Briefly Stated: May 31, 2023

May 30, 2023 8 min read
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K-12 Tech Leaders Feel Ill-Prepared for Cyberattacks

Cybersecurity still keeps K-12 technology leaders up at night.

That concern ranked No. 1 for leaders for the fifth consecutive year, based on the latest report from the Consortium for School Networking.

The findings suggest that tech leaders are still struggling to figure out how to solve cybersecurity problems, which are becoming more common and complicated. There have been 1,619 publicly disclosed cyberattacks on schools between 2016 and 2022, according to K12 Security Information Exchange.

Cyberattacks can cause major disruptions to schools, and 43 percent of tech leaders reported that their districts have been attacked, resulting in some type of disruption, the CoSN report says. In some cases, they’ve had to close schools for several days.

District technology leaders don’t feel adequately prepared to defend their networks. Less than a third of respondents said their district has sufficient cybersecurity resources to combat risks.

Largely, resources tend to be lacking. Twelve percent of respondents said their district’s IT budget doesn’t allocate any funding for sustaining cybersecurity defense, while 64 percent said their districts allocate 5 percent or less of their IT budgets for it.

Because of inadequate funding, two-thirds of districts don’t have a full-time cybersecurity position, the report found.

“It would be nice to have a dedicated cybersecurity person,” said Keith Bockwoldt, the chief information officer for Hinsdale High School District 86 in Hinsdale, Ill. “But to get someone of quality, you’re going to have to pay that person [a lot] since there’s so much demand [for IT workers] right now.”

To alleviate funding concerns, many in the K-12 community have been asking the Federal Communication Commission to update the E-rate program’s definition of “firewall” so districts could use the money to upgrade their cybersecurity resources.

Despite the funding and staffing challenges, district technology leaders are implementing more practices to improve cybersecurity. For example, 76 percent of respondents said their district conducts IT staff training, an 11-percentage-point increase from 2022. And 61 percent of respondents require two-factor authentication for district accounts, compared with 40 percent last year.

Becoming a Teacher Can Be Costly. Maryland Promises $20,000 to Subsidize Student-Teaching

Struggling to recruit teachers? Who isn’t?

Maryland officials hope a just-passed law will eventually help remove the state from that lengthy list.

The measure promises a $20,000 stipend during the requisite teaching internship to students who attend institutions where at least 40 percent receive federal Pell grants and, upon graduating, commit to teach for at least two years in a grade, content area, or school in the state designated as high needs. The stipend is designed to address the financial burden of teacher-training programs faced by countless students, particularly during unpaid teaching internships.

The law also loosens entry requirements to a teaching fellowship; provides small stipends to qualified students who take part in classroom-based experiential learning like tutoring; and eases eligibility criteria for a loan program.

“There are other states that have a host of initiatives, but Maryland’s $20,000 stipend for student-teachers is the most generous,” said Lynn M. Gangone, the president and CEO of the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education.

The costs associated with the path to becoming a full-fledged teacher can be prohibitive. A line-item budget put together by one Maryland student showed what her expenses would have been during a semester student-teaching. They would have exceeded $14,000. She decided to bow out.

Costs could help explain why growing numbers of students fail to complete teacher-preparation programs across the country. Between 2010 to 2018, the number of students who completed traditional programs—fell by 27 percent nationwide, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

Of course, money alone won’t solve the teacher shortage. Well before college students encounter a teaching-internship assignment, societal messages about the profession can impact their decision about pursuing a teaching career.

In a survey of undergraduates by University of Maryland researchers, 53 percent said they received encouraging messages from people they respect about teaching, while 29 percent reported being discouraged from entering the profession by people they respect, such as family members.

Publisher, PEN America, Authors, and Parents Sue Fla. District That Restricted Access to 139 Books

Publishing giant Penguin Random House and advocacy group PEN America, along with five authors of banned books and two parents, have sued a Florida district over its removal of books about race and LGBTQ+ identities, the latest opposition to a policy central to Gov. Ron DeSantis’ agenda as he runs for the presidency.

The legal challenge alleges the Escambia County district is violating the First Amendment through the removal of books from library shelves. Since last summer, the district has restricted 139 books and removed 15, according to PEN.

“Books have the capacity to change lives for the better, and students in particular deserve equitable access to a wide range of perspectives. Censorship, in the form of book bans like those enacted by Escambia County, are a direct threat to democracy and our constitutional rights,” said Nihar Malaviya, the CEO of Penguin Random House.

The district declined a request for an interview, citing pending litigation, as did school board members.

The lawsuit says the removals stem from the objections of one language arts teacher, and in each case, the school board voted to remove the books despite recommendations from a district review committee that deemed them educationally suitable.

The teacher’s formal objections appear to draw on materials compiled by a website that writes reports on books it deems ideologically unsuitable for children, according to the lawsuit.

In one example it cited, the teacher admitted she had never heard of the book The Perks of Being a Wallflower but filed an objection form to the novel that contained specific excerpts and phrasing from the book-ban website.

Some of the books she objected to were written by the authors suing the district, including Ashley Hope Pérez, who wrote Out of Darkness. The book features a teenage love story between a Mexican-American girl and an African-American boy in 1930s New London, Texas, leading up to the deadly New London School explosion of 1937 that killed 300 students and teachers.

Books such as Out of Darkness and others that have been removed are important resources for young people to learn about their world and empathize with others, Pérez told EdWeek.

Digital Games Beat Out Lectures in Learning

Sure, we know kids, or at least most kids, would rather play games than listen to lectures. What we may not have known is they can actually learn more playing the games.

Researchers at Saarland University in Germany found that students can learn more overall from digital games than from traditional instructional approaches.

Digital games also turn out to be more effective than traditional approaches in motivating students, the researchers found, though the difference was less. Games’ positive impact was apparent across a range of school subjects, from learning a language to grasping STEM concepts, the researchers said.

They examined more than 30 high-quality studies involving school-aged participants, all published between 2015 and 2020. Digital games created more recently can be much more technologically complex, interactive, and include assessment features, they wrote.

The overall findings came as no surprise to Christopher Dede, a senior research fellow at the Harvard Graduate School of Education who specializes in learning technology.

“If games are of high quality, they work pretty well because they’re motivating, because it’s active learning, rather than learning by listening,” Dede said. “And if games are not of high quality, then they tend to not work.”

Elena Novak, an associate professor of educational technology at Kent State University in Ohio, wondered whether the takeaway would have been different if the researchers compared digital games to more engaging, inquiry-based teaching approaches.

“Let’s say you have this recorded lecture. Yes, it’s very boring and people don’t pay attention. But if you give them hands-on experience, project-based learning, that’s a completely different story,” Novak said. “This analysis doesn’t capture that.” Instead, it refers to a “traditional approach,” a phrase that’s open to interpretation.

N.Y.C. Turned to School Gyms to Shelter Migrants

New York City planned to convert public school gymnasiums into housing for international migrants on May 12, its latest effort to accommodate a growing population of asylum-seekers who have overwhelmed the city’s homeless-shelter system.

The move to use the gyms as shelters with school still in session touched off an immediate backlash, with parents organizing protests at several schools and threatening to keep their kids home.

Mayor Eric Adams, a Democrat, acknowledged that the use of the schools was “drastic” but insisted the city is out of options. The mayor said the school gyms were intended to be used only for short periods, with the goal being to move people out quickly.

Following the expiration of a pandemic-era immigration policy this month, the number of migrants entering the United States has slowed significantly.

But several cities say they have seen a swell of new arrivals—many of whom crossed the southern border prior to the change in policy. In Chicago, the city turned several park fieldhouses into “temporary respite centers,” canceling or relocating summer programs, prompting complaints from some parents. In Denver, new arrivals are being turned away from overcrowded shelters.

In New York City, where a court-ordered mandate guarantees all people a right to shelter, local officials have explored various unconventional ideas for housing its newest residents. But the decision to use school gyms struck a nerve.

City officials said there were advantages to school buildings, which are municipally owned and come with built-in staff and security. Many of the gymnasiums were previously used for vaccine distribution during the pandemic.

Adams also said all the gyms under consideration were standalone facilities, not directly connected to school buildings.

The Associated Press, Wire Service; Evie Blad, Senior Staff Writer; Elizabeth Heubeck, Staff Writer; Alyson Klein, Assistant Editor; Lauraine Langreo, Staff Writer; and Eesha Pendharkar, Staff Writer contributed to this article.
A version of this article appeared in the May 31, 2023 edition of Education Week as Briefly Stated


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