Classroom Technology Briefly Stated

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September 20, 2019 7 min read
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N.Y. Schools Can Go to Court Alone to Block Youth’s Access to Guns

New York state can claim another first.

It’s become the first state in the nation to empower schools to petition a court for a so-called “red flag” order on guns. In other words, school officials who are worried that a person poses a danger to himself or others can directly ask a court to prevent that person’s access to firearms, at least temporarily.

Overall, 17 states and the District of Columbia have red-flag laws, though none with that school-filing provision.

With the new law, New York school principals can petition the court for an “extreme-risk protection order” requiring the safe storage of firearms a troubled youth might have access to, such as a parent’s gun.

Supporters of the law say educators are uniquely suited to pick up on the kind of troubling behavior seen before school shootings, like the 2018 attack in Parkland, Fla., in which an expelled student killed 17 people at his former high school.

New York schools are still crafting procedures or waiting on guidance to help them figure out when and how to take action if the need arises.

John Kelly, a former president of the New York Association of School Psychologists, said he expects schools would file petitions only in the most extreme cases. Schools that follow best practices, he said, should have threat- and risk-assessment protocols to help them decide whether a situation is serious enough for court intervention. That process, he said, should include finding out the context of the threat and gathering background information on the student.

“It’s not a quick judgment,” said Kelly, a school psychologist. “It’s not based on hearsay.” Peter Kruszynski, a middle school principal in Lancaster, N.Y., and president of the National Association of Secondary School Principals, recalled an instance when a school investigated a student who had reportedly talked about a shooting but instead was discussing going to a gun range with his father.

“Sometimes kids say things for attention,” he said, noting that the law will require schools to present evidence to the court.

Aid for Children Drops and May Get Worse

BRIC ARCHIVE

Federal spending on children has taken a dive—just below 2 percent of the country’s gross domestic product, the lowest level in a decade.

That’s one big conclusion drawn from a new Urban Institute report on federal spending aimed at children, including education, health care, nutrition, and various tax benefits. The report also found that total federal spending on those younger than 19 was $6,200 in 2018, which also represented a decline from previous years.

In contrast, the share of the federal budget dedicated to children nearly doubled from 5.4 percent to 10.6 percent between 1990 and 2010.

One bright spot: “Kids’ Share 2019: Report on Federal Expenditures on Children through 2018 and Future Projections” shows that the share of federal aid targeted at children from low-income families has grown recently, reaching 61 percent of such spending in 2018. (Figures in the report are adjusted for inflation.)

The organization forecasts a gloomier outlook for fans of Washington spending on kids in the next decade: In 2029, interest payments on the national debt are expected to significantly outpace federal spending on children.

Even now, federal outlays for kids only outpace interest payments by just over a percentage point.

The share of the budget dedicated to children will also get squeezed by the growth of mandatory spending on programs like Social Security and Medicare.

Meanwhile, K-12 outlays are projected to fall from $41 billion in 2018 to $36 billion in 2029.

Only mandatory health spending on children is projected to grow over the next decade. (These figures can always change if policy does over the next 10 years.)

During the Trump administration, the U.S. Department of Education’s budget has grown slightly in nominal dollars. All bets are off, however, if another downturn hits the economy.

Chicago Teachers Could Be Next in Big-City Strikes

Here we go again. Teachers in another big-city district are preparing to walk out—this time in Chicago.

That’s becoming increasingly common given teachers’ discontent over pay, working conditions, and, in general, support of public education.

After rejecting the latest offer from the nation’s third-largest district, Chicago educators are back at the bargaining table negotiating such issues as pay, staffing shortages, and class size. The dispute follows teacher strikes this year over similar issues elsewhere, including in Denver, Los Angeles, West Virginia, and Oakland, Calif.

Shutting down roughly 600 schools could create major hassles for nearly 400,000 students and their families in the Windy City.

The Chicago Teachers Union argues that the district has repeatedly shortchanged schools over the years by cutting budgets. For instance, the union wants a nurse and librarian at every school, more social workers, and enforced class-size limits.

If an agreement isn’t reached, the union will take a strike vote starting Sept. 24. If at least 75 percent approve it, teachers could walk out Oct. 7.

R.I. District Faulted for Another Deficiency: ELL Education

The woes of the Providence, R.I., school system just keep mounting, with students getting the worst of it.

First, came a damning 93-page audit by the Johns Hopkins Institute for Education Policy that found, among other things, that academics are far too weak, too many teachers feel unsupported, and too many students aren’t learning and are disengaged.

Then everyone discovered Brown University had failed to fulfill its promise of a $10 million endowment fund benefiting Providence schools.

And now, we learn the U.S. Department of Justice has found rampant deficiencies in the way the Providence school district educates English-language learners that prevent those students “from learning English and accessing their other core subjects, setting them up to struggle and too often to fail,” according to a letter the Justice Department sent to the district last year, just uncovered by the Providence Journal last week.

The 18-page letter details the results of an investigation into the district’s ELL programs and identifies 12 violations of the Equal Educational Opportunities Act on the part of the district. Among those violations: Hundreds of English-learners were placed in schools with no specialized programs without first obtaining waivers of service from parents; “educationally unsound” English-as-a-second-language programs were used; and unqualified teachers staffed programs.

The district also secured uninformed waivers of service for some ELLs with disabilities by asking their parents to sign waiver forms that were provided only in English.

A spokeswoman for Mayor Jorge Elorza’s office said the district has already begun making improvements.

On top of all that, here’s another not-too-surprising finding from another review: More than half the children of elected officials who live in Providence go to private, religious, or charter schools and not the city’s beleaguered traditional public schools.

What Ed-Tech Tools for the Classroom? Ask a Teacher

Teachers may sometimes feel powerless when it comes to what affects them inside and outside the classroom, but their voices are mighty instruments in at least one arena.

New survey results show that overwhelming majorities of teachers, principals, and administrators say teachers are the sources they trust most when selecting digital-learning tools. What teachers say actually outweighs empirical sources.

A whopping 94 percent of educators said they turn to teachers for input on ed tech for the classroom. That’s a higher percentage than those who said they trust other sources, such as reviewing information online (84 percent), looking to social media (58 percent), and surveying lists their districts provide (49 percent).

The survey by NewSchools Venture Fund and Gallup also asked respondents to choose up to three resources they trust most in choosing ed-tech products. Eighty-one percent of teachers named other teachers, 87 percent of principals also named teachers, as did 84 percent of K-12 administrators.

Asked in another question to choose up to three resources they trust most in choosing ed-tech products, 81 percent of teachers surveyed named other teachers. Eighty-seven percent of principals surveyed also named teachers, as did 84 percent of K-12 administrators.

The reliance on educators as experts about ed-tech products also dwarfed the weight that K-12 officials placed on internet searches, education conferences, and evidence-based reports.

Gauging teachers’ influence over purchasing can, however, depend on how questions are asked.

For instance, in a survey of 500 district leaders released last year by EdWeek Market Brief, more than half the administrators said they rarely or very rarely adopt products for district-wide purchase based on recommendations of teachers who test those tools in classrooms, numbers that varied by district size.

Briefly Stated contributors: Associated Press, Sean Cavanagh, Tribune New Service, and Andrew Ujifusa. Edited by Karen Diegmueller.
A version of this article appeared in the September 25, 2019 edition of Education Week


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