, including New York and Colorado, were excluded because too few students took state tests, while others changed tests.</p><p>Most students are still behind their 2019 counterparts, the analysis found, and likely will be for years. But they’re also making greater year-over-year gains than researchers had seen in decades of administration of the National Assessment of Educational Progress, known as the nation’s report card.</p><p>The report’s authors called on state and local leaders to make the most of remaining pandemic relief dollars and do more to make sure tutoring, summer school, and other help reaches the students who need it.</p><p>“Recovery really is possible, but let’s focus in particular on the communities that have the furthest to go to catch up,” Reardon said in an interview. “And we should worry that the federal money is running out and some of the resources will not be there and states will have to step in.”</p><p>Here are three key takeaways from the analysis.</p><h2>Many students made remarkable gains, but recovery incomplete</h2><p>Between 2019 and 2022, the study estimates students missed the equivalent of half a year of typical learning in math and a third of a year of reading.</p><p>By spring 2023, the average student had recovered about a third of the loss in math — or a sixth of a grade level — and about a quarter of the original loss in reading — roughly one-twelfth of a grade level, the analysis found.</p><p>That might not seem like much, Reardon said, but in the decade before the pandemic, students “almost never” made this much additional academic progress in a year. When it did happen, it happened in small affluent districts.</p><p>“It’s pretty impressive,” Reardon said. “You moved an entire ship, not just a little dinghy. That’s the good news.”</p><p>Students in Pennsylvania and Mississippi made up more ground than the national average in math after experiencing larger-than-average declines between 2019 and 2022. Tennessee students also made up more learning in math, while Illinois students made more progress in reading — and actually did better than their 2019 counterparts.</p><p>But even with the growth students seem to be showing in the new analysis, researchers estimate the average student needs at least another year of recovery in math and another two years in reading. In math, only Alabama students scored better than their 2019 counterparts, and Oregon students actually did worse in both reading and math in 2023 than in 2022.</p><p><iframe src="https://edopportunity.org/recovery/#/embed/map/none/districts/mth2223/frl/all/3.15/37.39/-96.78" style="width:100%;min-height:405px;max-width:100%;aspect-ratio: 1;" frameborder="0"></iframe></p><h2>Academic inequality has widened between districts, within districts</h2><p>One of the most striking findings from the analysis is that gaps between low-income students and those who are better-off have widened, with some of the largest gaps found in Massachusetts and Michigan.</p><p>Racial and ethnic gaps are widening too. Black students’ scores on average improved more than white students’ scores between 2022 and 2023, but because Black students’ scores declined so much during the pandemic, the gap remains slightly larger than in 2019. Hispanic students showed relatively little improvement from 2022 to 2023.</p><p>An analysis last year by many of the same researchers found that students in the same district experienced similar academic setbacks, regardless of their background. Scores for students from less-affluent backgrounds dropped more on average because they were more likely to live in high-poverty school districts where <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2023/5/12/23721806/learning-loss-pandemic-community-district-student-homes-harvard-stanford-johns-hopkins-dartmouth/">people experienced more negative effects of the pandemic</a>.</p><p>This new analysis finds that many high-poverty districts are helping students make up for learning loss. Overall, they made similar progress to their more affluent neighbors — and the highest-poverty districts actually showed larger-than-average improvements.</p><p>But because districts serving lots of students in poverty were further behind to begin with, gaps with higher-income districts grew even when they made similar progress. And in some states, notably Massachusetts, affluent districts made big gains between 2022 and 2023 while high-poverty districts actually lost ground.</p><p>And now gaps are opening up between less-affluent students and better-off students within districts. Students’ test scores fell by similar amounts, but some fell onto a trampoline, Reardon said, while others seem to have fallen into a pit of sand.</p><p>“We do not know the reason for this, but it is troubling,” the report notes. “Even as student achievement has improved rapidly since 2022, those gains have not been equally shared, even within the same school district.”</p><p>As community-wide stresses recede for some families, Reardon said, “the ways that kids in the same places have access to different resources seem to be playing more of a role.”</p><p>Students from low-income households often are segregated in very high-needs schools, where the staff is overworked, Reardon said. Some districts may not be targeting help to those who need it most.</p><p>Of all the gaps that opened between students from different economic backgrounds, researchers estimate 60% to 70% is due to differences between districts, while the rest is due to differences within districts.</p><h2>Urgency needed to help student recovery, close gaps</h2><p>As of this fall, the lowest-income districts still had about 40% of the federal pandemic relief they received. States and school districts have until September to commit that money — and making the best use of it is essential, Reardon said.</p><p>The report makes four recommendations:</p><ul><li>Schools should tell parents early in the spring if their children are below grade level.</li><li>Districts should expand summer school seats to accept anyone who signs up.</li><li>Districts should extend the recovery effort throughout the 2024-25 school year by signing tutoring contracts before the September deadline.</li><li><a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/detroit/2023/8/31/23853030/chronic-absenteeism-detroit-school-attendance-dpscd-brightmoor/">Communities should work together to reduce absenteeism</a>.</li></ul><p>States and districts should use all the data at their disposal to ensure the right help — tutoring, counseling, or attendance help — reaches the students who need it most, Reardon said.</p><p>The new analysis is <a href="https://edopportunity.org/recovery/">accompanied by an interactive map</a> that allows leaders and community members to identify districts making more progress and learn from them.</p><p>Districts have had a lot of leeway to decide how to spend pandemic money. States should use incentives to ensure remaining funds go toward academic recovery. And they “may need to complete the final leg of the recovery on their own resources,” the report says.</p><p>With <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2024/02/01/how-schools-will-keep-tutoring-programs-after-esser-covid-funding-is-gone/">advocates pushing states to keep paying for tutoring</a>, those conversations are already starting in many places.</p><p><i>Erica Meltzer is Chalkbeat’s national editor based in Colorado. Contact Erica at </i><a href="mailto:emeltzer@chalkbeat.org" target="_blank"><i>emeltzer@chalkbeat.org</i></a><i>.</i></p>https://www.chalkbeat.org/2024/02/05/learning-loss-study-finds-surprising-academic-recovery-growing-inequality/Erica MeltzerAllison Shelley / EDU Images, All4Ed2024-02-08T16:00:00+00:00<![CDATA[Work has become more flexible post-pandemic. So should special education.]]>2024-02-09T16:46:43+00:00<p>Thirteen years ago, my neurodivergent child’s experience with public special education led us to leave it altogether and home-school from grades 6-12.</p><p>I created a customized education program for my son, incorporating his ideas and interests. I connected with educators who operated enrichment centers offering homeschool classes in the morning and after-school programs later in the day, as well as community college staff, local museum educators, retired teachers, homeschool groups, and university professors who offered additional opportunities for alternative learning.</p><figure><img src="https://www.chalkbeat.org/resizer/rD2cFgjgL82dGfwVXj2QKH0s6BM=/1440x960/cloudfront-us-east-1.images.arcpublishing.com/civicnewscompany/L4WF43DPGJAYLBSVZMEOTKZQF4.jpg" alt="Amy Mackin" height="960" width="1440"/><figcaption>Amy Mackin</figcaption></figure><p>We spent Monday mornings at an enrichment center where an MIT professor taught home-schoolers biology and anatomy. Thursday afternoons, we headed to a community gym, where my son studied Latin with a professor of Greek and Roman mythology, played chess, and then joined a group exercise class — all for a small fee. We learned about birds of prey at our local Audubon Society, and we discussed farming history during a visit to a cranberry bog.</p><p>It wouldn’t have been possible if I didn’t have a spouse with a full-time job and health care benefits — putting this option out of reach for many, if not most, families. But the types of partnerships I developed could help fill the gap that exists between what schools can reasonably offer and the expansive services children — especially those with disabilities — need to thrive, without asking parents to become full-time, unpaid instructors and curriculum designers.</p><p>Developing these partnerships is more pressing than ever.</p><p>This past summer, a Pew Research Center report revealed that the number of students in the American special education system has doubled over the past four decades, from about <a href="https://www.edweek.org/teaching-learning/the-number-of-students-in-special-education-has-doubled-in-the-past-45-years/2023/07#:~:text=The%20total%20number%20of%20students,was%20in%20the%20late%201970s.">3.6 million</a> during the 1976-77 school year to approximately <a href="https://www.pewresearch.org/short-reads/2023/07/24/what-federal-education-data-shows-about-students-with-disabilities-in-the-us/">7.3 million</a> during the 2021-22 school year. Schools are <a href="https://www.the74million.org/article/yes-theres-a-shortage-of-special-education-teachers-and-thats-nothing-new/">struggling to find enough special educators</a> to serve this increasing population, especially amid the <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2022/11/18/23465030/youth-mental-health-crisis-school-staff-psychologist-counselor-social-worker-shortage/">rise in mental health challenges</a> among students, including <a href="https://ahs.uic.edu/disability-human-development/news/helping-teens-with-disabilities-prevent-and-treat-depression-anxiety/" target="_blank">those with disabilities</a>.</p><p>We know that a subset of neurodivergent students do better in <a href="https://www.shu.ac.uk/news/all-articles/latest-news/experiences-of-autistic-children-in-education" target="_blank">more flexible educational settings</a>. COVID closures showed us as much. Because while the pandemic was devastating for students with disabilities who needed in-person, tactile assistance, some children, including many on the autism spectrum, <a href="https://www.edsurge.com/news/2021-08-04-the-unexpected-benefits-of-remote-learning-for-neurodivergent-students" target="_blank">thrived outside of traditional school spaces</a>. For these students, virtual learning provided a welcome reprieve from challenging social environments, resulting in improved academic performance and lower stress.</p><p>Serving these students post-pandemic means engaging community organizations to create a flexible education ecosystem, powered by traditional instruction in school and subject matter experts outside of it.</p><p>The Brookings Institution described a similar arrangement that they call <a href="https://protect-usb.mimecast.com/s/XrpVCk6Ww7igZ7kfDEyJW?domain=brookings.edu/">”Powered-up Schools”</a> in a 2020 report outlining ways that public education could emerge from the pandemic stronger than before. They draw inspiration from the <a href="https://www.nea.org/student-success/great-public-schools/community-schools" target="_blank">community schools movement</a>, which advocates for public schools that provide wrap-around services to meet the needs of students, families, and neighborhoods.</p><p>Meanwhile in the U.K., students in some districts are engaged in what’s called <a href="https://www.progressiveeducation.org/approaches/flexi-schooling/">“flexi-schooling.”</a> This system allows a child to be a fully funded public school student while spending part of the week homeschooled and/or attending off-site educational programs.</p><p>School systems stateside could offer something similar. We know it’s possible. COVID-19, after all, forced us to get creative in our delivery of educational services. We must carry that forward with strategies that honor students’ individual learning styles, integrate community resources, and optimize teachers’ instructional strengths.</p><p>It’s too late for my son’s generation, but we can meet the needs of students with disabilities, including those who are more successful in a hybrid design, by breaking away from models that haven’t served many students well and haven’t changed in decades. We should replace them with more nimble solutions that don’t take years to actualize. In schools, like in workplaces, we learned to pivot quickly when COVID gave us no choice; it’s time to embrace those lessons and build upon them.</p><p><i>Amy Mackin is a Boston-based writer and inclusion advocate who serves as Manager of Communications and Outreach for the Population Studies and Training Center at Brown University. Her work has appeared in The Atlantic, The Washington Post, Assay: A Journal of Nonfiction Studies, The Writer’s Chronicle, Witness, and The Shriver Report, among other places. She has taught in the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at UMass Boston and mentors community college students in writing.</i></p>https://www.chalkbeat.org/2024/02/08/making-special-education-more-flexible/Amy MackinAzmanL2024-02-08T16:01:56+00:00<![CDATA[Chalkbeat gets a shout-out on ‘Abbott Elementary’ season three premiere]]>2024-02-08T20:03:43+00:00<p>Well, that was cool!</p><p>Last night’s season three premiere of “<a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/philadelphia/2022/4/12/23022788/philadelphia-comegys-teacher-surprised-gma-abbott-elementary-quinta-brunson-good-morning-america/" target="_blank">Abbott Elementary</a>” on ABC featured a Chalkbeat shout-out none of us was expecting.</p><p>Janine Teagues, played by the show’s creator Quinta Brunson, is telling someone from the district about choosing colors for her classroom: <i>I wanted to go with blue, which inspires focus.</i></p><p>District employee Manny: <i>And calm, which is so important for primary classes. I read about that in Chalkbeat.</i></p><p>Janine: <i>You read Chalkbeat?</i></p><p>Manny: Mhm. Janine: <i>I basically live in the comments section, so.</i></p><p>Our phones immediately lit up from readers across the country. The Chalkbeat staff was, to put it mildly, freaking out in the best way. And we loved seeing responses like this one:</p><blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Spot on and so well-deserved. Teachers do read Chalkbeat!! <a href="https://t.co/FxC8fEBGUM">https://t.co/FxC8fEBGUM</a></p>&mdash; Sara Clough (@Sfclough) <a href="https://twitter.com/Sfclough/status/1755434094937133307?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">February 8, 2024</a></blockquote><p>If you’re coming to Chalkbeat for the first time because you saw us on Abbott, welcome! We’re a nonprofit news organization that reports on schools and education policy in eight locations across the country. We are powered by award-winning journalists who live in the communities we serve and care deeply about education, and by a community of teachers and parents who read our work and tell us what’s happening inside their homes and classrooms. Many teachers like Janine are also members — donors who make it possible for us to stay independent as local news struggles.</p><p><a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/philadelphia/2022/2/8/22924217/how-abbott-elementary-speaks-to-the-bond-between-students-and-teachers-you-are-making-a-difference/">How ‘Abbott Elementary’ speaks to the bond between students and teachers: ‘You are making a difference’</a></p><p>What was that story Janine mentioned? There’s no exact match, we did recently write about an Indiana school’s new sensory room with <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/indiana/2023/12/13/perry-burkhart-elementary-school-opens-sensory-room/">walls painted teal</a>. (We’ve also written about the show and <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/philadelphia/2022/2/8/22924217/how-abbott-elementary-speaks-to-the-bond-between-students-and-teachers-you-are-making-a-difference/">how other Philly teachers felt watching it</a>.)</p><p>And about our comments section: We did have a thriving one in our early days, but switched to other ways of connecting with readers a few years back. Janine’s reference makes us think that, like so many teachers, she’s been a fan for a while. Did we mention this is our 10th anniversary year?</p><p>We’re grateful that so many of the Janines of Philadelphia, and the rest of the country, are avid Chalkbeat readers. We’re willing to bet that not every Janine in your community is a Chalkbeat newsletter subscriber yet, though. We’d love it if you’d share this with them — <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/newsletters/">they can sign up here</a> — or take a moment to tell us your reaction to last night’s episode.</p><p><br/></p>https://www.chalkbeat.org/2024/02/08/abbott-elementary-season-three-premiere-chalkbeat-mention/Sarah DarvilleABC-TV2024-02-07T19:00:00+00:00<![CDATA[Can you take algebra in eighth grade? In many cases, the answer is no, national survey finds]]>2024-02-08T19:35:35+00:00<p>If you’re an eighth grader who wants to take algebra, can you even take the class?</p><p>The answer to that question, it turns out, depends a lot on two things: how your school identifies students for advanced math, and where you live.</p><p>According to a new <a href="https://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RRA2836-2.html">nationally representative survey</a> released Tuesday, 65% of U.S. principals said their elementary or middle school offered algebra in eighth grade, but only to certain students. Meanwhile, just 20% of principals said their school offered the class in eighth grade and that any student could take it.</p><p>But that picture differed by state. In California, nearly half of principals said their school offered algebra only to certain eighth graders. But in Florida, more than 80% of principals said the class was restricted. In both states, 18% of principals said any eighth grader could take the class, similar to the national rate.</p><p>The findings, based on surveys conducted last spring by the RAND Corporation, shed light on the uneven access students have to advanced math classes in middle school, which can have lasting effects on their higher education and job prospects.</p><p>Algebra is often considered a gateway class. Eighth graders who take the course can more easily reach calculus by 12th grade — which can set students up for challenging math classes in college and <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/colorado/2023/1/18/23560969/colorado-school-mines-science-engineering-university-pell-low-income-student-enrollment/">career paths in science and engineering fields</a>.</p><p>“The kids that aren’t in algebra by eighth grade, they can do that still,” said Julia Kaufman, a senior policy researcher at RAND, and the lead author of the report, “but they would have to do something special to get there,” <a href="https://calmatters.org/education/k-12-education/2021/12/san-francisco-math/">such as doubling up on math</a> or taking a summer class.</p><p>The report also details the extent to which students are separated based on their perceived math abilities, starting as young as elementary school.</p><p>More than 40% of elementary school principals told RAND researchers that their school grouped kids based on their math levels, mostly within the classroom. But by middle school, nearly 70% of principals said they grouped students in math. Most commonly, students were put into separate math classes on honors or career prep tracks, the report found.</p><p>“The amount of achievement-level grouping — that it does start within classrooms in K-5 schools and that by middle school, students are typically grouped by achievement level more often than they’re not in their math classes — that’s something new,” Kaufman said.</p><p>The findings come as parents and school leaders across the country <a href="https://www.wsj.com/us-news/education/in-the-battle-over-early-algebra-parents-are-winning-9f52ea5f?st=6pkmvw9q45qqyjg&reflink=mobilewebshare_permalink">engage in fierce debates</a> over whether students should be able to take algebra before high school, and if so, what support students need to do well in the class.</p><p>Notably, San Francisco Unified schools, which attracted national attention for a policy that prevented students from taking algebra until ninth grade, are <a href="https://www.sfchronicle.com/bayarea/article/sfusd-algebra-middle-school-18645514.php">poised to bring algebra back to middle schools</a> following parent pushback. School officials there put the policy in place 10 years ago to help prepare more Black and Latino students and students from low-income families to pass algebra and access higher-level math classes — <a href="https://www.edweek.org/teaching-learning/san-francisco-insisted-on-algebra-in-9th-grade-did-it-improve-equity/2023/03">a goal that hasn’t panned out</a>.</p><p>The new survey data doesn’t look at whether tracking helps or hurts students’ math outcomes.</p><p>And there are other factors that could affect whether students can access higher-level math classes, the report notes, such as differing teacher certification rules, school funding levels, and state policies. California’s state math guidelines encourage students to take algebra in ninth grade, for example, while New York schools are supposed to offer high school math to eighth graders who want to take it.</p><p>But Kaufman says the report does suggest that schools should be looking at the criteria they use to group students in math, and whether it could be fueling racial or socioeconomic disparities.</p><p>“We’re not giving a recommendation that nobody should be tracked,” Kaufman said. “But if you are grouping students, I think this report calls for you to consider whether the way students are grouped, and how, is biased. Are a lot of students of color, for example, in the lower track? What’s happening there?”</p><h2>Schools try various methods to expand algebra access</h2><p>Nationally, white and Asian American students are more likely than their Black and Hispanic classmates to enroll in and pass algebra in eighth grade, <a href="https://civilrightsdata.ed.gov/">the latest federal data shows</a>. Historically, students from low-income families have had less access to algebra in eighth grade, too.</p><p>In Philadelphia, many students are <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/philadelphia/2023/11/13/eighth-grade-algebraaccess-equity-masterman/" target="_blank">blocked from the city’s most selective high school because their middle schools don’t offer algebra</a>. Making algebra more accessible is part of the superintendent’s curriculum overhaul.</p><p><a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/chicago/2023/11/30/chicago-expands-access-to-middle-school-algebra/">School districts like Chicago have taken steps</a> to expand access to algebra in eighth grade, such as offering the class online and covering costs for educators to get algebra teaching credentials. Historically, fewer students in the city’s predominantly Black and low-income neighborhoods have been able to take the class before high school.</p><p>The RAND survey found that principals of more-affluent schools were much more likely than leaders of higher-poverty schools to say they considered parent or guardian requests to place students into advanced math classes. That could shortchange kids who don’t have a parent who can step in and do that kind of advocacy, Kaufman noted.</p><p>The report urges schools to look at multiple data points to place students into higher-level math classes, and to consider experimenting with the cutoff scores used to identify which students can handle the harder math coursework.</p><p>In Oklahoma, Union Public Schools is trying that, <a href="https://hechingerreport.org/how-one-district-has-diversified-its-advanced-math-classes-without-the-controversy/">The Hechinger Report recently reported</a>. The district, which serves parts of Tulsa and the city’s southeast suburbs, used to offer a pre-algebra placement test in fifth grade, just one time.</p><p>But after school officials realized that was mostly funneling kids from elementary schools in whiter and wealthier neighborhoods into the advanced middle and high school math classes, they made changes. The district now allows students to take the fifth-grade placement test multiple times, and teachers can recommend promising students regardless of their score. That’s helped diversify advanced math classes, particularly for Hispanic students.</p><p>Union Public Schools also added math tutoring starting in third grade — the kind of support that the RAND report says can be crucial for student success, but that many struggling students aren’t getting.</p><p>More than three-quarters of middle school principals told the RAND researchers that less than half of their struggling students participated in math support options offered by their school, such as tutoring, double-dose math classes, or a summer math program for rising middle schoolers.</p><p>That could point to the need for schools to universally screen kids for extra math help, or do more to make sure students and parents know about what help is offered. Schools may also need to change how the help is offered, such as <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2023/5/17/23726983/high-dosage-tutoring-stanford-research-students-pandemic/">moving after-school tutoring to during the school day</a> or providing transportation so more kids can attend.</p><p>Those are crucial steps, Kaufman said, at a time when many kids are struggling to <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2023/9/20/23882691/pandemic-learning-loss-academic-recovery-noble-chicago-middle-school/">close math gaps that cropped up when school was remote</a> or disrupted in other ways by the pandemic.</p><p>“I know tutoring is happening in a lot of places, it’s <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2024/01/18/biden-white-house-focus-on-tutoring-summer-school-chronic-absenteeism/">one of the priorities of the White House</a> right now,” she said. But if tutoring is mostly offered to kids and parents who volunteer, “then the tutoring is not going to reach the kids who need it the most.”</p><p><i>Kalyn Belsha is a senior national education reporter based in Chicago. Contact her at </i><a href="mailto:kbelsha@chalkbeat.org"><i>kbelsha@chalkbeat.org</i></a><i>.</i></p>https://www.chalkbeat.org/2024/02/07/eighth-grade-algebra-access-math-tracking-rand-report/Kalyn BelshaBecky Vevea2024-02-01T19:21:58+00:00<![CDATA[Many schools want to keep tutoring going when COVID money is gone. How will they pay for it?]]>2024-02-07T21:53:21+00:00<p><i>Sign up for </i><a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/newsletters/national"><i>Chalkbeat’s free weekly newsletter</i></a><i> to keep up with how education is changing across the U.S.</i></p><p>As Kelli Bottger works on tutoring programs across Louisiana, she’s been taking state lawmakers on tours, hoping they’ll see what she sees: Tutoring works.</p><p>On a visit to an elementary school in East Baton Rouge Parish this past fall, lawmakers took note of how close students had gotten to their tutors. Those relationships had even motivated <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2023/9/28/23893221/chronic-absenteeism-attendance-santa-fe-orlando-schools/">kids who’d missed a lot of school</a> to attend more regularly.</p><p>“It’s one thing for us to explain tutoring, it’s another thing to see it in practice,” said Bottger, who directs the Louisiana Kids Matter Campaign. The organization is piloting <a href="https://accelerate.us/spotlight-louisiana/">reading and math tutoring</a> as part of a <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2023/4/26/23698377/accelerate-tutoring-school-day-states-covid/">$2 million initiative</a> funded by the state and the national nonprofit Accelerate. “They liked the one-on-one attention they were getting with their tutor. They liked being heard and listened to.”</p><p>Federal pandemic aid paid for a <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2022/3/25/22995221/tutoring-pandemic-academic-recovery-recruiting-training-challenges/">major expansion of tutoring across the U.S.</a> As the money runs out, education officials and advocates are pushing for state legislators and schools to find a way to keep these programs going. There’s widespread agreement that <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2023/10/2/23896045/state-test-scores-data-math-reading-pandemic-era-learning-loss/">lots of kids still need academic help</a>, and schools need to provide it.</p><p>But the big question is: Where will the money come from?</p><p>State lawmakers have lots of funding requests on their plates right now, and not just from schools. Even if some states do come through with extra funds, it will likely be less than what schools had to work with before. That’s left school leaders scrambling to find alternative funding sources and poring over their budgets to figure out what can go so tutoring can stay.</p><p>“There is a lot of conversation about what strategic investments districts need to be making, and what should be prioritized,” said Nakia Towns, the chief operating officer for Accelerate, which funds and researches tutoring efforts. “High-dosage tutoring has such an incredible payoff for kids,” she said, that it should be “right at the top of that list.”</p><h2>Why some states may keep spending on tutoring</h2><p>Forty states have spent money on tutoring since the pandemic began, <a href="https://studentsupportaccelerator.org/sites/default/files/Snapshot%20of%20State%20Tutoring%20Policies.pdf">according to a recent review conducted by the National Student Support Accelerator</a>, a Stanford University program that researches tutoring.</p><p>That’s added up to a huge investment. Last year, the nonprofit Council of Chief State School Officers, which represents state education department heads, <a href="https://learning.ccsso.org/road-to-recovery-how-states-are-using-federal-relief-funding-to-scale-high-impact-tutoring">estimated that states would spend $700 million</a> of their federal COVID relief dollars to expand tutoring efforts. And local school districts are expected to spend <a href="https://www.future-ed.org/congressional-testimony-covid-relief-spending-on-academic-recovery/">more than $3 billion of their own COVID aid on tutoring</a>, according to an estimate from the Georgetown University think tank FutureEd, based on data compiled by the company Burbio.</p><p>Many states also worked to ensure the quality of those tutoring programs. The Stanford review found that 26 states set ground rules so that schools would follow tutoring best practices, such as keeping groups small and holding sessions several times per week. Some say after states did all that legwork, it makes sense not to walk away now.</p><p>Already, some states have pledged continued funding — and <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2024/01/18/biden-white-house-focus-on-tutoring-summer-school-chronic-absenteeism/">federal officials have indicated</a> they’d look favorably on state requests for more time to spend pandemic aid if it’s going toward tutoring.</p><p>Virginia <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/education/2023/10/22/virginia-school-tutoring-program-expansion/">put an extra $418 million in its state budget</a> for academic recovery this past fall, and <a href="https://www.doe.virginia.gov/teaching-learning-assessment/all-in-va">plans to spend 70% of that on high-dosage tutoring</a> for students who failed or received low marks on state tests. <a href="https://www.bridgemi.com/talent-education/michigan-school-tutoring-funds-not-likely-until-spring-state-officials-say">Michigan set aside $150 million in state funds</a> last year for intensive tutoring under the state’s <a href="https://www.michigan.gov/mde/resources/accelerated-learning/mi-kids-back-on-track">MI Kids Back on Track program</a>.</p><p>Others are working on it. <a href="https://www.star-telegram.com/news/local/crossroads-lab/article271446777.html">Some Texas districts have asked</a> the state to continue funding tutoring.</p><p>In Louisiana, Bottger and State Superintendent Cade Brumley are hopeful the legislature will sign off on putting money for in-school tutoring into the state’s main funding stream for schools. How much money that could be is still under discussion. But it would be in addition to the $5 million request the education department made to add math to the state’s <a href="https://www.louisianabelieves.com/newsroom/news-releases/release/2022/11/09/louisiana-providing-thousands-of-families-with-vouchers-to-help-children-learn-to-read">$40 million literacy tutoring voucher program</a>.</p><p>As Brumley meets with state officials to talk about more money for tutoring, his message has been: “Please give it serious consideration.”</p><p>“Students need to be able to read and do math by the time they exit our elementary schools,” he said.</p><p>In New Jersey, Paula White, the executive director of the advocacy group JerseyCAN, is asking the state to keep paying for tutoring, too.</p><p>As White tries to win lawmakers’ continued support, her plan is to emphasize the positive results that tutoring has produced and the <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/newark/2023/12/11/new-jersey-2023-state-test-results-reading-math/">state’s stagnant test scores</a> — “Are we over the hump? Is the problem solved? And we know the answer to that is ‘no,’” she said.</p><p>It helps, she said, that state leaders have already talked publicly about the importance of tutoring, as <a href="https://www.nj.gov/education/grants/opportunities/2024/24-AB01-H02.shtml">New Jersey is running</a> a $52 million high-impact tutoring grant program with federal funds. Still, she knows it will be an “uphill battle” with other federal aid drying up, and the <a href="https://newjerseymonitor.com/2024/01/22/sagging-revenue-looming-costs-could-sink-big-senior-citizen-tax-cut-plan/">state taking in less revenue</a>.</p><p>“We just have to be vigilant about making sure that it gets the budgetary attention that it deserves,” White said.</p><h2>How school districts are trying to fund tutoring themselves</h2><p>Absent new state funds, many districts will likely be looking for programs to trim or eliminate so they can keep tutoring. That’s what Superintendent Scott Muri and his team are doing now in Ector County, Texas.</p><p>During the pandemic, the <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2022/6/29/23186973/virtual-tutoring-schools-covid-relief-money/">district launched a virtual tutoring program</a> that’s become a must-keep. Ector County schools budgeted around $5 million a year in COVID funds for the program, which amounts to 1% of the district’s discretionary spending. Now staff are hoping to make up part of the difference by cutting math and reading apps that aren’t working well, or aren’t used much. In the past, teachers or schools could pick their preferred programs, but that resulted in a lot of duplication.</p><p>“Choice and options are still important, but we want the most effective options,” Muri said. “Let’s get rid of the good and only keep the great.”</p><p>Districts also will be looking for ways they <a href="https://studentsupportaccelerator.org/sites/default/files/Funding%20for%20High-Impact%20Tutoring.pdf">could spend existing federal or state funding</a> meant to help students from low-income families, students with disabilities, or English learners on tutoring programs. States could help by providing school districts with more guidance on how they can combine those pots of money, said Allison Socol, a vice president at The Education Trust, which recently published <a href="https://edtrust.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/ESSER-Budgeting-Equity-Brief-V5.pdf">a guide for making equitable budget decisions</a> as COVID aid runs out.</p><p>“One of the things we’ve heard directly from district leaders and school leaders is struggles with rethinking how those dollars are spent,” Socol said. “Status quo is hard to change.”</p><p>Some may consider shrinking the size of their tutoring program to focus on kids who most need help, or cutting an after-school tutoring program to focus on tutoring during the school day. That’s <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2023/5/17/23726983/high-dosage-tutoring-stanford-research-students-pandemic/">considered a better way to reach students</a>, as many kids don’t have transportation or can’t stay after school.</p><p>However, tutoring experts are cautioning against making group sizes larger or reducing how often tutoring happens as a way to cut costs.</p><p>“Once a week in a small group of 10″ isn’t likely to produce “the outsized positive effects that we expect from high-impact tutoring,” said Nancy Waymack, who directs research partnerships and policy for the National Student Support Accelerator. “We really want to make sure that those groups are kept to a small number, so that students can get individual attention.”</p><p>There could be other avenues, too. Some school districts and tutoring programs have used federal work study grants to pay college students to tutor, according to <a href="https://www.future-ed.org/wp-content/uploads/2024/01/Learning-Curve-Lessons-from-the-Tutoring-Revolution-in-Public-Education.pdf">a January report from FutureEd</a>. Federal officials are urging schools to tap that funding source, though it can be a little complicated.</p><p>Amy Cohen, an assistant vice provost at the George Washington University, helps recruit and train college students to tutor middle schoolers in DC Public Schools. They’re paid using federal work-study funds through a program called <a href="https://serve.gwu.edu/math-matters-gw">Math Matters</a>.</p><p>The college students take a one-credit course to learn about the curriculum they’ll use and how to work with kids, and then Math Matters matches them with schools that want tutors. So far, it’s been a popular work-study job, and the program has placed 84 tutors in schools.</p><p>With 30 years of experience working on work-study programs, Cohen says there are a few things to keep in mind.</p><p>It’s relatively easy for a college to launch a new work-study job like this, but it can be harder for a school district to know where to start. A staff person who can handle recruitment and oversight is key, Cohen said — but that’s an added cost.</p><p>And tutoring sessions backed by work-study dollars have to be planned carefully so college students don’t hit their earning limit too quickly, which would create inconsistency for kids.</p><p>“Federal work study is a hugely important and sometimes overlooked asset,” Cohen said. “I really hope that more investment is made in both thinking about how to do it well and in offering supports.”</p><h2>Parents see benefit of funding tutoring long term</h2><p>In the meantime, parents like Kezne’ Cook and D’Mekeus Cook of Lafayette, Louisiana would like to see states continue to fund tutoring programs like the one that’s helped their fourth grader over the last two years.</p><figure><img src="https://www.chalkbeat.org/resizer/hzc3IH92nBxM-GQAcZjENpOQf6o=/1440x960/cloudfront-us-east-1.images.arcpublishing.com/civicnewscompany/H2PQRYNKYJEIVPVGQONRYXTC5U.jpg" alt="The Cook family got regular updates about their son's progress in reading from the tutoring center he attended after school with the help of a $40 million Louisiana tutoring program." height="960" width="1440"/><figcaption>The Cook family got regular updates about their son's progress in reading from the tutoring center he attended after school with the help of a $40 million Louisiana tutoring program.</figcaption></figure><p>Their son, who’s also named D’Mekeus, spent part of kindergarten and all of first grade learning remotely during the pandemic. When he entered second grade, his mom could tell he was struggling to understand what they were reading in class, and he no longer wanted to read aloud at school.</p><p>The family took D’Mekeus to a tutoring center after school to get extra help, but that started to get pricey. So they were relieved when they found out about the state’s tutoring voucher program, which provides families with $1,000 per eligible child to pay for private tutoring.</p><p>As D’Mekeus got more one-on-one help, his dad noticed his son’s confidence returned, and he started doing better in other subjects at school, too. It’s important for programs like this to stick around, the Cooks said, because it takes time for kids to make progress.</p><p>“It’s not something that just occurs overnight,” said Kezne’ Cook. “I see the steps it takes to get to where he’s at now.”</p><p><i>Kalyn Belsha is a senior national education reporter based in Chicago. Contact her at </i><a href="mailto:kbelsha@chalkbeat.org"><i>kbelsha@chalkbeat.org</i></a><i>.</i></p>https://www.chalkbeat.org/2024/02/01/how-schools-will-keep-tutoring-programs-after-esser-covid-funding-is-gone/Kalyn BelshaImage courtesy of East Baton Rouge Parish School System2023-10-11T17:37:22+00:00<![CDATA[Millions of kids are newly eligible for free school meals — but many will likely miss out]]>2024-02-05T17:47:44+00:00<p><i>Sign up for </i><a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/newsletters/national"><i>Chalkbeat’s free weekly newsletter</i></a><i> to keep up with how education is changing across the U.S.</i></p><p>Dylan Beitz’s ears perked up when federal officials announced last month that a new rule would allow more schools to offer free breakfast and lunch to all students.</p><p>That rule would cover Jefferson County schools, the district in West Virginia’s Eastern Panhandle where Beitz oversees child nutrition. Before the change, the district fell just below the federal cutoff for offering free meals to all 8,400 of its students as part of a <a href="https://www.fns.usda.gov/cn/community-eligibility-provision">national program</a> meant to help high-poverty schools.</p><p><a href="https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2023/09/26/2023-20294/child-nutrition-programs-community-eligibility-provision-increasing-options-for-schools">Under the new rule</a>, which takes effect later this month, Jefferson County could go from offering free meals in seven schools to all 16. Beitz knew that could save the district time and labor — no more mailing bills for unpaid meal debt — and give families extra money to spend on other expenses.</p><p>“I think it’s something that we want to go to,” Beitz said. But first, the district has to see if it can afford to “bite that bullet” if there are out-of-pocket costs: “We’ve really got to look and see what the financial repercussions are.”</p><p>Beitz isn’t the only one crunching the numbers. <a href="https://www.pbs.org/newshour/nation/millions-more-students-to-receive-free-school-meals-under-expanded-u-s-program">Recent headlines proclaimed</a> the new rule would grant millions of students access to free school meals. <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2023/8/10/23825754/free-universal-school-meals-lunch-breakfast-research-studies-bullying-groceries-academics-states">And there’s research indicating</a> that universal free meals may provide academic and other advantages for students. Yet federal officials and school nutrition experts say many kids who could benefit will actually miss out.</p><p>That’s because without additional funding from Congress that’s probably not on the horizon, districts that want to participate must weigh the costs and benefits of providing more free meals against other priorities.</p><p>“Unless they have additional resources, or the state is able to provide additional resources, a lot of the newly eligible schools will find it difficult financially to implement that,” said Crystal FitzSimons, who oversees school nutrition work for the nonprofit Food Research &amp; Action Center, which advocated for the new cutoff.</p><p>A spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which oversees school meal programs, said it’s up to districts to opt in and the agency knows not all newly eligible districts will do so.</p><p><aside id="9uTECi" class="sidebar float-right"><p id="bwauGA"><strong>What is the community eligibility provision?</strong></p><p id="s08EgJ">This <a href="https://www.fns.usda.gov/cn/community-eligibility-provision">federal program</a> allows schools or districts that meet certain criteria to provide free breakfast and lunch to all students, regardless of family income. Elsewhere, schools have to collect paperwork from families to determine if they qualify for free or reduced-priced meals. Other students pay full price.</p><p id="RwJCK2"><strong>What is changing?</strong></p><p id="cPDj3h"><a href="https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2023/09/26/2023-20294/child-nutrition-programs-community-eligibility-provision-increasing-options-for-schools">Under a new rule</a>, individual schools or entire districts can participate in the community eligibility provision if at least 25% of students meet certain criteria. These could include participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — commonly known as SNAP — or Medicaid, lacking stable housing, or living in foster care. Under the previous rule, schools or districts had to enroll at least 40% of students who met those criteria.</p></aside></p><p>The change affects a federal program known as the community eligibility provision that allows schools to provide free meals to all students regardless of family income. It has <a href="https://frac.org/wp-content/uploads/cep-report-2023.pdf">shot up in popularity</a> in recent years, as schools got used to providing free meals to all kids under a temporary pandemic-era policy, and didn’t want to go back to charging them <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2022/6/24/23182008/pandemic-meal-waivers-school-lunch-keep-kids-fed-act">when that expired</a>.</p><p>Under a previous rule for that program, individual schools or entire districts could offer free meals to all kids if at least 40% of students met certain criteria that showed they were from low-income backgrounds. The new rule lowers that to 25% of students. Around 3,000 school districts serving some 5 million students are newly eligible, federal officials said. <a href="https://nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/indicator/cga/public-school-enrollment">That represents</a> around 10% of all public school students in the U.S.</p><p>Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack <a href="https://www.usda.gov/media/press-releases/2023/09/26/usda-expands-access-school-breakfast-and-lunch-more-students">touted the change</a> as an important step toward fulfilling the <a href="https://www.k12dive.com/news/white-house-plan-seeks-free-school-meals-for-9m-more-students-by-2032/632741/">Biden administration’s pledge</a> that it would expand access to free school meals to millions more children in the coming years.</p><p>In feedback collected by federal officials, some school staff said the lower threshold would help their districts that didn’t qualify under the old cutoff, “but they know students in their communities experience widespread food insecurity.”</p><p>Still, many districts that are newly eligible may choose not to participate because they’d rather spend money on things like classroom activities or staff salaries.</p><p>Before the rule change, schools and districts that were just above the old 40% threshold often didn’t participate because it was hard to break even under the <a href="https://frac.org/wp-content/uploads/making-cep-work-with-lower-isps.pdf">formula the federal government uses</a> to reimburse schools for the free meals they serve.</p><p>Last school year, two-thirds of schools that served 40% to 50% of students who met the low-income criteria used the community eligibility provision, a <a href="https://frac.org/wp-content/uploads/cep-report-2023.pdf">50-state survey conducted by FitzSimons’ organization found</a>. The take-up rate rose as more students were identified as being from low-income families.</p><p>That financial calculus is unlikely to change anytime soon. In its most recent budget, the <a href="https://www.usda.gov/sites/default/files/documents/2024-usda-budget-summary.pdf">Biden administration proposed</a> raising the federal reimbursement for school meals in a way that would help districts that serve lower shares of students from low-income families provide free meals to all. But Congress would have to agree — and Republican leaders have previously opposed additional spending to make meals free for kids who don’t already qualify.</p><p>To decide if the free-meals-for-all route makes financial sense, newly eligible districts should look at whether they’d save money by reducing administrative work, and if there would be “any financial improvements because of economies of scale and increases in breakfast and lunch participation,” FitzSimons said.</p><p><a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2022/8/2/23287768/free-school-meals-student-lunch-debt">Eliminating meal debt</a>, and the need to collect it, could also be a reason to opt in, she said.</p><h2>School officials want more aid from federal government</h2><p>The community eligibility provision is different from the temporary universal free school meal programs that all schools were permitted to run during the pandemic, and the permanent state-run programs that <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2023/8/10/23827877/free-school-meals-lunch-breakfast-universal-programs-states-students">eight states adopted</a> after Congress failed to pass a national universal meals program.</p><p>Those programs generally offer free meals to all public school students in the state regardless of income, and require additional state spending.</p><p>Federal officials and school nutrition experts expect many districts in those eight states will take advantage of the rule change because it will cut down on paperwork and allow for more federal funding. More districts in states that help pay for the cost of participating in the federal program, such as <a href="https://www.cn.nysed.gov/content/community-eligibility-provision-cep-state-subsidy">New York</a> and <a href="https://www.oregon.gov/ode/students-and-family/childnutrition/SNP/Documents/SSA%20Community%20Eligibility%20Program%20Incentive%20Q%20%26%20A.pdf?utm_medium=email&utm_source=govdelivery#:~:text=The%20CEPI%20program%20provides%20CEP,reimbursements%20CEP%20schools%20already%20receive.">Oregon</a>, may opt in, too.</p><p>Districts that want to make this change mid-year will have to work with state education officials to seek a waiver from the federal government. Some, like New York, have already opened an application process.</p><p>Kate Dorr, who oversees food services for 16 districts in central New York, is planning to apply to bring on the last three schools in her area that do not yet serve free meals to all students.</p><p>She knows it will help many families. Last year, meal debt in her districts spiked from zero to $150,000. Dorr had many painful conversations with families who struggled to afford food, but no longer qualified for free meals.</p><p>But without the New York state subsidy, providing free meals to all students would be hard to afford, she said. That’s why she wants federal officials and lawmakers to do more to support school nutrition programs like hers.</p><p>“I really feel for states that don’t have this kind of supplemental funding,” Dorr said. “This change from 40% to 25% just feels like way too little, when so much more is needed.”</p><p><i>Kalyn Belsha is a senior national education reporter based in Chicago. Contact her at kbelsha@chalkbeat.org.</i></p>https://www.chalkbeat.org/2023/10/11/23911877/biden-administration-community-eligibility-provision-free-school-meals-lunch-debt/Kalyn Belsha2024-01-25T22:08:07+00:00<![CDATA[COVID-era laptops made a dent in the digital divide. Now the real work begins.]]>2024-01-25T22:08:13+00:00<p><i>Sign up for</i><a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/newsletters/national"><i> Chalkbeat’s free weekly newsletter</i></a><i> to keep up with how education is changing across the U.S.</i></p><p>When pests started attacking plants in the community garden across the street from M. Agnes Jones Elementary School in Atlanta, the students hatched a plan.</p><p>They didn’t want to use pesticides in the garden, and they had learned in their science lessons that bats eat insects. They researched how to attract bats to the garden, made paper sketches of bat house designs, then moved to digital design tools. The students could see 3-D versions of their houses, test modifications, and refine their designs — making the entrance narrower so bats would feel safe and adding rafters to create better spaces for brooding.</p><p>A new <a href="https://tech.ed.gov/netp/">National Education Technology Plan</a> released this week urges educators to use technology to enable this kind of engaged, hands-on learning and urges states and districts to provide the training, planning time, and technical support to make it happen.</p><p>First issued by the U.S. Department of Education in 1996 and last updated in 2017, the National Education Technology Plan provides guidance to help school systems use technology to improve learning and close achievement gaps. The latest iteration comes as virtual learning and federal pandemic relief “expedited the proliferation of technologies and connectivity on a scale and speed for which many districts and schools were unprepared.” Innovation actually slowed even as more students got laptops, and too much technology use today is essentially passive, the plan argues.</p><p>Surveys suggest more than 90% of secondary students and more than 80% of elementary students have access to a personal laptop or tablet — before the pandemic, fewer than half of students had such access. Schools are awash in digital tools and <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/newyork/2023/12/14/how-nyc-students-use-chatgpt-ai-tools-in-school/" target="_blank">grappling with the implications of artificial intelligence</a>. Yet a recent survey of more than 41,000 students found the main way students used technology in school was to take online tests and quizzes.</p><h2>Wide gaps persist between digital haves and have-nots</h2><p>The plan identifies three types of digital divides. There’s still an access divide — not all students have laptops or reliable internet. There’s also a use divide — some students log into Google Classroom to catch up on assignments while others produce podcasts and design top-notch bat houses. And finally there’s a design divide — only some teachers have the training, support, and planning time to learn how to use new technology in exciting ways.</p><p>School systems need to address all three divides to make full use of technological opportunities, the plan said. They also need to balance student privacy with responsible oversight, imbue students with digital literacy, battle the ills of social media, adapt to AI, and make smart decisions about which technology to invest in, according to the report.</p><p>Technology has the potential to help students take more control of their learning, make connections they couldn’t make before, and showcase their skills in new ways, the plan says. English learners and students with disabilities, in particular, could benefit from more ways to access material and show what they’ve learned, but if schools don’t plan carefully, these students are also at more risk of being excluded, the plan says.</p><p>The plan includes dozens of examples of educators already doing this work, including from rural and high-poverty schools, along with guidelines for decision-making and missteps to avoid.</p><p>Districts where internet access is spotty shouldn’t rely on online surveys to reach parents, for example. Consider hosting monthly in-person technology nights instead and send communication in a variety of languages. Special education directors buying screen-reading programs should make sure they also work offline and that they’re compatible with the operating system installed on district laptops.</p><p>The plan includes rubrics for assessing whether ed tech programs have evidence to back their claims and suggests regular audits of which programs teachers are actually using. An Associated Press investigation last year <a href="https://apnews.com/article/edtech-school-software-app-spending-pandemic-e2c803a30c5b6d34620956c228de7987">found school districts spent tens of millions of pandemic relief dollars on ed tech</a> with little evidence it worked.</p><p>David Miyashiro, superintendent of the Cajon Valley Union School District in California, served on the technical working group that helped develop the report. He was an early proponent of embracing technology in education, and he’s led an expansion in Cajon Valley, where two-thirds of students come from low-income households and one-third are learning English.</p><p>Students get their first laptops in kindergarten and use them to deliver 30-second TED talks about what they’re afraid of and what they’re excited about, illustrated by generative AI. They’re learning presentation and communication skills while building community and connection with their classmates, Miyashiro said.</p><p>Students trade up in third grade, when they go to middle school, and again for high school. An ed tech bond helped pay for devices, IT infrastructure, and a replacement fund.</p><p>Miyashiro hopes the new federal plan helps districts incorporate technology thoughtfully. And he said it feels timely, now that many more students have devices.</p><p>“A lot of districts bought computers so teachers could Zoom synchronously with their kids,” he said. “Now what are they going to do? This plan helps them course correct.”</p><p>But for John Fredericks, an English teacher at West Tallahatchie High School in the Mississippi Delta, digital access has actually gotten worse since 2021. Pandemic relief money meant students had laptops and hotspots for the first time ever — though the connections could be spotty.</p><p>“The best thing, when the students had access to the internet and a computer at home, was the ability to differentiate, the ability to challenge the kids who want more work,” Fredericks said. “And for students who have trouble completing work, I could give them more time and grace.”</p><p>Now the hotspots are gone, laptops have to stay at school, and when a student is out sick, Fredericks is back to sending home paper packets. Students who take virtual dual-enrollment classes in the school’s computer lab try to get their college coursework done during other classes.</p><p>Fredericks said it’s hard to even imagine what learning opportunities his students are missing. He just hopes policymakers don’t forget that pandemic-era laptops are already breaking down and some communities still don’t have internet, at least not at a price families can afford.</p><p>“Throwing money at the problem kind of actually worked,” he said. “That’s not always true in government policy or education policy, but if you want to solve the technology divide, keep giving schools money for technology. Let them buy computers and buy hotspots and advocate for high-speed internet in rural areas.”</p><h2>Blending tech with learning takes time, vision</h2><p>When Margul Retha Woolfolk started as principal at M. Agnes Jones Elementary in Atlanta, she found a state-of-the-art building where the science lab was “really a storage unit.” The school serves a high-poverty neighborhood, and students spent a lot of time drilling basic skills.</p><p>Retha Woolfolk, now an associate superintendent with Atlanta Public Schools, knew her own students had done better when lessons in core skills were coupled with hands-on projects. And she loved science. She started going to conferences, learning everything she could, and seeking out partners at local universities and in the private sector.</p><p>Jarvis Blackshear, a paraprofessional with a background in music production, would come to play a critical role providing instructional support in science and technology. He had learned how to teach himself new programs as a music engineer, and he had a knack for bringing students and parents along with him.</p><p>Retha Woolfolk wanted to buy the school a programmable robot, but it cost more than $7,000. She could get it for $3,000 if she got it disassembled. Blackshear invited fourth and fifth graders to help him build it. He’d assemble each section ahead of time, sand down sharp edges, then disassemble it and have it waiting for students.</p><p>He took the same approach as students designed the bat houses, teaching himself design programs so he could support the students’ learning. When the 3D-printed bat houses weren’t up to snuff, he reached out to a grandparent with carpentry skills to help students make their blueprints reality.</p><p>Seven years later, Principal Robert Williams said he’s proud to continue the work. MAJ offers coding alongside art, music, and physical education. Students build electric cars and learn about force and motion, circuitry, teamwork, and the engineering design process along the way. The MAJ Rapid Racers team competes in Greenpower USA regional events, “the NASCAR of elementary school.”</p><p>Aleigha Henderson-Rosser, the district’s assistant superintendent for instructional technology, said leadership at the building level makes a big difference, but educators shouldn’t feel like they have to know everything to get started.</p><p>“Don’t be scared to take risks, and the kids will guide you,” she said. “Our kids deserve to learn like this.”</p><p><i>Erica Meltzer is Chalkbeat’s national editor based in Colorado. Contact Erica at </i><a href="mailto:emeltzer@chalkbeat.org"><i>emeltzer@chalkbeat.org</i></a><i>.</i></p>https://www.chalkbeat.org/2024/01/25/national-education-technology-plan-tackles-digital-divide-beyond-laptops/Erica MeltzerAllison Shelley for All4Ed2024-01-18T00:26:36+00:00<![CDATA[White House calls for focus on tutoring, summer school, absenteeism as pandemic aid winds down]]>2024-01-18T00:26:36+00:00<p>Top White House officials are urging schools to double down on tutoring, extra learning time, and efforts to boost attendance as the spending deadline for pandemic aid nears.</p><p>To help, federal officials say states <a href="https://oese.ed.gov/files/2024/01/Updated-Technical-FAQs-for-Liquidation-Extensions-1.9.24-v-2-for-posting.pdf">can now seek permission</a> for schools to spend the last and largest pot of COVID relief money on these kinds of efforts over the next two school years. Previously, schools had to spend down their money by January 2025.</p><p>Education Secretary Miguel Cardona announced what the Biden administration is calling its <a href="https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2024/01/17/fact-sheet-biden-harris-administration-announces-improving-student-achievement-agenda-in-2024/">Improving Student Achievement Agenda</a> at a <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ut0ClBdioFY">White House event </a>Wednesday with governors and state education commissioners. The new push comes at a time when <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2023/10/2/23896045/state-test-scores-data-math-reading-pandemic-era-learning-loss/">many states have yet to see math and reading scores rebound</a> to pre-pandemic levels and <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2023/9/20/23882691/pandemic-learning-loss-academic-recovery-noble-chicago-middle-school/">many students are struggling to fill in gaps in their learning</a>.</p><p>Federal officials said they had chosen to focus on these strategies because they are proven ways to raise student achievement.</p><p>“These three strategies have one central goal: Giving students more time and more support to succeed,” Cardona said. “We must get back to pre-pandemic levels quickly. But also let’s be clear: The bare minimum that we aspire to is to get back to what it was in 2019. 2019 data wasn’t anything to write home about.”</p><p>Though the federal government doesn’t have many tools at its disposal to encourage schools to adopt certain attendance or academic strategies, Cardona said the education department would do what it could.</p><p>That includes monitoring states to make sure they are spending federal money on evidence-based approaches to improve school performance, a job they have under federal education law. For example, federal officials could look at how states are running their tutoring programs and step in to provide guidance if the model they’re using isn’t as effective as others.</p><p>Education officials also plan to prioritize these strategies for competitive grant funding.</p><h2>Why the White House wants schools to focus on tutoring and chronic absenteeism</h2><p>As they did <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2022/1/27/22904563/cardona-speech-educators-exhaustion-tutoring/">throughout the pandemic</a>, federal officials pointed to high-dosage tutoring as a worthy investment for schools. To do that, programs should tutor students one-on-one or in groups of no more than four, for 30 minutes at least three times a week. Sessions should be scheduled during the school day and take place with a trained tutor, White House officials wrote.</p><p>Last year, some states and school districts said they had <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2023/5/17/23726983/high-dosage-tutoring-stanford-research-students-pandemic/">abandoned efforts to tutor kids after school</a>, finding students often missed sessions because they lacked transportation or had schedule conflicts.</p><p>The Biden administration lifted up examples of states and districts that have invested heavily in tutoring, including Maryland, <a href="https://news.maryland.gov/msde/md-tutoring-corps-grant-awards/">which launched a tutoring corps</a> to focus on middle and high school math this past fall, and <a href="https://osse.dc.gov/page/high-impact-tutoring-hit-initiative">Washington, D.C,</a> which is tutoring students in math and English language arts.</p><p>During the White House event, Christina Grant, D.C.’s state superintendent of education, said a key part of that investment is staffing tutoring managers in the district’s highest-need schools — a finding that’s been echoed by other tutoring programs. Those managers work like an assistant principal who can set up schedules, examine student data, and group students by ability.</p><p>“They are the ones saying, ‘No, no, you can’t go to lunch, you have to come sit here,’” Grant said. “We’re making sure that we didn’t just tell teachers and principals: ‘Hey, do this extra thing.”</p><p>Absenteeism soared during the pandemic and <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2023/9/28/23893221/chronic-absenteeism-attendance-santa-fe-orlando-schools/">remains well above 2018-19 levels in most communities</a>. When children miss school, they fall behind academically and are at greater risk of dropping out. When many students in a school frequently miss class, teachers have to decide whether to repeat material for those who missed, boring their classmates, or leave some students behind.</p><p>“We simply cannot accept chronic absenteeism as the new normal,” White House Domestic Policy Advisor Neera Tanden said. “Fortunately, we know what works: engaging parents and families as partners in their children’s education.”</p><p>She cited the example of Gompers Elementary-Middle School in northwest Detroit. <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/detroit/2023/8/31/23853030/chronic-absenteeism-detroit-school-attendance-dpscd-brightmoor/">Chalkbeat chronicled the school’s efforts to keep students in school</a>, including pairing students who were starting to miss too many days with adult mentors and working closely with families.</p><p>Family and work obligations, mental health challenges, lack of transportation, and many other factors contribute to children missing too much school.</p><p>Federal officials urged schools to make specific commitments to reduce absenteeism, such as increasing calls and texts to parents, doing more home visits, and developing early warning systems. Schools should make sure communication is available in multiple languages.</p><p>States also should adopt consistent definitions of chronic absenteeism and incorporate it as a measure in their school accountability system if they haven’t done so already, officials said.</p><p>Connecticut Education Commissioner Charlene Tucker-Russell described how the state used data to identify students struggling the most — homeless students, English learners, students with disabilities — and target support. The program trained teachers and community members to do outreach and connect families with shelter, transportation, and mental health resources. An evaluation of the program found a 16% increase in attendance after home visits, Tucker-Russell said.</p><p>New Mexico Gov. Michelle Luhan Grisholm said she was “embarrassed” about her <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2023/9/28/23893221/chronic-absenteeism-attendance-santa-fe-orlando-schools/">state’s sky-high rates of chronic absenteeism</a>, including among elementary students. Working with parents is part of the solution, but schools also have to make sure students feel supported and successful so they want to be in school, she said.</p><p>“If you aren’t reading at grade level, and you can’t do math at grade level, [school] is not a place you want to be,” she said.</p><p>Federal and state officials also emphasized the importance of giving students “more time on task” — both by making sure they are attending school regularly and adding learning time.</p><p>That could mean adding time to the school day or year — <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2023/10/26/23934062/extended-school-day-learning-loss-pandemic-academic-recovery-cicero-illinois/">a strategy many districts have struggled to pull off</a> — or running substantial summer school programs that offer multiple hours of academic instruction per day.</p><p>Nearly half of school districts used the largest bucket of COVID relief funds to expand summer school, federal officials said, though already <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2023/9/6/23851143/covid-relief-schools-esser-spending-learning-loss/">some have made cuts</a> or <a href="https://prospect.org/education/2023-07-13-recovery-dollars-public-school-summer-programs/">made plans to do so</a>.</p><p>Alabama’s state superintendent, Eric Mackey, said education officials in his state are working with lawmakers and the governor’s office to keep funding summer math and reading camps that have run for the last three years with pandemic aid. The state has provided meals, transportation, and connections to afternoon youth programming to help make it work.</p><p>“We’ve built enough momentum that our legislature said: ‘We know we can’t drop this,’” Mackey said. “We have to find a way to continue to fund it and sustain it going forward.”</p><p><i>Kalyn Belsha is a senior national education reporter based in Chicago. Contact her at </i><a href="mailto:kbelsha@chalkbeat.org"><i>kbelsha@chalkbeat.org</i></a><i>.</i></p><p><i>Erica Meltzer is Chalkbeat’s national editor based in Colorado. Contact Erica at </i><a href="mailto:emeltzer@chalkbeat.org"><i>emeltzer@chalkbeat.org</i></a><i>.</i></p>https://www.chalkbeat.org/2024/01/18/biden-white-house-focus-on-tutoring-summer-school-chronic-absenteeism/Kalyn Belsha, Erica MeltzerEmily Elconin2024-01-17T19:43:53+00:00<![CDATA[As states adopt science of reading, one group calls for better teacher training, curriculum]]>2024-01-17T19:43:53+00:00<p><i>Sign up for</i><a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/newsletters/national"><i> Chalkbeat’s free weekly newsletter</i></a><i> to keep up with how education is changing across the U.S.</i></p><p>Wisconsin is creating a <a href="https://www.wpr.org/education/evers-signs-science-reading-literacy-bill-law">new literacy office and hiring reading coaches</a>. Ohio is <a href="https://ohiocapitaljournal.com/2023/07/21/science-of-reading-enacted-in-ohios-new-budget/">dedicating millions to a curriculum overhaul</a>. Indiana is <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/indiana/2023/6/21/23768637/science-reading-curriculum-teachers-colleges-preparation-programs-lilly-grant-nctq-report/">requiring new teacher training</a>.</p><p>Dozens of states are moving to align their teaching practices with the science of reading, a body of research on how children learn that emphasizes explicit phonics instruction alongside helping students build vocabulary and knowledge about the world. But a national policy group says many states still have significant work to do to ensure strong reading instruction.</p><p>A <a href="https://www.nctq.org/publications/State-of-the-States-2024-Five-Policy-Actions-to-Strengthen-Implementation-of-the-Science-of-Reading">new report from the National Council on Teacher Quality</a> finds that half of states don’t set specific standards telling teacher prep programs what future educators should know about teaching reading, and 28 states cede their authority over teacher prep programs to outside accrediting agencies with vague guidelines. A similar number of states administer weak licensure tests, the report said, creating uncertainty about how well prepared teachers are.</p><p>Meanwhile, just nine states require that districts adopt high-quality reading curriculum, NCTQ’s analysis found. Only three of those — South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia — require districts to choose curriculum from a state-approved list and cover the cost for districts.</p><p>NCTQ President Heather Peske hopes the report can serve as a roadmap for states looking to improve reading instruction.</p><p>“We cannot continue to accept the reading outcomes that we’ve been seeing,” she said.</p><p>Last year, <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2023/6/13/23760110/reading-science-literacy-teacher-preparation-phonics-nctq-proficient-readers-colorado-arizona/">NCTQ’s review of hundreds of teacher preparation programs</a> found that thousands of educators graduate every year unprepared to teach children how to read, or trained using debunked literacy instruction strategies.</p><p>Some of the states that got good ratings from NCTQ in its new report have been at it for years. Mississippi passed its first reading law a decade ago. Colorado <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/colorado/2019/3/14/21109333/concerned-about-reading-instruction-state-cracks-down-on-teacher-prep-programs-starting-with-colorad/">stepped up regulation of its teacher prep programs</a> <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/colorado/2023/6/12/23758576/colorado-teacher-preparation-program-reading-report-top-state-university-northern-colorado/">five years ago</a>.</p><p>Other states NCTQ called out for their weak policies are just getting started. Illinois is <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/chicago/2023/6/23/23771962/llinois-literacy-plan-reading-phonics-writing/">poised to adopt a new literacy plan</a> this year. New York Gov. Kathy Hochul just announced a <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/newyork/2024/01/03/gov-kathy-hochul-embraces-science-of-reading/">major new literacy initiative</a>. New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/newark/2024/01/09/governor-phil-murphy-state-of-state-promises-new-initiatives-to-improve-literacy-phonics-instruction/">highlighted early literacy in his State of the State speech</a>.</p><p>NCTQ makes five main recommendations. States should set well-defined standards for how teacher prep programs teach reading, review those programs thoroughly, use a rigorous licensing test that includes all components of how students learn to read, require that districts use high-quality curriculum, and provide ongoing training and support.</p><p>These types of policies often face pushback from school districts, universities, and teachers unions that see politicians infringing on educators’ authority and autonomy.</p><p>In Colorado, <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/colorado/2021/12/10/22828121/aurora-reading-curriculum-replacement-state-enforcement/">some school districts initially resisted</a> state curriculum guidelines. Others struggled to find <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/colorado/2022/10/18/23401005/denver-inclusive-diverse-new-reading-curriculum-culturally-responsive-education-history/">approved curriculum that felt culturally responsive</a>. In Illinois, political opposition and lack of state funding means the new literacy plan has no teeth. In Ohio, Reading Recovery, a popular but increasingly disfavored reading program, is <a href="https://apnews.com/article/science-reading-lawsuit-ohio-recovery-e8d8c5792bea040d60fb5b18b5d77ba1">suing the state for banning certain methods of teaching</a>.</p><p>NCTQ’s reports have also come in for criticism for their <a href="https://radicalscholarship.com/2021/07/21/nctq-the-data-was-effectively-useless/">technical and narrow view of good teaching</a>, <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2013/06/18/why-the-nctq-teacher-prep-ratings-are-nonsense/">for being incomplete</a>, or for <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/indiana/2023/8/3/23819392/ball-state-nctq-science-of-reading-report-grade-update-literacy-instruction-indiana-teachers/">not relying on the right data</a> — Peske said states had multiple opportunities to review the latest report and offer corrections. Other advocacy groups have <a href="https://www.edweek.org/teaching-learning/what-makes-a-strong-early-reading-law-not-everyone-agrees/2024/01">laid out different priorities for reading instruction</a>.</p><p>Melinda Person, president of the New York state teachers union, is excited the governor wants to invest $10 million in teacher training aligned with the science of reading. But she’s cautious about calls to get every district to adopt curriculum that meets a currently undetermined standard. She fears that state-approved lists could be influenced by lobbying or force districts to abandon good programs developed by local educators.</p><p>“Teaching a child to read is a very complex task,” Person said. “Don’t oversimplify this. It is brain science. Hundreds of studies are pointing us in this direction, but they are not pointing us to ‘buy this curriculum.’”</p><h2>Data lacking on curriculum in school districts</h2><p>Twelve states received “strong” ratings overall in NCTQ’s report, including Colorado, Florida, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia.</p><p>NCTQ categorized 16 states as having “weak” reading policies, including Illinois, New York, and New Jersey, while three states — Maine, Montana, and South Dakota — were marked as “unacceptable” because they had few or no state-level reading policies.</p><p>An analysis by Education Week found that 32 states and the District of Columbia have <a href="https://www.edweek.org/teaching-learning/which-states-have-passed-science-of-reading-laws-whats-in-them/2022/07">adopted new reading laws</a> since 2013, but NCTQ found many of these states still had major gaps in teacher preparation or curriculum.</p><p>States with strong oversight of teacher prep programs lost points for having weak standards, and states with strong standards lost points for weak oversight. More than half of states, NCTQ found, review the syllabi of teacher preparation programs, but just 10 include literacy experts in the process.</p><p>Most teacher prep programs don’t devote at least two instructional hours to how to teach English learners to read in an unfamiliar language or to supporting struggling readers, NCTQ’s analysis found. Even fewer programs provide opportunities for student teachers to practice those skills.</p><p>Meanwhile, 21 states don’t collect any data on the curriculum their districts use, nearly half offer no guidance on picking curriculums that serve English learners, and a third offer no guidance on how to use curriculum to support struggling readers. Even in states that value local control, Peske said states have a duty to offer guidance, and many administrators likely would welcome it.</p><p>NCTQ’s analysis does not address <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2023/6/12/23758532/grade-retention-social-promotion-studies-reading-research-mississippi/">third-grade retention policies</a> that have been <a href="https://ednote.ecs.org/early-grade-literacy-is-third-grade-retention-effective/">adopted in 13 states</a>. Nor did NCTQ’s report address <a href="https://www.edweek.org/teaching-learning/california-joins-40-states-in-mandating-dyslexia-screening/2023/07">universal screeners that look for warning signs of reading difficulties</a> such as dyslexia.</p><p>Advocacy groups like JerseyCAN have made universal screeners and parental notification key parts of their platform. “Parents cannot ring the alarm or participate in this goal effectively if they don’t know where their children stand,” Executive Director Paula White said.</p><p>Linking new policies to test scores can be challenging. Mississippi students’ <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2023/7/18/23799124/mississippi-miracle-test-scores-naep-early-literacy-grade-retention-reading-phonics/">growth on national exams has been touted as a “miracle.”</a> But students there still have lower test scores than students in some more affluent states with weaker policies.</p><h2>New York and New Jersey governors elevate literacy</h2><p><a href="https://www.nctq.org/dmsView/NewJerseySOTSReadingProfileUpdated">New Jersey received a weak rating</a> from NCTQ due to inadequate standards for teacher prep programs, no requirement that elementary teachers have reading training, and no curriculum requirements or even guidelines for local districts.</p><p>White, the JerseyCAN leader, said she hopes the state is turning the corner after years in which people told her “we got this, we’ll do it on our own,” or “We’re already doing what you want us to do, so why should we expend energy on state policy or legislation?”</p><p>In neighboring New York, NCTQ gave the state <a href="https://www.nctq.org/dmsView/NewYorkSOTSReadingProfileUpdated">some credit</a> for strong state oversight of teacher prep. But the state lost points because reading standards aren’t specific enough. Nor does New York require districts to adopt high-quality curriculum — its powers are limited under state law.</p><p>Hochul’s push on literacy comes as New York City is <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/newyork/2023/11/27/teachers-want-more-training-for-reading-curriculum-overhaul/">months into its own reading overhaul</a>, with schools required to <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/newyork/2023/5/31/23743201/nyc-reads-literacy-curriculum-mandate-houghton-mifflin-harcourt-into-reading/">adopt one of three</a> <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/newyork/2023/5/12/23721809/nyc-school-reading-curriculum-mandate-into-reading-wit-wisdom-el-education/">approved curriculums</a>. It’s not clear yet how the state might encourage districts using low-quality curriculum to make different choices. State officials are also developing a plan to <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/newyork/2023/10/11/23912744/nyc-teacher-prep-programs-literacy-hunt-institute-science-of-reading/">incorporate more science of reading into teacher prep programs</a>.</p><p>Judy Boksner, a literacy coach and reading specialist at P.S. 28 in the Bronx, recalls the “aha moment” she experienced after getting trained in the science of reading on her own time. She said the approach helps more students more reliably than the methods she was previously trained to use, but it can be slow at first.</p><p>Curriculum and training requirements are good, Boksner said, but schools still need ongoing support, <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/newyork/2023/7/13/23792779/nyc-schools-universal-literacy-coach-reading-bill-de-blasio-eric-adams/">including literacy coaches</a>.</p><p>“In all these curriculums, they have tasks in them. We don’t know if they’ve all been tested in the field. Some of the tasks are so hard for kids, and if you don’t train your teachers well, kids will still struggle,” Boksner said.</p><h2>Illinois on verge of adopting new literacy plan</h2><p>In giving Illinois a <a href="https://www.nctq.org/dmsView/IllinoisSOTSReadingProfileUpdated">“weak” rating</a>, NCTQ found the state has set good standards for teacher preparation programs, but called for more oversight to ensure programs are following through. And NCTQ labeled as “unacceptable” Illinois’ lack of any guidance around high quality curriculum.</p><p>The report comes just as Illinois is <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/chicago/2023/6/23/23771962/llinois-literacy-plan-reading-phonics-writing/#:~:text=The%20literacy%20plan%20provides%20schools,students'%20age%20and%20grade%20level.">finalizing a literacy plan</a> to help school districts revamp how students are taught to read. After a two-year legislative fight, advocates <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/chicago/2023/5/19/23730353/illinois-literacy-reading-phonics-bill-passed-2024/">successfully passed a bill</a> last year that requires the Illinois State Board of Education to write a literacy plan, create a rubric for school districts to grade curriculum, and offer professional development to teachers.</p><p>But the new law does not mandate school districts adopt a phonics-based approach that’s key to the science of reading. Other ideas, such as reading grants and an approved curriculum list, didn’t survive the political process.</p><p>“There are really no mandates on school districts,” said Stand for Children Illinois Executive Director Jessica Handy, a literacy advocate who helped write the 2023 bill and negotiated with lawmakers. “I think reading grants would be one way to get buy-in from school districts and get more people thinking about how they can accelerate their progress to improve literacy curriculum.”</p><p>Education advocates hope to see $45 million from <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/chicago/2023/10/5/23905727/illinois-education-budget-2025-pritzker-covid-recovery-isbe/">$550 million in new state funding</a> go towards regional literacy coaches and state board staff that work just on literacy — and Stand is working on a new bill that Handy hopes strengthens the literacy plan.</p><p><i>Erica Meltzer is Chalkbeat’s national editor based in Colorado. Contact Erica at </i><a href="mailto:emeltzer@chalkbeat.org"><i>emeltzer@chalkbeat.org</i></a></p><p><i>Samantha Smylie is the state education reporter for Chalkbeat Chicago covering school districts across the state, legislation, special education and the state board of education. Contact Samantha at </i><a href="mailto:ssmylie@chalkbeat.org" target="_blank"><i>ssmylie@chalkbeat.org</i></a><i>.</i></p>https://www.chalkbeat.org/2024/01/17/science-of-reading-group-calls-for-stronger-policies-on-training-curriculum/Erica Meltzer, Samantha SmylieAlex Zimmerman,Alex Zimmerman2023-10-02T09:00:00+00:00<![CDATA[Blizzard of state test scores shows some progress in math, divergence in reading]]>2024-01-11T18:57:04+00:00<p><i>This story was co-published with </i><a href="https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/education/2023/10/02/state-tests-progress-in-math-scores/71000755007/"><i>USA Today</i></a><i>.</i></p><p><i>Sign up for </i><a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/newsletters/national"><i>Chalkbeat’s free weekly newsletter</i></a><i> to keep up with how education is changing across the U.S.</i></p><p>When it comes to how American students are recovering from the pandemic, it’s a tale of two subjects.</p><p>States across the country have made some progress in math over the last two years, while in English language arts some states made gains while others fell further behind.</p><p>“In math, almost every state looks pretty similar. There was a large decline between 2019 and 2021. And then everybody is kind of crawling it back,” said Emily Oster, a Brown University economist. “In ELA, it’s all over the map.”</p><p>That’s according to recently released <a href="https://www.covidschooldatahub.com/score-results">results from over 20 state tests</a>, encompassing millions of students, <a href="https://www.covidschooldatahub.com/score-results">compiled</a> by Oster and colleagues. The scores offer among the most comprehensive national pictures of student learning, pointing to some progress but persistent challenges. With just a handful of exceptions, students in 2023 are less likely to be proficient than in 2019, the year before the pandemic jolted American schools and society.</p><p>“Schools are getting back to normal, but kids still have a ways to go,” said Scott Marion, executive director of the Center for Assessment, a nonprofit that works with states to develop tests. “We’re not getting out of this in two years.”</p><p>Oster’s analysis of <a href="https://statetestscoreresults.substack.com/">test data tracks</a> the share of students who were proficient on grades 3-8 math and reading exams before, during, and after the pandemic. Every state showed a significant drop in proficiency between 2019 and 2021, a fact that has been documented on a <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2022/10/24/23417139/naep-test-scores-pandemic-school-reopening">variety of tests</a>. (Testing was <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2020/3/20/21196085/all-states-can-cancel-standardized-tests-this-year-trump-and-devos-say">canceled</a> in 2020.)</p><p><a href="https://emilyoster.net/wp-content/uploads/MS_Updated_Revised.pdf">Prior studies from Oster</a> and <a href="https://cepr.harvard.edu/files/cepr/files/5-4.pdf?m=1651690491">others</a> have found that while <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2022/10/28/23429271/learning-loss-remote-learning-high-poverty-schools-harvard-stanford-research">schools of all stripes saw test scores decline</a> during the pandemic, those that remained virtual for longer experienced deeper setbacks.</p><p>The recent state test data offers some good news, though: 2021 was, for the most part, the bottom of the learning loss hole.</p><p>In math, all but a couple states experienced improvements between 2021 and 2023. Only two — Iowa and Mississippi — were at or above 2019 levels, though.</p><p>In reading, a majority of states have made some progress since 2021 and four have caught up to pre-pandemic levels. However, numerous states experienced no improvement. A handful even continued to regress.</p><p>It’s not clear why state trends in math versus reading have differed. After the pandemic hit and closed down schools, math scores <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2021/7/28/22596904/pandemic-covid-school-learning-loss-nwea-mckinsey">fell more</a> quickly and sharply than reading, but now appear to have been faster to recover.</p><p>Testing experts say that standardized tests may be better at measuring the discrete skills that students are taught in math. Reading — especially the comprehension of texts — comes through the <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2023/8/21/23840526/science-of-reading-research-background-knowledge-schools-phonics">development of more cumulative knowledge and skills</a>. “Is the test insensitive to what’s really going on in classrooms or are kids just not learning to read better?” said Marion. “That’s the part I can’t quite figure out.”</p><p>Oster suspects the adoption of research-aligned reading practices, including phonics, may explain why some states have made a quicker comeback. Mississippi, well known for its<a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2023/7/18/23799124/mississippi-miracle-test-scores-naep-early-literacy-grade-retention-reading-phonics"> early adoption of these practices</a>, is one of four states to have fully recovered in ELA. But more research is needed to understand why some states appear to have bounced back more quickly than others.</p><p>“Some people are doing a good job. Some people are not doing as good a job,” said Oster. “Understanding that would tell us something about which kind of policies we might want to favor.”</p><h2>Some schools look to phonics to boost stagnant reading scores.</h2><p>In Indiana, <a href="https://in.chalkbeat.org/2023/7/12/23791540/ilearn-2023-indiana-test-scores-explained-decline-reading-math-proficiency">which made gains in math but not reading</a>, officials are hoping a suite of recent<a href="https://in.chalkbeat.org/2023/6/21/23768637/science-reading-curriculum-teachers-colleges-preparation-programs-lilly-grant-nctq-report"> laws embracing the science of reading</a> will boost scores. In Michigan, which also saw no progress in reading, <a href="https://detroit.chalkbeat.org/2023/8/31/23853714/michigan-mstep-scores-results">lawmakers pointed to recent investments in early literacy</a> efforts and tutoring.</p><p>At Sherlock Elementary, part of the Cicero 99 school district in Illinois, just west of Chicago, Principal Joanna Lago saw how the pandemic set students back. Students are still climbing out of those holes, she said.</p><p>“Our scores are somewhat stagnant,” she said.</p><p>But Lago is hopeful a series of new initiatives will lead to gains for her students. This year, her district is adding an extra 30 minutes to every school day so staff can zero in on reading and math skills. This is the second year that teachers within the same grade level are working together more closely to plan lessons and review student performance data.</p><p>The district has also adopted a new reading curriculum aligned with the science of reading. Over the last two years, Lago, a former reading teacher herself, and her team got training on using decodable texts to emphasize phonics. Teachers visited each other’s classrooms to observe as they tried out new lessons. Pictures of mouths forming letter sounds now hang on classroom walls, instead of pictures of words.</p><p>It’s “a more strategic approach to help reach kids and fill some of the gaps of what they need,” Lago said. “How could this not lead to results? How could this not lead to more kids reading more fluently, having better reading comprehension?”</p><p>Educators are confronting persistent learning loss going into the last full school year to spend federal COVID relief money, a chunk of which is earmarked for learning recovery. Some school districts have <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2023/9/6/23851143/covid-relief-schools-esser-spending-learning-loss">already begun to wind down</a> tutoring and other support as the money dwindles.</p><p>Marion of the Center for Assessment fears this extra programming will vanish too soon. “I’m pessimistic because I’m pessimistic about politicians,” he said.</p><p>The state test scores offer a slightly different picture of learning loss than a <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2023/7/11/23787212/nwea-learning-loss-academic-recovery-testing-data-covid">recent analysis</a> by the testing company NWEA. While NWEA found little evidence of recovery last school year, most state tests showed gains in math proficiency last year.</p><p>There could be a number of reasons for this discrepancy, including the fact that some large states — including California and <a href="https://ny.chalkbeat.org/2023/9/13/23872580/new-york-state-test-scores-delay">New York</a> — have not released state test data yet, so the picture is still incomplete.</p><p>The new test score data comes with a few other caveats. Because states administer their own exams and create different benchmarks for proficiency, results from different states are not directly comparable to each other. <a href="https://www.jstor.org/stable/25209011">Experts also warn</a> that proficiency is an imprecise gauge of learning since it captures only whether a student meets a certain threshold, without considering how far above or below they are.</p><p>Plus, each year’s scores are based on different groups of students since regular testing ends in eighth grade. That means students fall out of the data as they progress into high school and some may never have fully recovered academically, even if state average scores have returned to pre-pandemic levels.</p><p>“There are kids who will forever be behind,” said Oster.</p><p><i>Matt Barnum is interim national editor, overseeing and contributing to Chalkbeat’s coverage of national education issues. Contact him at mbarnum@chalkbeat.org.</i></p><p><i>Kalyn Belsha is a senior national education reporter based in Chicago. Contact her at </i><a href="mailto:kbelsha@chalkbeat.org"><i>kbelsha@chalkbeat.org</i></a><i>.</i></p>https://www.chalkbeat.org/2023/10/2/23896045/state-test-scores-data-math-reading-pandemic-era-learning-loss/Matt Barnum, Kalyn Belsha2023-10-23T16:13:00+00:00<![CDATA[New federal program puts $12 million toward school integration in a dozen states]]>2024-01-11T18:54:02+00:00<p><i>Sign up for </i><a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/newsletters/national"><i>Chalkbeat’s free weekly newsletter</i></a><i> to keep up with how education is changing across the U.S.</i></p><p>School desegregation efforts in a dozen states are getting a $12.5 million infusion from the federal government as part of a new grant program meant to create more diverse schools.</p><p><a href="https://oese.ed.gov/offices/office-of-discretionary-grants-support-services/school-choice-improvement-programs/fostering-diverse-schools-program-fdsp/awards/">Among the winners</a> are some of the largest districts in the country, including New York City and Chicago, where debates have long raged over how to address the inequities wrought by school segregation. Other winners include a cohort of Maryland districts and the East Baton Rouge Parish in Louisiana, both of which have been home to <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/12/us/howard-county-school-redistricting.html">intense battles</a> over <a href="https://www.the74million.org/with-a-wealthy-mostly-white-suburbs-vote-to-withdraw-east-baton-rouge-schools-a-step-closer-to-fourth-school-secession/">school segregation</a> in recent years.</p><p>The grants come as many school communities continue fraught discussions about racial inequities in schools — conversations that <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2020/6/2/21278591/education-schools-george-floyd-racism">ramped up after the murder of George Floyd</a>, but are facing pushback in many states as conservative lawmakers, activists, and some parents fight to <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2022/3/11/22970779/iowa-critical-race-theory-teacher-training-equity-diversity">end diversity and equity initiatives</a> and <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2021/12/17/22840317/crt-laws-classroom-discussion-racism">curtail teaching about race and racism</a>.</p><p>The funding is a <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2021/6/22/22545227/biden-cardona-school-integration-desegregation-diversity">small fraction</a> of what the Biden administration initially sought. And there is only so much schools and federal officials can do in the wake of Supreme Court decisions that <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2019/7/25/21121021/45-years-later-this-case-is-still-shaping-school-segregation-in-detroit-and-america">severely limited desegregation across district lines</a>, and quashed efforts to <a href="https://www.oyez.org/cases/2006/05-908">explicitly take student race into account</a> as part of integration plans.</p><p>Still, the grants are the <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2023/5/18/23729296/school-integration-desegregation-federal-grant-program-diversity-biden">culmination of a years-long effort</a> led by school integration advocates and officials within the <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2019/12/2/21121866/dozens-of-school-districts-applied-to-an-obama-era-integration-program-before-trump-officials-axed-i">Obama</a> and <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2021/6/22/22545227/biden-cardona-school-integration-desegregation-diversity">Biden</a> administrations to steer more federal funding to school desegregation. The money is sorely needed, as America’s schools <a href="https://www2.ed.gov/rschstat/eval/resources/diversity.pdf">remain highly segregated by race and income</a> but initiatives to fix that often fizzle out.</p><p>The result of that isolation, Education Secretary Miguel Cardona <a href="https://www.ed.gov/news/press-releases/biden-harris-administration-awards-14-million-under-first-ever-fostering-diverse-schools-demonstration-grant-program">said in a statement on Thursday</a>, is that students of color and students from low-income families disproportionately experience “inadequate resources, lesser access to advanced courses, fewer extracurricular offerings, and other tangible inequities.”</p><p>The grants are relatively small: The $12.5 million is being divided among 14 initiatives, ranging from $250,000 to $2.8 million. But integration advocates say start-up money like this is essential because it gives schools funding and political cover to launch complicated planning efforts and community conversations that are necessary for initiatives to stick.</p><p>“It’s not going to fully solve it,” said Mohammed Choudhury, the former Maryland schools superintendent who oversaw the state’s application that netted $500,000 for its first year of work. But if the money helps shift some policies, “then it’s a big damn deal.”</p><p><a href="https://news.maryland.gov/msde/pathways-to-progress/">Maryland will use its money</a> to work on initiatives in the districts of Anne Arundel, Charles, Frederick, Howard, and Montgomery counties. Howard County, notably, <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/12/us/howard-county-school-redistricting.html">faced parent backlash</a> a few years ago when leaders there tried to deconcentrate the share of students from low-income families who attended certain schools.</p><p>Each of the Maryland districts has committed to try at least one of three strategies to create more integrated schools. Those include revamping admissions processes to make selective schools more diverse; ensuring dual language schools are accessible to low-income families whose children are learning English; or finding ways to integrate young children across public and private preschools. Much of the money will be spent on family engagement, Choudhury said.</p><p>Expanding access to particular programs may not be as controversial or have as sweeping of an effect as other school desegregation strategies, such as changing school boundaries. But Choudhury, who is now a senior advisor to Maryland’s board of education, expects it won’t be drama-free.</p><p>“From opportunity-hoarding type tensions and challenges, to people feeling like they are losing something, to people feeling like they could potentially be pitted against each other — all of those things have to be navigated,” he said. “You’ve still got to win hearts and minds.”</p><p>New York City, meanwhile, won $3 million for initiatives in parts of Manhattan and Brooklyn that have <a href="https://ny.chalkbeat.org/2019/12/12/21055637/integration-plan-for-uws-and-harlem-schools-yields-modest-shifts-in-first-year">previously worked</a> to create <a href="https://ny.chalkbeat.org/2021/1/21/22243326/brooklyn-middle-school-integration-district-13">more integrated middle schools</a>. <a href="https://oese.ed.gov/files/2023/10/New-York-City-Department-of-Education-District-3.pdf">In Manhattan</a>, officials will work to create a more diverse group of schools serving some 12,000 students, starting with preschool. <a href="https://oese.ed.gov/files/2023/10/New-York-City-Department-of-Education-District-13.pdf">In Brooklyn</a>, the money will help put middle school integration plans into place, and fund efforts to recruit elementary school families to attend the area’s middle schools.</p><p>Recently, some New York City schools have <a href="https://ny.chalkbeat.org/2023/10/11/23913634/nyc-middle-school-admissions-academic-screen-selective-application-integration">returned to academically screening</a> incoming middle schoolers — a practice integration advocates say fuels segregation. The current mayor and chancellor have <a href="https://ny.chalkbeat.org/2022/7/22/23274535/chancellor-banks-mayor-adams-school-integration-nyc-gifted-specialized-high-schools">shown less interest in school integration</a> than past administrations.</p><p>Chicago Public Schools plans to use its $500,000 to hire staff and host community meetings, a spokesperson said. The work is part of several <a href="https://chicago.chalkbeat.org/2022/8/24/23320648/chicago-public-schools-pedro-martinez-blueprint-pandemic-recovery">ongoing planning initiatives</a> related to school quality and student admissions, <a href="https://oese.ed.gov/files/2023/10/Board-of-Education-City-of-Chicago.pdf">according to a project description</a>.</p><p>Fayette County Public Schools in Kentucky plans to use its funding to improve schools in Lexington’s East End, a historically Black community that’s experiencing some gentrification.</p><p>“Our aim is to reconnect our East End students with the cultural identity and heritage of their historical neighborhood,” <a href="https://oese.ed.gov/files/2023/10/Fayette-County-Public-Schools.pdf">a project description states</a>. “All the while, changing the reputation and perception of East End schools so that they are a source of pride for residents as well as an attractive school choice for more diverse, affluent parents.”</p><p>Other winning districts include:</p><ul><li>Anchorage School District in Alaska, <a href="https://oese.ed.gov/files/2023/10/Anchorage-School-District.pdf">which plans to use its funding</a> to create more socioeconomically diverse high school programs by expanding access to career and technical education.</li><li>Hamilton County Schools in Tennessee, which <a href="https://oese.ed.gov/files/2023/10/Hamilton-County-Department-of-Education.pdf">plans to use its money</a> for community engagement as it seeks to “reimagine” student transportation and school access.</li><li>Oakland Unified in California, which will <a href="https://oese.ed.gov/files/2023/10/Oakland-Unified-School-District.pdf">develop an integration plan</a> focused on improving outcomes for students who attend some of the district’s highest-poverty schools.</li><li>Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools in North Carolina, which will analyze enrollment patterns and student assignment policies and <a href="https://oese.ed.gov/files/2023/10/Forsyth-Winston-Salem-County-Schools.pdf">potentially change attendance boundaries</a>. The money will help fund sessions for students, families, and staff to provide feedback.</li></ul><p><i>Kalyn Belsha is a senior national education reporter based in Chicago. Contact her at kbelsha@chalkbeat.org.</i></p>https://www.chalkbeat.org/2023/10/19/23924673/biden-fostering-diverse-schools-federal-education-grant-desegregation-integration/Kalyn Belsha2023-10-26T22:10:38+00:00<![CDATA[Schools have struggled to add learning time after COVID. Here’s how one district did it.]]>2024-01-11T18:50:13+00:00<p><i>Sign up for </i><a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/newsletters/national"><i>Chalkbeat’s free weekly newsletter</i></a><i> to keep up with how education is changing across the U.S.</i></p><p>CICERO, Ill. — It was just after 2:30 p.m. on a recent Wednesday, and the school stage hadn’t yet transformed into a reading room.</p><p>Christopher VanderKuyl, an assistant principal in Chicago’s west suburbs, hurriedly dragged brown folding chairs across the wood floor. He made a mental note to figure out who’d rearranged the furniture.</p><p>“They can’t do that,” VanderKuyl lamented to his co-teacher, Megan Endre. “We’re using this as a classroom!”</p><p>A year ago, school would have been over around this time, and the students at Columbus East Elementary would be walking out the door. But this year, a group of fifth graders were instead sitting on the school’s stage, reading aloud about the life of Rosa Parks as they worked on reading fluency and comprehension. Similar activities were taking place in nearly every corner of the school: In another classroom, students rolled dice to practice two-digit multiplication and huddled close to their teacher to review their work.</p><p>What’s happening at Columbus East is one of the rare efforts nationally to give students more instructional time in an attempt to make up for what they lost during the pandemic. Here in Cicero School District 99, students are getting an extra 30 minutes of reading or math instruction every day, which adds up to around three additional weeks of school. School leaders hope that will be enough time to teach students key skills they missed and boost test scores.</p><p>“We do a lot of good things for our students, we have many, many resources, but our students need more,” said Aldo Calderin, the district’s superintendent. “There are challenges, I’m not going to sit here and say that there’s not. But I know that we’re doing right by our kids.”</p><figure><img src="https://www.chalkbeat.org/resizer/7zcnTP1i97wsDvtdZ3hboIqRu2s=/1440x960/cloudfront-us-east-1.images.arcpublishing.com/civicnewscompany/HRLGI35S3ZD3PBVOMV6JCG54B4.jpg" alt="Fifth graders at Columbus East take turns reading aloud as part of an extended-day reading exercise." height="960" width="1440"/><figcaption>Fifth graders at Columbus East take turns reading aloud as part of an extended-day reading exercise.</figcaption></figure><p>The district is about a month into the extra academic lessons, and staff say they’re still working out the kinks. The initiative has added new instructional challenges for Cicero teachers, who were already busy putting a new reading curriculum in place and helping students cope with the ongoing fallout of the pandemic.</p><p>Still, Cicero stands out for making a longer school day a reality. <a href="https://www.future-ed.org/congressional-testimony-covid-relief-spending-on-academic-recovery/">While many schools used COVID relief funding</a> to beef up summer school or add optional after-school tutoring, far fewer added extra time to the school day or year.</p><p>In Cicero, a new teachers union contract, extra pay for teachers, and school board support helped make the change happen. Elsewhere, efforts to add instructional time have <a href="https://apnews.com/article/school-calendar-covid-learning-math-reading-1c4c2c56e75ef933cd47e78d2af7111d">faced pushback</a> from school board members and teachers who thought the added time would be too costly and disruptive.</p><p>Thomas Kane, a Harvard education professor who has studied learning loss during the pandemic, said “it’s great to see” districts like Cicero adding instructional time.</p><p>“It obviously depends, though, on how that time is used, especially if it’s coming at the end of the day, when kids or teachers might be tired,” Kane said. “But honestly at this point, more instructional time is what’s needed to help students catch up.”</p><h1>How Cicero students got a longer school day</h1><p>Cicero 99, which runs through junior high, serves around 9,200 students in a working-class, mostly Latino suburb of Chicago. About three-quarters of students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch and more than half of students are learning English.</p><p>School leaders floated the idea to lengthen Cicero 99’s school day before COVID hit, but the proposal took on greater urgency when educators saw how the pandemic set students back in reading and math.</p><p>The year before the pandemic, 22% of students in the district met or exceeded Illinois’ English language arts standards, while 16% cleared that bar in math. By spring 2021, after students <a href="https://www.ciceroindependiente.com/english/covid-19-cicero-d99-remote-learning">spent nearly a year learning remotely</a>, 10% met state standards in English and 5% met them in math.</p><p>At Columbus East, staff recall students who hid under bed covers or pointed their cameras at ceiling fans during remote learning. Others had trouble hearing over blaring TVs, barking dogs, and whirring blenders.</p><p><a href="https://www.gse.harvard.edu/ideas/news/22/10/new-research-provides-first-clear-picture-learning-loss-local-level">Kane’s research into district-level learning loss</a> found that Cicero students in third to eighth grades lost the equivalent of a third of a year in reading from spring 2019 to 2022, and a little less than half a year in math. The losses were similar to those in other high-poverty Illinois districts, Kane said, but still “substantial.”</p><p>“There is a sense of urgency,” said Donata Heppner, the principal at Columbus East, who’s part of the district team that planned for the extended day. “If we don’t grow more than expected, we’re never going to catch up.”</p><p>So last year, Calderin, with the school board’s support, <a href="https://resources.finalsite.net/images/v1663257811/cicero/u87vdvjhrwj9howt46xm/CBA-Teachers-BOEApproved714221.pdf">negotiated a new contract</a> with the teachers union that included the longer school day.</p><figure><img src="https://www.chalkbeat.org/resizer/1_Es1kbXt2oLtY0-4fv-eMRVTkA=/1440x960/cloudfront-us-east-1.images.arcpublishing.com/civicnewscompany/EGD42PDWSJHVDMBMHIGM7YSTXE.jpg" alt="Students at Columbus East Elementary in Cicero, Ill. are getting an extra 30 minutes of reading or math instruction each day this year." height="960" width="1440"/><figcaption>Students at Columbus East Elementary in Cicero, Ill. are getting an extra 30 minutes of reading or math instruction each day this year.</figcaption></figure><p>“At the beginning, we were: No, no, no, no, no,” said Marisa Mills, the president of Cicero’s teachers union and a seventh grade English language arts teacher at Unity Junior High. “And then we really started to get down to the nitty gritty, and started to talk about: Well, what if we did do this?”</p><p>Teachers got on board after the district agreed that the extra time would be used only for instruction, Mills said, and that students wouldn’t be tethered to a device during that time. Teachers also got a “very fair” bump in compensation: A 10% raise, and a one-time $5,000 bonus for this school year, paid for with COVID relief dollars. The deal, which runs through 2026, <a href="https://www.facebook.com/CiceroDistrict99/posts/8560266740653698/?paipv=0&eav=Afa3qwAmoFs4jDS69Eus_mvRFYNp5KH69x6e0mZmp72VhtidA1wWZq8B5K09CHE0Wr0&_rdr">got the support of 70% of teachers</a>.</p><p>It helped, Calderin said, that the extra time was well-received by families. Many students’ parents work multiple jobs and struggle to arrange after-school care for their children — an issue somewhat alleviated by a longer day.</p><p>Here’s how the longer day works: The district gave students pretests and used those to group students with similar abilities. Students spent the first month of the school year practicing walking their routes to their extended-day groups and getting to know their new teachers.</p><p>Now students spend two weeks in a reading group, then two weeks in a math group, or vice versa, and then get reshuffled based on how they’re doing. The district provided lessons and activities for teachers that tie in with the district’s usual curriculum.</p><p>But there’s no additional staff working the extended day. So it takes everyone, from paraprofessionals to social workers to principals, to make it work.</p><p>On that recent Wednesday at Columbus East, VanderKuyl and Endre circulated among 16 fifth graders as they read. This group spent all of second grade learning remotely and now many struggle to write their letters in a straight line or pay attention when a teacher is talking.</p><p>VanderKuyl stopped to help one student pronounce “prejudice,” while Endre urged a distracted student poking her pen in the air to follow along.</p><p>“Alright, who would like to share their summary out loud?” Endre asked.</p><figure><img src="https://www.chalkbeat.org/resizer/njimHO6dD56JWMPB1Ra2mnVSnMk=/1440x960/cloudfront-us-east-1.images.arcpublishing.com/civicnewscompany/O2P5N5RQIJDZJLOH3Q2BNKG77U.jpg" alt="Fifth grade teacher Megan Endre leads a reading activity during Columbus East Elementary’s new extended day." height="960" width="1440"/><figcaption>Fifth grade teacher Megan Endre leads a reading activity during Columbus East Elementary’s new extended day.</figcaption></figure><p>She pressed her students to elaborate — “Who’s the man you’re talking about?” — and checked to make sure they got the details right: “It wasn’t a school bus right? It was a public bus.” Her goal this year is to boost students’ confidence and help more students read at a fifth grade level on their own.</p><p>It’s about “building that independence in reading for them,” Endre said. “Maybe not necessarily ‘Oh, I can read a whole fifth-grade level text myself.’ But can I read and understand a paragraph?”</p><h1>Longer school day is not without challenges</h1><p>While it may seem simple, adding 30 minutes to the school day presents plenty of instructional challenges.</p><p>Not every adult is a math or reading specialist, so some staff need extra practice and training. The extended-day groups are smaller than students’ usual classes, but are still large enough that it can be challenging for teachers to provide one-on-one attention. Some students are hungry and tired at the end of the day and miss going home earlier.</p><p>“My brain is too over-capacitated!” said one fourth grader with dark hair and white-rimmed glasses at nearby Sherlock Elementary.</p><p>And some students struggle with the frequent regrouping. Columbus East, for example, has a program for students with emotional disabilities who typically learn in the same classroom all day. Some have found it challenging to be in a new environment with different peers and without their usual teacher.</p><p>On that recent Wednesday, a student sitting at the back table in Arlen Villeda’s fifth grade math group sobbed as she struggled with the extended-day lesson. At first, the student loved the extra math lessons, Villeda said later, but as the classes got harder, the student’s frustration started to mount.</p><p>“I hate my life!” she cried. “Everyone is done!”</p><p>Villeda tried to keep moving forward with the four students seated in front of her, as a classroom aide nudged the crying student to take a break.</p><p>Villeda has tried strategies shared by the student’s usual teacher — like walking the student to the familiar calming corner in her classroom when she gets overwhelmed — but Villeda says it can be challenging to know exactly how to help. For some students, she said, “consistency really makes a big difference.”</p><p>“Like with anything, we know that change is going to become easier as time goes on,” she said. “But I honestly feel like this is still an adjustment period for us — for the teachers and for the students.”</p><p>For now, Heppner, Columbus East’s principal, and others are revisiting how the extended day is going and making changes when needed. Going forward, for example, teachers will have more say over how students are grouped. And teachers can ditch activities that were “a total bomb,” as Heppner put it.</p><p>Mills, the union president, said she knows some teachers, especially those who don’t specialize in reading and math, are struggling with extra preparation work. But already she’s seeing glimmers of progress. She feels like she can do more with her seventh graders in the smaller extended-day groups, and some have made strides in their reading.</p><p>“It’s going to be a little nuts for the first year, for sure,” Mills said. “But if this is something we really want to do for our students, that’s what it’s going to have to be.”</p><p><i>Kalyn Belsha is a senior national education reporter based in Chicago. Contact her at kbelsha@chalkbeat.org.</i></p>https://www.chalkbeat.org/2023/10/26/23934062/extended-school-day-learning-loss-pandemic-academic-recovery-cicero-illinois/Kalyn Belsha2023-11-08T00:26:26+00:00<![CDATA[Feds urge schools to protect rights of Jewish, Muslim students following ‘alarming’ rise in incidents]]>2024-01-11T18:45:19+00:00<p>Federal officials are urging school leaders to protect Jewish and Muslim students from discrimination following an “alarming rise” in reports of antisemitism, Islamophobia, and other incidents of bias at colleges and K-12 schools over the last month.</p><p><a href="https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/letters/colleague-202311-discrimination-harassment-shared-ancestry.pdf">The letter</a>, shared with U.S. schools and colleges on Tuesday, comes <a href="https://abcnews.go.com/International/timeline-surprise-rocket-attack-hamas-israel/story?id=103816006">one month</a> after the militant group Hamas launched a surprise attack against Israel, killing more than 1,400 people. Israel has responded with <a href="https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/pressure-israel-over-civilians-steps-up-ceasefire-calls-rebuffed-2023-11-06/">airstrikes in Gaza</a> that have killed at least 10,000 people and displaced more than a million others.</p><p>The news has shaken many school leaders, educators, and students with ties to Israel and the Gaza Strip, and <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2023/11/07/us/california-campus-israel-hamas.html">prompted</a> <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2023/11/04/us/us-students-impacted-by-israel-hamas-war/index.html">protests</a> on <a href="https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/education/2023/10/27/israel-hamas-war-college-campus-chaos/71320230007/">college campuses</a> nationwide.</p><p>Since the start of the conflict on Oct. 7, the Education Department has received at least seven discrimination complaints involving antisemitism and two involving Islamophobia, a department spokesperson told Chalkbeat in an email. Most stemmed from incidents at colleges, but at least one incident happened at a K-12 school.</p><p>“The rise of reports of hate incidents on our college campuses in the wake of the Israel-Hamas conflict is deeply traumatic for students,” Education Secretary Miguel Cardona <a href="https://www.ed.gov/news/press-releases/us-department-education-reminds-schools-their-legal-obligation-address-discrimination-including-harassment">said in a statement on Tuesday</a>. “College and university leaders must be unequivocal about condemning hatred and violence and work harder than ever to ensure all students have the freedom to learn in safe and inclusive campus communities.”</p><p>Several incidents have been documented in news reports over the last month. <a href="https://www.pbs.org/newshour/show/israel-hamas-war-leads-to-increase-of-antisemitic-threats-on-college-campuses">At Cornell University</a>, police were called after online posts threatened Jewish students. The University of Pennsylvania <a href="https://penntoday.upenn.edu/announcements/responding-antisemitic-threat-our-campus">alerted the FBI</a> about antisemitic emails that threatened the campus’ umbrella organization serving Jewish students. A hit-and-run that injured a Muslim student at <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2023/11/06/muslim-stanford-student-hit-run-hate-crime/">Stanford University</a> is being investigated as a hate crime. In suburban Denver, students of Palestinian descent <a href="https://www.cbsnews.com/colorado/news/colorado-cherry-creek-students-concerned-bullying-following-war-israel/">reported racist bullying at their high school</a>, while in New Jersey a high schooler <a href="https://whyy.org/articles/harassment-hate-crimes-spike-conflict-israel-gaza-new-jersey-philadelphia/">had her hijab ripped off</a>.</p><p>In the letter, the assistant secretary for civil rights, Catherine Lhamon, noted that schools that receive federal funds are legally required to protect Jewish, Israeli, Muslim, Arab, and Palestinian students from discrimination. That could include racial or ethnic slurs, stereotypes based on a student’s religious style of dress, or discrimination related to a student’s accent, ancestry, name, or language.</p><p>A few days before the Education Department issued its letter, a coalition of three organizations that advocate for the civil rights of Arab Americans and Palestinian people <a href="https://static1.squarespace.com/static/548748b1e4b083fc03ebf70e/t/65416bd823a85315b4d85402/1698786265201/2023.10.31+OCR+Letter.pdf">had asked the department</a> to “take urgent special measures to ensure that Palestinian, Arab and Muslim students, or students perceived as such” were protected from discrimination at school. They cited examples of students who’d been doxxed and the <a href="https://apnews.com/article/hate-crime-illinois-war-israel-hamas-palestinian-a230a2347485974f628ee97af41e3236">recent murder</a> of a 6-year-old in suburban Chicago in what police have described as an anti-Muslim hate crime.</p><p>Incidents of antisemitism and Islamophobia were on the rise even before the war between Israel and Hamas, according to organizations that track such incidents.</p><p>The Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization, noted that the education discrimination complaints it received last year <a href="https://www.cair.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/04/progressintheshadowofprejudice-1.pdf">had jumped</a> by a “disturbing” 63% to 177 cases. That included instances of Islamophobic school curriculum and failure to accommodate Muslim students’ religious requests. (Bullying at K-12 schools, such as an incident in which a Delaware middle schooler who was told by her teacher she was too skinny to fast during Ramadan, were tracked in a separate category.)</p><p>The Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish civil rights and advocacy organization, <a href="https://www.adl.org/resources/report/audit-antisemitic-incidents-2022">documented 494 incidents</a> of antisemitism at non-Jewish, K-12 schools last year, a 49% increase over the prior year. Most were incidents of harassment, such as a student taunting a Jewish classmate with a Holocaust joke, or vandalism, such as a swastika drawn on a school wall.</p><p>Meanwhile, when <a href="https://www.edweek.org/leadership/hate-in-schools/2018/08">Education Week and ProPublica reviewed</a> nearly 500 incidents of hate in schools between January 2015 and December 2017, the news organizations found that incidents targeting Jewish and Muslim students were among the most common.</p><p>Kira Simon, the director of curriculum and training for the Anti-Defamation League’s education program, which offers anti-bias training to schools, said that teachers can help combat the kind of harmful rhetoric that can lead to bullying and harassment at school by taking a <a href="https://www.adl.org/resources/tools-and-strategies/6-tips-supporting-jewish-students-classroom">few key steps</a>.</p><p>If teachers regularly lead discussions about current events in their classrooms, she said, they should stop to think about how those conversations could “impact my students who are Jewish, or how might it impact my students who are Muslim or my students who are Palestinian or Arab?” she said. “And not to assume how it would impact them, but to be thoughtful.”</p><p>That could mean putting ground rules in place for having a respectful discussion, letting students opt out of the conversation, or giving them an alternative assignment if they’re having a strong emotional reaction. It can also be a good idea to give students advance notice about these conversations, instead of springing it on them.</p><p>And if teachers know they have students in the same class with opposing viewpoints on the conflict, they can focus on making sure students feel safe to share when they feel scared or stressed, and know who at the school they can turn to for support.</p><p>And while these conversations and questions may feel urgent, it’s OK for teachers to take the time they need to plan a conversation and do their own research, Simon said. That might mean giving students time to write about how they’re feeling while planning for a discussion down the line.</p><p>“Something that adults can do that, I think, will help young people to feel a little bit safer and be able to regulate their emotions better, is to tone down the urgency,” Simon said. “If a question comes up, the teacher doesn’t have to have the answer right in the moment.”</p><p><i>Kalyn Belsha is a senior national education reporter based in Chicago. Contact her at kbelsha@chalkbeat.org.</i></p>https://www.chalkbeat.org/2023/11/7/23951546/education-department-urges-schools-to-protect-jewish-and-muslim-students/Kalyn BelshaFatCamera2023-11-14T13:00:00+00:00<![CDATA[Sociologist Casey Stockstill explores the segregated lives of preschoolers in new book]]>2024-01-11T18:44:40+00:00<p>Casey Stockstill didn’t set out to write a book about preschool segregation.</p><p>Initially, the <a href="https://faculty-directory.dartmouth.edu/casey-stockstill">Dartmouth College sociologist</a> wanted to write about the lives of preschoolers. To do that, Stockstill spent two years observing children and staff at a Head Start in Madison, Wisconsin, followed by spending a month at a private preschool on the other side of the city.</p><p>Sunshine Head Start enrolled nearly all kids of color, while Great Beginnings was nearly all white. But both were top-rated preschools with experienced staff, a teacher for every six students, and a routine filled with learning and play. So Stockstill expected they’d be pretty similar.</p><p>But the stark differences she observed — all of which were rooted in racial and socioeconomic segregation — became the organizing principle of her new book, “<a href="https://nyupress.org/9781479815005/false-starts/">False Starts: The Segregated Lives of Preschoolers</a>.” In it, Stockstill details how segregation shapes everything from how preschoolers spend their time to the kind of instruction and supervision they receive.</p><p>That matters because preschool segregation is not only common, but often overlooked. Nationally, two-thirds of preschoolers learn alongside classmates who are either mostly white and affluent, or mostly kids of color from low-income families. And early childhood programs are <a href="https://www.urban.org/features/segregated-start">more racially segregated than K-12 schools</a>.</p><p>Chalkbeat spoke with Stockstill about those differences she saw, and how they affect the kind and quality of education preschoolers receive.</p><p><i>This interview has been edited for length and clarity.</i></p><h2>On paper, these two high-quality preKs have a lot of similarities. Can you talk about how students spent their time when you were there?</h2><p>The first thing I noticed was: Wow, their listed routine looks so similar. It says they’re going to come in and say welcome, have breakfast, have circle time on the rug, an hour of open-ended play, go outside, and eat lunch.</p><p>Watching them on a daily basis though [was very different]. At Great Beginnings, things are pretty calm and predictable. I went in February to observe, all the kids had been enrolled since September. It was like: We know who is coming every day, and these kids know the routine.</p><p>What surprised me was how much the kids read books. One time, I watched the teachers read a book to a group of 4-year-olds for 32 minutes with no major interruptions.</p><p>At Head Start, they always tried to read every day, but they often didn’t finish the book. They either had kids that had been enrolled in their class all year, but were having a hard day, because stuff was going on at home. So those kids are running away from the circle, or poking a friend, and they’re having to stop and correct those behaviors.</p><p>Or they have this churn in part of their enrollment. Two-thirds of the Head Start class roster was stable. The kids were there in September, they stayed all year. One-third just rotated based on poverty and instability. We had a student, her family got evicted, that left a spot open for a new family to come in. So you’re kind of constantly in orientation mode.</p><h2>How did segregation affect what was going on in their classrooms?</h2><p>We have a country that has structural racism, and a country that has pretty harsh conditions of poverty, especially for children. Families of color have higher rates of experiencing things like eviction, having a parent that gets incarcerated, contact with Child Protective Services and foster care. All of those things are more likely to happen to Black, Hispanic, and Indigenous children. Families who are poor, similarly, have higher rates of residential instability.</p><p>If we had integrated classrooms, where 20% of preschoolers were poor in every single center, we would spread out those challenges, and we’d force all teachers to think about how they’re going to meet kids’ needs when they have some kids dealing with these instabilities and disruptions to family life. Instead, when we segregate kids, you make a classroom like Sunshine Head Start, where we have a lot of those problems. That allows you to have other classrooms like Great Beginnings, where none of those problems exist.</p><h2>Can you talk about how the segregated classroom experiences affected whether or not kids could bring things from home?</h2><p>Sunshine Head Start had a classroom rule that you could not bring personal toys from home. There was no stuffed animal you would bring to nap. This rule made sense to the teachers, because they knew they had kids who were homeless, they had kids getting evicted. They didn’t want to create more moments to underline that kind of scarcity. And the other thing they said was: We have this classroom full of toys.</p><p>In that environment, about a third of the kids that I observed tried to sneak in special objects to school. It was mostly boys of color that would bring in a Spider-Man toy, a bouncy ball, a slimy, sticky hand. Boys were likely to get caught with these objects and then they would get disciplined for it. They’d get: ‘You’re not supposed to do that, put it in this bin, I’m going to take it away.’ It became this source of friction and distance between the kids and the teachers.</p><p>What I argue in the book is that this sends a message to the whole group of children that you check your personal stuff at the door. School is for playing with the institutional objects that we’re providing for you. For this one-third of kids who snuck things in, and then got in trouble, I see that it can feed into disproportionate discipline. <a href="https://sites.ed.gov/osers/2023/05/suspension-expulsion-informal-removals-unexpected-realities-in-preschool/">We have statistics on this</a>, that Black preschoolers are suspended and expelled at higher rates than white preschoolers. At Sunshine Head Start, none of the kids got suspended, but they did experience this avenue of discipline.</p><p>Then I went to Great Beginnings. They didn’t sneak things in, and it was because they had a weekly show-and-tell with the letter of the week. It might be ‘O’ and you’d bring in your baby owl stuffed animal. They also could bring in a stuffed animal at nap time, and they would play with those things.</p><p>At Head Start, they’re dealing with real scarcity among their families. They’re trying to make that not an issue, and so they have this strict policy, but it doesn’t really work. And at Great Beginnings they’re basically celebrating material abundance.</p><h2>When you saw the kids get their things taken away who’d snuck them in, how did that affect them?</h2><p>It depended. I focus a lot on a child I call Julian, who was dealing with a lot of family instability. His mom was incarcerated, she was in jail for a month. He just had a lot going on at home. And he would bring in stuff a lot. Sometimes, he was able to hide it from the teachers. Toward the middle of the year, it started getting taken away more often, and he would be upset about that.</p><p>But what was interesting was that by the end of the year, he had kind of learned how to bring stuff in and make sure the teachers didn’t see it. He would make plans. That also concerns me. There are kids who are learning not only that the teachers can’t know I’m bringing special things to school, because I’ll get punished, but also now I’m able to practice maneuvering away from the teacher’s gaze.</p><h2>Another thing you detail in the book are the differences in play time, and who sets the rules for how kids play. Could you talk about that?</h2><p>You might expect marginalized children, poor children of color, would get less autonomy. It’s kind of the opposite of what I observed.</p><p>At Sunshine Head Start, again, those issues of the fluctuating enrollment, the behavior challenges from kids, dealing with family instability — those things occupied teachers’ attention during the indoor playtime. They’re doing this hour of what’s supposed to be open-ended play. And the teachers would pair up with the kids who were acting out, or new to the classroom. Sunshine Head Start had three teachers, two of them were often paired up with kids in this unofficial way, leaving one teacher to supervise the other 15 kids.</p><p>So you’d have these pockets of three to seven children, who are playing, and they are being supervised, but the teacher is not involved in what they are doing. They are figuring that out themselves. The classroom rules also gave kids a lot of autonomy. In circle time, they’d say where do you want to play? What’s your plan?</p><p>The result of that was that the Sunshine Head Start kids were used to playing and a random classmate wanting to join the game. They would have a lot of problems, and then they would have to solve them themselves.</p><p>Then I went to Great Beginnings, where they had what they would call an hour of open-ended playtime. But they exerted more control. They assigned kids to play centers. They’d set a timer for about 15 minutes, and when the timer beeped, you would rotate to a new play area with the same playmate. They don’t deal with this issue of: What if you’re playing a game and two new kids want to join? The teachers were highly involved.</p><p>I see downsides to that: Less creativity, less independent problem-solving. But the potential upside is: Now you have kids who are expecting adult attention. There is a lot of sociology work on this in elementary school, about middle-class kids interrupting, raising their hand, just exhibiting more entitlement to teacher attention.</p><h2>The students who had higher concentrations of poverty in their classrooms experienced higher levels of intrusion into their families’ lives. What was most striking to you about that dynamic?</h2><p>Because of the experiences that poor families are having outside the classroom of surveillance and fear of Child Protective Services calls — those enter into the classroom with teachers feeling hesitant to ask questions. They told me they feared they would get in trouble if they seemed like they were prying for information about family challenges.</p><p>What was interesting to me is: The kids would talk about some of their family events but the teachers didn’t see that as bids to have a bigger conversation. They didn’t feel they could talk openly about a domestic violence dispute or scarcity at home. Kids have to kind of learn that these things happening at home are not acceptable talking points at school.</p><p>And at Great Beginnings, those families have disruptions as well, but the ones I saw were kind of upper-middle-class disruptions. There was an occasional divorce or a parent traveling for business. There wasn’t that specter of CPS. So things just felt more open there between families, kids, and teachers.</p><h2>There has been a movement in the K-12 setting to have more frank conversations with kids about what’s happening in their home lives, what’s happening in the world. Did the preK teachers feel unequipped to have some of those complicated conversations? How could it have been better?</h2><p>These are early childhood teachers, they understand a lot about children. I just think we have a cultural idea that, especially kids under 5, are so moldable that we can shape their feelings about things, that they’re not going to have their own feelings. So if we avoid bringing up challenging things, they won’t be as real to kids.</p><p>There is research showing that kids do notice. They notice class inequality. They notice racial inequality. Some of these things happening in kids’ lives at home, they might cause personal harm, the kids may feel sad about them, but sometimes they are just facts of life to those kids.</p><p>The change I’ve love to see is preschool teachers being comfortable — if a kid is bringing something up — at least [talking about] that.</p><p><i>Kalyn Belsha is a senior national education reporter based in Chicago. Contact her at </i><a href="mailto:kbelsha@chalkbeat.org"><i>kbelsha@chalkbeat.org</i></a><i>.</i></p>https://www.chalkbeat.org/2023/11/14/book-on-preschool-segregation-casey-stockstill/Kalyn BelshaCasey Stockstill2023-11-15T21:52:14+00:00<![CDATA[Suspensions and bullying plunged as many students learned remotely, national data shows]]>2024-01-11T18:43:52+00:00<p><i>Sign up for </i><a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/newsletters/national"><i>Chalkbeat’s free weekly newsletter</i></a><i> to keep up with how education is changing across the U.S.</i></p><p>The number of students who were suspended or arrested at school fell dramatically during the first full school year of the pandemic, new federal data released Wednesday show.</p><p>And though disparities in who got suspended or arrested at school persisted along lines of race and disability, in some cases, those gaps narrowed considerably, especially for Black students.</p><p><a href="https://civilrightsdata.ed.gov/">The data</a> for the 2020-21 school year, released by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, echoes earlier reports from <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/newyork/2021/10/14/22726808/suspension-drop-nyc-remote-learning-covid/">some school districts</a> and states. But it’s the first to fully capture what discipline looked like across America’s schools early in the pandemic, when large shares of students were learning remotely.</p><p>“Some of these data are not easy to look at,” U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona told reporters Wednesday. “These data are a reminder that we have a lot of work to do.”</p><p>The data come as many schools wrestle with how discipline should look in the wake of a pandemic that left many students with greater social and emotional needs. Some states have considered laws that would <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2023/3/28/23658974/school-discipline-violence-safety-state-law-suspensions-restorative-justice/">give schools broader latitude to suspend students</a>, and some districts <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2023/3/23/23653973/school-police-reversal-denver-shooting-gun-violence-safety/">have brought back school police</a> following concerns over student behavior and safety.</p><p>The report reflects a time when 88% of schools provided a combination of in-person and remote instruction, federal data show, while another 5% offered only remote instruction. The following year, when most students returned to fully in-person learning, <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2021/9/27/22691601/student-behavior-stress-trauma-return/">many schools reported an uptick in behavioral issues</a>, and some districts <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2022/7/6/23197094/student-fights-classroom-disruptions-suspensions-discipline-pandemic/">suspended a larger-than-usual share of students</a>.</p><p>Suspensions and expulsions had been falling for years even before COVID hit, as many schools took steps to curb disciplinary practices that removed students from the classroom. But the declines during the 2020-21 school year were much steeper.</p><p>The drops likely reflect a combination of fewer students learning in person and a reticence among educators to remove students from the classroom at a time when many kids craved in-person contact with their teachers and peers. But the data does not capture some of the <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2020/8/21/21396481/virtual-suspensions-masks-school-discipline-crisis-coronavirus/">new or informal disciplinary practices</a> that cropped up during the pandemic, such as removals from a Zoom classroom or <a href="https://hechingerreport.org/the-newest-form-of-school-discipline-kicking-kids-out-of-class-and-into-virtual-learning/">requiring a student to learn remotely as a form of punishment</a>.</p><p>Around 639,000 K-12 students were suspended from school at least once during the first full year of the pandemic, down from 2.5 million students during the 2017-18 school year, the last period with comparable data.</p><p>That represents a staggering 75% decline. (For comparison, suspensions dropped around 11% from the 2013-14 school year to 2017-18 school year.)</p><p>Similarly, the number of students who experienced an in-school suspension fell by 70%. The number of students who were referred to law enforcement dropped by 73%. And the number of students who were arrested at school plummeted 84% to around 8,900.</p><p>Education department officials cautioned against drawing too many conclusions from an anomalous school year filled with disruptions for both students and the staff who collect this data.</p><p>Public school enrollment dropped by 1.7 million students, or 3%, between the 2017-18 and 2020-21 school years. And schools were not required to report whether students who were disciplined were learning in person or remotely. To address that, federal officials are collecting the same data for the 2021-22 school year — the first-ever back-to-back effort.</p><p>Still, it’s notable that Black boys and students with disabilities continued to receive a disproportionate share of suspensions from school. Black boys made up 8% of the nation’s K-12 enrollment during the 2020-21 school year, but they received 18% of suspensions from school. Similarly, students with disabilities made up 17% of the nation’s enrollment, but they received 29% of suspensions.</p><p>That disparity for Black boys shrank 7 percentage points from the last time this data was collected, but the gap for students with disabilities didn’t budge.</p><p>A new disparity, meanwhile, arose regarding white boys. During the 2017-18 school year, white boys were suspended from school at a rate nearly equal to their share of enrollment. But in the first full year of the pandemic, they made up 24% of the nation’s enrollment, and received 36% of suspensions from school — a gap larger than the one for Black boys.</p><p>A top education department official said while the cause of that trend is unclear, it represents a notable departure from past data collections that merits investigation.</p><p>Black, Hispanic, and Asian students were <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2020/9/11/21431146/hispanic-and-black-students-more-likely-than-white-students-to-start-the-school-year-online/">much more likely</a> to learn remotely during the 2020-21 school year, while white students were <a href="https://ies.ed.gov/schoolsurvey/mss-report/">more likely to learn in person</a>.</p><p>Black students and students with disabilities, meanwhile, continued to be arrested at school at higher rates than their peers, though those disparities did narrow. The gap shrank notably for Black students, who made up 15% of K-12 enrollment, but received 22% of arrests at school.</p><p>Three years ago, they made up the same share of enrollment, and experienced 32% of arrests at school.</p><p>Still, a top department official said the frequency with which students were arrested at school was deeply concerning.</p><p>Reports of bullying and harassment related to a student’s race, sex, or disability also fell notably by 64% — <a href="https://www.nber.org/system/files/working_papers/w29590/w29590.pdf">echoing other research</a> that found a drop in online searches related to school bullying during that time. However, Black students were still more than twice as likely as their peers to experience race-based bullying or harassment.</p><p><i>Kalyn Belsha is a senior national education reporter based in Chicago. Contact her at </i><a href="mailto:kbelsha@chalkbeat.org"><i>kbelsha@chalkbeat.org</i></a><i>.</i></p>https://www.chalkbeat.org/2023/11/15/drops-in-suspensions-during-pandemic-federal-data-show/Kalyn Belsha2019-12-07T11:00:14+00:00<![CDATA[Pete Buttigieg’s education plan highlights broad agreement among Democrats on K-12 policy — though differences on charters remain]]>2024-01-11T18:41:42+00:00<p>Pete Buttigieg’s <a href="http://peteforamerica.com/policies/education">pre-K-12 education plan</a> calls for raising teacher pay, addressing school segregation, and banning for-profit charter schools.</p><p>If those ideas sound familiar, that’s because they echo many of the proposals of <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/posts/us/2019/06/13/2020-democratic-candidates-education/">his top Democratic rivals</a>, who have also released education plans. The mayor of South Bend, Indiana, Buttigieg has risen from obscurity to be a top contender, particularly in early primary states, alongside former Vice President <a href="https://joebiden.com/education/">Joe Biden</a> and Sens. <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/posts/us/2019/10/21/elizabeth-warren-education-plan/">Elizabeth Warren</a> and <a href="https://berniesanders.com/en/issues/reinvest-in-public-education/">Bernie Sanders</a>.</p><p>“My plan will empower teachers,” said Buttigieg, whose husband, Chasten, is a junior high teacher <a href="https://www.indystar.com/story/news/2019/04/09/chasten-buttigieg-what-we-know-pete-buttigiegs-husband/3398186002/">on leave</a> from a private school in Indiana. “I’ve seen up close the incredible challenges that educators across the country face, from late nights grading papers to emptying their own bank accounts to pay for school supplies.”</p><p>Buttigieg’s <a href="http://peteforamerica.com/policies/education">plan highlights</a> how the leading Democratic candidates have <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/posts/us/2019/06/13/2020-democratic-candidates-education/">converged</a> on many key education policies, with one partial exception — charter schools. His proposal touches on the lightning rod issue only briefly, calling for stronger accountability, but without going nearly as far as his primary rivals, some of whom have called for halting all federal support for new charters. Warren has recently been <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/posts/us/2019/11/22/elizabeth-warren-atlanta-charter-school-protestors/">embroiled in the debate</a>, after being confronted by activists and parents critical of her stance on charter schools.</p><p>The campaign did not share whom Buttigieg sought guidance from in crafting the plan. But education activist Diane Ravitch said in a July <a href="https://dianeravitch.net/2019/07/29/why-i-do-not-support-mayor-pete/">blog post</a> critical of Buttigieg that the campaign told her it had reached out to former Obama administration officials John King and Jim Shelton, as well as the American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, who praised the plan in a release Saturday.</p><p>You can read Buttigieg’s <a href="http://peteforamerica.com/policies/education">full plan here</a>. Here are four things to know about it:</p><h3>In many ways Buttigieg’s education plan matches his Democratic rivals — highlighting consensus on several key issues.</h3><p>If you read Buttigieg’s or <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/posts/us/2019/06/13/2020-democratic-candidates-education/">other candidates</a>’ plan with their name blotted out, you would have a hard time knowing which Democrat’s plan it was. For instance, Buttigieg wants to triple Title I funding for schools that serve a high percentage of students from low-income families, which Biden and Sanders have also pledged to do. (Warren would <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/posts/us/2019/10/21/elizabeth-warren-education-plan/">quadruple</a> it.)</p><p>Most or all of the major candidates have vowed to increase teacher diversity; raise teacher pay; reduce school segregation; close funding disparities; increase access to preschool programs; oppose vouchers for private school tuition; fully fund IDEA, the federal law for students with disabilities; strongly enforce federal civil rights laws, including reinstating regulations rolled back by the Trump administration; and replace Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.</p><p>Buttigieg’s plan is no exception on any of these counts, though it varies on the specifics in some cases. For instance, he wants parents to pay for preschool based on how much they earn, with the poorest parents paying nothing — similar to his <a href="https://www.npr.org/2019/12/06/785167895/who-should-get-free-college-buttigieg-ad-inflames-key-divide-among-democrats">stance</a> on higher education, which has been met with much debate — whereas others want to offer it for free to everyone.</p><p>And the plan also touches on a number of lower-profile issues — like increasing spending on schools for Native American students or expanding access to dual-language curriculum in early years — that some other plans don’t.</p><p>Like other candidates, Buttigieg promises to support the teaching profession by raising pay and status. “We need to honor teachers like soldiers, and pay them like doctors,” the plan states. More specifically it says that some of the new infusion of Title I dollars would have to be spent on raising teacher pay to ensure it’s competitive with that of other professionals.</p><p>Many of the candidates’ ideas, particularly on civil rights, are in line with those the Obama administration espoused. Notably absent, though, from any of the major candidates’ proposals, including Buttigieg’s, are concepts like more rigorous teacher evaluations and tying teacher pay to performance, which Obama’s Department of Education promoted. Those proved <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/posts/us/2019/10/08/teacher-evaluation-test-scores-nctq-obama-duncan/">controversial</a>, and the #RedforEd <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/posts/us/2018/04/03/as-teachers-across-the-country-demand-higher-pay-heres-how-much-salaries-have-stalled-and-why-it-matters-for-kids/">movement</a> has turned focus — and <a href="https://chalkbeat.org/posts/us/2019/08/20/poll-teacher-pay-raise-charter-schools-vouchers-choice/">public sympathy </a>— away from performance evaluations and toward stagnant teacher pay.</p><h3>Buttigieg isn’t promoting charter schools, but takes a less hostile approach than Sanders and Warren.</h3><p>The plan runs 20 pages, but charter schools get just a single paragraph. Buttigieg seeks to “ban for-profit charter schools and ensure equal accountability for public charter schools.” This is in line with a number of Democrats who largely agree on these points. (We’ll hold aside that it would not be easy for the federal government to ban for-profit schools.)</p><p>“He will work with states to ensure that policy innovations from charter programs that benefit students can be subsequently shared to strengthen the traditional public school system,” the plan promises, though it doesn’t explain how. Buttigieg also would “take action” against state and local entities that oversee low-performing charter schools.</p><p>Buttigieg is silent on the federal Charter Schools Program, a fund to support new charter schools across the country. Sanders and <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/posts/us/2019/10/21/elizabeth-warren-education-plan/">Warren</a> have called for halting or eliminating it altogether. A spokesperson for Buttigieg said he would stop those dollars from going to <a href="https://www.publiccharters.org/sites/default/files/documents/2019-06/napcs_management_report_web_06172019.pdf">for-profit charters</a>. (Federal guidance already prohibits CSP money from going directly to any for-profit entity; it can, however, go to a nonprofit charter that contracts its operations out to a for-profit company, so long as there is an “arm’s length” relationship between the two entities.)</p><p>Buttigieg is taking a somewhat more favorable stance towards charters than Warren or Sanders — but a less favorable one than President Obama, who supported the expansion of charter schools.</p><p>“I think that the promise of charter schools has been that ideas can be piloted there that will then benefit the overall system and find their way into traditional public schools,” Buttigieg <a href="http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/campaign-k-12/2019/08/pete-buttigieg-devos-interview.html">told Education Week</a> in August. “But I’m skeptical that we’re going to gain a lot through expansion of charter schools when we still have such severely underfunded traditional public education.”</p><p>The charter issue is fraught politically for Democrats. Recent <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/posts/us/2019/05/14/charter-schools-democrats-race-polling-divide/">polling shows</a> support for these schools has declined in the party among white Democrats, but indicates stronger, but still mixed, backing among black and Hispanic Democrats.</p><p>Meanwhile, Biden, another leading contender, did not even touch on charter schools in his education <a href="https://joebiden.com/education/">plan</a>. But in a <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/posts/us/2019/06/13/2020-democratic-candidates-education/#biden">recently released interview</a> with the National Education Association, he said, “No privately funded charter school or private charter school would receive a penny of federal money — none,” he said. Asked to clarify, campaign spokesperson <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/posts/us/2019/06/13/2020-democratic-candidates-education/">told Chalkbeat</a> that Biden would seek to stop federal funding for for-profit charter schools.</p><h3>Buttigieg plans to tackle school segregation.</h3><p>Buttigieg offers a number of proposals to address school segregation. He would create a $500 million fund to incentivize “community-led” racial and economic school integration. And he says school districts looking to make major changes to their boundaries would have to first seek clearance from federal officials, who would check to see if those changes would exacerbate racial and economic segregation.</p><p>The idea appears to be aimed at preventing so-called “<a href="https://edbuild.org/content/fractured">breakaway districts</a>,” in which whiter, more affluent communities establish their own school districts by leaving districts with more students of color from low-income families. (This issue attracted Warren’s attention, too; in her <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/posts/us/2019/10/21/elizabeth-warren-education-plan/">education plan</a> she says the departments of education and justice would monitor attempts to create breakaway districts and possibly take action to stop them.)</p><p>Buttigieg also says he would direct the departments of education and housing and urban development to issue guidance to help states integrate their neighborhoods and schools using funds set aside to create more affordable housing in high-performing school districts. Buttigieg plans to reinstate Obama-era guidance that allowed consideration of student race in some circumstances to integrate K-12 schools, which was <a href="https://chalkbeat.org/posts/us/2018/07/09/how-school-desegregation-efforts-could-change-or-not-after-devoss-move-to-scrap-obama-era-guidance-on-race/">rescinded by</a> the Trump administration. He would also “immediately remove” restrictions on using federal funds to bus students for desegregation purposes. But those <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/posts/us/2017/11/16/as-school-districts-push-for-integration-decades-old-federal-rule-could-thwart-them/">barriers exist</a> in federal law and would require Congress to take action.</p><p>These policy ideas come as Buttigieg has <a href="https://thehill.com/hilltv/rising/473232-south-bend-official-hits-Buttigieg-for-lack-of-knowledge-on-school-integration">faced criticism</a> for <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/posts/us/2019/06/13/2020-democratic-candidates-education/">saying</a> he “worked for years under the illusion that our schools in my city were integrated, because they had to be, because of a court order.” He added that that was “true within the limits of the South Bend Community School District,” but it wasn’t in the rest of the county. While South Bend’s school district does enroll a much higher percentage of black and Hispanic students from low-income families than the districts that surround it, South Bend has long struggled to fulfill the terms of a desegregation order, and even today some schools are not in compliance with it.</p><h3>There’s a fund for that.</h3><p>Buttigieg’s plan calls for large increases in federal spending on education, partially through specific grant programs.</p><p>In addition to the $500 million desegregation fund, he’s also calling for a $10 billion “equity fund” for early education. It would go to programs targeting low-income students of color and using “novel teaching methods and materials, targeted support services, school-family partnership programs, communication and personalization technologies, and other innovative strategies.”</p><p>There’s also a new grant program of unspecified size that would help school districts adopt new ways to discipline students, instead of suspending or expelling them. Buttigieg also says he would triple funding to $3.5 billion for an <a href="https://www2.ed.gov/programs/ssae/index.html">existing federal grant program</a> that funds student safety, health, technology, and arts programs. And he would create a fund to help high-poverty districts prepare students for the workforce through apprenticeships.</p><p>In total, the campaign estimates that its K-12 education proposals would cost the federal government an extra $425 billion over 10 years — for context, public elementary and high schools <a href="https://nces.ed.gov/pubs2019/2019301.pdf">got $56 billion</a> from the federal government in a single year, 2016. Buttigieg says he’ll <a href="https://static.chalkbeat.org/uploads/chorus_asset/file/19931444/UPDATED__Expenditures_and_pay_fors_Dec_7_1.pdf">pay for</a> this and other proposals in a variety of ways, including increasing the capital gains tax for top earners and repealing recent corporate tax cuts.</p><p><i>Curious where all the Democratic presidential candidates stand on education? </i><a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/posts/us/2019/06/13/2020-democratic-candidates-education/"><i>Read Chalkbeat’s tracker</i></a><i>.</i></p>https://www.chalkbeat.org/2019/12/7/21121851/pete-buttigieg-s-education-plan-highlights-broad-agreement-among-democrats-on-k-12-policy-though-dif/Matt Barnum, Kalyn Belsha2020-03-14T15:15:00+00:00<![CDATA[As schools close across the U.S., districts and families prepare for unprecedented disruption]]>2024-01-11T18:39:29+00:00<p>School closures rippled across the country in the wake of the new coronavirus, amounting to one of the most dramatic upheavals of American schooling in a century.</p><p>Over a dozen states, including <a href="https://chalkbeat.org/posts/chicago/2020/03/13/illinois-becomes-latest-state-to-close-schools-statewide-due-to-coronavirus-spread/">Illinois</a>, <a href="https://chalkbeat.org/posts/detroit/2020/03/12/whitmer-orders-closure-of-all-k-12-schools-in-michigan-over-coronavirus/">Michigan</a>, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, have called school off for a week or more. The nation’s second-largest school district, Los Angeles, is also closed for at least two weeks. As of Friday evening, Education Week <a href="https://www.edweek.org/ew/section/multimedia/map-coronavirus-and-school-closures.html?override=web">estimated</a> that at least 40 percent of students nationwide have been affected by closures.</p><p>Holdouts, like leaders in New York City, are facing <a href="https://chalkbeat.org/posts/ny/2020/03/13/nyc-teachers-union-calls-on-de-blasio-to-shut-down-schools-as-parents-increasingly-keep-kids-home/">increased pressure</a> to close schools in hopes of limiting the spread of COVID-19, the illness caused by the new coronavirus. In some schools that have stayed open, attendance has <a href="https://twitter.com/AGZimmerman/status/1238558237521317888">fallen sharply</a>.</p><p>There remains debate on whether closures are warranted to stop the spread of the virus. So far, most confirmed cases have been among adults, and children who’ve tested positive for the virus have had milder symptoms. But they still may <a href="https://chalkbeat.org/posts/us/2020/03/10/what-we-know-about-children-infection-rates-coronavirus/">play a role</a> in spreading it.</p><p><a href="https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/downloads/considerations-for-school-closure.pdf">Guidance</a> released today by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention encouraged schools to close in certain circumstances, while acknowledging other countries’ experiences haven’t proved closures would slow the illness.</p><p>The guidance says that shorter school closures, of two to four weeks, had not clearly proven effective in limiting the coronavirus spread in other countries. Closures of eight weeks or more, the CDC said, could be more effective.</p><p>Meanwhile, congressional leaders and the Trump administration are <a href="https://www.politico.com/news/2020/03/13/congress-coronavirus-stimulus-package-deal-friday-128140">attempting to</a> iron out a response to the crisis, including efforts to cushion the blow of school closures. “Our legislation protects our children, in particular the tens of millions of little children who rely on the free or reduced-price lunch they receive at schools,” <a href="https://www.c-span.org/video/?470371-1/speaker-pelosi-coronavirus-response-legislation&live">said</a> House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. President Trump declared a state of emergency on Friday afternoon, and the House is expected to vote on a version of the <a href="https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-bill/6201">coronavirus relief bill</a> sometime Friday.</p><p>How long these school closures will last is difficult to predict, because much is unknown about the virus. “When you have an outbreak like this,” Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Friday, “it’s really impossible to predict the time element of when it’s going to peak and when it’s naturally going to go down.”</p><p>The CDC says while it has some data that can help communities decide when to close schools, “there is almost no available data on the right time to re-start schools.”</p><p>What is clear is that the mass closures of schools — particularly if they remain shuttered for many weeks — will create a series of cascading academic, economic, and social challenges. Here are some of them.</p><h3>🔗Lost instruction</h3><p>A key consequence: kids who aren’t in school aren’t getting instruction, at least not in the traditional way. Research <a href="https://chalkbeat.org/posts/us/2020/03/09/coronavirus-school-closures-research/">suggests</a> that closing schools for a few days probably won’t hurt students academically, but prolonged closures could affect students’ educational trajectories.</p><p>To avoid that, some districts have attempted to put in place “distance learning” structures — including <a href="https://chalkbeat.org/posts/us/2020/03/03/amid-coronavirus-fears-the-cdc-told-schools-to-plan-for-remote-learning-thats-harder-than-it-sounds/">computer programs</a>, <a href="https://chalkbeat.org/posts/newark/2020/03/12/newark-prepares-take-home-assignments-for-students-in-case-of-coronavirus-closures/">assignments sent home</a>, and <a href="https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2020-03-11/lausd-events-cancelled-coronavirus">even a television channel in Los Angeles</a>.</p><p>But this is difficult to pull off, and might exacerbate existing inequalities.</p><p>Virtual learning is much less effective than face-to-face instruction, studies have <a href="https://chalkbeat.org/posts/us/2020/03/09/coronavirus-school-closures-research/">shown</a>. Advocates for students with disabilities <a href="https://chalkbeat.org/posts/us/2020/03/12/school-closures-coronavirus-remote-learning-students-with-disabilities/">are particularly concerned.</a> Guidance released by the Department of Education this week reiterated that schools attempting to deliver remote instruction must continue to serve students with disabilities.</p><p>“Sure, it could work for some kids, I just have my reservations on saying it’s going to work for all kids,” Jen Cole, who provides assistance to parents of students with disabilities through a Washington-based nonprofit, told Chalkbeat.</p><p>Some places, like Washington state, have discouraged schools from attempting distance learning at all. Districts that have tried going remote, like the Northshore School District in Washington, have already heard <a href="https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/education/how-northshore-parents-handled-the-first-day-of-online-learning/">reports from parents</a> who say their children are having a hard time staying focused.</p><h3>🔗School meals</h3><p>Over 30 million American children <a href="https://www.fns.usda.gov/nslp/nslp-fact-sheet">get meals</a> from the National School Lunch Program. The U.S. Department of Agriculture, which administers the program, is <a href="https://civileats.com/2020/03/06/coronavirus-is-closing-schools-heres-what-it-means-for-millions-of-kids-who-rely-on-school-meals/">offering flexibility</a> for schools that want to continue to offer meals to students even while closed. (States currently must apply for waivers from certain rules, such as one that requires students to eat meals together — which would partially defeat the purpose of closing schools.)</p><p>For instance, districts can designate food pick-up locations, at schools or other locations like libraries. <a href="https://chalkbeat.org/posts/ny/2020/03/12/heres-why-coronavirus-could-complicate-efforts-to-keep-nyc-students-fed-during-school-closures/">In New York City</a>, officials are offering free “grab and go” meals to the handful of schools that have closed so far, offering food like canned fruit, hummus, and cereal. <a href="https://chalkbeat.org/posts/tn/2020/03/12/memphis-schools-are-closing-for-two-weeks-here-are-food-resources-to-fill-in-the-gap/">When all of Memphis’ schools closed this week</a>, community agencies quickly began food drives. A guidance document from the USDA <a href="https://static.chalkbeat.org/uploads/chorus_asset/file/19931499/COVID_19_SP08_SFSP04_2020_A1_003_1.pdf">says that</a> districts could also consider handing out multiple days’ worth of meals at a time.</p><p>“We do think that that would be the best strategy,” said Crystal FitzSimons, of the Food Research and Action Center. “It seems a little silly to be pulling people back into a site to get meals.”</p><p>Congress is considering <a href="http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/campaign-k-12/2020/03/coronavirus-protect-access-to-school-meals-lawmakers.html">proposals</a> to remove certain regulations that make it harder for districts to continue to offer meals. Currently, <a href="https://civileats.com/2020/03/06/coronavirus-is-closing-schools-heres-what-it-means-for-millions-of-kids-who-rely-on-school-meals/">districts can’t be reimbursed</a> for offering meals in areas that are not low-income.</p><p>“I’ve heard that from a couple schools — we’re just going to get kids meals and we’ll worry about it later,” FitzSimons said.</p><p>Carissa Moffat Miller, the executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers, said school districts need more flexibility and more money. “CCSSO urges Congress to approve new funding and flexibilities in existing programs, including but not limited to school nutrition, to allow states to operate these programs effectively under unprecedented circumstances,” she said in a statement.</p><h3>🔗The economy</h3><p>Closing schools would also have major consequences for the economy, which is already facing huge stress from the pandemic. One <a href="https://static.chalkbeat.org/uploads/chorus_asset/file/19931500/EpsteinSchoolClosures.pdf">estimate suggests</a> that closing all schools and daycares for four weeks would result in a $50 billion hit to the economy, or 0.2% of GDP. When kids are home, many parents miss work, too.</p><p>Some <a href="https://www.brookings.edu/blog/up-front/2020/03/09/food-security-is-economic-security-is-economic-stimulus/?utm_campaign=brookings-comm&utm_source=hs_email&utm_medium=email&utm_content=84702540">have argued</a> that Congress should also expand access to food stamps, particularly for families with children — simultaneously addressing food insecurity and providing an economic boost. This is part of a bill that Congress is considering.</p><p>Another question is whether teachers and other staff will continue to be paid while school is out. Cutting off pay would of course harm staff, and could also hurt the economy more broadly.</p><p>“A lot of students and families are being thrust into situations they are not prepared for,” said Barbara McPherson, an educator in Washington’s Auburn School District. “Child care is a big issue as well as the unknown status of employment.” Seattle Public Schools, among the first districts to close down, <a href="https://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2020/03/10/if-coronavirus-closes-school-who-gets-paid.html">said</a> it will charge teachers three sick days, and then the district will cover up to 14 additional days. Some other districts <a href="https://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2020/03/10/if-coronavirus-closes-school-who-gets-paid.html">have not</a> made clear plans.</p><p>The full economic impact will depend on the federal government’s response.</p><h3>🔗Summer school?</h3><p>If students miss out on a significant amount of the school year, one solution is to expand summer school options.</p><p>Doug Harris, a Tulane University economist, has <a href="https://www.brookings.edu/blog/brown-center-chalkboard/2020/03/11/using-federal-stimulus-to-get-schools-through-the-coronavirus-crisis-the-case-for-summer-school-and-summer-teacher-pay/">suggested</a> the federal government fund such an effort. He proposed a roughly $8 billion stimulus to hire a third of American teachers to provide summer school over the course of six weeks.</p><p>Harris argues that this would also provide an economic boost, both by putting money in teachers’ pockets and allowing more parents to work by providing childcare during the summer.</p><p>“Yes, we can use modern technological tools to help students continue learning, at least a little, over the coming months,” Harris wrote. “But sometimes it’s best to fight the old-fashioned way. Summer school seems like one very promising approach to consider.”</p><p>Special education advocates have also suggested this would be a good way to make sure that students with disabilities are getting the services they missed while schools were closed.</p><h3>🔗Testing</h3><p>State tests are right around the corner, which means they’re likely to butt up against closures. And even if students return in time for tests, they will have lost instruction, raising questions about whether the exams could even provide a fair picture of student learning.</p><p>These exams have significant stakes — by federal law, they’re used to determine if schools are low-performing. Many districts also use them to decide whether students move on to the next grade, make admissions decisions for selective schools, and to evaluate teachers.</p><p>The U.S. Department of Education <a href="https://chalkbeat.org/posts/us/2020/03/12/coronavirus-schools-testing-department-of-education/">said Thursday that it would consider</a> offering a one-year waiver for states and schools affected by closures. In turn, states might be able to get a waiver from the requirement of identifying low-performing schools for extra support. Other consequences would have to be figured out locally and at the state level.</p><p>The College Board also <a href="https://www.usnews.com/news/national-news/articles/2020-03-12/coronavirus-forces-hundreds-of-sites-to-cancel-the-march-sat">announced</a> that it would cancel the administration of the SAT at hundreds of its testing centers.</p>https://www.chalkbeat.org/2020/3/13/21195985/as-schools-close-across-the-u-s-districts-and-families-prepare-for-unprecedented-disruption/Matt Barnum, Kalyn Belsha2021-05-12T17:32:05+00:00<![CDATA[Thousands of students with disabilities are set to ‘age out’ of school. After a pandemic year, they may get more time to prepare for what’s next.]]>2024-01-11T18:38:50+00:00<p>This was supposed to be the year that Jake Smith got a lot of hands-on practice working and doing tasks on his own as he got ready for life after school.</p><p>Jake has autism and Down syndrome and is in a life skills program at a high school in Harford County, Maryland. He is one of the thousands of young adults with disabilities in the U.S. who are over 18 but still in school — usually in publicly funded transitional programs that offer hands-on job training or time to learn life skills, like doing laundry or shopping for groceries.</p><p>Just before the pandemic hit, Jake’s mother, Tracy Smith, was encouraged by the progress her son made getting to class on his own and learning to vacuum at his job at a local hospice. But when school went virtual and work stopped, a lot of plans went out the window.</p><p>Monthly field trips to practice social interactions ended, and Jake’s in-person speech therapy moved to video chat. Through a screen, it was much harder to practice the kinds of social skills Jake needed to work on.</p><p>“You can’t teach it virtual,” Smith said. “You have to teach that in a group.”</p><p>This month, Jake turned 21. The milestone birthday means he is about to “age out” of his program, a challenge for young adults like him in any year, but made all the more difficult because of the disruption wrought by COVID-19.</p><p>Now, lawmakers in at least half a dozen states — <a href="https://www.ilga.gov/legislation/billstatus.asp?DocNum=2748&GAID=16&GA=102&DocTypeID=HB&LegID=131592&SessionID=110">Illinois</a>, <a href="https://www.njleg.state.nj.us/2020/Bills/S3500/3434_R1.HTM">New Jersey</a>, <a href="https://www.nysenate.gov/legislation/bills/2021/A1201">New York</a>, <a href="http://mgaleg.maryland.gov/mgawebsite/Legislation/Details/SB0209">Maryland</a>, <a href="https://malegislature.gov/Bills/192/HD4120">Massachusetts</a>, and <a href="https://www.legis.state.pa.us/CFDOCS/Legis/PN/Public/btCheck.cfm?txtType=PDF&sessYr=2021&sessInd=0&billBody=H&billTyp=B&billNbr=0909&pn=0896">Pennsylvania</a> — have introduced bills that would give this group of students additional time in school after they would usually age out. Smith is among the parents in Maryland advocating for extra time for their children.</p><p>“Another year in the school, especially in the setting he’s familiar with, would have really helped him build that confidence to move forward,” Smith said. “And it would give him those skills that he could take with him.”</p><p>It’s unclear how many of the legislative efforts will be successful. But the wave of bills is an acknowledgment that many older students with disabilities didn’t get what they needed during the pandemic, and it points to a larger question: What exactly is owed to the students who went without services while schools were virtual or disrupted for months?</p><p>“There is so much thinking about K-12, but it’s really critical that this group of young adults not get lost in all of the other challenges that schools and states are facing,” said Wendy Tucker, the senior director of policy at the nonprofit Center for Learner Equity, which advocates for students with disabilities.</p><p>In many states, the cutoff for students with disabilities to receive services is 21 or 22, as federal special education funds can’t pay for services after a student turns 22. States and districts that allow students to stay longer tap into their own money.</p><p>Tens of thousands of students nationwide are likely to “age out” of their educational services this year. In the 2018-19 school year, the latest year with federal data available, 55,000 students with disabilities who were 20 or 21 received services across the U.S., though that leaves out some students in states that allow students to stay longer.</p><p>In some places, those students have already been told they’re entitled to more.</p><p>Virginia <a href="https://budget.lis.virginia.gov/get/budget/4415/HB1800/">set aside money</a> in its budget to pay for students who turned 22 to attend school for another year. New York City has said students set to age out of education services <a href="https://ny.chalkbeat.org/2021/4/15/22386434/nyc-age-out-21-special-ed">can stay an extra year</a>, and state education officials in New York are “<a href="http://www.nysed.gov/common/nysed/files/programs/coronavirus/memo-over-age-students.pdf">strongly encouraging</a>” school districts to provide extra time this summer or next school year to students turning 21. In Clark County, Nevada, school officials will let students who’ve turned 21 stay an extra year if their special education team says it’s needed.</p><p>In Broward County, Florida, schools are letting students who’ve turned 22 stay on for the district’s summer program. Orange County schools in Florida also are letting students who turn 22 this spring attend the district’s extended school year this summer.</p><p>But timing is critical. Advocates worry that the longer these efforts take, the harder it becomes to get the word out to families whose children may qualify for additional help, and for districts to hire the staff they need to pull it off. Laws requiring districts to offer students additional time or services, they say, would make it easier to inform families of their rights — instead of directing them through the usual complaint process to get make-up services, which can be difficult to navigate, especially for families who can’t afford private legal help.</p><p>“If we have to do it one by one, and case by case, it also means, realistically, that families with more resources are going to be more likely to get the additional time,” said Ashley Grant, who oversees postsecondary readiness for the nonprofit Advocates for Children of New York, which is part of a coalition that’s supporting the New York bill.</p><p>So far, the federal government hasn’t officially weighed in. But some advocates, <a href="https://static.chalkbeat.org/uploads/chorus_asset/file/22499418/CLE_Request_for_Guidance_Re_Extended_Eligibility.pdf">including Tucker’s organization</a>, hope federal officials will encourage states to extend services for students with disabilities and clarify whether schools could use coronavirus relief money to pay for it — which has been a sticking point in some states where legislation has been introduced.</p><p>Students who receive transitional services were <a href="https://chicago.chalkbeat.org/2020/11/5/21551282/covid-19-leaves-future-uncertain-for-young-adults-with-disabilities-in-chicago-and-illinois">especially affected by the pandemic</a>. While many schools tried to provide them remotely — using virtual job shadows or teaching students how to grocery shop online — parents say it often paled compared to the hands-on training their children were supposed to receive. Some say their children simply couldn’t access the virtual stand-in.</p><p>And <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2020/10/22/21529431/students-with-disabilities-return-to-schools-more-learning-and-needed-services-not-normal-yet">even when students went back to school in person</a>, businesses and vocational programs often were closed or not operating at full capacity, making it hard for students to participate in their usual job training.</p><p>In Chicago, Merari Olascoaga’s son attended a specialty public high school for young adults with disabilities before turning 22 and aged out in March.</p><p>Olascoaga’s son, who has cerebral palsy, had anticipated spending time in the community this year to learn about jobs that might be a good fit for his skills. But while school was remote, that didn’t happen.</p><figure><img src="https://www.chalkbeat.org/resizer/A9IRI7E1kYRVjjfYAXtOU8zPZ8g=/1440x960/cloudfront-us-east-1.images.arcpublishing.com/civicnewscompany/NWONXKF4NNBTVL46I73L5B6WAY.jpg" alt="Jake Smith cooks at home. During the pandemic, his mother devised exercises to help her son cook, clean, and track events in a day planner." height="960" width="1440"/><figcaption>Jake Smith cooks at home. During the pandemic, his mother devised exercises to help her son cook, clean, and track events in a day planner.</figcaption></figure><p>“It’s really frustrating as a parent to see your child being left out,” said Olascoaga, who is hoping proposed legislation in Illinois will give her son and others more time in school. “It’s not only for my child, it’s for all the kids who are in this situation. Because all of them have dreams, and they dream to find something in the community, be part of it, and be given the opportunity to explore and get the help that they need.”</p><p>Many families tried to fill the gap in services by creating their own lessons at home to help their children practice their skills. Smith, for example, devised exercises to help her son cook, clean, and track events in a day planner.</p><p>Another critical part of transitional programs is helping students and families understand the complicated web of agencies that manage vocational training and job placement for adults with disabilities and how to apply for services they may qualify for after they age out of school. During the pandemic, many families didn’t get the same support in this area.</p><p>“It’s tough enough when you have a team around you,” said Peg Kinsell, the institutional policy director at SPAN, a parent advocacy group in New Jersey. “But when all that’s gone, they’re really left out on their own.”</p><p>That happened to Thomas McHale, whose school district in Westchester County, New York, paid for him to attend a private day school from the time he was in kindergarten until he turned 21 last year. McHale, who has autism and a developmental disability, said he felt displaced and abandoned when he was suddenly no longer able to see his classmates and teachers in person.</p><p>Instead of the daily therapy he was used to, McHale’s therapist called once a week and sometimes visited in person in the driveway. It helped, but it wasn’t the same, McHale said.</p><p>Over the years, school helped him become more social and learn how to cope when he felt angry. But without the hugs and other in-person support he was used to, McHale says he reverted to old behaviors.</p><p>“I was punching walls again,” he said. “I was not happy. Basically, my 21-year-old self was put back into a 5-year-old’s mindset.”</p><figure><img src="https://www.chalkbeat.org/resizer/1f4ixKQWMFmHvMhcQN9IsQfBku4=/1440x960/cloudfront-us-east-1.images.arcpublishing.com/civicnewscompany/ZV6ONKZ5JVGLZCIRLMIED64L44.jpg" alt="Thomas McHale cares for a goat at the local farm where he works in Westchester County, New York." height="960" width="1440"/><figcaption>Thomas McHale cares for a goat at the local farm where he works in Westchester County, New York.</figcaption></figure><p>His mother, Francesca Hagadus-McHale, is among the parents in New York who are working with lawmakers to try to get services extended for students who either aged out last school year, like her son, or those who will age out this year. Though her state encouraged districts to extend those services, her district did not opt to do it.</p><p>If the legislation passes, Hagadus-McHale says she’d want to see her son get additional therapy and help planning for life after school. Hagadus-McHale made dozens of phone calls to help secure a part-time job at a local farm where her son feeds and cares for the animals, but she says more could have been done to help prepare him for the transition.</p><p>McHale says if he and other students could get back missed services, it would be “extremely helpful,” and he’s supportive of efforts to try to make that happen.</p><p>“It felt like I was in limbo,” McHale said. “I think getting back that time with your therapist, or just seeing them more, would help rekindle that bond that you had before it got stripped away.”</p>https://www.chalkbeat.org/2021/5/12/22430702/students-with-disabilities-age-out-extra-time-pandemic/Kalyn Belsha2023-12-13T15:30:00+00:00<![CDATA[To teach about Israel and Palestine, this geography teacher sets ground rules for tough conversations]]>2024-01-11T18:30:39+00:00<p><i>Sign up for</i><a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/newsletters/national"><i> Chalkbeat’s free weekly newsletter</i></a><i> to keep up with how education is changing across the U.S.</i></p><p>As a kid, Morgan Patel was good at math and science in school. But she never liked how problems in those classes often had just one answer.</p><p>It was the intense, but meaningful, discussions that social studies provoked that drew her in.</p><p>“You’re talking with humans about humans and how they interact,” she said. “I just love talking about humans and how they’re imperfect.”</p><p>So it’s fitting that Patel, now in her 11th year teaching high school in Maryland’s Montgomery County Public Schools, does that on a daily basis in her Advanced Placement Human Geography class.</p><p><a href="https://apstudents.collegeboard.org/courses/ap-human-geography">It’s a course</a> that delves into where humans live in the world and why, with units examining how that’s shaped everything from culture and religion, to language and politics.</p><p>The class can be heavy. Even before this year, Patel taught about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as well as <a href="https://www.britannica.com/event/The-Troubles-Northern-Ireland-history">The Troubles in Northern Ireland</a>, <a href="https://www.britannica.com/event/Partition-of-India">the violent partition of India and Pakistan</a>, the <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/10/world/africa/10sudan.html">decades of fighting</a> that led to the formation of South Sudan, and the <a href="https://apnews.com/article/south-sudan-elections-civil-war-peace-process-db6d7f4c620de2f12fcfedbb1966d241">ensuing civil war</a>. The class includes other topics that can be difficult to discuss, too, such as human trafficking, gender-based violence, and food insecurity, including in the U.S.</p><p>Patel, who holds a prestigious National Board Certification teaching credential, says it’s her goal to help students wade through polarizing topics — by bringing in historical context, and not leaping to conclusions — so they can do the same when they consume media about these subjects on their own.</p><p>“Even though it’s tough to teach this,” she said, “I feel lucky to teach it.”</p><p>Patel spoke with Chalkbeat a few days after the most recent <a href="https://apnews.com/article/israel-hamas-war-news-12-1-2023-c944c736efdf8993c7a17cf683d6e364">ceasefire between Israel and Hamas ended</a> about how she approaches complicated subjects like the Israel-Hamas war, the ground rules she sets for respectful class discussions, and why she asks her students to document their slang each year.</p><p><i>This interview has been edited for length and clarity.</i></p><h3>Your class teaches about the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Before this year, how would students interact with that history?</h3><p>I teach in a very diverse school. It absolutely has kids with family in one of those places sometimes, or they might be Muslim, Arab, Jewish, or Israeli. I’ve even had both [Muslim and Jewish students] in the same class before.</p><p>Even before this year, they would see things on the news or they’d hear from adults that this is a really bad conflict, but they wouldn’t understand why. So I always spend a lot of time on the why.</p><p>I use a lot of videos and maps. I show a picture of Jerusalem and I show how it’s divided into quarters. And I show a picture of <a href="https://www.britannica.com/topic/Al-Aqsa-Mosque">the mosque</a>, <a href="https://www.britannica.com/topic/Western-Wall">the Western Wall</a>, and <a href="https://www.britannica.com/place/Holy-Sepulchre">the major Christian church</a>, and how they are all literally on top of each other. And then I use maps of the land over time — the Palestinian lands and Israeli land changing, depending on political or cultural events.</p><p>History doesn’t always have this visual component. It makes it much easier to grasp what’s going on.</p><p>We use a lot of geographic data, like looking at life expectancy or the unemployment rate in Palestine versus Israel. There is also a<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Jj8vne0ca0"> great video</a> from a series on YouTube called “Middle Ground.” The kids can see both sides and see that there are biases on both sides, but that there are also people who are willing and trying to make this conflict better. Which I think is important for them to see.</p><figure><img src="https://www.chalkbeat.org/resizer/zGhJ6yNdtOKn6KGmU3EFfIWZNOA=/1440x960/cloudfront-us-east-1.images.arcpublishing.com/civicnewscompany/P7CNT27SWZBCJGX6AMWBUZ42NE.jpg" alt="AP Human Geography teacher, Morgan Patel, presents during class." height="960" width="1440"/><figcaption>AP Human Geography teacher, Morgan Patel, presents during class.</figcaption></figure><h3>When students better understand this conflict, how does that help inform what you do later in the curriculum?</h3><p>Once they learn how to read a map, and the data on that map, they understand that the key is picking up on spatial patterns. You look at data of Jerusalem, and who lives there, and you immediately see how diverse it is and that that can cause issues between groups of people who all say that’s their land. And are all not wrong. This conflict is not different from many other ones in that same pattern.</p><h3>How do you handle discussions about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in class?</h3><p>More than others, the students who have an opinion [about this conflict] are very set in that opinion. So it’s not like other topics where we might have a discussion or a debate and there is an attempt to convert people to the other side.</p><p>We set ground rules, as I always do for a tough conversation. It’s always: Be an active listener. Try not to generalize your experience. You are an ‘I,’ you’re not a ‘we.’ Ask questions when you don’t understand. Make sure you are trying to understand the other side, instead of talking over them or assuming what you know is right.</p><p>You don’t have to agree with someone, but you have to respect them. If you can’t be in here, or you can’t be doing this, take a walk, or tell me. I can usually pick up on when it’s getting a little intense for someone.</p><p>You don’t have to participate at all. Sitting there and listening is participating. I never force them to talk. This would not be the kind of thing where you should do random calling.</p><h3>You’re about to teach the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in your class this year. Is there anything you’re going to focus on more than in the past?</h3><p>Something new this year that I’ve never focused on as much is how to consume media. [Students] need to realize that sometimes, for your own mental health, it’s OK to step away from social media. But then, if you are going to be in it, know what you’re getting into and know how to consume it properly so you’re not overwhelmed.</p><p>I am more nervous than in past years to talk about this conflict. I usually leave open time for questions, which I will probably do, but I don’t want it to turn into a really contentious discussion. I just feel like it could end badly if I allow an open forum. So maybe we’ll switch to some kind of individual processing [such as writing or drawing]. I think a moment of breathing and thinking through on your own might be great.</p><p>[In past years], I always explain to them: I am severely summarizing something way more complicated, and I’m not telling you all the players. But because they’ve now seen the actions taken by Hamas and [the Israel Defense Forces], I think I am going to go more into that, defining who those groups are. I’m going to talk more about the actual current conflict — the attack starting it and the retaliation after that, and then the [temporary] ceasefire. I don’t know yet if I, or they, can handle showing videos.</p><h3>You said you’re feeling a little bit more nervous to teach this than in the past. As you’re getting ready to teach this unit, how are you thinking about that?</h3><p>In the past when I taught this, by this point, they would know my thoughts on religion and my own religion. They would know that I am not on either side of this conflict. I am a very unbiased third party is usually what I’d call myself.</p><p>But my issue this year, as I’m gearing up to teach this, I’m finding it more and more difficult to stand there and be unbiased. I am not going to shy away from showing the injustices that are happening, especially in Gaza. I’ll just try to go about it as unbiased as I can, but ignoring it is also not unbiased.</p><p>I think what might be important, which another teacher showed me, is adjusting the way you think about this. We’re very much taught to be like: OK, this is right, or that is right. When really there is gray area here, and it’s OK to see why both sides are wrong and both sides are right in different ways. We’re not looking to choose sides here. We’re showing injustices that are happening on both sides.</p><h3>The conflicts you teach often aren’t taught in other classes, so this might be the only time kids are learning about it.</h3><p>Right, they’ll briefly have it mentioned to them, but it’s never explained. I love that I get to teach a course like that, but it’s also a lot. These are civil wars and genocides. You have to go about it with an open heart and open mind. I know my students very well, but I sometimes have no idea they have a connection to a certain place I’m talking about.</p><h3>Do you have a favorite lesson that you teach each year?</h3><p>The culture unit, in general, is my favorite. Within culture, we talk about language, and origins of language, why different languages are where they are. As part of that, we talk about dialects. We talk about code-switching and how most of us change how we speak based on age, race, etc.</p><p>I have my students make a teenage slang dictionary as their dialect. I’m putting it together right now. It gives them a chance to be their true selves. I’ve saved it over the years; it’s kind of like a time capsule into how language, and how slang, changes.</p><h3>Do you show them the old versions?</h3><p>I was just doing it [a few] days ago. They were like: We don’t say that anymore!</p><p>What’s really cool is sometimes it’s the same word, but it’s just changed over time, and they have to redefine it in the 2023 version. It’s very realistic, and they enjoy that.</p><p><i>Kalyn Belsha is a senior national education reporter based in Chicago. Contact her at </i><a href="mailto:kbelsha@chalkbeat.org"><i>kbelsha@chalkbeat.org</i></a><i>.</i></p>https://www.chalkbeat.org/2023/12/13/how-morgan-patel-sets-ground-rules-to-teach-about-israel-palestine/Kalyn BelshaMaskot2023-12-18T10:00:00+00:00<![CDATA[Schools may lose access to emergency hotel stays, a critical strategy to help homeless students]]>2024-01-11T18:29:52+00:00<p><i>This story was co-published with </i><a href="https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/education/2023/12/18/schools-hotels-homeless-students-covid-aid/71923654007/" target="_blank"><i>USA Today</i></a><i>.</i></p><p><i>Sign up for </i><a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/newsletters/national"><i>Chalkbeat’s free weekly newsletter</i></a><i> to keep up with how education is changing across the U.S.</i></p><p>SAN DIEGO — Each request in Linda Lee Garibay’s inbox offers a tiny glimpse into San Diego County’s housing crisis and its profound effect on kids.</p><p>On a Thursday in early November, a family with four children in the San Diego Unified School District had just been evicted. Another San Diego family with a 6-year-old needed to leave the trailer park where they’d been staying. In the Poway Unified district, a family of four needed a respite after sleeping in their car for over a month.</p><p>Lee Garibay, a project specialist for the San Diego County education office, reviewed each family’s situation, then helped to reserve them a free room at a Motel 6 close to their child’s school. She’s the engine behind what is likely the country’s largest emergency hotel stay program supporting students experiencing homelessness.</p><p>“You spend so much time dealing with families that need help and not having anything to give them,” said Susie Terry, who coordinates homeless education services for San Diego County. “I had homeless liaisons who were just like, ‘This is the first time I feel like I actually have some real help to offer.’”</p><p>San Diego’s <a href="https://resources.finalsite.net/images/v1677879210/sdcoenet/tnbt0wzsvpgjuc0el3b1/ProjectRestFlyer.pdf">Project Rest</a> and other programs like it exemplify the way schools are increasingly expanding their work beyond teaching and learning to meet the basic needs of students and their families. Hotel stays have become a crucial strategy for schools seeking to address <a href="https://edsource.org/2023/amid-pockets-of-rising-student-homelessness-california-districts-tap-covid-funding-to-help-families/691737">rising student homelessness</a> and <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2023/9/28/23893221/chronic-absenteeism-attendance-santa-fe-orlando-schools/">chronic absenteeism</a>. They are also unprecedented: Never before have schools had the money and permission to offer this kind of material aid at such a scale.</p><p>School staff and advocates for homeless youth say these programs have been transformative: The stability they provide boosts school attendance and allows kids to focus on their schoolwork. But despite their impact, programs like Project Rest are at risk of disappearing.</p><p>That’s because many are funded with <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2021/12/3/22813274/homeless-students-covid-pandemic-relief-money-stalled/">federal pandemic aid for homeless students</a> that goes away next school year, and along with it, special spending rules that allow for hotel stays. <a href="https://oese.ed.gov/files/2023/09/ARP-HCY-DCL-9.12.2023.pdf">Federal officials have said</a> schools cannot use the federal funds they typically receive to help homeless students on short-term housing, such as hotel stays.</p><p>Terry is searching for funding alternatives, but isn’t hopeful.</p><p>“I think it’s a shame,” she said, “because it’s desperately needed.”</p><figure><img src="https://www.chalkbeat.org/resizer/HygynYlu7zZ9n8guTmKGh1ieNX8=/1440x960/cloudfront-us-east-1.images.arcpublishing.com/civicnewscompany/EU3VHHYSU5DV3HXOMXGDL5YM4Y.JPG" alt="Linda Lee Garibay at a park in Chula Vista, California. Lee Garibay is a project specialist for the San Diego County education office who books free short-term hotel stays for families." height="960" width="1440"/><figcaption>Linda Lee Garibay at a park in Chula Vista, California. Lee Garibay is a project specialist for the San Diego County education office who books free short-term hotel stays for families.</figcaption></figure><h2>Why schools are turning to hotels to help homeless kids</h2><p>Before the pandemic, Terry got the occasional call from a school liaison asking if the county education office could do anything to help a family that needed a place to stay. All she could do was refer them to other agencies, where families often had to wait for housing. The federal <a href="https://nche.ed.gov/mckinney-vento-definition/">McKinney-Vento program</a> that provides funds for homeless students has a miniscule budget and <a href="https://nche.ed.gov/mv-auth-activities/">doesn’t allow for short-term hotel stays</a>.</p><p>So when the federal government gave states and schools <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2021/4/26/22404530/states-help-homeless-students-focus-on-finding-kids/">$800 million in COVID aid</a> to help homeless students — <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2021/4/9/22375567/what-homeless-students-need-now-new-stimulus-funds/">eight times what they’d usually get</a> in a year — plus instructions that they could use that money for short-term housing assistance, Terry decided to hire a staffer and launch the hotel program.</p><p>She knew there would be high demand. More than 20,000 homeless students lived in San Diego County during the 2021-22 school year, state data show. That meant 4.3% of students did not have a fixed and adequate place to stay at night, compared with the national average of 2.4%.</p><p>But even Terry sorely underestimated the need. Initially, her team expected one or two requests a week. They typically get 10 a day.</p><p>“It was shocking,” she said.</p><p>Since the program launched 20 months ago, it has housed more than 1,200 families. Together, San Diego County’s education office and a dozen local school districts have spent around $640,000 to run it. On a single day in November, 64 students and their families were staying at hotels through the program.</p><p>In the past, schools typically advised families in need of housing to call the county’s social services helpline. But they were unlikely to get into a shelter within a day, or even a week. So parents and kids often slept in their cars or on the street while they waited. Now, through Project Rest, families can check into a hotel room within 24 hours.</p><p>Students have needed a hotel stay for all kinds of reasons, Lee Garibay says. Many were staying with family or friends and were asked to leave with little warning.</p><p>Some need a break from sleeping in their cars. <a href="https://www.sandiego.gov/homelessness-strategies-and-solutions/services/safe-parking-program">San Diego’s safe parking program</a> offers security, but no showers, and even those lots have waitlists.</p><p>Others are fleeing domestic violence. Some stay with family during the week, but need lodging on weekends. Some saw their homes destroyed by a fire or landslide.</p><p>And this fall, Lee Garibay helped a 17-year-old with a 2-week-old baby after they ran out of days at a local shelter and had nowhere else to go.</p><p>Many shelters and housing resources cater to single adults, so it can be “transformative” when schools can find housing for families, said Barbara Duffield, the executive director of SchoolHouse Connection, a nonprofit that advocates on behalf of homeless youth.</p><p>“It’s a critical intervention at this moment,” she said.</p><h4><b>Related: </b><a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2023/12/21/schools-help-homeless-students-navigate-housing-challenges-with-covid-aid/" target="_blank"><b>As families struggle to find housing, more schools are hiring staff to help. The clock is ticking.</b></a></h4><h2>How hotel stays can help homeless students</h2><p>A key feature of the program is that families are offered all kinds of support while they stay at the hotel. Families often enroll in CalFresh, which helps low-income families pay for food, and get connected with a housing case manager.</p><p>Some families have cried when they found out a person would help them look for housing, Terry said. The county education office doesn’t keep data on how many families find stable housing, but case workers are sometimes successful. In early November, a social worker in the South Bay Union School District wrote to Lee Garibay that a family could check out of their motel room because an agency had found them permanent housing. “That’s what we like to hear!” Lee Garibay exclaimed.</p><p>The program can also lead to kids getting more support at school.</p><p>Some families who’ve stayed in hotels weren’t identified as homeless by their school before — often because they were afraid to let the staff know — and didn’t realize their child is legally entitled to stay at their school and receive transportation, even if they move.</p><figure><img src="https://www.chalkbeat.org/resizer/fg_0ipst4NzH0i3XFcm94tqP7wA=/1440x960/cloudfront-us-east-1.images.arcpublishing.com/civicnewscompany/UFZP3CN3DND6RNHT6CNQZLRCCU.JPG" alt="Julia Sutton, a social worker for the Chula Vista Elementary School District in California, looks over homes and an industrial area near Finney Elementary in late November." height="960" width="1440"/><figcaption>Julia Sutton, a social worker for the Chula Vista Elementary School District in California, looks over homes and an industrial area near Finney Elementary in late November.</figcaption></figure><p>Social workers in the Chula Vista Elementary School District, for example, make sure families staying at a hotel know about other services the district can offer, whether that’s priority access to before- and after-school programs, trauma-informed counseling for their child, or reimbursement for driving to school.</p><p>Lee Garibay logs the information of every family who uses the program — how many kids they have, what schools they attend, what help they need — in a giant blue spreadsheet. If a family uses the program for a second time, Lee Garibay looks at which resources they were connected with and tries to figure out what helped — and what didn’t.</p><p>“We work in education, we don’t work in housing,” she said. “But at the same time, from my perspective, if we don’t help assist them with housing, how are we going to make sure that they are stable in their education?”</p><p>The Chula Vista Elementary School District has become one of the county’s top referrers to the program. They’ve housed 55 families in hotels since the start of the school year.</p><p>Located just north of the U.S.-Mexico border, the district of 29,000 serves families who live in million-dollar homes and families who sleep in store parking lots. The community has no family shelter or official safe parking program. Depending on traffic, the nearest shelter that accepts children can be over an hour away by car — a trip many families can’t afford in San Diego County, where gas prices are much <a href="https://www.nbcsandiego.com/news/local/why-are-gas-prices-so-high-in-san-diego-county-and-beyond/3314416/">higher than the national average</a>.</p><p>Additionally, the rising cost of food and rent since the pandemic and an increase in asylum-seeking families crossing the border have intensified housing needs, school staff say.</p><figure><img src="https://www.chalkbeat.org/resizer/hs7yXsCjtBTuxyLXHabF-0z1dUU=/1440x960/cloudfront-us-east-1.images.arcpublishing.com/civicnewscompany/SUHBDSZZDRAMZCECRCA2MPPJ2E.JPG" alt="On left, backpacks that social worker Julia Sutton keeps for children who need them at Finney Elementary. " height="960" width="1440"/><figcaption>On left, backpacks that social worker Julia Sutton keeps for children who need them at Finney Elementary. </figcaption></figure><p>Julia Sutton is one of eight social workers who works with students experiencing homelessness in the district. Academics improve when kids have lights to do their homework, Sutton said, and they’re sleeping on a bed, not crunched up in the car.</p><p>Knowing they have a place to stay can put children at ease. Sutton recalls one student who came up to her in early November to excitedly report: “I heard we have more nights at the hotel!” Mothers have told the social workers that when their kids see the Motel 6 has a pool, it helps them feel like they’re not in crisis, if only for a little while.</p><p>“It’s only 15 days, but it’s more stable than jumping from place to place each night,” Sutton said. “They’re still in crisis, but at least they’re getting to school every day and there is a deeper sense of community with your school. They feel supported.”</p><h2>Making sure kids and families feel safe</h2><p>In San Diego, Project Rest is a partnership between the county education office and <a href="https://sdyouthservices.org/">San Diego Youth Services</a>, a nonprofit that supports youth experiencing homelessness and has a corporate contract with Motel 6. The streamlined process is easier for service providers to navigate than working with individual hotels, said Gillian Leal, a program manager for the organization.</p><p>A family needs a government-issued ID to check in, but doesn’t have to put down a credit card for damages. That arrangement is crucial. For one, many families don’t have a credit card. And there’s no chance that a paperwork glitch will result in a canceled room.</p><p>The San Diego program allows families to stay at a hotel for five nights at a time. If their school district is contributing funds, they can stay for up to 15. But elsewhere, school districts have been hesitant to allow hotel stays for that long.</p><figure><img src="https://www.chalkbeat.org/resizer/QEj_03y3Y5PGSAXYmtn2bD9Ta6w=/1440x960/cloudfront-us-east-1.images.arcpublishing.com/civicnewscompany/UEWUZCJBVJAGPMXE4NFYCNHV34.JPG" alt="Gillian Leal, program manager for San Diego Youth Services' TAY Academy, sorts through clothing donations meant to support youth experiencing homelessness on Monday, Nov. 27." height="960" width="1440"/><figcaption>Gillian Leal, program manager for San Diego Youth Services' TAY Academy, sorts through clothing donations meant to support youth experiencing homelessness on Monday, Nov. 27.</figcaption></figure><p>When U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona <a href="https://oese.ed.gov/files/2021/04/ARP-Homeless-DCL-4.23.pdf">first issued guidance</a> for the $800 million in COVID aid in early 2021, he wrote that the funds could be used for short-term, temporary housing, such as “a few days in a motel.” Many school officials interpreted that to mean two or three days, although Terry said that short time frame can make it hard to get families help in a compassionate way.</p><p>This fall, after nearly two dozen education organizations, including SchoolHouse Connection, <a href="https://schoolhouseconnection.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/08/Cardona-Letter.pdf">urged the U.S. Department of Education</a> to explicitly permit longer motel stays, a top official <a href="https://oese.ed.gov/files/2023/09/ARP-HCY-DCL-9.12.2023.pdf">issued a clarification</a> that the length of short-term housing provided could vary based on families’ circumstances and other factors.</p><p>Similar programs exist elsewhere. In Ohio, Cincinnati Public Schools partners with a local nonprofit that serves homeless youth to house families at a Quality Inn along a public bus route. They’ve housed more than 220 families at the hotel over the last year and a half.</p><p>In central Florida, Gigi Salce, a wraparound services specialist for the School District of Osceola County, has worked with Stayable Suites and Rodeway Inn. The partnership has helped families get off housing wait lists and kept kids from sleeping in Walmart parking lots.</p><p>And on California’s Central Coast, the Monterey Peninsula Unified School District has housed 63 families through its <a href="https://www.mpusd.net/apps/pages/index.jsp?uREC_ID=1424772&type=d&pREC_ID=2311214">partnership with Motel 6</a> over the last year and a half. Donnie Everett, an assistant superintendent who oversees support services for the district, said the program has boosted attendance and kept students on track for graduation.</p><p>But there are some challenges beyond schools’ control.</p><p>If the area is a tourism destination, rooms can fill up quickly. In San Diego, for example, the program is harder and more expensive to run during the annual Pride Festival and Comic-Con. Rural areas, like San Diego’s mountainous East County, are less likely to have hotels near schools. And some hotels are deterred by the possibility of damages or last-minute cancellations.</p><p>“It was a bit of a struggle to find the right hotel that would accept families,” said Katie Jensen of UpSpring, the nonprofit that books rooms for Cincinnati students. “People don’t necessarily want homeless families on their properties.”</p><p>School districts may not be able to afford their hotel stay programs once they exhaust federal COVID relief funds. In an email, a spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Education said those relief dollars could be used for short-term housing because social distancing rules meant shelters weren’t available to many families. That’s no longer the case — and if McKinney-Vento program funds were spent on housing, they would quickly be exhausted, leaving little to provide for students’ educational needs, the spokesperson said.</p><p>The McKinney-Vento program, <a href="https://schoolhouseconnection.org/mckinney-vento-act/">which focuses on</a> making sure homeless students have access to the same educational opportunities as their peers, is around $100 million a year for the whole country, compared with $800 million in pandemic assistance for homeless students.</p><p>Everett in Monterey is working to secure private funding for his district’s program. Terry is looking to see if she can tap into county or state funds to keep a smaller version of their program alive.</p><p>Some states have decided to step in. <a href="https://www.mainehomelessplanning.org/maine-department-of-education-notice-funding-available-to-prevent-student-homelessness-through-new-pilot-program/">Maine started a pilot program this year</a> that gives schools emergency money to prevent student homelessness, and one allowable use is a short-term hotel stay. Since 2016, <a href="https://www.commerce.wa.gov/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/hau-hssp-fy2019-guidelines.pdf">Washington state has offered grants</a> to provide stability to homeless students that can be used on hotel stays of up to three months.</p><figure><img src="https://www.chalkbeat.org/resizer/lrdEReSpU1flZ2_h8dOiZCsZeE0=/1440x960/cloudfront-us-east-1.images.arcpublishing.com/civicnewscompany/XKOLGRNL25DJNOK4NYR2GGPH5I.jpg" alt="A school bus outside Finney Elementary on Friday, Nov. 3. The school is part of the Chula Vista Elementary School District, which has housed dozens of families in hotels this year." height="960" width="1440"/><figcaption>A school bus outside Finney Elementary on Friday, Nov. 3. The school is part of the Chula Vista Elementary School District, which has housed dozens of families in hotels this year.</figcaption></figure><p>Mary Jane Palacios, the assistant manager of a Motel 6 that works with Project Rest, says hotels and motels that partner with schools need to make sure their properties are welcoming, and treat families with empathy and dignity.</p><p>At her location in Chula Vista, for example, if a family leaves behind their belongings, the staff will hold items for up to 30 days.</p><p>“We know you have a whole life inside of that room,” she said.</p><p>Palacios experienced homelessness as a child, and remembers what it felt like to walk out of a hotel with her mother and to be bullied at school.</p><p>“I totally get where a lot of the struggling moms are coming from, I totally get where the kids are coming from,” said Palacios, who watches each morning as families fan out in different directions from the Motel 6 parking lot, some running to catch the trolley to go to school.</p><p>So while she tells families to remember that their circumstances are temporary, she also stocks the pool chest with floaties for kids to play with. She makes sure the hotel is decked out with spider webs and candy for Halloween. And in December, her staff hands out hot cocoa and decorates a real Christmas tree.</p><p>“I like to put that out for the kids,” Palacios said, “because I wish those programs were there for us when we were little.”</p><p><i>This story was produced with support from the Education Writers Association Reporting Fellowship program.</i></p><p><i>Kalyn Belsha is a senior national education reporter based in Chicago. Contact her at </i><a href="mailto:kbelsha@chalkbeat.org"><i>kbelsha@chalkbeat.org</i></a><i>.</i></p>https://www.chalkbeat.org/2023/12/18/homeless-children-family-homelessness-students-hotel-stays-covid-funding/Kalyn BelshaZaydee Sanchez for Chalkbeat2023-12-21T10:00:00+00:00<![CDATA[As families struggle to find housing, more schools are hiring staff to help. The clock is ticking.]]>2024-01-11T18:29:17+00:00<p><i>Sign up for </i><a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/newsletters/national"><i>Chalkbeat’s free weekly newsletter</i></a><i> to keep up with how education is changing across the U.S.</i></p><p>CINCINNATI — It was late September when Latoya Singley got the eviction notice saying she and her 6-year-old had seven days to clear out of their apartment.</p><p>Singley called Cincinnati’s shelter hotline repeatedly for weeks, but there were no beds available. Singley and her son couldn’t stay long with Singley’s sister, because having guests would jeopardize her sister’s subsidized housing.</p><p>Singley worried about her son, who’s autistic and needs specialized support. “It would be different if it was just me,” Singley said. “But I have a child — I can’t be outside.”</p><p>Her frequent calls to the hotline yielded results. An intake worker referred Singley’s case to Megan Rahill, a shelter and housing specialist for Cincinnati Public Schools. Rahill flagged the family with a bright orange “EXTREMELY HIGH” priority label and pushed them to the top of shelter waitlists. Just in time, space opened up at Bethany House, the city’s main family shelter.</p><p>“It changed so much for us,” Singley said in early December. They felt safe, instead of scared. Her son enrolled in an elementary school where Singley liked the teachers and therapists. And she landed an appointment to check out a two-bedroom apartment.</p><figure><img src="https://www.chalkbeat.org/resizer/m1Ja9oGwqt6VDmY18ndWWbocILI=/1440x960/cloudfront-us-east-1.images.arcpublishing.com/civicnewscompany/VA6EO2TWQFAZ7PGUNNRM6TGNSE.JPG" alt="Latoya Singley at Bethany House, Cincinnati's main family shelter. She's one of many parents who received housing help from Cincinnati Public Schools this year." height="960" width="1440"/><figcaption>Latoya Singley at Bethany House, Cincinnati's main family shelter. She's one of many parents who received housing help from Cincinnati Public Schools this year.</figcaption></figure><p>Rahill is part of a <a href="https://nche.ed.gov/systems-navigators-promising-practices-recorded-webinar/">growing contingent of school staffers</a> whose primary job is to help students and their families navigate housing systems. <a href="https://schoolhouseconnection.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/08/Progress-and-Promise-Report.pdf">Many districts have used their share</a> of an unprecedented <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2021/12/3/22813274/homeless-students-covid-pandemic-relief-money-stalled/">$800 million in COVID relief funding for homeless students</a> to shrink gaping holes in the social safety net, providing services that didn’t used to be schools’ responsibilities.</p><p><a href="https://hechingerreport.org/a-shelter-in-a-school-gym-for-students-experiencing-homelessness-paid-off-in-classrooms/">Schools have leaned into this type of work</a> in part because research shows housing instability affects everything from <a href="https://poverty.umich.edu/10/files/2018/11/PovertySolutions-MissingSchoolMissingHome-PolicyBrief-r4.pdf">attendance</a> to <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3566371/">test scores</a> to <a href="https://schoolhouseconnection.org/fy24-ehcy-fact-sheet/">graduation rates</a>.</p><p><a href="https://www.cps-k12.org/projectconnect">Project Connect</a>, Cincinnati Public Schools’ program that supports students and families experiencing homelessness, used to provide mostly educational support. Now, with $1.5 million in COVID aid and more staff, Project Connect ensures fewer families have to sort through a complex web of housing and social service agencies alone.</p><p>Against a rising tide of family homelessness, Cincinnati’s housing systems navigators are on track to provide help to twice as many students this school year as last year.</p><p>But the looming expiration of pandemic funding means this help could be going away. Rahill’s shelter and housing position, for example, is only funded through June.</p><p>“We won’t have the staff, we won’t have the same level of services — unless we find some miracle funding,” said Rebeka Beach, who manages Project Connect.</p><h2>How housing systems navigators help homeless students</h2><p>The idea of hiring a navigator <a href="https://nche.ed.gov/wp-content/uploads/2023/04/Systems-Navigators-to-Support-HCY.pdf">started in the health care industry</a> in the 1990s. The American Cancer Society was an <a href="https://www.cancer.org/cancer/patient-navigation.html">early pioneer</a>, deploying navigators who helped patients get screenings, treatment, and family support.</p><p>Schools picked up the model at the urging of <a href="https://oese.ed.gov/files/2023/09/ARP-HCY-DCL-9.12.2023.pdf">federal education officials</a> and <a href="https://schoolhouseconnection.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/11/4-Expanding-Staff-Capacity.pdf">advocates for homeless youth</a>, who said it made sense for schools because staff were already in contact with families, and often had their trust.</p><p>Having a person who specializes in housing has allowed the Cincinnati school district to form closer relationships with local shelters and housing agencies, Rahill said. That’s helped families with kids get priority access to a limited supply of shelter beds and housing vouchers.</p><figure><img src="https://www.chalkbeat.org/resizer/VBFVuEoKuT_bFEk7_erRSiTKI7I=/1440x960/cloudfront-us-east-1.images.arcpublishing.com/civicnewscompany/U3SFUDPWPVFGDHQ3SNEGDBUYOU.JPG" alt="Megan Rahill, a shelter and housing specialist for Cincinnati Public Schools, calls a family in her office at Project Connect." height="960" width="1440"/><figcaption>Megan Rahill, a shelter and housing specialist for Cincinnati Public Schools, calls a family in her office at Project Connect.</figcaption></figure><p>When Rahill was a homeless student liaison supporting 20 Cincinnati elementary schools, she often wished she could do more for families. Parents would tell her, “OK, thank you for the uniforms and transportation, but can you refer me for housing?” she said.</p><p>Rahill’s work means more families get help faster. So far this school year, she’s referred 522 children and teens to a shelter, a housing voucher, or another kind of housing support. That’s nearly as many as the district helped all of last school year.</p><p>That extra help is coming as student homelessness in Cincinnati is rising. Project Connect has identified nearly 2,700 children and teens as homeless so far this year, an increase of more than 20% compared with this time last year.</p><p>School staff say there’s a few reasons for that. The <a href="https://www.wcpo.com/news/local-news/hamilton-county/cincinnati/bond-hill/in-the-face-of-a-housing-shortage-one-familys-homeless-shelter-stay-spanned-over-200-days">average stay at the main family shelter has stretched to over two months</a> as families struggle to find housing. That creates longer waitlists. <a href="https://www.wcpo.com/news/local-news/hamilton-county/cincinnati/cincinnati-rent-is-increasing-faster-than-any-other-city-in-the-us-zillow-reports">Rent has risen</a> in Cincinnati much faster than in other cities, and <a href="https://local12.com/news/local/housing-rent-mortgage-bills-cost-economy-rental-assistance-homelessness-eviction-evict-landlord-law-protection-lease-house-cost-property-pandemic-relief-stimulus-cincinnati-ohio">evictions are up</a>, following the end of pandemic-era protections. And families lucky enough to obtain a housing choice voucher are finding it increasingly difficult to find landlords who will accept the rental subsidy.</p><p>Rahill sees how that housing crunch has affected families.</p><p>On a Friday in early December, she spoke on the phone with the mother of five elementary-age children who had a month to leave their home of six years. Their heat was broken and a city inspection turned up faulty wiring — a “death trap,” the mother had been told. The landlord wasn’t returning her calls. As the stress mounted, she could tell it was affecting one of her children’s behavior at school.</p><p>Rahill made sure the parent knew about her rights to relocation assistance, and shared a list of apartments that may accept housing vouchers. Then she offered to refer her to an agency that could help pay for a security deposit and first month’s rent — a step the mother had tried on her own without success.</p><p>“If it comes through me, then you are more likely to hear from them,” Rahill explained. She urged the mother to hang on to her number: “We would definitely make sure that you guys weren’t out on the street.”</p><p>Before she hung up, Rahill had one more thing to say. “You were mentioning that you guys weren’t going to be able to have Christmas,” she began. The district was hosting a toy drive, but was at capacity. “Do you mind if I put you on the waiting list and I’ll give you a call if we have leftover toys?”</p><p>Later that Friday, Rahill got a message from another mother who was sleeping in her car with her four kids, including a preschooler. She’d applied for a housing voucher with the district’s help, but hadn’t heard back from the housing authority yet.</p><p>“I’m really desperate at this point,” the mother said in her voicemail. “I just need somewhere for me and my kids to go.”</p><p>Rahill caught her breath as she listened, then dialed the parent’s number. She offered to make a priority shelter referral that would expedite the process.</p><p>After she hung up, she highlighted the family in bright orange. Extremely high priority.</p><figure><img src="https://www.chalkbeat.org/resizer/7ioe4qGYM_-icqlck2xCw7st5tY=/1440x960/cloudfront-us-east-1.images.arcpublishing.com/civicnewscompany/VIFHVLKRLVEVJFL5UMMDCUSI4U.JPG" alt="Project Connect provides jackets, shoes, uniforms, backpacks, and more for Cincinnati students in need." height="960" width="1440"/><figcaption>Project Connect provides jackets, shoes, uniforms, backpacks, and more for Cincinnati students in need.</figcaption></figure><h2>Schools can’t clear all the housing hurdles</h2><p>As part of her work, Rahill made a 10-page guide for families. It has everything from how to apply for a housing voucher to where kids can get a free haircut. She knows a kennel that is willing to take a pet so that a family can move into shelter. And her shelter connections stretch to Indiana.</p><p>When the local shelters are full, Rahill can book families <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2023/12/18/homeless-children-family-homelessness-students-hotel-stays-covid-funding/">a few free nights at a local Quality Inn using COVID relief funds</a>. The hotel owners charge Project Connect a discounted $75 a night, and sometimes extend that rate to families so they can stay longer.</p><p>“Our community needs help, and if we can’t step up, who will?” said co-owner Kevin Patel.</p><h4>Related: <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2023/12/18/homeless-children-family-homelessness-students-hotel-stays-covid-funding/">Schools may lose access to emergency hotel stays, a critical strategy to help homeless students</a></h4><p>But Rahill can’t solve all problems. Perhaps most importantly, Project Connect is still limited by a dearth of affordable housing — a <a href="https://housingmatters.urban.org/research-summary/addressing-americas-affordable-housing-crisis">problem that plagues communities nationwide</a>.</p><p>Rahill can usually only get families into a shelter when they are sleeping outside or in their car. Yet that situation has become more common in recent months.</p><figure><img src="https://www.chalkbeat.org/resizer/k-9e6RxJrtJlsVXIYnMCE-fUKPg=/1440x960/cloudfront-us-east-1.images.arcpublishing.com/civicnewscompany/3M6TIXDDBNHUHJUSUSG2YTXI7Y.JPG" alt="Charity Tyne works part time with Project Connect to assist Spanish-speaking families." height="960" width="1440"/><figcaption>Charity Tyne works part time with Project Connect to assist Spanish-speaking families.</figcaption></figure><p>Many immigrant families, especially newly arrived families from Venezuela and Nicaragua, don’t qualify for widely used public programs. And without Spanish-speaking case workers, they struggled to access the help that was available.</p><p>To address that gap, Project Connect used COVID aid to hire Charity Tyne to work part time with Spanish-speaking families. Before Tyne, Project Connect used interpretation services or Google Translate, but that often failed to detect when families were in need.</p><p>“There have been many instances where someone has called a family and has said: ‘Are you OK with housing?’ And they’ll be like ‘Yes, yes.’” Tyne said. “And then if they’re called by someone who speaks Spanish you hear the whole story.”</p><p>Because many immigrant families don’t qualify for benefits, Tyne orders them groceries and delivers them herself. She has built up a list of landlords who charge low rents and are willing to be flexible on rental history and employment.</p><p>It’s labor-intensive work. Recently, it took Tyne 50 calls to help one family with four children rent an apartment.</p><p>More than 100 Spanish-speaking families have Tyne’s cell phone number now.</p><h2>‘There should be more of a safety net’</h2><p>As schools across the country have expanded their work to meet students’ basic needs — from <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2023/8/10/23827877/free-school-meals-lunch-breakfast-universal-programs-states-students/">providing food</a> to shelter to <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2021/11/11/22772037/student-mental-health-covid-relief-money/">mental health care</a> — one downside is that families and outside organizations may think schools have the ability to do more than they can.</p><p>Rahill distributes housing voucher applications from Cincinnati’s housing authority to families who don’t have a stable mailing address. Now, some parents call Rahill frustrated, mistakenly believing she — and not the housing authority — is processing their application.</p><p>“It just shows the gap,” she said. “There should be more of a safety net around people that’s not just some COVID funding through the school district.”</p><figure><img src="https://www.chalkbeat.org/resizer/9nwNqWHnALZofpKaVUKoUCzSyPU=/1440x960/cloudfront-us-east-1.images.arcpublishing.com/civicnewscompany/I2Z4QKGLAJGVHM35R36XF5G6J4.JPG" alt="Student homelessness has risen in Cincinnati this year, and school staff say more families are sleeping outside or in their cars." height="960" width="1440"/><figcaption>Student homelessness has risen in Cincinnati this year, and school staff say more families are sleeping outside or in their cars.</figcaption></figure><p>Many school districts, like Cincinnati, are weighing whether they can afford to keep the staff they hired with one-time COVID relief, said Marguerite Roza, the director of the Edunomics Lab, a research center at Georgetown University that studies school finance.</p><p>“That’s the tricky question,” she said. “Are we saying, basically, that when the housing system is supposed to meet the needs of kids first, it’s up to the school system to hold their feet to the fire?”</p><p>Some educators say housing and education are too closely linked for schools to just sit back and let someone else handle it.</p><p>When Cincinnati teacher Clarice Williams tutors kids in the evenings at Bethany House through Project Connect, she often meets students who have attended three or four elementary schools. Others missed large chunks of school.</p><figure><img src="https://www.chalkbeat.org/resizer/zhqe41pRvQk_Xklkcfb9S4eeen8=/1440x960/cloudfront-us-east-1.images.arcpublishing.com/civicnewscompany/WYJRG6HZXBGS5DGSHNDSK53TJY.JPG" alt="Clarice Williams, a reading specialist for Cincinnati Public Schools, tutors children staying at the city's main family shelter through Project Connect." height="960" width="1440"/><figcaption>Clarice Williams, a reading specialist for Cincinnati Public Schools, tutors children staying at the city's main family shelter through Project Connect.</figcaption></figure><p>She’s seen elementary students struggle to understand what they’re reading because they’re sounding out words so slowly, and middle schoolers who never learned crucial grammar and spelling rules.</p><p>“They are missing those foundational skills,” she said.</p><p>If schools see this work as critical, Roza said, then they have to figure out how to make it sustainable, possibly by training other existing staff to do the work.</p><p>Beach has been talking with a county agency and other organizations to see if there is a way to cobble together ongoing funding for the housing and shelter position.</p><p>For some families, like the mother and son who faced an eviction in September, a shelter stay is a bridge to permanent housing.</p><p>On a Friday in mid-December, Singley watched as her 6-year-old explored the apartment she’d just leased.</p><p>After several weeks of sleeping on an unfamiliar bunk bed at the shelter, her son had his own bedroom again. Already, Singley could see where she’d hang posters on his wall and PAW Patrol curtains in his window.</p><p>Her son is set to start at his new school after winter break. Singley feels confident about the plan they’ve put together for him, with one-on-one help in his classroom and time with a speech therapist. He’s started to learn a few words: no, shoe, and “eat eat.”</p><p>There was just one thing left to do: Call the school district to let them know they’d found an apartment, so they could send the bus.</p><p><i>This story was produced with support from the Education Writers Association Reporting Fellowship program.</i></p><p><i>Kalyn Belsha is a senior national education reporter based in Chicago. Contact her at </i><a href="mailto:kbelsha@chalkbeat.org"><i>kbelsha@chalkbeat.org</i></a><i>.</i></p>https://www.chalkbeat.org/2023/12/21/schools-help-homeless-students-navigate-housing-challenges-with-covid-aid/Kalyn BelshaElaine Cromie2024-01-10T21:02:51+00:00<![CDATA[Nearly 10 million children won’t get summer food benefits as states opt out of new federal program]]>2024-01-11T00:56:21+00:00<p>Across rural North Dakota, many school districts struggle to staff summer meal programs, and families might live 20 miles from the nearest meal site.</p><p>So state officials eagerly got on board when they learned the federal government was launching a permanent summer program that gives low-income families $120 for each of their school-aged children. Families can use the money, which comes loaded on a prepaid card, to buy their own food and cook at home.</p><p>“In North Dakota, the summer food service program doesn’t meet the needs of a lot of the students,” said Linda Schloer, who directs child nutrition for the state’s Department of Public Instruction. “For a modest effort both financially and personnel-wise, it just makes sense that we would do whatever we can to try to get the program going as soon as possible.”</p><p>States had to tell the federal government by Jan. 1 if they planned to run a <a href="https://www.fns.usda.gov/sebt">Summer EBT</a> program in 2024. As of Wednesday, <a href="https://www.fns.usda.gov/sebt/implementation">35 states said they would</a>. Together they are expected to reach more than 20 million school-aged children — a rare example of a pandemic-era assistance program sticking around after the end of the public health emergency.</p><p>But another 9.5 million students who would have been eligible will likely go without after their states declined to participate this year. Some states cited cost and administrative burden, while in others governors balked at accepting federal money.</p><p>South Dakota, which serves a similar student population as its neighbor to the north, is among those opting out.</p><p>“Federal money often comes with strings attached, and more of it is often not a good thing,” Ian Fury, the chief of communications for Republican Gov. Kristi Noem, wrote in an email. He cited low unemployment, the administrative burden of running the program, and South Dakota’s “robust existing food programs.”</p><p>That news came as a disappointment to school leaders like Louie Krogman, the superintendent of the White River School District in South Dakota.</p><p>The district serves around 400 students, most of whom are Native American and come from low-income families. The district runs a summer meal program in June, but families are on their own until school starts seven weeks later.</p><p>“We do have some families that would have definitely benefited from that additional EBT money,” Krogman said.</p><h2>Timeline and cost keeps some states from offering Summer EBT this year</h2><p>Summer EBT <a href="https://fns-prod.azureedge.us/sites/default/files/resource-files/sebt-webinar-q-and-a.pdf">will work a little differently</a> depending on the state, but generally states will identify which families qualify for the $120 or more in benefits and either mail out EBT cards for the summer, or load the value onto existing benefit cards. Then families can use that money to buy food at their local grocery store.</p><p><a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2022/12/21/23521622/federal-spending-bill-omnibus-summer-meals-ebt-titlei-schools/">The newly permanent program</a> will run similarly to the Pandemic Summer EBT program that operated for the previous three summers, as well as a federal pilot program that tested the concept over the last decade. <a href="https://www.fns.usda.gov/sfsp/summer-electronic-benefit-transfer-children-sebtc-demonstration-summary-report">A 2016 review of that program</a> found that offering these summer benefits reduced child food insecurity and helped kids eat more fresh fruits and vegetables.</p><p>The extra money is coming at a much-needed time, said Kelsey Boone of the Food Research &amp; Action Center, a nonprofit that advocates for anti-hunger policies, including Summer EBT.</p><p>“In the last year, a lot of the boosts to SNAP benefits ended,” Boone said, referring to the temporary pandemic-era increases to the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which <a href="https://www.fns.usda.gov/snap/changes-2023-benefit-amounts">ended last spring</a>. Summer EBT “can help offset those cuts,” she said, “especially at a time when food prices are so high.”</p><p>In declining to participate, Georgia and <a href="https://nebraskaexaminer.com/2023/12/20/gov-pillen-decides-ne-wont-opt-into-new-18-million-child-nutrition-program/">Nebraska</a> pointed to their states’ existing summer food programs, while Mississippi said it did not have the funding or staff capacity to run the program. During the pandemic, the federal government covered the full cost of the benefits and running the Summer EBT program, but now states have to <a href="https://www.fns.usda.gov/sebt/administrative-funding-process-fy24">split the administrative costs</a>.</p><p>Texas said it wasn’t feasible to participate because the final rules and guidance for the program came just days before states had to tell the federal government if they’d be opting in. The state also needs additional funding from the state legislature to run the program, a spokesperson for the state’s health and human services department wrote in an email.</p><p>Vermont, too, said the state is working to secure funding and put the necessary IT systems in place.<b> </b>“The goal is to be able to offer this important summer nutrition benefit for eligible children starting in the summer of 2025,” a spokesperson for Vermont’s Department for Children and Families wrote in an email.</p><p>Still, in several Republican-led states, the program seemed to get caught in a longstanding political debate over whether the government should provide more publicly funded benefits to families — a debate that’s also raged over whether states should <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2023/8/10/23827877/free-school-meals-lunch-breakfast-universal-programs-states-students/">provide free school meals to all students</a>.</p><p>Iowa’s Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds, for example, <a href="https://hhs.iowa.gov/news-release/2023-12-22/summer-24-ebt">issued a statement</a> saying her state opposed participating in Summer EBT because the program didn’t have tight enough restrictions on what foods families could buy and it would cost the state $2.2 million to run — though Iowa students were in line to receive around $29 million in food benefits and the <a href="https://www.fns.usda.gov/snap/eligible-food-items">program follows the same nutrition requirements as SNAP</a>.</p><p>“Federal COVID-era cash benefit programs are not sustainable and don’t provide long-term solutions for the issues impacting children and families,” Reynolds said. “An EBT card does nothing to promote nutrition at a time when childhood obesity has become an epidemic.”</p><p>In Oklahoma, <a href="https://ktul.com/news/local/oklahoma-has-opted-out-of-a-summer-food-program-that-has-been-operating-since-covid-kevin-stitt-federal-dollars-cherokee-nation-responds-no-kids-count-child-hunger-pandemic-ebt-missing-meals-ok">Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt cited</a> concerns about the program not being “fully vetted.” He also said that it would help relatively few children — though an estimated 403,000 school-aged children would qualify for food benefits in his state.</p><p>Three of Oklahoma’s largest Native American tribes <a href="https://oklahomavoice.com/2024/01/03/oklahoma-tribes-to-step-up-as-state-opts-out-of-childrens-food-assistance-program/">are stepping in to run Summer EBT programs on their reservations</a>, an effort that could reach at least 50,000 children.</p><p>Florida said it opted out of participating because it already had summer food programs and didn’t want to follow additional federal rules.</p><p>“We anticipate that our state’s full approach to serving children will continue to be successful this year without any additional federal programs that inherently always come with some federal strings attached,” Miguel Nevarez, a spokesperson for the Florida Department of Children and Families wrote in an email.</p><p>But Sky Beard, the Florida director for No Kid Hungry, an initiative of the nonprofit Share Our Strength that advocated for Summer EBT, sees a big need for the additional summer benefits.</p><p>Her organization <a href="https://state.nokidhungry.org/florida/2023/01/27/hunger-in-florida-new-poll-findings/">conducted a poll last year that found</a> around a quarter of parents of school-aged children worried their households wouldn’t have enough to eat.</p><p>“There are summer meal sites available throughout the state, but there are real challenges with families accessing those,” she said. Existing programs “just don’t reach all children that participate in school meal programs over the school year.”</p><p>Some Republican-led states are embracing the program. Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, for example, <a href="https://mailchi.mp/0050eeef67e3/media-advisory-sanders-to-deliver-welcome-remarks-at-the-arkansas-department-of-education-summer-conference-9404746?e=38fabec1a7">issued an enthusiastic statement</a> about her state’s participation in the anti-hunger program.</p><p>“We are leveraging every resource at our disposal to fight this crisis, and Summer EBT promises to be an important new tool to give Arkansas children the food and nutrition they need,” she said.</p><p>For now, many states are already working to get Summer EBT up and running by the time school lets out in a few months.</p><p>In North Dakota, Schloer is focused on making sure the state has up-to-date addresses for eligible students so families can get their EBT cards in the mail.</p><p>The state is preparing to send out lots of emails and texts to families, too, to make sure they know about the new program, and whether they might need to fill out some paperwork to get their benefits.</p><p>“If we can get a message on that smartphone and from a reliable source, we’re hoping that they will read it,” Schloer said. Schools, too, can play a part by making sure families know: “It’s legitimate, please pay attention!”</p><p><i>Kalyn Belsha is a senior national education reporter based in Chicago. Contact her at </i><a href="mailto:kbelsha@chalkbeat.org"><i>kbelsha@chalkbeat.org</i></a><i>.</i></p>https://www.chalkbeat.org/2024/01/10/why-some-states-are-opting-out-of-new-summer-ebt-program/Kalyn BelshaLewis Geyer/Boulder Daily Camera via Getty Images2022-08-10T11:00:00+00:00<![CDATA[Biden vs. GOP states: Where will the battle over transgender rights leave students?]]>2024-01-08T22:24:31+00:00<p>The Biden administration and Republican lawmakers are locked in a rancorous battle over a high-stakes question: What rights do transgender students have?</p><p>Biden and other Democrats argue that federal civil rights law protects trans students, and schools must respect students’ gender identity. Republican legislators and governors in a growing number of states argue the exact opposite: Federal law doesn’t protect trans students, and school policies — covering everything from bathrooms to sports teams and pronouns — should stick to students’ sex assigned at birth.</p><p>The most recent round of this dispute began in June when President Joe Biden signed an executive order that <a href="https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2022/06/15/fact-sheet-president-biden-to-sign-historic-executive-order-advancing-lgbtqi-equality-during-pride-month/">the White House said</a> will protect LGBTQ people from “harmful, hateful, and discriminatory attacks” by state legislatures.</p><p>“We’re in a battle for the very soul of this nation,” <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hrhX4KEIz54&ab_channel=TheWhiteHouse">Biden said</a> at the signing ceremony.</p><p>Shortly after, the U.S. education department <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2022/6/23/23180349/lgbtq-students-discrimination-school-sexual-orientation-gender-identity-title-ix">proposed new rules</a> to protect LGBTQ students from discrimination. Conservatives quickly <a href="https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/policy/education/gop-conservative-activists-blast-radical-title-ix-rule">slammed the proposed regulations</a> as an example of Democrats’ “woke agenda,” and, last month, officials in Florida — a hotbed of the current culture wars — <a href="https://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/education/os-ne-florida-federal-gender-identity-dispute-20220728-cagqc5mf5bgo5o6u7myene3yjy-story.html?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Breaking%20News%20Alerts&utm_content=1491659035918">ordered school districts</a> to ignore the guidance.</p><p>The Florida education department “will not stand idly by as federal agencies attempt to impose a sexual ideology on Florida schools,” state Education Commissioner Manny Diaz, Jr. wrote in a memo.</p><p>Republicans have <a href="https://www.nbcnews.com/nbc-out/out-politics-and-policy/transgender-people-gop-candidates-find-latest-wedge-issue-rcna17933">seized on the clash</a> over transgender rights as a way to galvanize voters in a midterm election year, but the debate is about much more than politics. State lawmakers have proposed hundreds of measures this year <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2022/7/8/23198792/lgbtq-students-law-florida-dont-say-gay">targeting LGBTQ Americans</a>, and trans youth in particular, even as the federal government tries to cement protections for LGBTQ students.</p><p>The opposing efforts have set the stage for a monumental legal showdown, with the rights of transgender students hanging in the balance.</p><p>“There’s so much at stake,” said Alexis Rangel, policy counsel at the National Center for Transgender Equality. “It’s about being able to live our lives in a way that feels authentic and to share our true selves with the people around us.”</p><p>As this fast-moving conflict unfolds, here’s a guide to how it started and where it’s headed next.</p><h2>A showdown years in the making</h2><p>The current standoff is the culmination of a yearslong cat-and-mouse game between federal officials and state lawmakers over LGBTQ rights.</p><p>In 2016, North Carolina passed a law that limited transgender people’s access to bathrooms in schools and other public facilities, provoking a nationwide backlash.</p><p>Less than two months later, the Obama administration issued <a href="https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/letters/colleague-201605-title-ix-transgender.pdf">guidance</a> saying that Title IX, the landmark civil rights law that prohibits sex-based discrimination in federally funded schools, also applies to gender identity. Schools must allow transgender students to participate in sports, adopt pronouns, and use bathrooms “consistent with their gender identity,” the guidance said.</p><p>In 2017, former President Trump <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/22/us/politics/devos-sessions-transgender-students-rights.html">rescinded</a> the guidance. That year, at least 15 states <a href="https://www.nbcnews.com/feature/nbc-out/law-firm-linked-anti-transgender-bathroom-bills-across-country-n741106">introduced bathroom restrictions</a> targeting transgender students and adults.</p><p>Subsequent measures moved beyond bathrooms. Arguing that LGBTQ-inclusive books and lessons push students to question their identities, Republicans in several states <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2022/4/12/23022356/teaching-restrictions-gender-identity-sexual-orientation-lgbtq-issues-health-education">introduced legislation</a> prohibiting classroom discussions about gender or sexual orientation in certain grades. Florida and Alabama passed such laws this year.</p><p>Other laws impose restrictions directly on transgender students, banning them from locker rooms and sports teams that match their gender identity. A <a href="https://thehill.com/changing-america/respect/equality/3463878-tennessee-governor-signs-law-adding-penalties-to-transgender-athlete-ban/">new law</a> in Tennessee will withhold funding from schools that fail to enforce the state’s restriction on trans athletes.</p><p>“Regardless of the radical propaganda being pushed by the left, God created men and women differently from a physical standpoint, and that’s a biological fact,” Republican Sen. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee <a href="https://www.foxnews.com/media/lawmakers-sound-bidens-proposed-title-ix-changes-waging-woke-war-women-girls">told Fox News Digital</a>.</p><p>After Biden took office in 2021, federal officials reiterated that Title IX <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2021/6/16/22537371/biden-education-department-federal-law-lgbtq-students-discrimination">does protect LGBTQ students</a> and said federal agencies <a href="https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/docs/ocr-factsheet-tix-202106.pdf">would investigate</a> reports of discrimination, such as a school excluding a transgender girl from a girls team or bathroom.</p><p>Yet some state legislatures ignored the warning. This year, two more states passed school bathroom laws and eight more passed restrictions on transgender student-athletes.</p><p>“This is part of the traditional push-pull of civil rights advancements,” said Elizabeth Meyer, an associate professor at the University of Colorado Boulder who has <a href="https://nepc.colorado.edu/publication/transgender">written about transgender students</a>. “When you see advancements and you see more people being visible and standing up and demanding recognition and support, then you see the pushback and the backlash.”</p><h2>Biden’s bid to protect trans students</h2><p>President Biden has vowed to defend LGBTQ Americans, whose rights he says “<a href="https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/presidential-actions/2022/05/31/a-proclamation-on-lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender-queer-and-intersex-pride-month-2022/">are under relentless attack.</a>”</p><p>On his first day in office, Biden signed <a href="https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/presidential-actions/2021/01/20/executive-order-preventing-and-combating-discrimination-on-basis-of-gender-identity-or-sexual-orientation/">an executive order</a> directing federal agencies to combat discrimination against LGBTQ people, including in schools. “Children should be able to learn without worrying about whether they will be denied access to the restroom, the locker room, or school sports,” read the January 2021 order.</p><figure><img src="https://www.chalkbeat.org/resizer/sGe2O0UzJIu_t2wc5IgnoI3O0TE=/1440x960/cloudfront-us-east-1.images.arcpublishing.com/civicnewscompany/HOV3S4LMGRD4RMTGJF5VKIXFUU.jpg" alt="Advocates in Texas last year protested against a bill that would restrict transgender students’ participation in school sports." height="960" width="1440"/><figcaption>Advocates in Texas last year protested against a bill that would restrict transgender students’ participation in school sports.</figcaption></figure><p>The <a href="https://www.justice.gov/crt/page/file/1383026/download">justice</a> and <a href="https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/FR-2021-06-22/pdf/2021-13058.pdf">education</a> departments followed up with guidance stating that Title IX forbids discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation. The agencies based their interpretation of the law on a 2020 Supreme Court ruling that said the federal statute prohibiting workplace discrimination also protects LGBTQ employees.</p><p>The administration is in the process of turning its Title IX interpretation into <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2022/6/23/23180349/lgbtq-students-discrimination-school-sexual-orientation-gender-identity-title-ix">a formal rule</a>, which would be harder to overturn than non-binding guidance, hold more weight in court, and strengthen federal agencies’ enforcement power.</p><p>States like Florida that have rejected Biden’s Title IX guidance would find it harder to flout a regulation, said Suzanne Eckes, an education law professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.</p><p>“Once the formal rule-making process is complete,” she said, “good luck.”</p><p>Meanwhile, the Education Department under Biden has investigated complaints of <a href="https://www.ed.gov/news/press-releases/us-department-educations-office-civil-rights-announces-resolution-sex-based-harassment-investigation-tamalpais-union-high-school-district">harassment</a> and <a href="https://www.al.com/educationlab/2022/08/alabama-school-first-in-us-to-face-federal-title-ix-investigation-for-sexual-orientation.html">discrimination</a> against LGBTQ students. And the Justice Department has <a href="https://apnews.com/article/college-sports-west-virginia-laws-sports-education-a3e8852ced2bf0c3bd8ce546bfe70d2b">backed legal challenges</a> to several anti-LGBTQ state laws, including one in West Virginia that prohibits transgender girls from competing on female sports teams.</p><p>“The United States has a significant interest in ensuring that all students, including students who are transgender, can participate in an educational environment free of unlawful discrimination,” <a href="https://www.aclu.org/legal-document/bpj-v-west-virginia-state-board-education-doj-statement-interest">the agency wrote</a>.</p><h2>States attack federal ‘overreach’</h2><p>At every turn, Republican-dominated states have resisted the Biden administration’s efforts.</p><p>Last year, a group of 20 state attorneys general sued the U.S. Education Department and another agency, challenging the guidance that said federal anti-discrimination laws protect transgender people. The lawsuit called the guidance an “overreach” that infringed upon states’ right to legislate thorny issues, such as whether trans girls can compete on girls sports teams.</p><p>The federal agencies “have no authority to resolve those sensitive questions, let alone to do so by executive fiat without providing any opportunity for public participation,” <a href="https://www.tn.gov/content/dam/tn/attorneygeneral/documents/pr/2021/pr21-31-complaint.pdf">the lawsuit</a> said.</p><p>Last month, a Trump-appointed federal judge sided with the attorneys general, temporarily <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2022/07/17/biden-transgender-lgbtq-schools-work/">blocking enforcement</a> of the federal guidance in those states.</p><p>Some of the same attorneys general filed a complaint last month <a href="https://www.nbcnews.com/nbc-out/out-politics-and-policy/republican-attorneys-general-sue-federal-government-lgbtq-school-meal-rcna40250">challenging a similar directive</a> issued by the Agriculture Department.</p><p>The Education Department’s proposed Title IX changes must still be finalized, and officials are considering separate changes related to school sports. But once the new rules are adopted, they almost certainly will be challenged in court.</p><p>In <a href="https://content.govdelivery.com/attachments/INAG/2022/06/23/file_attachments/2192787/Montana%20Indiana%20Title%20IX%20response%20letter.pdf">a letter</a> to the U.S. education secretary in June, 18 conservative state attorneys general said that using Title IX to also protect transgender people from discrimination “is an attack on the rights of girls and women.”</p><p>“[W]e will fight your proposed changes to Title IX with every available tool in our arsenal,” they wrote.</p><h2>The courts step in</h2><p>The courts have become a key battleground in the clash over transgender students’ rights — and are the venue where the issue will most likely be settled.</p><p>Trans students in several states have gone to court to fight athletic restrictions. In Idaho, a college track and cross-country runner <a href="https://www.npr.org/2021/05/03/991987280/idahos-transgender-sports-ban-faces-a-major-legal-hurdle">filed a lawsuit</a> in 2020 challenging the state’s ban on transgender athletes in kindergarten through college from competing on female sports teams. A federal judge agreed to <a href="https://thehill.com/changing-america/respect/equality/3569403-order-blocking-enforcement-of-idaho-transgender-athlete-ban-will-remain-in-place-judge-says/">block enforcement of the law</a> while litigation continues.</p><p>A federal judge in West Virginia <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2021/07/21/politics/west-virginia-trans-sports-ban-blocked/index.html">temporarily halted</a> that state’s law after advocates sued on behalf of an 11-year-old transgender girl who was stopped from joining girls sports teams.</p><p>“The right not to be discriminated against by the government belongs to all of us in equal measure,” the judge <a href="https://www.aclu.org/legal-document/bpj-v-west-virginia-state-board-education-order-granting-preliminary-injunction">wrote</a>.</p><p>Similar court cases are pending in <a href="https://wusfnews.wusf.usf.edu/courts-law/2022-02-13/state-case-challenging-transgender-athlete-law-will-depend-on-related-case-before-u-s-appeals-court">Florida</a>, <a href="https://www.indystar.com/story/news/education/2022/07/26/indiana-transgender-sports-ban-judge-says-girl-can-rejoin-softball/65383081007/">Indiana</a>, <a href="https://www.nbcnews.com/nbc-out/nbc-out-proud/transgender-teen-luc-esquivel-suing-tennessee-can-play-golf-rcna28792">Tennessee</a>, and <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2022/06/01/us/utah-lawsuit-schools-transgender-sports-ban">Utah</a>.</p><p>Other lawsuits have taken aim at school bathroom policies. In at least 11 cases in state or federal courts, transgender students have challenged policies that prevent them from using bathrooms or locker rooms consistent with their gender identity, according to Eckes, the education law professor, who has tracked the litigation. In each case, the students prevailed.</p><p>“These judges run the gamut in terms of ideology,” said Sarah Warbelow, legal director for the Human Rights Campaign, a national LGBTQ advocacy group. Yet “they keep coming to the same conclusion: that it’s a violation of federal law and the U.S. Constitution to discriminate against transgender students.”</p><p>The Supreme Court is expected to eventually weigh in on the question of transgender students’ rights. But experts say that might not happen for years, leaving lower courts across the country to issue potentially contradictory rulings.</p><p>There’s a “tremendous opportunity for conflict, for uncertainty, for quite an extended period of time,” said R. Shep Melnick, a politics professor at Boston College.</p><h2>Schools stuck in the middle</h2><p>For now, schools are caught in the legal and political crossfire.</p><p>On July 1, the day Florida schools were to begin enforcing the state’s new ban on lessons about sexuality or gender in grades K-3, Biden’s press secretary <a href="https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2022/07/01/statement-by-press-secretary-karine-jean-pierre-on-floridas-dont-say-gay-law-taking-effect/">called the law “discrimination”</a> and urged families to file civil rights complaints if necessary. Florida’s education commissioner shot back later that month, warning districts that they “risk violating Florida law” if they act on federal guidance related to LGBTQ students.</p><p>At a recent event, Catherine Lhamon, the head of the U.S. education department’s Office for Civil Rights, was asked how schools should navigate the conflicting messages. She noted that federal law takes precedence over state law when the two are opposed.</p><p>“So a discriminatory state law is no defense to a federal legal civil rights violation,” Lhamon said at the Education Writers Association conference in Orlando. “Full stop.”</p><p>It’s true that Title IX would trump state laws like Florida’s, Melnick said — if, as the Biden administration argues, the federal anti-discrimination law applies to LGBTQ students.</p><p>“But here’s the big caveat,” he said. “Would courts agree that this is a valid interpretation of the federal law?”</p><p>If the administration’s proposed Title IX regulation is finalized and upheld by the courts, the education department could withhold funding from states with laws that violate the rule, said Shep, who has written <a href="https://www.brookings.edu/book/the-transformation-of-title-ix/">a book</a> about Title IX. But considering the agency has never cut off funding due to a Title IX violation, that would be a drastic move, he added.</p><p>A more likely scenario, he said, is that the department’s Office for Civil Rights will investigate complaints of discrimination against students based on their sexual orientation or gender identity, which the office <a href="https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/docs/202106-titleix-noi.pdf">considers a violation</a> of Title IX. In response, a school might agree to change its practices even if doing so contradicts state law.</p><p>“If the OCR is dealing with schools that are sympathetic to their point of view and dubious about state law,” Shep said, “then they can probably negotiate agreements.”</p><p>Warbelow, of the Human Rights Campaign, said a school district could even sue the state over a law it considers discriminatory.</p><p>“So there really are options for schools that are caught in this untenable situation,” she said. “They <i>can</i> stand by their transgender students.”</p><p><i>Patrick Wall is a senior reporter covering national education issues. Contact him at </i><a href="mailto:pwall@chalkbeat.org"><i>pwall@chalkbeat.org</i></a><i>.</i></p>https://www.chalkbeat.org/2022/8/10/23298986/transgender-children-kids-students-rights-biden-lgbtq-title-ix/Patrick Wall2022-09-13T11:00:00+00:00<![CDATA[‘Stop the shooting’: Inside the effort to protect students from neighborhood gun violence]]>2024-01-08T22:23:58+00:00<p>Cars streaked past Bashir Muhammad Ptah Akinyele last month as he stood at the corner of a busy intersection across from a high school, baking under the midday sun.</p><p>Then he stepped off the curb and faced the oncoming traffic.</p><p>Desperation drove Akinyele to join the street protest, as it had many times before. A veteran teacher in Newark, New Jersey, Akinyele can name well over 40 former students who have been killed by guns. “One day you have a kid in your class,” he said, “and the next day he’s gone.”</p><p>Akinyele realized long ago that the only way to protect his students is to stop the shootings where they occur — not in his school, but in the neighborhoods around it. So he started attending rallies like the one in August, calling for an end to the shootings and the conditions that cause them.</p><p>“I have to do something outside of the classroom,” Akinyele recalled thinking. “I was losing too many students to the violence in the city.”</p><figure><img src="https://www.chalkbeat.org/resizer/C3nLTgNlzxPU__oVhmxdsNxgVhM=/1440x960/cloudfront-us-east-1.images.arcpublishing.com/civicnewscompany/H3WQR6ETEBHBZBFEOZY2SGKLRM.jpg" alt="Over the course of his career, Newark teacher Bashir Muhammad Akinyele has lost over 40 students to gun violence." height="960" width="1440"/><figcaption>Over the course of his career, Newark teacher Bashir Muhammad Akinyele has lost over 40 students to gun violence.</figcaption></figure><p>At the start of this new school year, classrooms across the country were dotted with empty desks, a silent testament to summer gun violence. From June through the end of August, more than 600 fatal shootings were reported nationwide involving children under age 18 as either victims or suspects, according to <a href="https://www.gunviolencearchive.org/">the Gun Violence Archive</a>, which relies on public records and news reports.</p><p>Almost all the shootings occurred away from schools, in homes and neighborhoods. And yet community violence is rarely seen as an education issue. Instead, voters and policymakers tend to <a href="https://thehill.com/opinion/education/3612641-parents-views-of-school-violence-the-other-great-resignation/">focus disproportionately on school shootings</a>, endorsing measures to “harden” schools with armed guards and metal detectors and turning school security into <a href="https://marketbrief.edweek.org/marketplace-k-12/spending-school-security-tops-3-billion-focus-new-surveillance-tech/">a $3 billion industry</a>.</p><p>But out of the spotlight and with far less money, communities across the country are finding innovative ways to combat neighborhood violence.</p><p>From Oakland to Chicago and Philadelphia, city agencies and local nonprofits are partnering with the police to both prevent and respond to shootings. Often called community violence intervention, much of this work centers around young people, helping them process trauma and settle conflicts peacefully. Congress and the Biden administration recently <a href="https://www.thetrace.org/2022/08/biden-gun-violence-grant-application/">expanded funding</a> for such efforts, which are backed by <a href="https://johnjayrec.nyc/2020/11/09/av2020/">a growing body of evidence</a>.</p><p>With the new school year underway, this violence reduction work in communities — where shootings <a href="https://nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/indicator/a01/violent-deaths-and-shootings?tid=4">are far more common</a> than in schools — will arguably do as much to protect students as <a href="https://www.politico.com/news/2022/08/27/schools-security-students-return-00053989">ramped up school security</a>, according to advocates and experts.</p><p>Akinyele understood this when he stood in the intersection last month disrupting traffic. He was joined by a crew of community members — parents, recent high school graduates, former gang members — who are paid to prevent violence in the neighborhoods where Akinyele’s students live, play, and go to school.</p><p>“Stop the shooting,” Akinyele said over a loudspeaker, the non-violence workers echoing his words. “Stop the killing.”</p><h2>Most shootings happen outside schools, but learning still suffers</h2><p>The nation’s epidemic of gun violence is especially lethal <a href="https://www.americanprogress.org/article/gun-violence-is-having-a-devastating-impact-on-young-people/">for young people</a>.</p><p>After shootings surged at the start of the pandemic, 2020 became the first year in which gun violence <a href="https://www.nichd.nih.gov/about/org/od/directors_corner/prev_updates/gun-violence-July2022">was the leading cause of death</a> for children and teens. <a href="https://www.childrensdefense.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/Protect-Children-Not-Guns-2019.pdf">Young Black men</a> run the greatest risk of being fatally shot.</p><p>Even with <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/education/2022/06/28/school-shootings-crime-report/">the sharp rise</a> in school shootings, the vast majority of gunfire erupts off campus. According to federal data from 1992 to 2019, <a href="https://nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/indicator/a01/violent-deaths-and-shootings?tid=4">less than 3% of youth homicides</a> occurred on school grounds.</p><p>But while most shootings happen in communities, they reverberate inside schools. Exposure to violence is <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/publication/23788336_Community_violence_A_meta-analysis_on_the_effect_of_exposure_and_mental_health_outcomes_of_children_and_adolescents">closely associated with</a> trauma symptoms, including anxiety, disrupted sleep, and difficulty concentrating, and <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pdf/yv/vsViolenceImpactsTeensLivesFactSheet.pdf">it can lead to</a> lower grades and more absences.</p><p>“It literally gets under their skin and makes children more biologically stressed,” said Daniel Semenza, who directs research on interpersonal violence at Rutgers University’s New Jersey Gun Violence Research Center.</p><p><a href="https://www.pnas.org/doi/10.1073/pnas.1000690107">One study</a> found that students performed worse on reading tests after a murder occurred in their neighborhood, even if they didn’t witness it.</p><p>“No way somebody is going to be able to pull off the same level of cognitive performance,” Semenza added, “if they have that running through their minds.”</p><figure><img src="https://www.chalkbeat.org/resizer/R0yN9IRZR9gAbmyLV5BXCqv_VoA=/1440x960/cloudfront-us-east-1.images.arcpublishing.com/civicnewscompany/I5WHHJZBRFA5HPTRHCD6ZDGEOM.jpg" alt="Starr Whiteside, a Newark 12th-grader, is constantly on alert for gunfire in her neighborhood." height="960" width="1440"/><figcaption>Starr Whiteside, a Newark 12th-grader, is constantly on alert for gunfire in her neighborhood.</figcaption></figure><p>Starr Whiteside has seen how the constant threat of gunfire can warp your world, shaping where you go, what you feel, and how you act.</p><p>“Young people my age, it makes us feel like we always got to be on guard,” said Whiteside, a 12th grader in Newark. “Even going to the corner store, we have to watch our back.”</p><p>She’s also watched violence in the community seep into schools. Last year, her school went into lockdown after a student <a href="https://newark.chalkbeat.org/2021/10/7/22715383/gun-newark-school-mental-health">brought a loaded gun into the building</a>, apparently because he had been jumped outside of school.</p><p>“It’s like there’s no escape,” she said.</p><h2>How Newark’s grassroots groups keep students safe</h2><p>Newark has emerged as <a href="https://www.americanprogress.org/article/continuing-efforts-to-slow-violent-crime/">a national model</a> of community violence intervention, thanks partly to pressure by advocates like Akinyele and the support of the city’s mayor, Ras Baraka.</p><p>A tight-knit network of local groups <a href="https://newarksafety.org/download/TheFutureOfPublicSafety.pdf">leads the anti-violence work</a>, in partnership with the city. They help protect young people in two main ways: by addressing the underlying causes of violent behavior, and shielding students from violent acts.</p><figure><img src="https://www.chalkbeat.org/resizer/Bj51vMHZ6l-UwzqJkV5UPGuVu6E=/1440x960/cloudfront-us-east-1.images.arcpublishing.com/civicnewscompany/ROY5TNHERVC7TAYPJF2E6452SU.jpg" alt="A member of the Newark Community Street Team, Malachi Muhammad keeps watch over students outside of school." height="960" width="1440"/><figcaption>A member of the Newark Community Street Team, Malachi Muhammad keeps watch over students outside of school.</figcaption></figure><p>The Newark Community Street Team does the latter through <a href="https://newark.chalkbeat.org/2019/7/1/21108540/newark-s-safe-passage-program-meant-to-ease-school-commutes-is-set-to-expand">its Safe Passage program,</a> which hires community members to patrol the routes students take to and from school. Trained in de-escalation, the staffers help defuse tensions between students while watching for external threats.</p><p>Last November, a Safe Passage worker was speaking with two students outside <a href="https://newark.chalkbeat.org/2022/1/11/22876668/malcolm-x-shabazz-high-school-violence-covid-newark-student-behavior">a Newark high school</a> when a gunman exited a car and <a href="https://www.rlsmedia.com/article/developing-gunmen-fire-nearly-dozen-rounds-near-newark-south-ward-high-school">fired nearly a dozen rounds</a> their way. The worker, Malachi Muhammad, a graduate of the high school, rushed the students to safety.</p><p>“I’m responsible for them,” he said last year.</p><p>The incident illustrates why such groups are essential to student safety: Violence in the community often follows students to school, and school conflicts often spill out into the community. In fact, the impetus for the Safe Passage program came partly from a Newark health department analysis that found neighborhood conflicts frequently originate in schools, said Aqeela Sherrills, who co-founded the Street Team.</p><p>“Schools are an extension of the community,” he said. “They’re not these siloed institutions.”</p><p>The small number of young people who commit violence usually have been victims themselves, so healing their wounds can help stop the cycle of harm.</p><p>To that end, the Street Team offers counseling and life-skills training to young people at risk of violence, while The HUBB Arts &amp; Trauma Center, another Newark nonprofit, provides art therapy and mentoring. Newark’s <a href="https://www.nj.com/essex/2020/06/newark-to-divert-11m-from-public-safety-to-create-violence-prevention-programs.html">Office of Violence Prevention and Trauma Recovery</a> sends social workers into some high schools, and the city is <a href="https://newark.chalkbeat.org/2022/5/9/23064437/newark-free-college-tuition-saint-elizabeth-university">paying for 40 students</a> who have been affected by violence to attend college.</p><p>The efforts reflect the public health approach that is central to community violence intervention, with education, counseling, and support services used to treat rather than punish perpetrators.</p><p>“If you look at it as a sickness,” Baraka said, “then these people are obviously infected and we have to give them treatment.”</p><p>The HUBB specializes in such treatment, helping young people address the trauma that is both a symptom and source of violence. One of those young people is Tah’gee.</p><p>This spring, the 16-year-old left his Newark charter school after a disciplinary issue, was arrested, and spent a brief time in jail. Not long after, his cousin was gunned down.</p><p>The police referred Tah’gee to the HUBB, where Denisah Williamson took up his case. Williamson is what experts call a “<a href="https://cc-fy.org/credible-messenger-policy-forum/faqs/">credible messenger</a>,” a mentor to troubled youth who has experienced many of the same challenges they have.</p><p>As a teenager growing up in Newark, she was sexually assaulted and expelled from school. Later she was arrested and stabbed.</p><p>Despite the violence she endured and the discrimination she faced as a Black woman growing up in a low-income community, she pressed on, eventually earning a master’s degree in social work.</p><p>“I had a bad childhood, but it didn’t define me,” said Williamson, who directs programs, data, and community relations at the HUBB and mentors students. “There’s no judgment here.”</p><p>Williamson convinced Tah’gee to start showing up at the HUBB’s community center, where young people study photography and video production, create podcasts, and record songs in a state-of-the-art studio. They also participate in a youth-led forum called <a href="https://www.nj.com/essex/2018/04/nj_woman_speaks_her_truth_about_sexual_assault_car.html">My Thoughts Out Loud</a>, freely discussing relationships, drugs, and whatever else is on their minds.</p><figure><img src="https://www.chalkbeat.org/resizer/MI2fjTmoDqoJLAg3EsfTANC0o_Y=/1440x960/cloudfront-us-east-1.images.arcpublishing.com/civicnewscompany/JUCVGZ3REZEMNG2YW7RIXUCGLY.jpg" alt="Tah’gee credits the HUBB for guiding him towards a new path in life. " height="960" width="1440"/><figcaption>Tah’gee credits the HUBB for guiding him towards a new path in life. </figcaption></figure><p>During a workshop this summer <a href="https://www.thetrace.org/2022/01/trauma-to-trust-newark-police-department-reform/">meant to build trust between Newark residents and police</a> and address collective trauma, Tah’gee shared a harrowing story. He said that he was walking with a friend when a crew of 10 or so young men approached and put a gun to his head, then attacked him after he fled.</p><p>“Yes, it should never have happened and it’s not normal,” he said, talking about the “crazy stuff” he’s experienced. “But to me it <i>was </i>normal.”</p><p>Over time, Williamson watched Tah’gee evolve. He learned to manage his emotions and check his impulses. He signed up for the violence prevention office’s summer work program and applied to Newark Street Academy, a city program that helps out-of-school youth earn GEDs.</p><p>Today, Tah’gee credits the HUBB with putting him on a new path.</p><p>“It messed up my life,” he said, “in a good way.”</p><h2>The anti-violence movement gains momentum</h2><p>Groups like the HUBB curb violence person by person, but evidence of their impact is more than anecdotal.</p><p>A <a href="https://johnjayrec.nyc/2020/11/09/av2020/">number of studies</a> have found that local <a href="https://www.americanprogress.org/article/community-based-violence-interruption-programs-can-reduce-gun-violence/">anti-violence groups</a> play a significant role in reducing shootings and improving public safety.</p><p>The <a href="https://www.youth-guidance.org/bam-becoming-a-man/">Becoming a Man program</a>, which offers weekly group counseling to young men in more than 140 schools nationwide, <a href="https://urbanlabs.uchicago.edu/projects/becoming-a-man">has been found to</a> decrease arrests and increase graduation rates. Groups like <a href="https://cvg.org/">Cure Violence</a> and <a href="https://www.advancepeace.org/">Advance Peace</a>, which intervene in conflicts and support high-risk individuals, have been associated with <a href="https://cvg.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/07/cure-violence-evidence-summary.pdf">fewer</a> <a href="https://ajph.aphapublications.org/doi/full/10.2105/AJPH.2019.305288">shootings</a>. And Safe Passage programs <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0167268119302033?via%3Dihub">have been shown to reduce crime</a> along students’ routes to school.</p><p>The evidence base for such interventions “is now extremely strong,” said Patrick Sharkey, a sociology and public affairs professor at Princeton University, who found that local nonprofits <a href="https://static.prisonpolicy.org/scans/Community-and-the-Crime-Decline-The-Causal-Effect-of-Local-Nonprofits-on-Violent-Crime.pdf">contributed to the historic decline</a> in violent crime that began in the 1990s.</p><p>“These organizations have tremendous capacity to create safe communities,” he said. “We just haven’t given them the commitment and the resources that we devote to institutions like law enforcement.”</p><p>That is beginning to change.</p><p>The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, which President Biden signed into law this June, <a href="https://www.thetrace.org/2022/08/biden-gun-violence-grant-application/">includes $250 million</a> for community violence intervention. Biden has also urged local governments to use some of their federal stimulus money for violence prevention, and over $2 billion has already been earmarked for anti-violence groups, substance-abuse treatment, and mental health services, <a href="https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2022/05/13/fact-sheet-president-biden-issues-call-for-state-and-local-leaders-to-dedicate-more-american-rescue-plan-funding-to-make-our-communities-safer-and-deploy-these-dollars-quickly/#:~:text=Over%20%242%20billion%20to%20prevent%20crime%20and%20ease%20the%20burden%20on%20police%2C%20including%20community%20violence%20interventions%2C%20crisis%20responders%2C%20and%20substance%20use%20disorder%20and%20mental%20health%20services.">according to the White House</a>.</p><p>The White House also <a href="https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2022/02/16/readout-of-white-house-community-violence-intervention-collaborative-meeting-2/">convened 16 counties and cities</a>, including Newark, to share their experiences with community violence intervention. Backed with philanthropic funding, the collaborative is also providing technical assistance to more than 50 grassroots anti-violence groups.</p><p>“We’re spreading this model to cities across the country,” said Sherrills, the former Newark Community Street Team leader whose <a href="https://cbpscollective.org/">new organization</a> is <a href="https://thecrimereport.org/2022/06/15/why-the-white-house-backs-community-violence-intervention/">training other groups</a> through the White House initiative.</p><p>Newark is using stimulus funds and other sources to <a href="https://www.tapinto.net/towns/newark/sections/government/articles/newark-aims-to-strengthen-public-safety-with-19m-commitment-towards-violence-prevention-initiatives">invest $19 million</a> in violence intervention programs. The city’s Office of Violence Prevention and Trauma Recovery also ran a work program this summer that paid students — many of whom had been arrested or struggled in school — to intern at city agencies and nonprofits and take classes on conflict resolution, financial literacy, and other life skills.</p><p>“We’re teaching them how to integrate and be a part of something,” said Lakeesha Eure, the office’s director. “We’re teaching them how to belong to the city.”</p><figure><img src="https://www.chalkbeat.org/resizer/xxUCPaCV3JKwubVS0MdT5ert0eI=/1440x960/cloudfront-us-east-1.images.arcpublishing.com/civicnewscompany/HEJTV3JQXVCXXB56KQLGW63O2U.jpg" alt="Lakeesha Eure is the director for the Office of Violence Prevention and Trauma Recovery in Newark." height="960" width="1440"/><figcaption>Lakeesha Eure is the director for the Office of Violence Prevention and Trauma Recovery in Newark.</figcaption></figure><p>Now that school is back in session, the city’s small army of anti-violence workers will continue doing what they can to keep students safe. They will keep a watchful eye as children walk to school, step in before teenage taunts escalate into shots fired, and help young people like Tah’gee envision a future — graduation, college, a good job — that does not involve violence.</p><p>Akinyele, the Newark teacher and peace activist, knows there will be setbacks.</p><p>Last month, he learned that another former student, 20-year-old Yasir Manley, <a href="https://www.nj.com/news/2022/08/man-20-shot-and-killed-in-newark-cops-say.html">had been fatally shot</a>. Yet when Newark held its annual <a href="https://abc7ny.com/newark-nj-crime-24-hours-of-peace-new-jersey/12192052/">24 Hours of Peace festival</a> the weekend before school started, Akinyele still showed up.</p><p>He stood on stage facing a crowd of parents and teens, police officers and outreach workers. Knowing he needs their help to protect his students, he began his call-and-response.</p><p>“Stop the shooting,” he said, and the crowd repeated it back to him. “Stop the shooting.”</p><p><i>Patrick Wall is a senior reporter covering national education issues. Contact him at </i><a href="mailto:pwall@chalkbeat.org"><i>pwall@chalkbeat.org</i></a><i>.</i></p><p><br/></p>https://www.chalkbeat.org/2022/9/13/23349462/students-shootings-community-gun-violence-school-security/Patrick Wall2022-10-28T21:53:35+00:00<![CDATA[Supreme Court affirmative action cases could bolster attacks on school integration]]>2024-01-08T22:22:57+00:00<p>Monday could mark the beginning of the end for affirmative action in higher education.</p><p>The U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments that day in two cases challenging the use of race in college admissions. The court’s decision earlier this year to hear the cases, which seek to overturn prior rulings that upheld affirmative action, suggests the longstanding policy might be on its way out.</p><p>The case doesn’t directly involve schools that educate kindergartners through 12th graders, yet its outcome could alter those students’ post-grad trajectories: If selective universities can no longer consider race in admissions, they are likely to enroll <a href="https://www.nbcnews.com/news/nbcblk/ending-college-affirmative-action-ripple-effect-black-latino-students-rcna13312">fewer Black and Latino students</a>.</p><p>But the higher-ed cases could also portend changes to K-12 schools, where efforts to promote racial diversity already face legal challenges. Advocates fear that if the Supreme Court ends race-conscious admissions in higher education, K-12 integration efforts could be next.</p><p>“I think anybody who cares about preserving any semblance of diversity in educational institutions, be they K-12 or higher ed, is paying attention to this case,” said Stefan Lallinger, a desegregation expert who helped form <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2020/10/9/21509770/new-national-effort-school-integration-bridges-collaborative-desegregation">a peer-support network</a> for districts pursuing integration.</p><p>As the closely watched case begins, here’s what you need to know:</p><h2>The ruling shouldn’t immediately affect K-12 schools</h2><p>The central question before the court is whether colleges and universities should be able to use race as one of many factors in selecting students and pursuing educational diversity.</p><p>The cases <a href="https://www.reuters.com/legal/government/us-supreme-court-hear-challenge-race-conscious-college-admissions-2022-01-24/">stem from lawsuits</a> against Harvard and the University of North Carolina brought by Students for Fair Admissions, a group led by conservative legal activist <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2022/10/24/edward-blum-supreme-court-harvard-unc/">Edward Blum</a>. The group alleged that the admissions process at Harvard discriminates against Asian American students by holding them to a higher standard than other applicants, and that UNC’s process discriminates against Asian American and white students by giving preference to Black, Latino, and Native American applicants.</p><p>The institutions denied the allegations and lower courts ruled in their favor, saying the universities had met the strict standards for race-conscious admissions policies established through four decades of Supreme Court decisions. The plaintiff appealed the rulings to the Supreme Court, which <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/24/us/politics/supreme-court-affirmative-action-harvard-unc.html">agreed in January</a> to hear the two cases.</p><p>Because the cases turn on legal precedents specific to higher education, their outcome should not directly affect K-12 schools with programs meant to increase student diversity, said Genevieve Bonadies Torres, an attorney at the the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, which is representing some students and alumni in the Supreme Court cases.</p><p>However, she warned that opponents of race-conscious admissions might use the higher-ed ruling to attack K-12 integration efforts.</p><p>“The ultimate goal of these groups is to scare and chill and litigate against diversity programs,” she said.</p><h2>Colleges and K-12 schools follow different rules about race</h2><p>Colleges and universities have more leeway than K-12 schools to use race in pursuit of diversity.</p><p>In rulings stretching from 1978 to 2016, the Supreme Court has set a high bar for race-conscious admissions in higher education, or affirmative action. Institutions may not set racial quotas, they must consider race-neutral approaches, and they may only use race as one factor among many in a holistic review of each applicant.</p><p>In the majority opinion in <i>Grutter v. Bollinger</i>, <a href="https://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/539/306/">a 2003 case</a> in which the court upheld affirmative action by a 5-4 vote, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor cited two reasons for allowing the “narrowly tailored use of race in admissions:” Students benefit from diversity, and courts should defer to universities on academic decisions, including whom to admit.</p><p>Because of the “expansive freedoms of speech and thought associated with” higher education, O’Connor wrote, “universities occupy a special niche in our constitutional tradition.”</p><p>Four years later, the court declined to grant the same leeway to K-12 schools.</p><p>In a landmark <a href="https://www.oyez.org/cases/2006/05-908">2007 ruling</a>, the court ruled 5-4 to strike down two school districts’ voluntary integration plans. The goal of diversity, or “racial balance,” is not a sufficient reason for public school districts to assign students to schools based on their race.</p><p>“The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race,” Chief Justice John Roberts memorably wrote.</p><p>In a concurring opinion, Justice Anthony Kennedy agreed with the judgment but insisted that districts can take some voluntary steps to combat segregation. Whether by redrawing attendance lines or strategically locating schools, districts can try to promote diversity through race-conscious policies so long as they operate at a general but not individual level, Kennedy wrote. (The ruling did not affect court-ordered desegregation plans.)</p><p>But even though Kennedy’s concurrence left room for some voluntary integration, the threat of lawsuits has made most districts wary of walking that line.</p><p>There are more than 13,000 districts nationwide, but <a href="https://tcf.org/content/report/school-integration-america-looks-like-today/">a 2020 report</a> could identify only 119 districts with active integration plans. (The researchers also found 66 charter school organizations with plans.) The vast majority of the plans consider students’ socioeconomic status but don’t factor in race — even in the general way that Kennedy allowed.</p><p>For that reason, even if the Supreme Court one day banned any consideration of race in district diversity plans, relatively few schools would be affected.</p><p>“My first instinct is that this decision wouldn’t necessarily change the landscape that much for K-12 school districts,” said Halley Potter, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation think tank, who co-authored the 2020 report. “Frankly, there are so few voluntary race-based integration plans in K-12 already.”</p><h2>The end of affirmative action could lead to K-12 legal challenges</h2><p>Still, if the Supreme Court’s conservative majority rules against affirmative action, as is <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2022/10/26/opinion/supreme-court-case-for-affirmative-action.html">widely expected</a>, advocates worry it could invite challenges to the few remaining K-12 integration plans.</p><p>The most likely targets are elite public high schools with selective admissions policies. Many such schools have historically admitted few Black or Latino students, prompting some school districts — including <a href="https://www.wbur.org/news/2022/09/23/boston-latin-school-diversity-enrollment-admissions">Boston</a>, <a href="https://ny.chalkbeat.org/2020/5/1/21244612/discovery-few-black-and-hispanic-students">New York City</a>, and <a href="https://www.sfchronicle.com/bayarea/article/Lowell-got-rid-of-competitive-admissions-New-16415271.php">San Francisco</a> — to adopt diversity plans.</p><p>Critics have attacked the high school diversity plans and affirmative action along similar lines. They say the schools have improperly tried to engineer a “racial balance” of students, failed to consider other ways to pursue diversity, and discriminated against Asian American and white applicants.</p><p>The “pernicious practice of racial balancing has spread to K-12 education, where it is now depriving children of spots at some of the best public schools in the nation solely because of their race,” reads a friend of the court brief supporting the challenge to affirmative action. Submitted by the Pacific Legal Foundation, a conservative group that has won more than a dozen Supreme Court cases, <a href="https://www.pacificlegal.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/05/2022.05.05-SFFA-v-Harvard-Amicus-Brief.pdf">the brief</a> argues that race should play no role in either college or K-12 admissions.</p><p>Several K-12 education groups filed briefs supporting affirmative action, arguing that students at every level benefit from diversity. One brief urged the court to allow colleges and school districts to continue using race to promote diversity according to the standards set in prior rulings.</p><p>“The Court need not, and should not, revisit either longstanding precedent,” said <a href="https://www.supremecourt.gov/DocketPDF/20/20-1199/232335/20220801132324814_Nos._20-1199_21-707_AmiciNatlSchlBdsAssocetal.pdf">the brief</a> submitted by national associations representing school boards, principals, and counselors.</p><p>But even if the court’s affirmative action ruling does not address K-12 schools, future rulings might.</p><p>A case currently in federal court <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/16/us/school-admissions-affirmative-action.html">challenges the diversity plan</a> at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science &amp; Technology, a selective public school in Fairfax County, Virginia. The prestigious school overhauled its admissions policies in 2020 following years of complaints that it enrolled very few Black and Latino students.</p><p>Last year, the Pacific Legal Foundation helped Coalition for TJ, a group that includes parents and alumni, file <a href="https://pacificlegal.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/Coalition-for-TJ-v.-Fairfax-County-School-Board.pdf">a lawsuit</a> against the district. Similar to the Harvard case, the lawsuit accuses the district of discriminating against Asian Americans, whose enrollment dropped sharply after the admissions change. But unlike Harvard, the high school did not explicitly consider each applicant’s race, instead using other measures — such as admitting the top-performing students from each middle school — to boost diversity.</p><p>“That is still every bit as much of a violation of someone’s Equal Protection rights as if you sit in front of an audience and said, ‘I’m discriminating on the basis of race,’” said Erin Wilcox, a lawyer at the Pacific Legal Foundation, who called the school’s diversity plan “proxy discrimination.” (The district says its admission system is based on merit, not race.)</p><p>Lallinger, the integration advocate, called the foundation’s argument extreme because it suggests that even the <i>goal</i> of racial diversity is suspect.</p><p>“Essentially they’re arguing that any effort to address historical discrimination against Black and Latino students is inherently unconstitutional,” he said, “because, they argue, admissions is a zero-sum game.”</p><p>In oral arguments last month, a federal appeals court <a href="https://www.reuters.com/legal/us-court-skeptical-challenge-elite-virginia-schools-admissions-policy-2022-09-16/">appeared skeptical</a> of the case against the district.</p><p>If the group behind the challenge loses, it could appeal to the Supreme Court. And if the high court rules against affirmative action in higher education, that could bolster the case against diversity efforts in K-12 schools, Wilcox said.</p><p>“It will take away this reliance on diversity as a compelling government interest,” she said, adding that in her group’s ongoing legal campaign against school diversity plans, “That will certainly be a supporting precedent that we will use.”</p><p><i>Patrick Wall is a senior reporter covering national education issues. Contact him at </i><a href="mailto:pwall@chalkbeat.org"><i>pwall@chalkbeat.org</i></a><i>.</i></p><p><br/></p>https://www.chalkbeat.org/2022/10/28/23429007/supreme-court-affirmative-action-k-12-schools-diversity/Patrick Wall2022-10-25T11:00:00+00:00<![CDATA[‘Unsafe, unwelcoming’: LGBTQ students report facing hostility at school]]>2024-01-08T22:22:33+00:00<p>Patricia Reeves and her husband have tried to make school safe for their child.</p><p>They pushed administrators at one school to stop students from bullying Milo, who is nonbinary, and withdrew Milo from a different school after a teacher refused to use the correct pronouns. Inside their West Texas home, the parents do their best to replenish their child’s self esteem and resilience — to “build up our little soldier,” as Reeves put it.</p><p>But try as they might, they can’t completely shield Milo from the difficulty, even the danger, of being different at school.</p><p>“As long as you’re a fierce mom, you can get out in front of it,” Reeves said. “But the damage is already done.”</p><p>The damage is extensive: Most LGBTQ students feel unsafe at school and struggle with mental health, according to two new reports based on large-scale student surveys.</p><p>Reported rates of depression, hopelessness, and suicidal thoughts were far higher among LGBTQ students than their peers last school year, and highest among transgender and nonbinary youth, according to <a href="https://youthtruthsurvey.org/insights-from-the-student-experience-part-i-emotional-and-mental-health/">a survey of students</a> in 20 states by the nonprofit YouthTruth. Released Monday, the survey also found that girls’ mental health is worse than boys’.</p><p>Another <a href="https://www.glsen.org/research/2021-national-school-climate-survey">recent report</a> helps explain LGBTQ students’ distress: The vast majority experienced harassment or assault during in-person school, and many heard school employees use homophobic language, according to a national survey of LGBTQ students conducted in 2021 and released this month by GLSEN, a group that promotes safe and inclusive schools.</p><p>“Most LGBTQ students are going to schools that are unsafe, unwelcoming, and not affirming,” said Caitlin Clark, a senior research associate at GLSEN who co-authored the report.</p><p>The reports highlight how the youth mental health crisis, like the COVID-19 pandemic, has ravaged marginalized groups more than others. They also suggest that the national campaign to bolster young people’s mental health could fail LGBTQ students if it ignores the sources of their pain, including mistreatment at school and social stigmatization made worse, advocates say, by the <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2022/7/8/23198792/lgbtq-students-law-florida-dont-say-gay">recent surge in anti-LGBTQ laws</a>.</p><p>In her support group for parents of gender-nonconforming children, Reeves hears about what happens when vulnerable young people are subjected to such hostility.</p><p>“Every single one of our little ones has some sort of mental health challenge,” she said, “because of not being fully accepted.”</p><h2>Worse mental health outcomes for girls and LGBTQ students</h2><p>Already on the decline for at least a decade, young people’s mental health <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2022/04/23/health/mental-health-crisis-teens.html">spiraled downward</a> during the pandemic so rapidly that <a href="https://www.aap.org/en/advocacy/child-and-adolescent-healthy-mental-development/aap-aacap-cha-declaration-of-a-national-emergency-in-child-and-adolescent-mental-health/">medical groups declared</a> a “national emergency.”</p><p>But warnings of a widespread crisis can obscure a consistent trend in the data: LGBTQ students and girls are struggling more than their peers.</p><p>More than 80% of high school students who identify as transgender or nonbinary and nearly 70% of girls cited depression, stress, or anxiety as obstacles to learning last school year, compared with 40% of boys who reported such struggles, according to the YouthTruth survey, which was taken by more than 220,000 students during the 2021-22 school year but is not nationally representative. And from elementary to high school, boys were more likely than girls and nonbinary students to report feeling happy.</p><p>The survey also showed that roughly a third of LGBTQ high school students had seriously considered attempting suicide over the past year — four times the share of non-LGBTQ students who said they had considered it.</p><p>Similar trends have emerged in surveys conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/71/su/su7103a3.htm?s_cid=su7103a3_w">during the pandemic</a> and over <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/data/yrbs/pdf/YRBSDataSummaryTrendsReport2019-508.pdf">the preceding decade</a>: High school students who are female or LGBTQ are the most likely to report poor mental health and suicidal thinking.</p><p>Those students “all were doing worse prior to the pandemic,” said Kathleen Ethier, director of the CDC’s Division of Adolescent and School Health, which conducted a nationally representative student survey in 2021. “What we saw in this data was really a continuation of that.”</p><h2>LGBTQ students find limited support at school</h2><p>Tati Martínez Alvarez wishes their school had a club for LGBTQ students, “a place where we could come together without fearing judgment.”</p><p>But despite students’ demands for such a club, their small public high school in South Texas does not offer one, said Tati, who is in the 11th grade. Even though many students identify as LGBTQ, Tati said the school does little to acknowledge their community, much less embrace it.</p><p>“I don’t see that happening,” they said. “Maybe in like 20 years.”</p><p>Tati’s experience is the norm nationwide, according to <a href="https://www.glsen.org/research/2021-national-school-climate-survey">the GLSEN survey</a>, which polled more than 22,000 students in grades 6-12 who identify as LGBTQ. The students are based in all 50 states, as well as Washington D.C. and several U.S. territories.</p><p>Just 35% of respondents said their school had an active Gay Straight Alliance or similar club during the 2020-21 academic year. Less than 30% said their classes include any LGBTQ-related topics, and only 8% said their schools had policies supporting transgender and nonbinary students.</p><p>Instead of support, many LGBTQ students face hostility at school, according to the survey.</p><p>More than 80% of respondents who attended in-person school at some point in 2020-21 experienced harassment or assault based on personal characteristics, including sexual orientation, gender expression, or race or ethnicity. Nearly 60% of students reported hearing teachers or other school staff make homophobic remarks, and more than 70% heard staff make negative comments about gender expression.</p><p>Such intolerance is sadly common in schools, said Dr. Morissa Ladinsky, a pediatrician in Alabama who provides gender-affirming care to transgender young people.</p><p>“While some have faced bullying from students (which most don’t report for fear of reprisal or not being taken seriously), many experience intimidation and even straight up bullying from the adults in their school,” she wrote in an email, adding that the constant threat of mistreatment can lead to “anxiety, depression and academic underachievement.”</p><p>LGBTQ students who are victimized at school are more likely than their peers to be absent, earn low grades, and suffer from low self-esteem and depression, the GLSEN survey found.</p><p>“When you don’t see yourself represented” at school, Tati said, you “can feel very confused, very anxious, very depressed, because there’s nowhere to turn.”</p><h2>Anti-LGBTQ laws add to anxiety</h2><p>In many states, LGBTQ students cannot turn to elected officials for support.</p><p>Instead, some Republican politicians have <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2022/7/8/23198792/lgbtq-students-law-florida-dont-say-gay">sought to restrict the rights of LGBTQ students</a> and prohibit school practices designed to support those students.</p><p>At least <a href="https://www.lgbtmap.org/equality-maps/sports_participation_bans">18 states</a> have passed laws barring transgender students from sports teams or school bathrooms that match their gender identity. Last month, Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s administration <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/education/2022/09/16/trans-students-virginia-bathroom-sports/">proposed new restrictions</a> on transgender students, including a requirement that teachers use the pronouns associated with students’ sex assigned at birth rather than their preferred pronouns.</p><p>Other states have sought to limit classroom discussions about gender and sexuality, which is the focus of <a href="https://www.npr.org/2022/10/21/1130297123/national-dont-say-gay-stop-children-sexualization-bill">a new national bill</a> that Congressional Republicans introduced last week. Meanwhile, <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2022/9/23/23367419/school-censorship-race-lgbtq">some school districts</a> have quietly removed books with LGBTQ content and ordered teachers to take down LGBTQ pride flags.</p><p>The new policies are making life harder for many students, advocates say.</p><p>In Alabama, which <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2022/7/25/23274280/alabama-black-queer-youth-trans-activists">passed several anti-LGBTQ laws this year</a>, Dr. Ladinsky said some of her transgender patients have stopped using the restroom during the school day because of restrictions on which facilities they can use. She also heard from teachers who disbanded their LGBTQ clubs, presumably due to pressure from administrators. (In April, Dr. Ladinsky <a href="https://www.hrc.org/press-releases/after-governor-ivey-signs-anti-transgender-bill-alabama-families-and-doctors-sue-to-stop-states-criminalization-of-healthcare-for-transgender-children-and-adolescents">joined a legal challenge</a> against a new Alabama law that would criminalize gender-affirming medical care for minors. A judge has temporarily stopped the law from taking effect.)</p><p>Some students see efforts to restrict LGBTQ rights as a personal attack, said Tati, the Texas high schooler.</p><p>“It just spreads the message that they genuinely don’t see you as a person,” they said. “They just see you as something that they need to get rid of.”</p><h2>Protecting LGBTQ students</h2><figure><img src="https://www.chalkbeat.org/resizer/30cQudIRZwopu7ONjenGsqaN8JU=/1440x960/cloudfront-us-east-1.images.arcpublishing.com/civicnewscompany/FKKDEMTURJFW3LUM475YZ3IS4M.jpg" alt="" height="960" width="1440"/></figure><p>The new reports show the urgent need to make schools safer for LGBTQ students, advocates said.</p><p>Schools can establish LGBTQ clubs, enforce anti-bullying policies that explicitly protect LGBTQ students, provide staff training on inclusive practices, and give transgender students access to facilities that match their gender identity, experts said, though laws in some states might restrict such policies.</p><p>Kathleen Ethier, the CDC official, said <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/safe-supportive-environments/pdf/lgbtq-school-policies-practices.pdf">policies</a> that make schools more welcoming for LGBTQ students have been shown to also benefit their peers.</p><p>“Something about creating an inclusive school” and removing “anti-LGBTQ toxicity,” she said, “makes the school better for everyone.”</p><p>There are many ways to make schools safer and improve students’ mental health, said Tati, who has <a href="https://www.idra.org/resource-center/equip-schools-to-support-student-mental-health/">championed the issue</a> as a <a href="https://www.idra.org/youth-advisory-board/">youth advisor</a> to the Intercultural Development Research Association, a Texas-based nonprofit that promotes educational equity. The challenge is convincing adults to take action.</p><p>“People don’t realize that the culture isn’t going to change,” Tati said, “unless everyone makes an effort.”</p><p><i>Patrick Wall is a senior reporter covering national education issues. Contact him at </i><a href="mailto:pwall@chalkbeat.org"><i>pwall@chalkbeat.org</i></a><i>.</i></p>https://www.chalkbeat.org/2022/10/25/23421548/lgbtq-students-mental-health-school-safety-survey/Patrick Wall2022-07-08T11:00:00+00:00<![CDATA[‘I’m terrified’: As new laws take effect, LGBTQ students and allies fear the consequences]]>2024-01-08T22:21:51+00:00<p>Cindy Nobles, a mother of four in Jacksonville, Florida, watched with mounting dread this spring as the local school board rewrote a guide meant to support LGBTQ students. She feared that every stricken passage left vulnerable children a little less safe.</p><p>The Duval County school district had reissued <a href="https://jaxtoday.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/05/dcps-lgbtq-support-guide-2020-final.pdf">the guide</a> on the heels of an alarming <a href="https://dcps.duvalschools.org//cms/lib/FL01903657/Centricity/Domain/7571/2019_YRBS_Results.pdf">2019 survey</a>, which showed that more than 60% of the district’s lesbian, gay, and bisexual high schoolers felt sad or hopeless. Nearly 1 in 3 of those students said they had attempted suicide — twice the rate of their straight peers.</p><p>But after Republican state lawmakers <a href="https://apnews.com/article/dont-say-gay-bill-passes-florida-legislature-b173917e985833963e45a8d0464a4399">passed a bill</a> this March restricting lessons about gender identity and sexuality, Duval County <a href="https://jaxtoday.org/2022/05/17/what-duval-schools-is-cutting-from-its-lgbtq-support-guide/">gutted its LGBTQ guide</a>. Officials released a draft in May that condensed the 37-page document into eight pages of an employee manual, and removed most references to transgender students.</p><p>“It was butchered,” said Nobles, who is president of Jacksonville’s <a href="https://pflag.org/">PFLAG</a> chapter. Now, as more school districts <a href="https://www.nbcnews.com/nbc-out/out-news/floridas-dont-say-gay-law-takes-effect-schools-roll-lgbtq-restrictions-rcna36143">rush to comply</a> with the new law, Nobles is convinced that student safeguards are in jeopardy.</p><p>“I’m terrified at the moment,” she said.</p><figure><img src="https://www.chalkbeat.org/resizer/cJw8h5oC9uBr6S0JFWrcoBcVT3Q=/1440x960/cloudfront-us-east-1.images.arcpublishing.com/civicnewscompany/7NVX5KFLMVGLDG4ZX3IAYWIDMY.jpg" alt="Cindy and Cody Nobles" height="960" width="1440"/><figcaption>Cindy and Cody Nobles</figcaption></figure><p>For LGBTQ kids, just stepping out into the world as your authentic self <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/data/yrbs/pdf/YRBSDataSummaryTrendsReport2019-508.pdf">can be treacherous</a>. Family members could shun you, classmates bully you, and bigots harass you or worse. Youth of color and transgender kids face added resistance. At the school Nobles’ youngest child attends, a trans boy was barred from the boys locker room and a trans girl was <a href="https://www.news4jax.com/news/local/2021/09/01/video-reportedly-shows-teen-bullied-on-grounds-of-orange-park-high/">assaulted on campus</a>.</p><p>Yet, instead of shielding<b> </b>such students, conservative lawmakers across the U.S. are trying to <a href="https://www.edweek.org/policy-politics/beyond-dont-say-gay-other-states-seek-to-limit-lgbtq-youth-teaching/2022/04">prohibit practices</a> meant to make LGBTQ youth feel safe and supported at school.</p><p>Just this year, legislators have introduced <a href="https://www.hrc.org/campaigns/the-state-legislative-attack-on-lgbtq-people">more than 300 bills</a> targeting LGBTQ Americans, with many seeking to limit transgender kids’ access to medical care, school bathrooms, and sports teams, according to the Human Rights Campaign. Other proposals would <a href="https://wapp.capitol.tn.gov/apps/BillInfo/Default.aspx?BillNumber=HB0800">ban books</a> that “normalize” LGBTQ “lifestyles,” restrict what students can learn about <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2022/4/12/23022356/teaching-restrictions-gender-identity-sexual-orientation-lgbtq-issues-health-education">sexuality</a> and <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/22525983/map-critical-race-theory-legislation-teaching-racism">racism</a>, or require parental permission for kids to choose their pronouns or join LGBTQ clubs. Republicans say the restrictions restore parents’ authority and defend students from indoctrination.</p><p>On July 1, anti-LGBTQ laws affecting young people <a href="https://19thnews.org/2022/07/florida-dont-say-gay-other-anti-lgbtq-bills-take-effect/">took effect in six states</a>, including Florida.</p><p>“We’re just kind of preparing for a fight,” said Nobles’ child Cody, a rising 12th grader who identifies as bigender and gay.</p><p>The full reach of the new laws won’t be known until schools begin enforcing them this fall. But already the targeted legal campaign and intensifying rhetoric have left many LGBTQ students feeling under siege.</p><p>“What they’re learning,” said Melanie Willingham-Jaggers, executive director of GLSEN, which advocates for inclusive schools, “is that some people don’t think they should exist.”</p><p><aside id="7fPdRf" class="actionbox"><header class="heading"><a href="https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSddRvIspG1HE-QVAndl5M2ayeNw-k-BucWuwr_Az_gJC8n2iA/viewform?usp=sf_link">Survey: How are LGBTQ+ students treated in your school?</a></header><p class="description">Chalkbeat wants to hear your thoughts on recent laws affecting LGBTQ+ students.</p><p><a class="label" href="https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSddRvIspG1HE-QVAndl5M2ayeNw-k-BucWuwr_Az_gJC8n2iA/viewform?usp=sf_link">Tell us.</a></p></aside></p><h2>Unsafe at school</h2><p>Even before the recent onslaught of legislation, school was not a safe space for many LGBTQ kids.</p><p>For Alex Rambow, a teenager in South Dakota who identifies as transgender, simply being himself at school is a struggle. Yes, most teachers use his correct pronouns. But others are less accepting and some students are openly hostile.</p><p>“I just hate being there,” said Alex, a soon-to-be 12th grader. “Not for my education, but just because of the environment.”</p><p>Last year, a student followed Alex to his car shouting slurs. Another time, a group of students threatened to beat him up if he used the boys bathroom. So instead, Alex uses an employee restroom or waits until he’s home.</p><p>This April, a teacher at Alex’s school gave some students letters challenging their gender identities and urging them to accept “the biological truth.” The superintendent quickly condemned discrimination based on sexuality or gender and said the district was investigating the teacher. But discouraging abuse is hardly the same as making everyone feel welcome.</p><p>“They don’t say anything about LGBTQ students,” Alex said. “We just get forgotten and swept under the rug.”</p><p>Silence starts at the very top. While every state has <a href="https://www.apa.org/monitor/2016/02/ce-corner">some form of anti-bullying law</a>, half do not <a href="https://www.hrc.org/resources/state-maps/school-anti-bullying">explicitly prohibit</a> bullying based on race, gender, or other characteristics.</p><p>The lack of specificity comes despite research showing state laws that explicitly forbid bullying based on sexual orientation <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30638436/">are associated with</a> fewer suicide attempts, and LGBTQ students in schools with such policies <a href="https://www.glsen.org/sites/default/files/2020-10/NSCS-2019-Executive-Summary-English_1.pdf">face less victimization</a>.</p><p>When state policies protect and embrace LGBTQ students, it empowers district and school leaders to follow suit — even if some parents or politicians object.</p><p>“It gives them the mandate to do this work,” said Elizabeth Meyer, a professor at the University of Colorado Boulder who has studied inclusive education policies. “They can say: This is the law and this is what I’m going to be doing.”</p><p>South Dakota’s anti-bullying law not only lacks a list of protected student groups, it also bars school districts from creating such lists. Alex’s district has no formal policies related to LGBTQ students, the superintendent confirmed in an email, though he said schools try to work with families to accommodate trans students.</p><p>The absence of inclusive policies leaves supportive parents to fill in the gaps.</p><figure><img src="https://www.chalkbeat.org/resizer/VeiohZWxKV-EzZoJIxJbXoX_Hhw=/1440x960/cloudfront-us-east-1.images.arcpublishing.com/civicnewscompany/PV564BPLN5BA7FNKLKELWTHBKU.jpg" alt="Amy and Alex Rambow" height="960" width="1440"/><figcaption>Amy and Alex Rambow</figcaption></figure><p>Alex’s mother Amy formed a nonprofit, Watertown Love, that hosts annual Pride celebrations and monthly meetups where LGBTQ youth can go bowling or get pizza together. The district allowed her group to offer a workshop on inclusive practices during a staff training, but it was voluntary and Amy said only a handful of people attended. Meanwhile, Amy is trying to reckon with the possibility that her son will skip senior prom because he doesn’t feel safe.</p><p>“It hurts my heart,” she said.</p><p>Alex’s experience is disturbingly common. Lesbian, gay, and bisexual high school students are nearly twice as likely as their straight peers to feel unsafe at school and face bullying, according to <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/su/pdfs/su6901a3-H.pdf">a 2019 CDC survey</a>. Some of those students endure additional abuse based on their race, religion, or other aspects of their identities.</p><p>Stigma and shunning, whether at school or home, can take a steep toll. Two-thirds of lesbian, gay, and bisexual high schoolers felt persistently sad or hopeless during the past year, and nearly half seriously considered suicide, according to the 2019 survey. The rates are even higher for transgender and nonbinary youth, a <a href="https://www.thetrevorproject.org/survey-2022/">different survey</a> found.</p><p>Those mental health risks reflect the discrimination that LGBTQ people face, said Preston Mitchum, director of advocacy and government affairs for the Trevor Project, a suicide prevention group.</p><p>“It’s not inherent to who we are,” he said. “It’s because of society and how society treats people.”</p><p>In recent years, as South Dakota legislators pushed more than 30 bills restricting LGBTQ rights, <a href="https://19thnews.org/2022/02/anti-trans-sports-bill-signed-south-dakota-2022/">advocates fought back</a>. Trans youth lobbied lawmakers and testified at hearings.</p><p>In February, Amy and Alex traveled to the state capitol, where they invited Gov. Kristi Noem to meet with trans youth and allies. She <a href="https://www.advocate.com/politics/2022/2/16/were-here-stars-tried-meet-gov-kristi-noem-she-hid-her-office">declined</a>. A few days later, Noem signed a law barring trans girls from girls sports teams. It took effect July 1.</p><p>Whether or not such laws pass, the rhetoric promoting them can do harm. A staggering 85% of trans and nonbinary youth said the debate over laws targeting trans people negatively impacted their mental health, according to <a href="https://www.thetrevorproject.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/01/TrevorProject_Public1.pdf">a Trevor Project poll</a> last fall.</p><p>Campaigns seeking to regulate trans lives send young people a clear message, LGBTQ advocates say: They are a problem to be fixed.</p><p>“I’ve already got enough self-hatred as it is,” Alex said, “and that’s just piling more on top.”</p><h2>Support under attack</h2><p>It isn’t just LGBTQ students who feel increasingly targeted, but also the educators who support them.</p><figure><img src="https://www.chalkbeat.org/resizer/wEROrkkiLkdTC37xTuHxSkL_LBM=/1440x960/cloudfront-us-east-1.images.arcpublishing.com/civicnewscompany/LSAXNKS2UNG7TAXC7DXEATCOLE.jpg" alt="Brandy Vance" height="960" width="1440"/><figcaption>Brandy Vance</figcaption></figure><p>Brandy Vance, a physical education teacher in Tallahassee, Florida, wears outfits featuring rainbows and unicorns that signal her acceptance of all students. Occasionally students confide to her that they are LGBTQ, including one child who came out as trans. Her class became a refuge for the student, who hid their identity at home.</p><p>Under Florida’s new law, schools must notify parents of changes in students’ mental or emotional condition. The state has offered little clarity about the vaguely worded rule, but Vance worries it will force her to inform parents any time a student discusses their identity.</p><p>“Do I potentially out this kid to their parents?” she said. “Or do I potentially lose the job that I know I’m meant to do?”</p><p>The law has put LGBTQ-affirming educators on the defensive. Conservative critics accuse teachers of usurping parents’ authority and imposing liberal beliefs about gender and sexuality on students — what Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis <a href="https://www.cbsnews.com/miami/news/gov-ron-desantis-addresses-woke-gender-ideology-dont-say-gay-law/">calls</a> “woke gender ideology.”</p><p>“We will make sure that parents can send their kids to school to get an education, not an indoctrination,” <a href="https://www.nbcnews.com/nbc-out/out-politics-and-policy/floridas-ron-desantis-signs-critics-call-dont-say-gay-bill-rcna19908">he said</a> when signing the <a href="https://www.myfloridahouse.gov/Sections/Bills/billsdetail.aspx?BillId=76545">Parental Rights in Education law</a>.</p><p>The law, which critics call “Don’t Say Gay or Trans,” says schools must respect “the fundamental right of parents to make decisions regarding the upbringing and control of their children.” It allows parents to report and potentially sue school districts if they believe a teacher has discussed sexual orientation or gender identity with students in grades K-3 or with older students in a way that’s not “age appropriate.”</p><p>The restrictions seek to rein in districts that critics say went too far in affirming LGBTQ students. Republicans point to Leon County, the district where Vance teaches, as Exhibit A.</p><p>Last year, a conservative group <a href="https://www.tallahassee.com/story/news/2021/11/16/leon-county-schools-sued-over-lgbtq-guide-transgender-lgbtq-guide/6342695001/">sued the district</a> on behalf of parents who said a Leon County school helped their child adopt a different gender without their consent. The lawsuit referred to a district guide, which warned that outing LGBTQ students to their parents “can be very dangerous” if families are not accepting. Republican state lawmakers began drafting the parents’ rights law after learning about the lawsuit and several districts’ LGBTQ guides, <a href="https://www.politico.com/news/2022/03/29/lawsuit-teen-florida-republicans-dont-say-gay-00021163">Politico reported</a>.</p><p>After the law passed, schools scrambled to bring their practices into compliance.</p><p>Leon County convened a 14-member committee to rewrite its guide for supporting LGBTQ students. Like Duval County, the district condensed the guide and added new parent notification requirements. Most controversially, Leon County’s <a href="https://go.boarddocs.com/fla/leon/Board.nsf/files/CFTPRJ65E132/$file/06.28.2022%20LGBTQ%2B%20Amendments.pdf">new manual</a> says parents will be alerted if a transgender student in their children’s physical education class requests to use the locker room matching their gender identity.</p><p>During some three hours of public comment at a school board meeting last week, the revised guide came under fire from all sides. Some speakers said schools should only allow students to use facilities that match their biological sex, and argued that accommodating transgender students amounts to endorsing their identities.</p><p>“The school system is not a place to promote radical ideologies,” one parent said.</p><p>But other speakers said notifying families about transgender students’ locker room use would violate their privacy and expose them to hostility.</p><p>“LGBTQ students already are in a lot of danger,” said a high school student who warned the notifications could lead to bullying.</p><p>For her part, Vance said she’ll continue to accept students just as they are — even as she fears that expressing her support could now invite scrutiny or sanctions.</p><p>“If I have to go down that way,” she told Chalkbeat, “then that’s what’s going to happen.”</p><p>Beyond Leon County, <a href="https://www.tallahassee.com/story/news/2022/06/30/florida-schools-feel-impact-dont-say-gay-law/7751681001/">other districts</a> are also scrambling to <a href="https://www.nbcnews.com/nbc-out/out-news/floridas-dont-say-gay-law-takes-effect-schools-roll-lgbtq-restrictions-rcna36143">revamp policies</a> that could run afoul of the new law. They are doing so largely on their own, as the law gives the state education department until July 2023 to issue updated guidelines.</p><p>Meanwhile, Florida educators are trying to make sense of the changes.</p><p>A few days before the restrictions went into effect, the LGBTQ-advocacy group Safe Schools South Florida hosted a workshop for teachers. They asked union representatives whether they can still inquire about students’ preferred pronouns, post rainbow flags, or display photos of their same-sex partners.</p><p>Such activities are not expressly prohibited, the representatives said, but grade K-3 teachers should beware of actions that parents could interpret as “instruction” about gender or sexuality.</p><p>“We encourage you to be self aware, to be cognizant of the very real consequences that this law creates,” said Vincent Halloran, an attorney with United Teachers of Dade, the Miami-area union.</p><p>Florida officials <a href="https://www.nbcnews.com/nbc-out/out-news/floridas-dont-say-gay-law-takes-effect-schools-roll-lgbtq-restrictions-rcna36143">have accused</a> activists and teachers unions of trying to “sow confusion” about the new law. In a recent motion <a href="https://www.cbsnews.com/miami/news/florida-asks-judge-to-toss-challenge-to-controversial-dont-say-gay-law/">asking a judge to dismiss</a> a challenge to the law, the state’s attorney general said teachers would still be free to display family photos or mention their partners during class.</p><p>The chaos in Florida could spread beyond its borders. Lawmakers in at least 14 states have introduced bills to restrict classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity, according to <a href="https://www.lgbtmap.org/2022-spotlight-school-bills-report">an analysis</a> by the Movement Advance Project. Alabama’s bill passed, and the law took effect this month.</p><p>Even just the prospect of such restrictions is making some teachers second guess what is safe to say in the classroom, said Andrew Kirk, a high school teacher in Texas, where state officials <a href="https://www.texastribune.org/2022/04/04/texas-dont-say-gay-dan-patrick/">plan to introduce</a> a bill similar to Florida’s.</p><p>“This chilling effect is already happening,” he said.</p><p><i>Patrick Wall is a senior reporter covering national education issues. Contact him at </i><a href="mailto:pwall@chalkbeat.org"><i>pwall@chalkbeat.org</i></a><i>.</i></p><p><br/></p><p><div id="WLZW4h" class="embed"><div style="left: 0; width: 100%; height: 2172px; position: relative;"><iframe src="https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSddRvIspG1HE-QVAndl5M2ayeNw-k-BucWuwr_Az_gJC8n2iA/viewform?usp=sf_link&embedded=true&usp=embed_googleplus" style="top: 0; left: 0; width: 100%; height: 100%; position: absolute; border: 0;" allowfullscreen></iframe></div></div></p><p>If you are having trouble viewing this form on mobile, <a href="https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSddRvIspG1HE-QVAndl5M2ayeNw-k-BucWuwr_Az_gJC8n2iA/viewform?usp=sf_link">go here.</a></p><p><i><b>Correction: </b></i><i>An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that a high school teacher in South Dakota gave letters to several students, including Alex Rambow, challenging their gender identities. Alex did not receive one of the letters.</i></p>https://www.chalkbeat.org/2022/7/8/23198792/lgbtq-students-law-florida-dont-say-gay/Patrick Wall2022-09-23T11:00:00+00:00<![CDATA[Rising tide of censorship and scrutiny has schools scrambling to avoid backlash]]>2024-01-08T22:21:28+00:00<p>The culture war engulfing schools has subjected educators like Richard Clifton to unfamiliar scrutiny — including, in his case, a public records request.</p><p>In Savannah, Georgia, where Clifton is a longtime English teacher, a group of conservative activists earlier this year began calling for the school board to <a href="https://www.savannahnow.com/story/news/education/2022/04/28/savannah-georgia-obscene-book-ban-debate-public-schools-hb-1178/7318694001/">“purge” books with sexual content</a> from school libraries. After Clifton took a personal stand <a href="https://www.savannahnow.com/story/news/2022/03/03/savannah-ga-teacher-raise-funds-stock-library-banned-books/6850886001/">against book banning</a>, someone submitted a records request to learn what texts he assigns to students.</p><p>Around the same time, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp <a href="https://gov.georgia.gov/press-releases/2022-04-28/gov-kemp-signs-legislation-empowering-students-parents-and-teachers">signed new laws</a> that he said would protect students from what he views as obscene materials and divisive concepts. In response, an official in Clifton’s district advised against using the term “white privilege” in the classroom.</p><p>Clifton didn’t change the content of the screenwriting class he’s teaching this school year, his 29th in the district. But as the political combat around education escalates, he is more cautious about the topics he discusses and the language he uses in class.</p><p>“I am a little more gun-shy than I might have been in the past,” he said.</p><p>The conservative backlash against <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/22525983/map-critical-race-theory-legislation-teaching-racism">anti-racism</a> and <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2022/7/8/23198792/lgbtq-students-law-florida-dont-say-gay">LGBTQ inclusion</a> in schools has put <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2022/8/10/23299007/teachers-limit-classroom-conversations-racism-sexism-survey">intense pressure</a> on many educators. And that is causing schools to change, in ways obvious and subtle, as laws like Georgia’s take effect across the country.</p><p>Some of the moves are public, as when districts review challenged books or make it easier for parents to lodge complaints. But other shifts are happening behind the scenes — <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/education/2022/03/22/school-librarian-book-bans-challenges/">books quietly pulled</a> from shelves, classroom discussions <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2021/12/17/22840317/crt-laws-classroom-discussion-racism">cut short</a> — as teachers and school leaders seek to avoid blowback. Often it is <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2022/3/11/22970779/iowa-critical-race-theory-teacher-training-equity-diversity">students of color</a> and <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2022/4/12/23022356/teaching-restrictions-gender-identity-sexual-orientation-lgbtq-issues-health-education">LGBTQ young people</a> who feel these effects most acutely as signals of inclusivity fade or vanish.</p><p>That was the case in an Alabama school district where a superintendent, facing pressure from some parents and a new state law restricting lessons about sexuality, ordered the removal of LGBTQ pride flags from classrooms, according to a teacher who requested anonymity to avoid retaliation. As the teacher took down her flags at the request of her principal, a queer student in the room began to cry.</p><p>“Once you ban a symbol that shows you love and support them,” the teacher said, “it looks like you are no longer supporting them.”</p><p>Conservative critics view the push to confront racism and champion inclusion in schools as a pretext for exposing students to liberal ideas and inappropriate content. That backlash has fueled efforts to rein in teachers and censor books.</p><p>Three-dozen state legislatures have <a href="https://pen.org/report/americas-censored-classrooms/">considered bills this year</a> to restrict teaching about contested topics, which six states passed, while schools in nearly 140 districts have <a href="https://pen.org/report/banned-usa-growing-movement-to-censor-books-in-schools/">removed or limited students’ access to books</a> that parents or community members opposed, according to two recent reports by PEN America, a free-speech advocacy group. <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/education/2022/03/02/transparency-curriculum-teachers-parents-rights/">Other legislation</a> makes it easier for parents to see what’s taught in school and raise objections.</p><p>The combined efforts have had a chilling effect, according to analysts and educators. While there have been a few high-profile instances of <a href="https://www.edweek.org/leadership/two-okla-districts-get-downgraded-accreditations-for-violating-states-anti-crt-law/2022/08">districts being penalized</a> or <a href="https://www.jacksonville.com/story/news/education/2021/05/17/florida-education-commissioner-richard-corcoran-says-fired-duval-county-teacher-supporting-blm/5134544001/">teachers investigated</a> for violating the new rules, just the threat of controversy or punishment has been enough to prompt preemptive changes.</p><p>School and district leaders are “taking it upon themselves to do the censors’ work for them,” said Jeremy C. Young, senior manager of free expression and education at PEN America. “In some ways that’s the goal of the legislation: to make everyone afraid of their own shadows so they simply stay away from this material.”</p><p>The legislation, almost all of which has been introduced by Republicans, has increasingly included the threat of sanctions ranging from <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/education/2022/06/16/teacher-resignations-firings-culture-wars/">professional discipline</a> to <a href="https://tn.chalkbeat.org/2021/11/19/22792435/crt-tennessee-rules-prohibited-racial-concepts-schwinn">loss of state funding</a> and even <a href="https://apnews.com/article/science-entertainment-education-biology-missouri-0fdae848f82c26b67751662801dfe7c9">criminal charges</a>. Some laws enlist parents as enforcers.</p><p>For instance, Florida’s new <a href="https://www.myfloridahouse.gov/Sections/Bills/billsdetail.aspx?BillId=76545">Parental Rights in Education law</a> allows parents to report and potentially sue school districts if they believe a teacher discussed sexuality or gender identity with students in grades K-3.</p><p>“The overall feeling that I get is fear,” said Raegan Miller, a parent in St. Petersburg and member of the <a href="https://twitter.com/FLFreedomRead">Florida Freedom to Read Project</a>, which opposes the new restrictions.</p><p>The laws have unleashed a flurry of censorship, much of it <a href="https://www.fftrp.org/tracking_fl">aimed at books</a> featuring Black or LGBTQ characters and driven by conservative activists. The group has tracked more than <a href="https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1tw7sFGKEnWD0UoLQqlET2iQCgxML0znV0WmEDDjTMLs/edit#gid=0">580 titles</a> that faced challenges across Florida over the past year, resulting in dozens of books being removed or made less accessible.</p><p>In her own children’s district, Miller has seen schools only allow older students to check out picture books with LGBTQ characters, which she considers an indirect ban. Recently, her son’s fifth-grade teacher sent home a form asking parents to indicate whether their children may use the classroom library.</p><p>“That’s the first time I’ve ever gotten a letter like that,” Miller said.</p><p>With only limited state guidance, Florida school districts have taken steps to forestall potential violations of the new laws. Some critics say they’ve gone overboard.</p><p>The Orange County school district, which educates more than 200,000 students in the Orlando area, forbade schools from <a href="https://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/education/os-ne-florida-law-school-libraries-books-20220829-z7hfur4oinhgjfd23jaqfaxzo4-story.html">adding new library books</a> until media specialists complete a required training next year. The Miami-Dade County school board recently <a href="https://www.politico.com/news/2022/09/07/miami-dade-school-board-spars-over-lgbtq-history-month-recognition-00055368">rejected a proposal</a> to recognize October as “LGBTQ History Month.” And the superintendent of the more than 80,000-student Pasco County school district <a href="https://www.tampabay.com/news/education/2022/09/01/pasco-schools-ban-safe-space-stickers-that-show-support-for-lgbtq-students/">told employees this month</a> to remove “Safe Space” stickers, which are meant to signal support for LGBTQ students.</p><p>“People are being very cautious,” said Dr. Sue Woltanski, a retired pediatrician and member of the Monroe County school board in Key West. “My concern is that caution will prevent people from standing up for teachers who are trying to do the right thing in their classrooms.”</p><p>Schools in her district are putting their library catalogs online in compliance with the new laws, she added, but are not removing Safe Space stickers.</p><p>Many schools’ fear of controversy or censure is surfacing in inconspicuous ways.</p><p>In Missouri, where Republican lawmakers proposed more than 20 bills this year seeking to limit what students learn about racism and other “divisive concepts,” Aimee Robertson has noticed her children’s teachers sending home more permission slips. Already this school year, her daughter’s 11th grade AP English teacher has sought parents’ consent before allowing students to choose which memoir to study or showing them <a href="https://www.netflix.com/title/80216393">a documentary</a> about humanity’s impact on the environment.</p><p>“Clearly districts and educators are going above and beyond to cover their butts,” she said.</p><p>Students have also noticed teachers’ newfound apprehension.</p><p>Kennedy Young is an 11th grader in Georgia, where a <a href="https://legiscan.com/GA/text/HB1084/2021">new law</a> limits what teachers can say about racism and U.S. history.</p><p>During a recent lesson at her school in Cobb County, Kennedy’s English teacher started to share her thoughts about why a Black and a Latina character in “A Streetcar Named Desire” weren’t given names, but she stopped herself. The teacher said students could discuss the topic, but she wasn’t allowed to participate. No one spoke up.</p><p>Kennedy, who is Black and has been <a href="https://www.georgiayouthjustice.org/">helping other students</a> talk about race under the new law, said she wanted to bring up how women of color, and Black women in particular, are often marginalized in literature. But it can be isolating for students of color to lead classroom discussions about race without teachers’ support.</p><p>“Sometimes I can feel like my voice is quieter, that it doesn’t matter,” she said, “because there isn’t that adult or other people of color to help me and guide the conversation along.”</p><p>Back in Richard Clifton’s district, Savannah-Chatham County, officials have taken steps to obey the new laws.</p><p>The school board adopted policies allowing parents to object to teaching materials used in their children’s classes, and report teachers who they believe discussed prohibited topics. At a training for administrators, a board attorney urged “caution and discretion” when using the phrase white privilege in classrooms, according to district spokesperson Sheila Blanco.</p><p>Despite pressure from activists who <a href="https://www.savannahnow.com/story/news/education/2022/04/28/savannah-georgia-obscene-book-ban-debate-public-schools-hb-1178/7318694001/">urged the board</a> to “protect our children from pornography,” the district has not removed any books from school libraries this year, Blanco said.</p><p>For his part, Clifton said he believes parents have a right to know what’s taught in school, and he’s always tried to avoid promoting his personal beliefs in class. He still welcomes robust debate in his classroom, but now if a student were to raise a politically charged topic, he might think twice before engaging.</p><p>“I wouldn’t delve into it deeply,” he said, “because of the climate we are in.”</p><p><i>Kalyn Belsha contributed reporting.</i></p><p><i>Patrick Wall is a senior reporter covering national education issues. Contact him at </i><a href="mailto:pwall@chalkbeat.org"><i>pwall@chalkbeat.org</i></a><i>.</i></p><p><br/></p><p><br/></p>https://www.chalkbeat.org/2022/9/23/23367419/school-censorship-race-lgbtq/Patrick Wall2022-08-18T19:24:19+00:00<![CDATA[Staffing, attendance, behavior: 7 big issues facing schools this year]]>2024-01-08T22:20:55+00:00<p>After surviving two school years “completely veiled in the pandemic,” teacher Kathryn Vaughn says this year is off to a different start.</p><p>Her stress levels are down. COVID protocols are relaxed. Teachers are feeling hopeful.</p><p>“It feels a little lighter this year,” said Vaughn, who teaches elementary school art in Tennessee. “It really feels like we’re just kind of back to business as usual.”</p><p>Many students and educators are returning to classrooms this fall with a sense of <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2022/8/17/23310067/educators-cautious-back-to-school?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=cb_bureau_national&utm_source=Chalkbeat&utm_campaign=4bfa9e740f-National+Teachers+cautious+optimism&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_9091015053-4bfa9e740f-1296447706">cautious optimism</a>. But there are still many open questions after last year’s staffing shortages, student absences, and mental health and behavioral challenges interfered with academic recovery efforts.</p><p>Here are seven big issues facing schools:</p><h3>How will schools handle staffing challenges?</h3><figure><img src="https://www.chalkbeat.org/resizer/tVGzAh8JylUH0KMh3kMHZvYwd2Y=/1440x960/cloudfront-us-east-1.images.arcpublishing.com/civicnewscompany/BOXKAPONGZAXHKGESN7XL4DXGI.jpg" alt="Some schools are stepping up efforts to boost student attendance this year." height="960" width="1440"/><figcaption>Some schools are stepping up efforts to boost student attendance this year.</figcaption></figure><p>First, some reassuring news: Despite what you might have heard, <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2022/8/11/23300684/teacher-shortage-national-schools-covid">there isn’t evidence</a> of an unprecedented teacher shortage nor <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2022/3/9/22967759/teacher-turnover-retention-pandemic-data">an exodus of teachers</a> fleeing the profession.</p><p>Yet some schools are struggling to staff up — partly for reasons that predate the pandemic. High-poverty schools have long <a href="https://newark.chalkbeat.org/2019/10/16/21109035/newark-schools-are-short-dozens-of-teachers-leading-to-bigger-classes-and-more-substitutes">had trouble</a> recruiting and retaining teachers, and the supply of new educators has dwindled over the past decade as <a href="https://www.edweek.org/teaching-learning/fewer-people-are-getting-teacher-degrees-prep-programs-sound-the-alarm/2022/03#:~:text=The%20downward%20trend%20has%20been,alternative%20programs%20experienced%20drops%2C%20too.">fewer people enroll</a> in teacher-prep programs.</p><p>But the pandemic also has created new complications. Many districts used federal relief funds to add more positions, including tutors and extra substitutes, <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2021/10/1/22704879/shortages-teachers-bus-drivers-schools-why-covid">creating huge demand</a> for a limited pool of workers. Schools also must compete with other employers for lower-wage workers, such as bus drivers and custodians, spurring some districts to <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2022/8/4/23291304/school-staff-shortages-bus-drivers-custodians-tutors">hike their pay and offer bonuses</a>.</p><p>Those hiring pressures are bearing down on Paterson Public Schools, a high-needs district in New Jersey. Some 130 teaching positions remain unfilled, or nearly 6% of the total teaching force, about three weeks before students return, said Luis Rojas, Jr., the district official who oversees human resources. While some vacancies are expected, Rojas said the number has surged as teachers take advantage of the tight labor market.</p><p>“They understand the demand,” he said, “and folks are jumping around from school district to school district trying to move up the salary ladder and get as much money as they can.”</p><p>The causes of the staffing crunch are ultimately less important than the effect on students. <a href="https://newark.chalkbeat.org/2021/9/14/22674251/newark-teacher-shortage-2021">Schools that can’t find enough teachers</a> might have to raise class sizes, hire less qualified candidates, assign teachers to subjects in which they have limited training, or rely on long-term substitutes — all of which can get in the way of learning.</p><p>“I would tell you that one is too many,” Rojas said, “when you have a vacancy.”</p><h3>Will student attendance improve?</h3><p>Chronic absenteeism rates <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2022/04/20/us/school-absence-attendance-rate-covid.html">rose last year</a>, as quarantines and COVID infections <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2021/12/1/22811872/school-attendance-covid-quarantines">kept students home for long stretches</a>.</p><p>This year, the <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2022/8/11/23301933/cdc-guidance-schools-quarantines-testing">CDC is no longer recommending</a> that students quarantine after an exposure. Many think that will help stabilize attendance, though it’s possible other factors could persist, such as lingering student disengagement.</p><p>In Los Angeles, about half of all students were chronically absent last year. Even without quarantines, 30% of students were chronically absent, <a href="https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2022-08-13/counselor-search-for-las-thousands-of-missing-students">up from 19% before the pandemic</a>.</p><p>“That is just not acceptable,” <a href="https://lausd.wistia.com/medias/13l39j81a5">Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said last week</a> as he announced a new campaign to boost attendance by visiting student homes.</p><p>In Detroit, 77% of students were chronically absent last year, up from 62% the year before the pandemic began. There, the spike was especially concerning because the district has long worked to raise attendance. Now, officials are <a href="https://detroit.chalkbeat.org/2022/8/10/23299219/chronic-absenteeism-dpscd-school-board-attendance-agent-sarah-lenhoff-pandemic">stepping up efforts to get kids to school</a>.</p><p>Lisa Blackwell, a district attendance agent, is part of that. This summer, she’s been knocking on doors to talk up her elementary school’s new before- and after-school care options, and explaining to parents the COVID precautions her school is taking. She’s also planning incentives to reward students, like bringing an ice cream truck to school.</p><p>“I want to focus more so on getting the kids excited to go to school,” Blackwell said. “Maybe that will push parents a little bit more to say: ‘Well, my kid is very excited to be at school, so I as a parent, I’m held accountable to make sure they get there.’”</p><h3>Can schools meet students’ mental health needs?</h3><p>Inside classrooms across the country last year, the <a href="https://www.aap.org/en/advocacy/child-and-adolescent-healthy-mental-development/aap-aacap-cha-declaration-of-a-national-emergency-in-child-and-adolescent-mental-health/">crisis in young people’s mental health</a> was all too evident. After many months of social isolation and learning by laptop, some students were prone to outbursts, meltdowns, and squabbles.</p><p>“These kids are very anxious,” said Aaron Grossman, a fifth grade teacher in Reno, Nevada. “The uptick in behavior is very real.”</p><p>The distinct but overlapping challenges of worsening <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2022/7/6/23197094/student-fights-classroom-disruptions-suspensions-discipline-pandemic">student behavior</a> and mental health were fueled by the pandemic — and the stress, financial hardships, and trauma it caused. Federal <a href="https://ies.ed.gov/schoolsurvey/spp/#tab-2">survey data</a> from this spring confirmed the twin crises: 70% of public school leaders reported an increase in students seeking mental health services during the pandemic, and 56% said disruptive student misconduct had <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2021/9/27/22691601/student-behavior-stress-trauma-return">become more common</a>.</p><p>Efforts to address both issues have achieved mixed results. Some schools responded to student misbehavior by <a href="https://ny.chalkbeat.org/2022/6/24/23182154/restorative-justice-covid-nyc-school">leaning into restorative practices</a>, which aim for healing over punishment, but others <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2022/7/6/23197094/student-fights-classroom-disruptions-suspensions-discipline-pandemic">issued more suspensions</a> than usual. Many schools <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2021/8/16/22624041/pandemic-mental-health-staff-schools-rand">used federal aid to hire</a> more counselors, social workers, and school psychologists, but not always as many were needed. In <a href="https://ies.ed.gov/schoolsurvey/spp/SPP_April_Infographic_Mental_Health_and_Well_Being.pdf">an April survey</a>, just over half of school leaders said their schools could provide mental health services to all students who require them.</p><p>Nance Roy, the chief clinical officer of The Jed Foundation, which focuses on youth mental health and suicide prevention, says schools should encourage students to reach out for help and connect them with service providers.</p><p>“It’s developing a culture of care and compassion in schools,” she said, “where there’s no wrong door to walk through for support.”</p><h3>What will public school enrollment look like?</h3><p>U.S. public school enrollment <a href="https://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d22/tables/dt22_203.65.asp?current=yes">held steady last fall</a>, according to federal data released this week. That came after student head counts dropped 2.8% in the fall of 2020, following years of national enrollment growth.</p><p>Last year saw a spike in <a href="https://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d22/tables/dt22_203.40.asp?current=yes">preschool and kindergarten enrollment</a>, both of which dropped sharply when many districts turned to virtual schooling. The return of full-time in-person learning, declining COVID safety concerns, and additional family outreach <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2021/11/10/22773039/kindergarten-enrollment-rebounds-student-headcounts-down">likely helped boost those grades</a>. But enrollment continues to fall among students in other elementary and middle school grades, a trend that could spell trouble for some districts as the extra funding from federal COVID relief packages dries up.</p><p>The issue weighs especially heavily on school leaders in big cities where the <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2022/8/1/23283631/covid-small-schools-enrollment-drop-chicago-new-york-los-angeles-drop-cities">share of small schools has ballooned</a>. Now, some are considering school closures, which can create schools that are less expensive to run and have a wider range of programs, but will mean more disruption for students who’ve faced a lot of it in recent years.</p><p>“There are really awful tradeoffs,” Shanthi Gonzales, a former school board member in Oakland, California, <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2022/8/1/23283631/covid-small-schools-enrollment-drop-chicago-new-york-los-angeles-drop-cities">told Chalkbeat this summer</a>.</p><h3>Can schools get extra academic help to students who need it most?</h3><figure><img src="https://www.chalkbeat.org/resizer/XzAd_CHtDk1EcaQfD_7rJzKLK-o=/1440x960/cloudfront-us-east-1.images.arcpublishing.com/civicnewscompany/T2QXZVJBZFGBVPLTLIVCYN3FEA.jpg" alt="Many schools are offering tutoring and other kinds of academic interventions, but it doesn’t always reach the students who need the most help." height="960" width="1440"/><figcaption>Many schools are offering tutoring and other kinds of academic interventions, but it doesn’t always reach the students who need the most help.</figcaption></figure><p>The road to academic recovery is coming into focus as data rolls in. So far, <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2022/7/19/23269210/learning-loss-recovery-data-nwea-pandemic">elementary school students</a> seem to be recovering more quickly than middle schoolers, but students of all ages are still significantly behind where they would normally be on reading and math tests.</p><p>Katrina Abe, a math teacher in Houston, has seen that. Last year, her eighth graders needed extra help with seventh grade topics like interpreting graphs and understanding rates of change. Those concepts are harder to grasp virtually and without working in groups, which happened if students learned online or missed a lot of class the prior year.</p><p>This year’s class is noticeably behind last year’s, she said, likely because half of them had three different math teachers in seventh grade. To help, Abe is planning small-group instruction every day and more turn-and-talk time so students can problem solve together. She’s also going to review some fifth and sixth grade standards.</p><p>“We’re going to just take that slow, depending on their level,” she said.</p><p>Many schools are offering tutoring and other kinds of academic support, but <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2022/7/19/23269210/learning-loss-recovery-data-nwea-pandemic">data on which recovery efforts are working is limited</a>. More than half of public schools said they provided high-dosage tutoring in a <a href="https://ies.ed.gov/schoolsurvey/spp/">recent federal survey</a> — a highly effective strategy — but schools often have trouble <a href="https://detroit.chalkbeat.org/2022/5/2/23045617/michigan-tutoring-esser-best-practices-evidence-learning-loss">staffing</a> and <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2022/3/25/22995221/tutoring-pandemic-academic-recovery-recruiting-training-challenges">scheduling</a> that support. Some districts have <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2022/6/29/23186973/virtual-tutoring-schools-covid-relief-money">turned to virtual tutoring</a>, but it often doesn’t reach students who need help the most.</p><p>Meanwhile, educators are keeping their eyes on the <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2022/5/12/23068627/ninth-grade-retention-credit-recovery-pandemic">larger crop of teens who are behind in credits</a> needed to graduate.</p><h3>Will schools ramp up COVID relief spending?</h3><p>Schools have an unprecedented pot of federal money to spend, but many are still struggling to put it to use. There’s a few reasons for that. <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2021/12/3/22813274/homeless-students-covid-pandemic-relief-money-stalled">In some states</a>, money got stuck in red tape and arrived late. Elsewhere, schools are having a hard time finding staff to fill new positions, or hiring contractors to make building repairs.</p><p>Some districts that have been slow to spend say they’re planning to ramp up spending over time. Indianapolis Public Schools, for example, had <a href="https://in.chalkbeat.org/2022/6/21/23177070/heres-how-ips-has-spent-its-federal-pandemic-funding-to-date">spent only 10% of its federal COVID aid</a> as of late June, mostly to avoid staff cuts and buy PPE. But the district says it has budgeted all the money, including to tutor more students.</p><p>Still, this aid doesn’t always feel like new money. <a href="https://ny.chalkbeat.org/2022/8/3/23290989/ny-school-budget-cuts-stimulus-funding-teacher-salaries-adams-banks">New York City recently gave schools the OK to use $100 million</a> in federal aid that was previously set aside for academic recovery to pay teachers, after announcing $215 million in school budget cuts.</p><p><a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2022/2/3/22916590/schools-federal-covid-relief-stimulus-spending-tracking">This money also has been difficult to track</a>: School district spending plans vary widely in quality and there’s often limited data at the state and federal levels.</p><p>But some trends are apparent. When FutureEd, a Georgetown University think tank, <a href="https://www.future-ed.org/financial-trends-in-local-schools-covid-aid-spending/">looked at spending plans for some 5,000 school districts in June</a>, it found a quarter of federal funds were budgeted for staff, and another quarter were earmarked for academic recovery. Just under a quarter was set aside for facilities and operations, mostly to upgrade heating, ventilation and cooling systems.</p><h3>How will the culture wars shape what students learn?</h3><p>America’s latest culture wars are being waged inside schools.</p><p><a href="https://www.edweek.org/policy-politics/map-where-critical-race-theory-is-under-attack/2021/06">Seventeen states</a> now ban lessons on racism or sexism, <a href="https://www.lgbtmap.org/equality-maps/curricular_laws">six states</a> restrict teaching about sexuality and gender identity, and <a href="https://www.lgbtmap.org/equality-maps/sports_participation_bans">18 states</a> don’t allow transgender students to play on sports teams that match their gender.</p><p>Peyton, a 12th grader who is part of <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2022/7/25/23274280/alabama-black-queer-youth-trans-activists">a support group for Black queer youth in Alabama</a>, said the laws send a clear message to LGBTQ students.</p><p>“It’s just enforcing that you’re not normal and society does not want you here,” they said.</p><p>In addition to making some students feel less safe, the laws are limiting what they learn.</p><p>Some teachers have <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2021/12/17/22840317/crt-laws-classroom-discussion-racism">curtailed class discussions</a> about the oppression of Black people and Native Americans, and some schools are <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/education/2022/08/17/book-ban-restriction-access-lgbtq/">restricting students’ access to books</a> by or about people of color and LGBTQ Americans.</p><p>The Biden administration has <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2022/6/23/23180349/lgbtq-students-discrimination-school-sexual-orientation-gender-identity-title-ix">proposed new rules</a> to protect LGBTQ students, but conservative states <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2022/8/10/23298986/transgender-children-kids-students-rights-biden-lgbtq-title-ix">are expected to challenge those rules</a> in court. Meanwhile, school districts that run afoul of the new state laws already are <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/education/2022/07/30/crt-oklahoma-tulsa-schools-shame-white/">facing consequences</a>, and more attacks are likely: Florida’s new law allows parents to file complaints or even sue if they believe their children are taught banned topics.</p><p>But for every lesson that is challenged, many more will never be taught as schools seek to avoid sanctions and controversy. In a new survey, <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2022/8/10/23299007/teachers-limit-classroom-conversations-racism-sexism-survey">1 in 4 teachers nationally</a> — and nearly 1 in 3 teachers in states with curriculum restrictions — said higher-ups told them to steer clear of contentious topics in the classroom.</p><p>As ​​Andrew Kirk, a high school teacher in Texas, <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2022/7/8/23198792/lgbtq-students-law-florida-dont-say-gay">told Chalkbeat</a>: “This chilling effect is already happening.”</p><p><i>Jessica Blake contributed reporting.</i></p><p><i>Kalyn Belsha is a national education reporter based in Chicago. Contact her at </i><a href="mailto:kbelsha@chalkbeat.org"><i>kbelsha@chalkbeat.org</i></a><i>.</i></p><p><i>Patrick Wall is a senior reporter covering national education issues. Contact him at </i><a href="mailto:pwall@chalkbeat.org"><i>pwall@chalkbeat.org</i></a><i>.</i></p>https://www.chalkbeat.org/2022/8/18/23311473/school-staffing-chronic-absenteeism-behavior-enrollment-academic-recovery/Kalyn Belsha, Patrick Wall2022-10-12T16:20:26+00:00<![CDATA[More than politics: New studies help explain why some schools reopened while others stayed virtual]]>2024-01-08T22:16:46+00:00<p>To critics, keeping schools closed during the pandemic was not only a colossal blunder — it was pure politics.</p><p>According to <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/republican-school-reopening-political-message/2021/02/18/55778d16-7172-11eb-93be-c10813e358a2_story.html">many Republicans</a> and <a href="https://nymag.com/intelligencer/article/progressives-must-reckon-with-the-school-closing-catastrophe.html">some liberals</a>, some school districts’ decision to extend remote learning for well over a year owed more to partisan politics and pressure by teachers unions than the data on COVID’s health risks. In short, they say, politics prevailed over science.</p><p>That argument was supported by <a href="https://www.brookings.edu/blog/brown-center-chalkboard/2020/07/29/school-reopening-plans-linked-to-politics-rather-than-public-health/">early studies</a>, <a href="https://www.edworkingpapers.com/ai20-304">which found</a> that a community’s party affiliation and teachers union strength better predicted whether schools would reopen than local COVID conditions. But <a href="https://www.edworkingpapers.com/sites/default/files/ai22-575.pdf">later research</a> found that in-person learning was less common in counties with high COVID rates, <a href="https://www.vox.com/2022/5/23/23132118/school-reopening-covid-pandemic-remote-learning">challenging the view</a> that reopening decisions were divorced from public health data.</p><p>Now, two additional studies provide even greater insight into districts’ choices during the first full school year of the pandemic about whether to reopen classrooms or continue remote learning — decisions that proved to be as consequential as they were contentious.</p><p>Together, the studies indicate that districts responded to evolving conditions on the ground during a period of intense uncertainty, basing their actions on COVID spread, health guidelines, teacher demands, and parent preferences. As to whether politics or science guided decision-making, the emerging research suggests, the answer is both/and.</p><p>“The decisions were not as black and white as the popular discourse made it out to be, and which some of the early research studies fit into,” said Jeremy Singer, a postdoctoral researcher at Michigan State University who co-authored <a href="https://www.edworkingpapers.com/sites/default/files/ai22-605.pdf">one of the recent studies</a>. “It’s a much more nuanced story.”</p><p>Early research on school opening decisions focused largely on the start of the 2020-21 school year, when districts faced <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2020/7/7/21316680/devos-and-trump-put-pressure-on-schools-to-fully-open-for-in-person-instruction-this-fall">pressure by the Trump administration</a> to resume in-person learning even as COVID rates surged. School buildings were less likely to reopen that fall in communities with strong teachers unions and more Democratic voters, several studies found.</p><p>Such research <a href="https://www.vox.com/2022/5/23/23132118/school-reopening-covid-pandemic-remote-learning">fueled the popular perception</a> that “politics, far more than science, shaped school district decision-making,” as one <a href="https://www.edworkingpapers.com/sites/default/files/ai20-304.pdf">early study</a> put it. But a new <a href="https://www.edworkingpapers.com/sites/default/files/ai22-660.pdf">working paper</a>, released this month, reaches the opposite conclusion: Perceived health risks, more than politics, drove most reopening decisions.</p><p>The new study examined the reopening choices of Ohio’s more than 600 school districts throughout that school year — not just in the fall. Since a community’s political preferences and union strength tend to remain constant, districts that opened or closed schools during the year were likely responding to changing health conditions, the researchers theorized. And that’s what they found.</p><p>About two-thirds of Ohio districts switched between in-person and remote learning over the course of the school year, some multiple times, the study shows. In those districts, local COVID rates were a better predictor of reopening than politics. (By contrast, districts that kept schools open all year tended to be in rural and Republican areas, while those that stayed virtual were mostly in urban, Democratic areas — trends consistent with prior research.)</p><p>By looking at districts’ weekly COVID data, the researchers found that rising case counts during in-person learning made districts less likely to keep schools open the following week. The effect waned over time, a sign that officials came to rely less on infection rates as they learned more about COVID spread and risks, the researchers propose. The study also found that districts were more likely to open schools when neighboring districts did so.</p><p>Taken together, the findings suggest that district leaders “were acting like rational decision-makers facing uncertainty,” said Brian Jacob, an education policy professor at the University of Michigan, who co-authored the study with Alvin Christian and John Singleton. “That’s a very different picture of school districts and school boards than, ‘They’re only focused on political partisanship.’”</p><p>The second recent <a href="https://www.edworkingpapers.com/sites/default/files/ai22-605.pdf">working paper,</a> released in July, is a qualitative study of five cities where schools started the 2020-21 school year virtually: Denver; Detroit; New Orleans; Portland, Oregon; and Washington, D.C. Based on dozens of interviews with district and charter school administrators, union leaders, advocates, and parents, the study sheds new light on how and why districts made their reopening decisions.</p><p>Not surprisingly, officials in those heavily Democratic cities closely adhered to public health guidance around COVID, which <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-usa-education/new-u-s-cdc-school-reopening-guidelines-promised-after-trump-complains-idUSKBN24922X">former President Donald Trump</a> and his allies often attacked as too cautious. While the district leaders tended to agree with the guidance, they also used it strategically as a source of legitimacy and political cover, according to the study conducted by researchers at several universities.</p><p>“I don’t need the community thinking that I am unilaterally deciding what’s safe or what’s healthy,” a district official told the researchers. “I need professionals and subject matter experts to tell us, ‘These are the guidelines.’”</p><p>Teachers unions influenced the process by highlighting the health risks of reopening and demanding certain safety precautions, the study found. But district officials also worried that reopening too quickly would lead to teacher resignations and staff shortages.</p><p>Families generally embraced the districts’ gradual return to in-person learning, the researchers found, in line with <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6949a2.htm?s_cid=mm6949a2_w">national polling data</a> that showed, compared with white parents, fewer Black and Latino parents favored reopening schools in fall 2020. Based on opinion polls and the higher COVID death rate among people of color, leaders of these districts “came to believe non-white families were not strongly demanding in-person learning,” the study says.</p><p>The debate over whether schools should have reopened sooner shows no sign of abating, especially as <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2022/9/1/23331852/math-reading-scores-drop-naep-pandemic">new data reveals</a> how much student learning suffered during the pandemic. While the new studies won’t settle that debate, they do provide a better understanding of how district officials made their decisions, which were about far more than just politics, said Singer, one of the study’s authors.</p><p>“I think evidence like this helps reinforce the idea that district leadership and school leadership were trying to navigate a really difficult context,” he said, “and it wasn’t just a gut reflex based on national partisanship.”</p><p><i>Patrick Wall is a senior reporter covering national education issues. Contact him at </i><a href="mailto:pwall@chalkbeat.org"><i>pwall@chalkbeat.org</i></a><i>.</i></p>https://www.chalkbeat.org/2022/10/12/23400653/school-reopening-covid-politics-study/Patrick Wall2022-10-05T19:25:52+00:00<![CDATA[Are efforts to support student mental health working? Help Chalkbeat investigate.]]>2024-01-08T22:16:16+00:00<p>A historic campaign is underway to support students’ mental health. But is it working?</p><p>As the pandemic has <a href="https://www.edweek.org/leadership/new-research-shows-how-bad-the-pandemic-has-been-for-student-mental-health/2022/01">frayed students’ nerves</a>, <a href="https://www.aap.org/en/advocacy/child-and-adolescent-healthy-mental-development/aap-aacap-cha-declaration-of-a-national-emergency-in-child-and-adolescent-mental-health/">worsened rates</a> of anxiety and depression, and fueled a <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2022/7/6/23197094/student-fights-classroom-disruptions-suspensions-discipline-pandemic">rise in behavior issues</a>, schools have raced to offer support. They’ve <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2021/8/16/22624041/pandemic-mental-health-staff-schools-rand">tried to hire more</a> psychologists and social workers, paid <a href="https://newark.chalkbeat.org/2022/1/25/22899957/newark-student-mental-health-services">private agencies</a> to provide counseling, assessed students’ <a href="https://ny.chalkbeat.org/2021/9/28/22690481/social-emotional-skills-screeners-nyc">social-emotional skills</a>, offered training to <a href="https://detroit.chalkbeat.org/2022/8/9/23297532/trails-sel-mental-health-50-million-michigan-school-aid-budget">students</a> and <a href="https://ny.chalkbeat.org/2022/3/16/22981718/nyc-schools-parent-ambassador-program-mental-health-wellness-support">parents</a> on how to manage difficult emotions, <a href="https://co.chalkbeat.org/2022/9/21/23355509/colorado-youth-mental-health-crisis-wellness-room-denver-schools">set up rooms</a> where students can relax and meditate, and even brought in <a href="https://detroit.chalkbeat.org/2022/3/14/22973534/michigan-dog-school-mental-health-covid-funds">therapy dogs</a>.</p><p>The rapid expansion of services has been bankrolled by the nearly $190 billion in federal COVID relief money for schools. A new federal law to address gun violence will send <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2022/6/22/23179231/congress-bill-uvalde-shoot-shooting-safety-security-mental-health">even more money</a> to schools, including $280 million in <a href="https://www.ed.gov/news/press-releases/hundreds-millions-dollars-funds-increase-number-school-based-mental-health-providers-schools-provided-through-bipartisan-safer-communities-act">mental health grants</a>.</p><p>Most large urban districts say they intend to use some of the COVID aid on social-emotional and mental health support for students, according to <a href="https://crpe.org/building-upgrades-sel-100-large-urban-districts-plan-their-pandemic-recovery/">a review of 100 district plans</a> by the Center on Reinventing Public Education.</p><p>But while it’s clear that schools are ramping up support for students, it’s much less clear how well those efforts are working. Have schools been able to hire enough mental health professionals? Has new training enabled teachers to spot students who need extra help? Are students applying the lessons on emotional regulation? Is anyone using those new wellness rooms?</p><p>Chalkbeat is exploring how the campaign to support students’ mental health is playing out in schools — but we need your help. Please take the survey below and tell us what’s happening in your school and how well it seems to be working.</p><p><div id="0cVYtZ" class="html"><iframe src="https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLScetLxrzBEY1Jx1cKX4vmqk6nGHU0dn-XNf9bRvLNyfD4-Mvg/viewform?embedded=true" width="100%" height="2911" frameborder="0" marginheight="0" marginwidth="0">Loading…</iframe></div></p><p>If you are having trouble viewing this form, <a href="https://forms.gle/Aju3xChoftxkXWCY9">go here</a>.</p>https://www.chalkbeat.org/2022/10/5/23389441/student-mental-health-support-schools-survey/Patrick Wall2022-07-25T11:00:00+00:00<![CDATA[‘A place of joy’: Inside a safe haven for Black queer teens in Alabama]]>2024-01-08T22:15:40+00:00<p>As the youth group members trickle onto the video call, Joshua Baker tries to keep things light.</p><p>“Thank you for momentarily gracing us with your beauty,” he tells DaQuon, who turns off their camera as soon as they join. After Aadhya announces that she got a new car, Baker exclaims, “Come on, wheels!”</p><p>But when Peyton says they’re feeling exhausted, Baker can’t help but acknowledge: In many parts of America, it is not an easy time to be young, Black, and queer.</p><p>“Within the context of everything that’s going on in the world,” Baker says on this sweltering July afternoon, “everything just feels kind of heavy.”</p><p>Baker oversees the Youth Ambassadors, part of a nonprofit that serves and is led by Black queer people in Alabama. At 25, he is not much older than the teens in his group, yet he calls them his babies. Nurturing comes naturally to Baker, who cared for his ailing mother while in high school and then earned a master’s degree in social work. And nurturing, he believes, is what these young people need now.</p><p>In statehouses across the country, conservative lawmakers have proposed hundreds of bills this year <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2022/7/8/23198792/lgbtq-students-law-florida-dont-say-gay">targeting LGBTQ people</a> and transgender teens in particular. This spring, Baker and the young people in his program watched with fear and fury as Alabama’s legislature passed one of the most restrictive measures, making it a felony for doctors to provide gender-affirming medication to anyone under 19.</p><p>Advocates temporarily halted that law through a court challenge, but others went into effect. When the new school year begins next month, transgender students will be forbidden from using bathrooms that don’t match the sex they were assigned at birth. Counselors will have to notify parents if a child expresses uncertainty about their gender identity. And teachers will be barred from discussing gender or sexuality with students until they reach sixth grade.</p><p>This afternoon, as the Black queer youth group gathers for its twice-monthly Zoom meeting, Baker knows he can’t singlehandedly reverse the new rules. But he can provide these young people a refuge where they feel safe enough to remove their armor and stretch out into their full selves, together.</p><p>It’s “a place of warmth, a place of joy, a place of comfort,” he reflects later, one “that says we are so much more than our trauma. We are so much more than our grief.”</p><figure><img src="https://www.chalkbeat.org/resizer/DgJCt1koIjxpaWrn6lziGxt6vXk=/1440x960/cloudfront-us-east-1.images.arcpublishing.com/civicnewscompany/H6TK423TNBBV5KMAICLMDP7Q64.jpg" alt="Joshua Baker and the Youth Ambassadors attended a Black LGBTQ Pride event in Selma, Alabama this June." height="960" width="1440"/><figcaption>Joshua Baker and the Youth Ambassadors attended a Black LGBTQ Pride event in Selma, Alabama this June.</figcaption></figure><h2>Facing the fire</h2><p>For all his talk of joy, Baker decides to start the day’s meeting by discussing pain.</p><p>He knows that telling students simply to “choose joy” could ring hollow when some have faced bullying at school and disapproval at home, and now they are watching lawmakers limit their autonomy and protections. So first: Acknowledge the hurt.</p><p>To that end, Baker plays a video of one of his favorite poets, Alysia Harris, <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K0P_56D2keE&ab_channel=ButtonPoetry">performing a piece</a> called “Controlled Burn.” In it, the narrator compares her pain to being set on fire. Towards the end she prays, “May this pain make me patient.”</p><p>“The goal of that is not to minimize the pain we’ve been through, it’s not to minimize the trauma,” Baker says. “But it’s to see what can grow from it.”</p><p>Baker grew up in Huntsville, Alabama, where his mother was a Baptist minister and he sang in his church’s youth choir. He knew early on he was gay, and he sensed he should keep it secret. At church homosexuality was a sin, and at school it was a slur. In high school, watching the few openly queer students endure abuse, he learned that safety can require secrecy.</p><p>“High school was an attempt to perform straightness for survival,” he recalled.</p><p>In college, he lost his mother, who had struggled with diabetes and kidney disease. He had long worried that publicly disclosing his sexuality would bring shame on her. But two years after her death, when he was 22, he decided to share his full self with the world.</p><p>The decision opened new doors. He began conducting doctoral research on Black queer experiences and, this January, was hired to run the youth program.</p><p>The program is one component of <a href="https://tkosociety.com/">The Knights &amp; Orchids Society</a>, or TKO. The nonprofit was founded a decade ago by Quentin Bell, a Selma native who is transgender, and his wife Jennine to serve other Black trans and queer people in Alabama. Today the group provides free services ranging from gender-affirming medical care to food and housing assistance, in line with its leaders’ mantra: “We are the help we need.”</p><p>At times the Youth Ambassador meetings call to mind a college seminar; at other times, a lively get-together. But now, as Baker speaks to the young people on his computer screen, it feels more like group therapy. You are more than your circumstances, he tells them. You are more than your pain.</p><p>“We, in and of ourselves, deserve better,” he says, “even if that’s not what we’re receiving.”</p><p>At that, one of the young people chimes in. “Amen, y’all.”</p><h2>Under attack</h2><p>If Baker could end it there, he would. These young people deserve peace and happiness, period.</p><p>But he knows their peace is always precarious. Racism, homophobia, transphobia loom over their lives, requiring constant vigilance.</p><p>“There is not a day that some part of that oppression does not pop up,” Baker says to the group. “I have to be careful with how I dress, how high my voice is or how deep my voice is, how I present myself, how I engage.”</p><p>This resonates with Peyton, who will soon begin 12th grade.</p><p>“Us being Black and queer, it just adds a whole other level of oppression,” they say during the meeting. “Like people don’t think we should exist. People hate us. They don’t want us here, you know?”</p><figure><img src="https://www.chalkbeat.org/resizer/bNCueYdyE6StdsFNVjsrvaLyJGA=/1440x960/cloudfront-us-east-1.images.arcpublishing.com/civicnewscompany/Y4Z2TBZ67RHVDJSOCLNP5GTVKU.jpg" alt="Peyton is a Youth Ambassador for The Knights and Orchids Society." height="960" width="1440"/><figcaption>Peyton is a Youth Ambassador for The Knights and Orchids Society.</figcaption></figure><p>Peyton, who uses they and she pronouns, has seen this prejudice up close. In their Montgomery middle school, students could be cruel and casually homophobic. When queer people made the news, the circumstances were often tragic. In Peyton’s eighth grade year, <a href="https://people.com/human-interest/alabama-teen-nigel-shelby-suicide-bullied-for-being-gay/">Nigel Shelby</a> became national news: A gay teen from Huntsville who was bullied in school, he died by suicide.</p><p>“Gay people dying, trans people dying or getting hate crimed,” Peyton recalled. “That’s tough to see.”</p><p>Peyton also had been bullied. “I would cry a lot in school,” they said. “A lot.” So when COVID arrived midway through their ninth grade year, forcing school to go virtual, Peyton didn’t mind. Despite the reprieve from school, Peyton was still struggling with their mental health when, last summer, their friends Zuriel and DaQuon mentioned a group called TKO.</p><p>Zuriel, who came out as transgender in high school and graduated in 2021, received services from the group and DaQuon followed their work through social media. They saw that TKO was hosting an event at Selma’s historic Black LGBTQ Pride festival that June. So on the day of the event, the three friends in Montgomery piled into DaQuon’s Ford Escape.</p><p>“We drove an hour to Selma,” DaQuon recalled, “and our lives changed.”</p><p>It was DaQuon and Peyton’s first time meeting the TKO staff, but it felt like a family reunion.</p><p>They soon joined the Youth Ambassadors program, where they helped host community events throughout the fall and winter and met regularly with their Black queer peers.</p><p>“It makes me feel like I’m on top of the world,” Peyton said.</p><figure><img src="https://www.chalkbeat.org/resizer/30cQudIRZwopu7ONjenGsqaN8JU=/1440x960/cloudfront-us-east-1.images.arcpublishing.com/civicnewscompany/FKKDEMTURJFW3LUM475YZ3IS4M.jpg" alt="While organizations like TKO are working to create safe places for gender diversity, the state’s Republican lawmakers passed a bill that blocks trans teens from receiving gender-affirming care." height="960" width="1440"/><figcaption>While organizations like TKO are working to create safe places for gender diversity, the state’s Republican lawmakers passed a bill that blocks trans teens from receiving gender-affirming care.</figcaption></figure><p>But just as TKO was creating a safe haven for gender diversity, politicians were trying to outlaw medical care that <a href="https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/the-life-saving-science-behind-gender-affirming-care-for-youth#The-permanency-argument">can be lifesaving</a> for some trans teens.</p><p>In February, Republican state lawmakers introduced a bill that would send doctors and nurses to prison for up to 10 years if they prescribed hormones or puberty-blocking medication to transgender young people. The lawmakers called the treatments risky and experimental, but <a href="https://www.glaad.org/blog/medical-association-statements-supporting-trans-youth-healthcare-and-against-discriminatory">major medical associations</a> support access to such care and say the treatments are safe, backed by evidence, and <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamanetworkopen/fullarticle/2789423">associated with lower rates</a> of suicidality and depression for the young people who receive them.</p><p>TKO’s leaders <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/dc-md-va/2022/03/21/alabama-trans-healthcare-bill-activists/">spoke out against the proposal</a> at legislative hearings and brought the Youth Ambassadors to meetings with lawmakers. But anti-LGBTQ laws continued to gain traction nationally and, in April, Alabama’s legislature passed the ban on gender-affirming care, along with other bills aimed at LGBTQ youth. Gov. Kay Ivey signed it into law, explaining: “I believe very strongly that if the Good Lord made you a boy, you are a boy, and if he made you a girl, you are a girl.”</p><p>“Our existence just bothers them,” Peyton says to the group. “So it’s just like, we’ve got to keep fighting for us.”</p><h2>Joyful resistance</h2><figure><img src="https://www.chalkbeat.org/resizer/cZB8EiWlXz1Z2YmTKA6VxUuA1cE=/1440x960/cloudfront-us-east-1.images.arcpublishing.com/civicnewscompany/GRZJKVBCKZEUJIZOGDSVU3DPJA.jpg" alt="Zuriel speaks during a Zoom meeting of the Youth Ambassadors in July." height="960" width="1440"/><figcaption>Zuriel speaks during a Zoom meeting of the Youth Ambassadors in July.</figcaption></figure><p>What does it mean to fight back?</p><p>Sometimes it is marching in the streets, fists raised in defiance, Baker says to the group. “But activism is expansive,” he adds. It also can be storytelling, friendship, or checking in on your community.</p><p>“Everybody on this call is an activist in their own right,” he says.</p><p>After Alabama’s anti-trans restrictions became law, many in the LGBTQ community were devastated. But, for trans people of color in particular, giving up is a luxury that most can’t afford. As TC Caldwell, TKO’s community engagement director, put it: “Our work doesn’t stop or start with a bill.”</p><p>Instead, in its own way, the group continued to fight back.</p><p>The month after the bill passed, TKO held a gathering in Montgomery’s Shakespeare Park. It was not a strategy session or protest, but a <a href="https://www.reckon.news/justice/2022/05/justice-and-joy-black-trans-led-nonprofit-uses-joy-to-fight-hate-in-alabama.html">celebration of community</a>. Laughing children raced across the grass, teenagers played cards, and DaQuon, draped in a rainbow flag, blew bubbles.</p><p>“Black joy is so revolutionary,” Caldwell said. “The audacity to celebrate when people are telling you there’s nothing to celebrate.”</p><p>In June, TKO staffers traveled to Pride events across the state, offering free HIV testing and information about their services. At Selma’s event, the Youth Ambassadors hosted an open mic night where DaQuon performed an Erykah Badu song and Zuriel read a piece about her transition.</p><p>Zuriel also has continued to create videos celebrating trans beauty and pride, which she posts to her nearly 14,000 followers <a href="https://www.tiktok.com/@theoriginalqueen?lang=en">on TikTok</a>.</p><p>“Today for example, I got up, did my makeup, and I started making videos,” she says when Baker asks the group what their activism looks like. “Little things like that actually matter.”</p><p>Zuriel and DaQuon also joined the TKO staff as paid peer navigators, helping other Black queer teens get the services they need. Taking care of your people is another way to fight oppression, DaQuon tells the group. So is living authentically.</p><p>“Being unapologetic about who I am,” they say, “that’s activism as well.”</p><figure><img src="https://www.chalkbeat.org/resizer/juRoRH2EpQWnHtay-_HziJHznLM=/1440x960/cloudfront-us-east-1.images.arcpublishing.com/civicnewscompany/I5BN6K7JPRDDXHZGLRW2ONY7SY.jpg" alt="As one TKO’s peer navigators, DaQuon helps connect other Black queer youth with support services." height="960" width="1440"/><figcaption>As one TKO’s peer navigators, DaQuon helps connect other Black queer youth with support services.</figcaption></figure><p>As the meeting winds down, Baker gives a few updates. He is arranging for some Black queer elders and artists to speak with the group. He’s also looking into funding for a “healing extravaganza,” a festival of sorts that DaQuon proposed. Peyton suggested incorporating water, a symbol of cleansing and rebirth.</p><p>The event resembles the future that Baker envisions, “where queer youth can have soft lives, where they can have tender lives.”</p><p>Before the group members say their goodbyes and log off this July afternoon, they recite an affirmation. Baker came up with it in college, and now his babies have made it their own.</p><p>“I have a voice,” each young person says. “It is powerful. I am powerful.”</p><p><i>Patrick Wall is a senior reporter covering national education issues. Contact him at </i><a href="mailto:pwall@chalkbeat.org"><i>pwall@chalkbeat.org</i></a><i>.</i></p><p><br/></p>https://www.chalkbeat.org/2022/7/25/23274280/alabama-black-queer-youth-trans-activists/Patrick Wall2024-01-08T13:08:00+00:00<![CDATA[Child care gaps in rural America threaten to undercut small communities]]>2024-01-08T13:08:00+00:00<p><i>This story was </i><a href="https://kffhealthnews.org/news/article/rural-child-care-shortage-cost-funding-cliff/" target="_blank"><i>originally published by KFF Health News</i></a><i> and is re-published with permission.</i></p><p>Candy Murnion remembers vividly the event that pushed her to open her first day care business in Jordan, a town of fewer than 400 residents in a sea of grassland in eastern Montana.</p><p>Garfield County’s public health nurse, one of few public health officials serving the town and nearly 5,000 square miles that surround it, had quit because she had given birth to her second child and couldn’t find day care.</p><p>“My primary goal was to give families a safe place to take their children so they could work if they needed to,” said Murnion, 63. She started in 2015 with eight slots, the maximum she could cover herself, and slowly grew. Then, during the COVID-19 pandemic, a surge in federal aid to child care programs helped her raise wages for her workers and expand to a second facility.</p><p>Today, her day care programs, the only ones in Jordan, can serve up to 30 children, ranging from 6 weeks old to school age. But after that pandemic-era funding support ended in September, Murnion began to wonder how long she could sustain her expanded capacity, or whether she’d need to raise prices or lower enrollment.</p><p>And she isn’t alone.</p><p>Data collected prior to the pandemic shows that <a href="https://www.americanprogress.org/article/americas-child-care-deserts-2018/">more than half</a> of Americans lived in neighborhoods classified as child care deserts, areas that have no child care providers or where there are more than three children in the community for every available licensed care slot. <a href="https://www.hrsa.gov/sites/default/files/hrsa/advisory-committees/rural/nac-rural-child-care-brief-23.pdf">Other research shows</a> parents and child care providers in rural areas face unique barriers. Access to quality child care programs and early education is linked to <a href="https://www.healthaffairs.org/do/10.1377/hpb20190325.519221/">better educational and behavioral outcomes</a> for kids and can also help link families and children to immunizations, health screenings, and greater food security by providing meals and snacks.</p><p>Policymakers and researchers now fear that inequitable child care access threatens the sustainability and longevity of rural communities.</p><p>“If we want to keep rural parts of this country alive and thriving, we need to address this,” said Linda Smith, director of the Early Childhood Initiative at the Bipartisan Policy Center, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank.</p><p>According to an <a href="https://bipartisanpolicy.org/download/?file=/wp-content/uploads/2023/10/BPC_ECI-Rural-Child-Care-Framework_R05.pdf">October report</a> that Smith co-authored, there is a 35% gap between the need for and availability of child care programs in rural areas, compared with 29% in urban areas, based on data from 35 states.</p><p>The report echoed concerns local, state, and national experts have raised for a number of years.</p><p>A report published last year by the National Advisory Committee on Rural Health and Human Services found that, per capita, more parents rely on family members or friends for child care in rural areas than in urban areas. This isn’t sustainable for parents, said Cara James, CEO and president of Grantmakers in Health, a nonprofit that helps guide health philanthropy.</p><p>“Right now, we have a system that’s very expensive for people who can afford it and for people who can access it, not necessarily available to all those who need it,” James said. “That’s leading us to rely on other workarounds that are not ideal or ones that are [not] giving the children the best support that they need to grow into healthy adults.”</p><p>For example, according to a state report, Montana’s total child care capacity <a href="https://lmi.mt.gov/_docs/Publications/LMI-Pubs/Special-Reports-and-Studies/ChildCareDesertsWhitePaper-FINAL.pdf">met 44% of estimated demand</a> in 2021 and infant care capacity met only 34% of estimated demand. Garfield County had only 23% of potential demand for children under six. Nationally, the rural health advisory committee has found, child care deserts are most likely to be located in “low-income rural census tracts.”</p><p>The dearth of child care in many rural communities exacerbates workforce shortages by forcing parents, including those who work in health care locally, to stay home as full-time caregivers, and by preventing younger workers and families from putting down roots there.</p><p>Eighty-six percent of parents in rural areas who are not working or whose partner is not working said in a <a href="https://bipartisanpolicy.org/download/?file=/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/BPC-Rural-Parents-Analysis-9.14-Additional-Analysis-min.pdf">2021 Bipartisan Policy Center survey</a> that child care responsibilities were a reason why, while 45% said they or their spouse cared for at least their youngest child. Staying home to care for children is a responsibility that disproportionately falls on women, affecting their ability to <a href="https://www.bls.gov/opub/mlr/2021/beyond-bls/has-covid-19-affected-mothers-labor-market-outcomes.htm#:~:text=Because%20of%20the%20duration%20of,them%20to%20work%20from%20home.">participate in the workforce</a> and make an independent living.</p><p>A report from the rural health advisory committee shows that when center-based care is readily available in a community, the percentage of mothers who use that type of care and are employed doubles from 11% to 22%.</p><p>According to the Biden administration, pandemic emergency funding increased maternal labor workforce participation, stabilized employment and increased wages for child care workers, tempered costs for families, and helped providers afford their facilities.</p><p>That funding included <a href="https://www.gao.gov/products/gao-23-106833">$52 billion in emergency aid</a> allocated by Congress for child care program owners and low-income families. Murnion’s day care was one of an estimated 30,000 in rural counties that received federal grants.</p><p>She said the roughly $100,000 she received in federal aid allowed her to raise wages for her workers to $13 an hour and expand her facility space. She said she doesn’t take a paycheck from the business and instead relies on income from a family ranch and trucking business.</p><p>Now that the federal aid programs have expired, Murnion and other child care operators nationwide are wrestling with how to sustain those wages without hiking the cost of care for parents.</p><p>The Biden administration <a href="https://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/briefing-room/2023/11/02/state-breakdown-the-biden-harris-administrations-funding-request-would-help-prevent-families-across-the-country-from-losing-child-care/">requested congressional approval</a> of $16 billion to extend the pandemic-era child care stabilization program but doesn’t have enough support to continue the funding, despite <a href="https://www.ffyf.org/resources/2023/07/july23poll/">nearly 80% of voters supporting</a> increasing federal funding for states to expand their child care programs.</p><p>According to the administration, the funding would support more than 220,000 child care providers in the U.S. that collectively serve more than 10 million kids. Montana would receive an estimated additional $46 million if Congress approved the request.</p><p>Although federal aid helped Murnion get through the pandemic, she said she doesn’t want to rely on the government forever. She charges parents $30 a day for one child and $22 a day each for siblings. And she doesn’t charge parents for days their children don’t attend. If she does need to raise prices, Murnion said, she’ll increase the per-sibling cost.</p><p>The pandemic provided some meaningful lessons, said Smith of the Bipartisan Policy Center. “Those stabilization grants were, I think, a key to what we actually need to do with child care down the road.”</p><p>The number of child care programs has <a href="https://aspe.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/documents/71981d3ec3a1d02537d86d827806834b/Child-Care-Trends-COVID.pdf">grown since before the pandemic</a> in most states, but the employee count per facility has decreased. The federal cash infusion helped child care employment rebound after a 35% dip at the beginning of the pandemic. By November 2022, the number of workers in child care jobs had climbed to 92% of the pre-pandemic level.</p><p>In the best circumstances, Smith said, parents would pay more for child care, and the corresponding supply or availability of programs would increase. But because parents are struggling to keep up with the rising costs, which in some places can be more than in-state college tuition, supply is stagnant.</p><p>Smith said the end of federal aid programs kicked the issue back to state and local governments. “I think most people would agree that what we need is some type of funding that goes to the programs to keep it so that they can do what they need to do and not charge the parents for it,” she said.</p><p>Some state and local governments are doing so. In Alabama, lawmakers <a href="https://www.alabamaschoolreadiness.org/alabama-advocates-celebrate-historic-42-million-increase-in-state-early-childhood-education-investments/#:~:text=Through%20bipartisan%20consensus%2C%20legislators%20approved,care%20rating%20and%20improvement%20program.">approved $42 million</a> last year in the state budget for child care. The Missouri state legislature <a href="https://martincitytelegraph.com/2023/09/12/missouri-approves-record-funding-for-early-childhood-education/">approved $160 million</a> for child care. Voters in rural Warren, Minnesota, <a href="https://www.mprnews.org/story/2022/12/14/rural-town-tries-innovative-solution-to-child-care-crisis">narrowly approved</a> a half-percent sales tax to support a child care center that was struggling to stay open.</p><p>During last year’s legislative session, Montana lawmakers and Republican Gov. Greg Gianforte <a href="https://montanafreepress.org/2023/06/14/new-childcare-laws-expand-subsidies-deregulate-small-home-based-daycares/#:~:text=Efforts%20by%20Montana%20legislators%20and,daycares%20from%20state%20licensing%20requirements.">approved new laws</a> to improve child care access, including removing state licensing requirements for small in-home day cares and expanding a program that helps lower-income families pay for child care.</p><p>“You can’t sit here in Washington, D.C., and figure out how you’re going to get child care out in eastern Montana,” Smith said. “It just doesn’t work.”</p><p><a href="https://kffhealthnews.org/about-us"><i>KFF Health News</i></a><i> is a national newsroom that produces in-depth journalism about health issues and is one of the core operating programs at KFF—an independent source of health policy research, polling, and journalism. Learn more about </i><a href="https://www.kff.org/about-us"><i>KFF</i></a><i>.</i></p>https://www.chalkbeat.org/2024/01/08/rural-child-care-gaps-threaten-to-undercut-small-communities/Jazmin Orozco Rodriguez, KFF Health NewsErin Kirkland for Chalkbeat2024-01-02T14:22:00+00:00<![CDATA[Education stories we’re watching in 2024]]>2024-01-05T16:52:50+00:00<p><i>Sign up for </i><a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/newsletters/national"><i>Chalkbeat’s free weekly newsletter</i></a><i> to keep up with how education is changing across the U.S.</i></p><p>This spring, the students who spent most of their freshman year of high school on Zoom will walk across the graduation stage. This fall, schools will face the expiration of billions in pandemic aid that allowed them to reenvision what schools could do for students.</p><p>This is a critical year as the nation grapples with the long-term effects of the pandemic amid a technological revolution, a still-unfolding refugee crisis, and a presidential election that could intensify political tensions.</p><p>These are some of the education stories we’ll be watching in 2024:</p><h2>School districts confront the ESSER fiscal cliff</h2><p><a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2023/9/13/23871838/schools-funding-cliff-federal-covid-relief-esser-money-budget-cuts/">This is the last year</a> school districts will have access to federal pandemic relief, an <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2021/3/25/22350474/unprecedented-federal-funding-high-poverty-schools-how-spend/">unprecedented influx of money</a> meant to mitigate the effects of COVID disruptions and support student recovery. Schools received a total of <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2022/2/3/22916590/schools-federal-covid-relief-stimulus-spending-tracking/">$190 billion</a> in three waves. So far, <a href="https://www.future-ed.org/progress-in-spending-federal-k-12-covid-aid-state-by-state/">roughly $122 billion</a> has been spent or committed, and schools still need to spend an additional $68 billion.</p><p>Some schools have spent this money on programs directly related to pandemic recovery, such as <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2023/5/17/23726983/high-dosage-tutoring-stanford-research-students-pandemic/">tutoring</a> and <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2022/11/18/23465030/youth-mental-health-crisis-school-staff-psychologist-counselor-social-worker-shortage/">counseling</a>. Some have stood up or expanded programs that <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2023/12/21/schools-help-homeless-students-navigate-housing-challenges-with-covid-aid/">help families find housing</a> or provide more intensive mental health support.</p><p>Running those programs often meant hiring more people, workers whom districts might not have the money to employ after this year. And while the money is going away, <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/colorado/2023/11/8/23941072/covid-english-learner-equity-test-scores-data-concerns-school-districts-colorado/">students still have significant needs</a>.</p><p>Already major districts, such as <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2023/9/6/23851143/covid-relief-schools-esser-spending-learning-loss/">Detroit and Montgomery County, Maryland</a>, have announced cuts to services like college transition planning and summer school that were funded with pandemic dollars.</p><p>Districts that want to maintain these programs will face tough decisions about where to find the money and what else to give up.</p><p>“There was a clear need and with the extra funds, in many cases, really hard-working people responded,” said Marguerite Roza, the director of Georgetown University’s Edunomics Lab. “But you can still say, from the outside, this was really a precarious model. It relied on one-time funds that we knew were going to go away, and we didn’t build anything to last beyond that.”</p><p>In some communities, districts have used pandemic aid to <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/colorado/2022/3/16/22982083/denver-schools-federal-coronavirus-relief-funding-esser-declining-enrollment/">shore up budgets amid declining enrollment</a> and to delay painful cuts and school closures. For these communities, 2024 could bring a difficult reckoning.</p><p>The expiration of pandemic aid will prompt a larger conversation about what students and schools got from that investment and whether the money was spent well or poorly.</p><figure><img src="https://www.chalkbeat.org/resizer/Cp1zCisuj1fyBRzc-Ot4qQsTGYA=/1440x960/cloudfront-us-east-1.images.arcpublishing.com/civicnewscompany/3QRMCAXJUBCSFMBUF4SSYHK34M.jpg" alt="Jennifer Reczkowicz assists a student during a typing lesson at Lincoln Elementary School in Dolton, Illinois. Max Herman for Chalkbeat" height="960" width="1440"/><figcaption>Jennifer Reczkowicz assists a student during a typing lesson at Lincoln Elementary School in Dolton, Illinois. Max Herman for Chalkbeat</figcaption></figure><h2>Schools must adapt to serve migrant students</h2><p>Last year, many school systems across the country — but particularly New York City and Chicago — enrolled thousands of asylum-seeking students from Central and South America.</p><p>Some of these children have been out of school for months or even years. Some carry emotional wounds from things they saw and experienced on their journeys. <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/newyork/2023/10/16/23920201/nyc-schools-migrant-families-floyd-bennett-field-eviction-60-days/">Some are sleeping outside in tents.</a> All are navigating a new country and a new school system with few financial resources.</p><p>In 2024, schools will need to <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/chicago/2023/8/16/23833661/chicago-public-schools-migrant-students-bilingual-resources-2023/">rise to the challenge of serving these students</a> over the long haul. Bilingual teachers were already in short supply — and bilingual counselors and school psychologists even more so. Some school districts are stepping up international recruitment to bring in more Spanish-speaking educators.</p><p>There are so many new students that cities as different as <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/newyork/2023/11/15/public-school-enrollment-increases-with-migrant-student-influx/">New York</a> and <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/colorado/2023/10/3/23902153/migrant-students-boosting-enrollment-denver-public-schools-elementary-decline/">Denver</a> are seeing enrollment increases after years of declines. Increased enrollment could result in more state funding, but it’s not clear if the additional money will be enough to meet students’ needs or whether these students will stay in the cities where they first arrived or disperse to suburbs and smaller cities.</p><p>Many of these students’ needs — for mental health counseling, for academic recovery, for housing assistance — mirror those of students who were already here but at a larger scale or with greater intensity.</p><p>Even children who seem OK now may need significant support down the road, said Kevin Dahill-Fuchel, executive director at Counseling in Schools. The nonprofit provides counseling services to about 70 schools in New York City and is trying to expand its bilingual staff. Younger children, especially, may be in a honeymoon period now that they’re physically safe, getting meals at school, and making new friends, he said.</p><p>“That’s going to shift as they go from 8 years old to 12 years old. Those pains are kind of festering over time,” Dahill-Fuchel said. One smiling child his organization works with crossed the Rio Grande with about a dozen people who drowned. “That’s PTSD-kind of stuff that’s going to come up later.”</p><p>Advocates say schools need to think beyond the immediate crisis. They need to accurately assess where students are academically and think about how to serve older students with limited English skills who may be at higher risk of leaving school entirely. They also see a <a href="https://www.edweek.org/teaching-learning/state-officials-share-advice-on-supporting-new-immigrant-students/2023/11">greater role for state education departments</a> in offering guidance and helping school districts learn from each other.</p><p>Will our schools rise to the challenge?</p><h2>AI will play a larger role in American classrooms — we’re still figuring out the ground rules</h2><p><a href="https://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2023/11/chatgpt-was-the-spark-that-lit-the-fire-under-generative-ai-one-year-ago-today/">ChatGPT is a little more than a year old.</a> In the education space, the new technology’s ability to produce an eerie mimicry of human thought and writing initially prompted fears that students would cheat widely and with impunity.</p><p>But a <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2023/12/13/tech/chatgpt-did-not-increase-cheating-in-high-schools/index.html">recent Stanford study</a> found that cheating among high school students hasn’t increased much. And while most respondents thought it would be acceptable to use ChatGPT to generate ideas, few thought it would be OK to have AI write an essay for them. “It shows that a majority of students truly want to learn,” the lead researcher told CNN.</p><p>In the meantime, ChatGPT and other AI-powered technologies are showing up in the classroom in all kinds of ways. <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/newyork/2023/12/14/how-nyc-students-use-chatgpt-ai-tools-in-school/">Students recently told Chalkbeat</a> that they’ve used such programs to better understand concepts in history texts or to identify problems in the code they wrote for computer science class. Some schools are using AI to tutor students. The National Education Association has a <a href="https://www.nea.org/nea-today/all-news-articles/try-how-chatgpt-can-help-your-lesson-plans">guide for using ChatGPT to create lesson plans</a>.</p><p>Given that the technology isn’t going away, K-12 schools and colleges will need to grapple with what constitutes cheating and what constitutes legitimate use that might even enhance students’ learning experience.</p><p>Researchers, meanwhile, are experimenting with <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/colorado/2023/12/08/researchers-use-ai-to-analyze-college-essays/">using AI to read students’ college essays</a> and <a href="https://www.princetonreview.com/ai-education/how-ai-is-reshaping-grading" target="_blank">grade student papers</a>. Some observers are optimistic about the potential for AI to reduce bias and notice trends, while others worry about inaccuracy and outsourcing human judgment.</p><h2>The culture wars are dead. Long live the culture wars.</h2><p>November’s school board elections were <a href="https://apnews.com/article/school-board-elections-moms-liberty-progressives-1e439de49b0e8498537484fb031f66a6">generally seen as a setback for cultural conservatives</a>, with Ballotpedia estimating that <a href="https://ballotpedia.org/Endorsements_in_school_board_elections,_2023?_wcsid=48C67D1ECA23DE6F00D059D543B28F6926EFB5A8E922B7B0">more than half of candidates endorsed by Moms for Liberty lost</a> their races. The <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2023/12/16/us/politics/moms-for-liberty-sex-scandal.html">right-wing advocacy group itself is in disarray</a> amid <a href="https://apnews.com/article/moms-for-liberty-proud-boys-kentucky-d073732a6bbf2a65e08dcc76bc53cf06">associations with white supremacists</a> and rape allegations against the husband of one founder. The founder acknowledged she had participated in a threesome with her husband and the woman who accused him of assault in an unrelated incident.</p><p>But conservative candidates still picked up seats on school boards around the country, where some are <a href="https://www.cbsnews.com/colorado/news/american-birthright-colorado-woodland-park-school-board-district-adopts-controversial-standards/">reshaping what students learn about U.S. history</a> and <a href="https://houstonlanding.org/under-katy-isd-gender-policy-student-identities-disclosed-to-parents-19-times-since-august/">how LGBTQ staff and students are treated</a>.</p><p>Conservative concerns about progressive ideologies in public schools have also been used to justify the expansion of private-school choice in states, such as <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/tennessee/2023/11/29/bill-lee-proposes-statewide-school-voucher-scholarship-expansion-bill-lee/">Tennessee</a>, <a href="https://www.nbcmiami.com/news/local/floridas-expanded-school-voucher-system-explained-whats-changed-and-whos-eligible/3104356/">Florida</a>, and <a href="https://www.azcentral.com/story/opinion/op-ed/philboas/2023/01/13/doug-ducey-may-have-launched-a-school-choice-revolution/69802417007/">Arizona</a>.</p><p>Even as education politics remains intensely polarized, surveys find that <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2023/7/25/23806247/parents-schools-covid-anger-polling-satisfaction/">most parents report they’re pretty satisfied with their kids’ schools</a> — and the most negative opinions come from those without children in the schools.</p><p>This year could see some of the most intense debates recede into the background or take on new forms. The presidential election has the potential to exacerbate divisions even if education isn’t a dominant issue.</p><p>The biggest question is how these debates and policy shifts affect students and families.</p><h2>Students are reconsidering the value of college — for better or for worse</h2><p>This spring’s graduating class was in eighth grade in March 2020 when schools shut down, and many of them spent their freshman year — a critical year for students’ academic and social development — <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/freshman-year-at-a-distance/">mostly online or bouncing in and out school due to quarantines</a>.</p><p>These students are applying to college in the aftermath of the <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/2023/6/29/23778335/supreme-court-affirmative-action-case-college-admissions-student-effects/">U.S. Supreme Court decision banning racial preferences in admissions</a>. They’ve had to rethink how they talk about themselves in college applications. The federal government has delayed the release of a new federal financial aid application, raising fears that <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/indiana/2023/12/07/delayed-fafsa-new-indiana-requirement-for-students/">fewer students will fill out the form</a> and <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/colorado/2023/11/20/fafsa-application-changes-college/">creating more uncertainty for families</a> waiting on financial aid packages.</p><figure><img src="https://www.chalkbeat.org/resizer/OoE5Qjl7Vgfg8zwNG_kXZ4y7Jcs=/1440x960/cloudfront-us-east-1.images.arcpublishing.com/civicnewscompany/PKTGS6T7S5EXXK3Y6756MZQXYM.jpg" alt="Colorado School of Mines in Golden is the most selective public university in Colorado. The science- and engineering-focused school historically has enrolled few students from low-income backgrounds." height="960" width="1440"/><figcaption>Colorado School of Mines in Golden is the most selective public university in Colorado. The science- and engineering-focused school historically has enrolled few students from low-income backgrounds.</figcaption></figure><p>Recent surveys show <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/colorado/2023/8/3/23819387/gen-z-college-four-year-study-colorado-counselors-scholarships-jobs/">high school students are interested in education after high school but unsure about the value</a> of a four-year college degree. They’re worried about taking on debt and not being able to pay it back. And they want to start earning money sooner.</p><p>Conservative parents, too, are less keen on sending their kids to college as they increasingly see <a href="https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2022/02/16/republicans-avoiding-college-democracy/6729494001/?gnt-cfr=1">higher education institutions as being at odds with their own values</a>.</p><p>At the same time, <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/colorado/2023/12/15/is-college-worth-it-colorado-report-return-on-investment-report/">Americans with college degrees still outearn those without</a>.</p><p>The most recently available national data on college-going covers the high school class of 2022 and <a href="https://nscresearchcenter.org/current-term-enrollment-estimates/">shows overall college enrollment increasing or stabilizing</a> after a sharp dip during the pandemic. But enrollment is <a href="https://public.tableau.com/app/profile/researchcenter/viz/CTEE_Fall2022_Report/CTEEFalldashboard">down for white, Black, and Native American students.</a></p><p>Meanwhile, colleges are <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/colorado/2023/10/19/23924756/record-college-student-retention-enrollment-numbers-university-colorado-boulder-northern-colorado/">putting more effort into retaining the students they have</a>. High school counselors are rethinking how they <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/newyork/2023/10/30/23938550/pandemic-changes-college-career-counselors-social-media-tik-tok-trade-school/">support students interested in careers</a> that don’t require a four-year degree.</p><p>The decisions the class of 2024 makes could tell us a lot about the lingering impacts of the pandemic and what students need from their schools to be successful.</p><p><i>Senior Reporter Kalyn Belsha and New York Bureau Chief Amy Zimmer contributed.</i></p><p><i>Erica Meltzer is Chalkbeat’s national editor based in Colorado.</i></p>https://www.chalkbeat.org/2024/01/02/education-stories-to-watch-2024/Erica MeltzerChristian K. Lee for Chalkbeat