Education

Briefly Stated: September 7, 2022

September 06, 2022 9 min read
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Parents Don’t Want Teaching to Become Their Kids’ Profession

Remember when they were revered? Remember when they were hailed as heroes? Oh, those good, ole days for teachers.

Now, though, the majority of Americans don’t want their kids to touch the profession with the proverbial 10-foot pole—despite giving their local public schools the highest ratings in nearly 50 years and expressing widespread trust in their teachers. Those are the findings from the latest PDK International poll on attitudes toward public schools.

Sixty-two percent of survey respondents said teaching isn’t a good profession for young people—the highest proportion in the poll’s history.

“There’s a big concern in these numbers about the future of the teaching profession,” said Teresa Preston, PDK’s publications director. “We see these narratives of people who support their schools, trust their teachers, but don’t want their children to become teachers.”

This year’s results show strong faith in local public schools with 54 percent of respondents giving their community’s schools an A or B, a 10 percentage-point increase from 2019.

And 63 percent of respondents said they have “a great deal or good amount” of overall trust and confidence in their community’s teachers.

But here’s the disconnect. Only 23 percent of respondents said they would give an A or B to public schools nationally. Still, that’s higher than the 19 percent who said the same in 2019, before the pandemic.

Respondents had a variety of reasons for not wanting to see their children become teachers. Nearly 30 percent cited poor pay and benefits; 26 percent said it was because of the difficulties, demands, and stress of the job; 23 percent cited a lack of respect; and 21 percent noted other reasons.

Those concerns have only been amplified by the COVID-19 pandemic, incidents of school violence, and public debates over discussions of race, gender, and sexuality in the classroom.

The public “believe(s) the people doing the job are doing well at it,” Preston said, “but they … don’t necessarily want to see their children have to put up with these same challenges in their career.”

This poll marks the first since 2019 after PDK took a pause during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Number of Ed-Tech Tools School Districts Use Has Nearly Tripled, and That’s Become a Problem

This may be a case where having too much is a bad thing.

The average number of tech products school districts access in a given month has almost tripled over the last few years, from 548 during the 2017-18 school year to 1,417 during the 2021-22 school year, according to a report issued last month by LearnPlatform, an education technology company that helps districts measure the use and effectiveness of their digital products.

It’s clear from those numbers that teachers are increasingly willing to experiment with a broad range of digital products to improve instruction. But if every teacher in a school or district has a different favorite, it can be tough for district and school leaders to offer effective professional development and make sure student-data privacy is protected, educators and experts say.

What’s more, this increasing use of more tech tools means students must interact with a range of different digital platforms that often serve the same purpose, like taking formative assessments or online quizzes their teachers have created.

Nearly a quarter of the tools districts and teachers use most often are aimed at raising student engagement, LearnPlatform found. Among the most popular: Kahoot!, Blooket, and Quizizz. Another 10 percent or so are study tools, such as Quizlet, Desmos, and Grammarly.

“These numbers should prompt district leaders to ask not just what ed-tech is being used in their schools or how often it’s getting used but also whether it is safe, equitable, and positively impacting learning,” said Karl Rectanus, the CEO and founder of LearnPlatform. “With tech-enabled learning here to stay, understanding which tools are both effective and safe will not only improve teaching and learning, but help budget decisions as districts face a fiscal cliff” as federal COVID aid funds run out.

One possible reason for the explosion in tech tools: When the pandemic hit, many companies provided their products to teachers for free. And educators—many of whom had little or no training in virtual instruction—took them up on those offers, desperate to find something that would help engage their students.

Since then, districts have been trying to scrutinize the tools their teachers are using, and, if necessary, trim their numbers to just a handful of high-quality ones.

Federal Appeals Panel Backs Christian Athletes’ Group Over California’s District’s Nondiscrimination Policy

Religion has bested nondiscrimination in a court of law.

A federal appeals court panel in August ruled 2-1 that the San Jose Unified district in California likely violated the free-exercise rights of a Fellowship of Christian Athletes chapter when the district “de-recognized” the student club over its requirement that leaders abide by a “statement of faith” that includes a belief that sex be limited to marriage between a man and a woman.

The court reversed a federal district court and ordered that the FCA chapter be reinstated. The panel said the district had selectively enforced a nondiscrimination policy, such as allowing a Senior Women club at one high school in 2021-22 despite limiting membership to female-identifying students.

“Under the First Amendment, our government must be scrupulously neutral when it comes to religion: It cannot treat religious groups worse than comparable secular ones. But the school district did just that,” the appeals court majority said. “The school district engaged in selective enforcement of its own nondiscrimination policy, penalizing FCA while looking the other way with other student groups.”

The FCA chapter at Pioneer High School in San Jose had been a recognized student club since the early 2000s. The Fellowship of Christian Athletes national organization, which has some 7,000 chapters in colleges, high schools, and middle schools, requires chapter leaders to abide by its statement on faith and “sexual purity.” The latter says, “The Bible teaches that the appropriate place for sexual expression is in the context of a marriage relationship” between “one man and one woman.” The group also regards gender identity as being assigned at birth.

A social studies teacher at Pioneer High raised questions about the FCA leadership requirement, court papers say. He told his principal that the FCA’s “views on LGBTQ+ identity infringe on the rights of others in my community to feel safe and enfranchised on their own campus, even infringing on their very rights to exist.”

The principal concluded that the FCA’s statements violated the district’s nondiscrimination policy, which protects on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, and pulled the group’s recognition.

Kentucky Launches Initiative to Coach Schools on Equity

Kentucky is making it a statewide affair, one of the nation’s first to launch personalized coaching for district leaders and teachers through the education department to further diversity, equity, inclusion, and a sense of belonging in schools.

Starting this fall, 74 of the state’s more than 170 districts will receive coaching over the next two years through engage2learn, an organization that offers personalized professional development. Typically, DEI training is offered at the district level.

The initiative is set to get underway even though state legislators recently passed a law that could potentially restrict conversations about race and racism in the classrooms. But educators and administrators say it remains to be seen whether the new law will affect the state’s pioneering coaching efforts.

The new program grows out of an anti-racism resolution passed by the education department in 2020. It says that Kentucky’s public schools have a history of racial inequity and that people of color “are often left out of the conversation and remain unheard.” Since then, the department has offered a range of tools to help districts and educators continue fostering equity in schools.

“The ultimate goal is for us to have more equity-minded, equity-literate teachers, support staff, administrative staff, and state-level staff,” said Thomas Tucker, the deputy commissioner and chief equity officer for the education department.

Engage2learn will start with one-on-one coaching conversations. It will work with four to eight educators, depending on district size, and include principals or central-office administrators from each participating district. Together, they will identify the areas of improvement and conceive a plan to meet the educators’ goals.

The education department also hired regional diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging coordinators who will work with both engage2learn and with districts to offer additional training, Tucker said.

Religious Schools Shun Aid From State Despite Court Win

Parents of children enrolled in Maine religious schools fought for years—all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court—for the state to treat tuition reimbursements the same as other private schools.

Few, though, have leapt at the offering. Only one of the religious high schools that stood to benefit has signed up to participate this fall, after Maine’s attorney general warned that the schools would have to abide by state anti-discrimination laws, including those that protect LGBTQ students and faculty.

The Supreme Court ruled in June that Maine can’t exclude religious schools from a program that offers tuition for private education in rural towns where there are no public schools.

Schools that meet the state’s criteria can get about $12,000 per student in taxpayer funding.

So far, only one religious school has signed up to participate.

There have been several lawsuits over the years before the U.S. Supreme Court’s 6-3 ruling earlier this year, which was hailed as a victory for school choice proponents—potentially giving life to efforts in some states that have not directed taxpayer money to private, religious education.

In Maine, Attorney General Aaron Frey criticized the Supreme Court ruling and said all schools that accept public funds, including religious schools, must abide by the Maine Human Rights Act, which bans discrimination on the basis of race, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, or disability. That would mean accepting gay and transgender teachers and pupils, he said.

Both Christian schools associated with the lawsuit—Temple Academy in Waterville and Bangor Christian Schools—have policies that discriminate against students and staff on a basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, he said.

The Rev. Tom Brown, the senior pastor and president at Bangor Christian Schools and an affiliated church, said “we are processing” the attorney general’s statements. He confirmed that no students will be getting state tuition reimbursement this fall.

The Associated Press, Wire Service; Alyson Klein, Assistant Editor; Eesha Pendharkar, Staff Writer; Libby Stanford, Reporter; and Mark Walsh, Contributing Writer contributed to this article.
A version of this article appeared in the September 07, 2022 edition of Education Week as Briefly Stated

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