| NEWS | Rules For Engagement
Recent debates over guns, which have touched heavily on school shootings, have often focused on the availability of powerful semi-automatic rifles. So it may come as a surprise that some school police departments stock these types of guns, including AR-15s and modified weapons obtained through a military-surplus program.
Questions about whether school-based officers should obtain or carry such powerful weapons run parallel to larger questions in debates over how to prevent school shootings: Is the burden of addressing such rare but devastating incidents on schools? Or should society play a greater role through changes like tighter gun restrictions and increased access to mental-health programs?
One thing is for sure: The use of powerful weapons capable of killing with speed and accuracy has weighed heavily in school safety discussions. Around the country, lawmakers have passed measures requiring more regular school lockdown drills, annual audits of school safety plans, and inspections of buildings to find ways to limit access and passage for armed intruders. In some cases, school police have opted to carry semi-automatic rifles themselves, sometimes raising questions about the role of police in schools. A few examples:
•School-based police in at least 22 districts in eight states have acquired modified M-14 and M-16 rifles, grenade launchers, and fortified vehicles through a military-surplus program, watchdog groups found in 2014.
•In 2013, the president of the San Diego school board questioned school police officers’ use of AR-15s, a decision that was made without board approval, the Union-Tribune reported.
•In 2015, the school board in Compton Unified in south Los Angeles County approved a policy that would allow school police to carry AR-15s in the trunks of their patrol cars, drawing national media coverage.
| NEWS | Time & Learning
The plan to offer Saturday classes at a Washington state elementary school started as a joke.
Dana Reynolds jokingly told her 3rd graders that students should come to school on Saturdays, and they ran with it. That’s how the Saturday School Learning Club was born at Thompson Elementary in Tacoma, where more than 70 percent of students receive free or reduced-price lunch.
The club began meeting in February and had its last session of the past school year on May 21. Its creation coincided with the school increasing its focus on academics, and administrators and teachers are calling it a big success. After Saturday classes began, Thompson went from being ranked 14th out of 17 schools in the district for academic achievement in grades 3-5 to being ranked fifth.
Principal Ralph Wisner says the Saturday classes also led to an attitude change for many students. They began to think they could achieve, and they wanted to be successful in school. They also took ownership over their learning.
Initially, the club, which is voluntary, was supposed to be just for students who needed a little extra help, but it became a place for everyone.
Students attended school from 9 a.m. to noon. The program was supported by extended-day funds the district received for Title I schools for disadvantaged students. The school is already making plans to have the Saturday School Learning Club again next year.
| NEWS | Politics K-12
You may be looking at the presumptive presidential nominees of the two major parties, Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump, and saying to yourself: “No, thanks.” So how do candidates from other parties stack up when it comes to their positions and records on education?
Here are some answers for several notable presidential hopefuls from other corners of the political landscape:
• Gary Johnson: Libertarian Party
The party’s nominee makes clear on his official campaign website that he “believes there is no role for the federal government in education” and would eliminate the U.S. Department of Education “and return control to the state and local levels.” Johnson, a former Republican governor of New Mexico, also notes his opposition to the Common Core State Standards because he doesn’t want to “impose national standards and requirements on local schools.” (The common core was developed by states, although Washington has offered incentives in the past for its adoption.) And Johnson wants more education flexibility at the state and local levels.
Meanwhile, the Libertarian Party’s vice presidential nominee, William Weld, might be familiar to readers from his time as Republican governor of Massachusetts. In education policy, Weld might be most famous for signing the Massachusetts Education Reform Act in 1993. The law had a significant impact on the state’s approach to standards, testing, accountability, K-12 finance, and more.
• Jill Stein: Green Party
The party’s choice for the presidency in 2012, Stein, a physician, is its presumptive nominee this year, but hasn’t officially sewn up the nomination. On Stein’s website, her K-12 platform is straightforward: “End high-stakes testing and public school privatization.” Her opposition to such testing was also part of her 2012 platform. Four years ago, Stein also opposed using merit pay “to punish teachers.” As in 2012, Stein wants to get rid of student debt and make college tuition-free.
• Darrell Castle: Constitution Party
Castle, a lawyer, is the nominee of a party that strongly opposes the common core and such federally supported programs as Race to the Top, and favors elimination of the U.S. Department of Education, according to its website. It also supports rights of parents to educate their children and “free-market principles of improving education through nontraditional options such as internet-based schools, charter schools, religious, and private schools, as well as home-based schooling.”
• Tom Hoefling: American Independent Party
The name of Hoefling’s party, of which he is the nominee, has caused some confusion among some voters who believe they are registering as independent, nonaffiliated voters. The issues section of Hoefling’s website doesn’t have anything devoted specifically to education. However, elsewhere on his website, Hoefling, who ran unsuccessfully for Iowa governor in 2014, notes his opposition to the Common Core State Standards. In his 2012 presidential run, the candidate said the federal government has no role in education except for the children of those in the military.
• Emidio “Mimi” Soltysik: Socialist Party USA
Soltysik, the party’s nominee for president, lists its education platform on his website. That platform includes opposition to merit pay for teachers, standardized testing, competition between schools within the same district, the sale of on-campus advertising to raise money, and “the increasing dependence of postsecondary institutions on corporate funding.” It also calls for class-size limits of 15 students per teacher at the K-12 level and “student, parent, and teacher control of curriculum formation, and in the hiring and dismissal procedures of school personnel, through the formation of local school/community committees.”
| NEWS | Teacher Beat
Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, told the National Education Association at its recent annual convention in Washington that, if elected, she would be educators’ “partner in the White House,” invest in teacher training and wraparound services, and have their back when “union-busting governors” or “hostile legislatures” try to take away their collective-bargaining rights.
Clinton, in her July 5 speech, thanked the 3 million-member NEA, for sticking by her in the fierce primary against Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont. She promised to return the favor by making sure that teachers—some of whom were blindsided by Obama administration K-12 initiatives, especially around tying teacher evaluations to test scores—will always be part of the policymaking process.
“I have this old-fashioned idea that when we are making decisions about education, we actually should listen to our educators,” she said.
Clinton, who was criticized early in the campaign for anti-charter school rhetoric, only mentioned charters once in the roughly 30-minute speech, in what brought audible jeers. She said she wants educators to be able to learn from the best schools, whether they are traditional public or charter.
Clinton, for the most part, received a very enthusiastic reception from the crowd of about 6,900 delegates. “It was clear that she understands the problems and challenges that the profession, and our students, are facing,” said Shaun Creighton, an Arizona delegate.
A version of this article appeared in the July 20, 2016 edition of Education Week as Blogs of the Week