Education

Briefly Stated: October 19, 2022

October 18, 2022 8 min read
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School Shootings Set Record Levels, Latest Data Reveal

Only last week—week number 41 of the calendar year—another school shooting occurred. By the time you read this, based on record-high numbers this year, yet another may have taken place.

Thirty-seven school shootings have resulted in injuries or deaths so far in 2022, more than in any single year since Education Week began tracking the incidents in 2018.

With 2 ½ months left in the year, that surpasses the previous record of 34 shootings that Education Week tracked in all of 2021.

On Oct. 10, a juvenile was wounded in a shooting in front of a high school in Milwaukee.

The record total comes as state and federal lawmakers continue to debate responses to the May 24 shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, where 19 students and two teachers died after a gunman barged into their building.

The latest shooting happened outside Madison High School at the end of the school day. The injured youth was not a student at the school, officials say.

Education Week’s school shooting tracker counts incidents in which at least one person, other than the individual firing the weapon, is injured by gunfire on school property when school is in session or during a school-sponsored event.

Events on the tracker often differ from the mass active-shooter attacks that are typically the focus of school safety debates. School-sponsored events could include evening activities, like football games, and injured persons may or may not be students.

The second-most-recent incident occurred in Dorchester, Mass., where police say a 17-year-old student shot and injured a 17-year-old classmate in front of their high school in the morning of Oct. 4.

And before that, a 17-year-old student was killed and three people—another 17-year-old boy, a 20-year-old woman, and a 9-year-old girl—were wounded in a shooting outside a stadium at a high school football homecoming game Sept. 30 in Tulsa, Okla.

Other organizations and government agencies, such as the U.S. Department of Education, use varying criteria to determine what constitutes a school shooting, some narrower and some broader than Education Week’s. Nonetheless, various measures show the incidents have increased this year.

Teachers, Too, Are in Different Camps When It Comes to What Civics Content They Introduce to Students

What should civics classes teach? Like everything else in the United States these days, there’s disagreement over that, too.

Research is scant, but the RAND Corp. is shining a light on how teachers approach the subject with the results of a survey of a nationally representative sample of public school teachers.

Using questions derived from an international survey of educators on civic instruction, the RAND study found a majority of respondents, 68 percent, believed that promoting students’ critical and independent thinking was the top aim for civics education.

Other popular responses were developing students’ skills and competencies in conflict resolution and promoting knowledge of citizens’ rights and responsibilities.

Only 5 percent of educators said they believed the goal was preparing students for future political engagement.

The civics field has in general faced tensions over whether it should prioritize foundational civics knowledge—like the legislative process and development of the Constitution—or hands-on instruction that shows students how to engage in civic avenues in their own communities.

Some recent social studies standards revisions in such states as Texas and Florida seem to align, at least in part, with what survey respondents believed was the goal of civics instruction.

The RAND survey also found variations on responses between male and female respondents. Female teachers tended to select developing students’ skills and competencies in conflict resolution and supporting the development of effective strategies to reduce racism as among their top aims. Men favored promoting knowledge of social, political, and civic institutions, and promoting the capacity to defend one’s point of view.

When it comes to well-rounded civics instruction, it’s not an either-or scenario for Lawrence Paska, the executive director of the National Council for the Social Studies.

“Students do need to have a grounding in basic knowledge, they need to understand how our federal versus our state versus our local systems of government work,” Paska said. “At the same time, what do you do with that information as you have it? How do you use that to be informed and thoughtful as a participant in our society?”

To Combat Restrictive Measures, Teachers’ Union Doubles Down on Partnerships With Parents

Just being ticked off isn’t much of a solution. So the nation’s second-largest teachers’ union is putting money into a campaign to fight back against conservative efforts to restrict protections for LGBTQ students, limit how teachers can address race in lessons, and expand school choice.

The American Federation of Teachers says it is awarding more than $1.5 million collected from member dues to 27 state and local affiliates. The money will go toward organizing parents and educators, providing training to support advocacy campaigns, and increasing collaboration among union affiliates and other community organizations.

“As others try to ban books and split people apart and split America apart, we are being honest about our problems and working together to solve them to have a better America,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten. “This program helps deepen and strengthen the relationships that are critical to student success.”

Weingarten said she hopes that the grants will be seed money to lay the groundwork for sustainable projects, and that this may be the first year of a multiyear commitment from the AFT.

While polling suggests that most parents trust and support their children’s teachers, groups claiming that schools aren’t sufficiently dedicated to parents’ rights have formed in opposition to teachers’ unions. Some have argued that unions kept schools closed longer than necessary during the pandemic and have promoted inappropriate content about race, gender, and sexuality.

The Montana Federation of Public Employees is getting funds. State Rep. Moffie Funk, a Democrat and former teacher, said school board meetings have turned ugly, with tensions running high during debates about mask mandates, critical race theory, and books in school libraries that focus on LGBTQ issues.

The union received $75,000 to work with Funk’s political action fund, Montanans Organized for Education, to increase participation among educators, families, and students in board meetings and ensure civility in debate about education issues.

“Kids need to see the adults acting like adults and not going to public meetings and throwing slurs around and misinformation,” she said.

U.S. Teachers Work More, Paid Less Than Peers Elsewhere

U.S. teachers have long been known to work more hours than their peers abroad. That looks like it’s changing. Not that American teachers are working less but that their counterparts are working more.

To rub salt in the wound, though: For all their efforts, U.S. teachers earn proportionately less than teachers in other countries compared with similarly educated professionals.

Those are a couple of the tidbits included in the Education at a Glance 2022 data release from the Organization for Economic Development and Cooperation.

U.S. elementary teachers’ work hours haven’t changed much since 2019, but at more than 1,000 a year on average, American educators work 200-plus more hours than their peers worldwide. U.S. elementary and high school teachers work more hours than those in any OECD country but Costa Rica, and middle school teachers work more hours than their peers everywhere but Costa Rica and Mexico.

Globally, teacher and principal salaries tend to increase with their level of education, but across countries that took part in the survey, preschool, elementary, and secondary teachers earned 4 percent to 14 percent lower salaries than other college-educated workers. Teachers in OECD countries earned about 90 percent of what similarly educated, adult full-time workers in their countries made. In the United States, however, teachers on average made only half of what similarly educated peers made in other fields.

By contrast, elementary and secondary principals earned on average 30 percent higher salaries than the average college-educated workers. In the United States, school leaders earned 1.1 times as much as workers with college degrees generally but 80 percent of that of similarly educated peers in other fields.

The OECD tracks teacher and other national education data in 38 member countries, as well as of Argentina, Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, and South Africa.

Student Vaping Drops Off, But Habit Remains a Worry

Vaping, a scourge on students and schools, could be on the downswing.

More than 1 out of 10 high school students are still using e-cigarettes, according to newly released federal data, but that’s less than the proportion indulging before the pandemic. At its pre-pandemic peak, about 6 million middle and high school students reported vaping, compared with 2.6 million now. It’s hard to say for sure, though, because the National Youth Tobacco Survey has changed how it collects data.

Still, educators may draw some comfort from the apparent slowdown in vaping, which was driving schools to become increasingly creative and desperate in combating the habit, from installing vapor-detecting devices in restrooms to creating e-cigarette buy-back programs to suing e-cigarette makers.

Prior to the pandemic, vaping among adolescents had been accelerating, with about 20 percent of high schoolers and 5 percent of middle schoolers reporting e-cigarette use in 2019 and 2020. Those numbers dropped to 11 percent and 2.8 percent, respectively, in 2021, when the survey was conducted fully online for the first time to include students learning from home.

Vaping has proved to be especially difficult for educators to police as it’s relatively easy for students to hide.

Even though e-cigarettes may not be as unhealthy as traditional, “combustible” cigarettes, they contain many toxic chemicals and metals. What’s more, they often have higher concentrations of nicotine than traditional cigarettes and present a hazard to young, developing brains. Many adolescents may not know that e-cigarettes are bad for their health or that they contain nicotine, but awareness is on the rise.

Evie Blad, Staff Writer; Ileana Najarro, Staff Writer; Arianna Prothero, Assistant Editor; Sarah D. Sparks, Assistant Editor; and Madeline Will, Staff Writer contributed to this article.
A version of this article appeared in the October 19, 2022 edition of Education Week as Briefly Stated

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