Best of the Blogs
| NEWS | District Dossier
The police force for the nation’s second-largest school system will now send most students who get into trouble for fighting, bringing tobacco or alcohol to campus, and other minor offenses to counseling rather than issuing citations or arresting them.
This new policing policy for the Los Angeles Unified district is meant to reverse an era of zero tolerance that put arrests and juvenile-justice referrals ahead of counseling services and other interventions for struggling students. Mounting research shows students who get into trouble with law enforcement are at a greater risk for dropping out of school and ending up in jail or prison.
And students who end up getting arrested or referred to juvenile justice are disproportionately African-American and Latino, studies show. The same is true in the Los Angeles schools, where nearly 95 percent of the 1,100 arrests made by the district’s police department in 2013 were of students of color.
Under the new LAUSD policy, most fights between students at school will have to be referred to two off-site intervention centers. And rather than ticketing and referring students to juvenile court for offenses such as trespassing or damaging school property, police will send them to an off-site center for positive discipline interventions.
-Lesli A. Maxwell
| NEWS | Teacher Beat
A pitch for governor is conspicuously missing from New York State United Teachers’ recent list of endorsements for federal and state offices.
NYSUT also sat out the 2010 gubernatorial race, in which Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, prevailed. Cuomo has tussled with the union over several issues, including his support of more charter schools and of teacher evaluations tied in part to student test scores.
This news is interesting—if inside baseball—also because an internal split within NYSUT largely had to do with the union’s relationship to Cuomo and just how forcefully it should oppose him.
Union critic Mike Antonucci notes that this turn of events means the winner of the election won’t be beholden to NYSUT.
| NEWS | Digital Education
While many middle schoolers are focused on getting to the next level of popular games like Angry Birds and Candy Crush, others, like 13-year-old Aaliyah Trader, are designing apps that give back to their communities.
The rising 8th grader at Achievement First Endeavor Middle School, a charter school in New York’s Brooklyn borough, helped design the app Sharety as part of the design and business-plan competition called Battle of the Apps. The free app uses geolocation technology to help users find local charities and donate.
“We didn't want to do just another game. I like to try new and different things, and we wanted to try new ideas with this app,” said Aaliyah. “One of my teammates had the idea to make an app that really gives back to charities, and I liked the idea of sharing so that people could give charities the things that they really need.”
This “CEO Bootcamp”—for Career Exploration Opportunities—summer program comes as many schools are using app-development competitions to spark student interest in entrepreneurship while exposing them to entry-level computer-programming skills and business management.
| NEWS | Learning the Language
Florida education officials and honchos at the U.S. Department of Education are locked in a staring match over when English-language learners ought to be tested and when their results should count for accountability purposes.
The question now: Who will blink first?
On Aug. 14, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan approved a year-long extension of Florida’s waiver from portions of the No Child Left Behind Act.
But it came with the Education Department’s stated rejection of a part of Florida’s plan to amend its waiver so that English-learners with fewer than two years in a U.S. school would not have to have their test scores factored into school grades. That amendment would have brought the state’s waiver plan in line with its new law around testing timelines for students still learning English.
Federal law requires ELLs' results on content tests to be used for accountability after such students have been in school for one year. Florida’s public schools educate more than a quarter million English-language learners.
The Florida education department has said little about how it will advise districts to proceed with this conflict between state and federal law. Last week, Joe Follick, a spokesman for the state education department, said in an interview: “We are still reviewing their response. We have not changed our position on the need for flexibility that we feel is necessary for our English-language learners.”
That sounds a lot like Florida is planning to stick to its guns on what it believes is the right testing policy for ELLs. Will the Education Department do the same and pull the plug on the state’s waiver?
-Lesli A. Maxwell
| NEWS | State EdWatch
A Louisiana judge has granted a preliminary injunction that lifts the suspension of the tests aligned to the Common Core State Standards imposed by Gov. Bobby Jindal nearly two months ago.
State District Court Judge Todd Hernandez on Aug. 19 granted the injunction sought by the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, state Superintendent John White, and a group of parents and teachers who have filed a lawsuit challenging the Louisiana governor’s decision. They argue that the state’s testing contract, which White and the state board had planned to use next year to administer the test developed by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness of College and Careers, or PARCC, has been illegally blocked by Gov. Jindal.
“Today’s ruling allows teachers and students to continue raising expectations in Louisiana. It enables our state to set its aspirations high and to compete with states across the country,” White said in a statement responding to the ruling.
Gov. Jindal has argued that the state board and Mr. White do not have the authority to use the PARCC exam under the terms of their current testing contract. More broadly, he has argued that because the tests are federally funded, and because common-core supporters claim that uncertainty over the state’s tests has created uncertainty in Louisiana classrooms, the tests amount to an illegal attempt by the federal government to control curriculum.
“If this judge’s ruling stands, it would cause chaos in state government and bring us back to the old days in Louisiana when it was OK to give no-bid contracts to your friends,” Jindal said in response to the ruling.
In a separate case, state district court Judge Tim Kelley on Aug. 15 denied a request for a preliminary injunction by state lawmakers that would have stopped the use of the common standards in Louisiana classrooms. The lawmakers have sued the state board, saying it improperly adopted the common core back in 2010, an allegation board members have denied.
| NEWS | Rules for Engagement
If you regularly find yourself in a school cafeteria, there’s a chance you’ll see a person in a suit with a flag pin mingling with students there this fall. Members of Congress might be more comfortable eating at a political fundraiser than in a public school lunchroom, but many of them are accepting invitations to check out exactly what the kids are eating these days.
Organizations on all sides of the school lunch fight have challenged supporters and public school administrators to invite their senators and representatives to learn firsthand about the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s school meals programs by visiting schools and summer meals sites. They’re motivated by two things: ongoing arguments about whether Congress should provide a waiver for some schools from heightened meal standards, and the coming reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act, which sets rules for all school nutrition programs.
The School Nutrition Association, which has advocated for greater flexibility under the heightened nutrition standards, is entering members who host congressional visits into a drawing for a free trip to its legislative conference. “Having them visit, interact with your staff and see the kids is the best way to highlight the importance of school nutrition programs,” the organization noted on its website.
The SNA has advocated for a plan that would give some schools a one-year break from the rules if they can prove a net revenue loss within a six-month period since they've been implemented.
Vol. 34, Issue 02, Pages 11, 19Published in Print: August 27, 2014, as Best of the Blogs