Dashboard August 2018

This Edition's Dashboard

GAO examines schools for equal athletic opportunities

A federal government survey concludes that many public high schools have taken measures to encourage equal opportunities for boys and girls in sports. For example, a majority of schools assessed resources such as equipment, travel opportunities, and facilities that they provided to girls’ and boys’ teams, and some schools took steps to gauge student interest in specific sports as a means of encouraging equal opportunities, according to the Government Accountability Office’s High School Sports Survey. However, the GAO report estimates that 51 percent of high school athletics administrators either were unaware of or unsupported by their Title IX coordinator.

Title IX coordinators—which school districts are required to designate and make visible per regulations for Title IX of the 1972 Education Amendments—are expected to work closely with athletics administrators to determine whether action is needed to address any underrepresentation, or to otherwise encourage equal athletic opportunities.

‘Active Shooter’ game still lives

Despite protests against a video game that simulates a school shooting, two online sites that carry the “Active Shooter” game are once again up and running. Representatives of Acid Software, creator of the game, told The Washington Post that they had secured new web-hosting services on Russian servers. (Anton Makarevskiy, developer of the game, is Russian). That followed the websites being shut down by the Burlington, Massachusetts-based web-hosting service Bluehost. The company was urged to remove the websites via an online petition organized by Sandy Hook Promise, an anti-gun violence group formed by parents whose children were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut in 2012.

Acid Software set up the websites for its game after it was removed from the webpages of the video game marketplace Steam and crowdfunding site Indiegogo. Those actions followed complaints by critics, including NSBA, condemning the school shooting violence depicted in the video.

Teachers spend own cash on school supplies

Most public school teachers—94 percent—say they have spent their own money on school supplies without reimbursement, according to a National Center for Education Statistics survey. On average, public school teachers say they spent $479 between 2014 and 2016. The median amount spent was $297; 44 percent of teachers spent $250 or less. Teachers with students in free or reduced-price lunch programs paid more out of pocket for school supplies; elementary school teachers were more likely than secondary school teachers to spend their own money, and they spent more of it.

Dress code addresses complaints

Santa Fe public schools has overhauled its 20-year-old dress code. Gone are rules for “uniform-like ‘standard dress’ for students in grades K-8” while “a detailed list of do’s and don’ts for high schoolers” has been pared down, according to the Santa Fe New Mexican. Like a growing number of districts, Santa Fe took the opportunity to address complaints from students and others that its dress code disproportionately “targets female apparel — essentially discriminating against girls by banning any garment considered distracting to boys” and led to body shaming, Superintendent Veronica García told school board members during a public meeting.

The district’s revamped code also addresses concerns among low-income parents that the required clothing was too costly, and frustrations among educators about the amount of class time spent enforcing the dress code rules, including sometimes sending students home, which results in lost learning time.

Schools buy mass shooting insurance

The rash of school shootings in recent years has spurred interest in insurance coverage against such incidents. Officials with McGowan Companies, which says it’s the largest underwriter of “active shooter” coverage, told CBS News it’s having a tough time keeping up with hundreds of inquiries from schools and other customers such as local governments, shopping mall operators, senior care facilities, and hotels. “We are literally overwhelmed every day,” said Thomas McGowan IV, CEO of McGowan, adding that his company continues to add employees to address the demand for coverage. “Traditional insurance policies aren’t intended to deal with mass shooter events.”

Ohio schools welcome students from Puerto Rico

Add Ohio to the list of states welcoming large numbers of Puerto Rican students following the destruction of Hurricane Maria. According to the Ohio Department of Education, at least 600 children from the island have enrolled in local schools since September 2017, most settling in Cleveland and its suburbs. At least 300 students have enrolled in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District.

If estimates hold, more students and their families will be arriving in the state later this year and next. “Researchers at the City University of New York predicted last fall that Ohio will be receiving about 30,000 Puerto Ricans by 2020 — the sixth-most of any state,” the Akron Beacon Journal reports.

Growth mindset questioned

The academic benefits of growth mindset interventions —programs that teach students they can improve their intelligence with effort and therefore improve grades and test scores—may be largely overstated, a study suggests. Published in the journal Psychological Science, the study involves two meta-analyses, in which researchers aggregated and assessed the results of hundreds of previous mindset studies. The findings show “little to no effect of mindset interventions on academic achievement for students in most circumstances,” says the report.

It notes that several of the studies investigating the effectiveness of growth mindset interventions did not follow best practices for experimental research. For example, more than one-third of studies didn’t check whether the programs influenced students’ mindsets. Of those that did, nearly half failed that check, indicating that the programs didn’t successfully alter mindsets.

No summer job for many teens

Teenagers are less likely to be employed today than ever before. Almost 34 percent of teens had a job in 2015 compared to 60 percent in 1979, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Some suggest that a greater emphasis on rigorous academics and getting into college may be a factor, reporting by Business Insider suggests. It notes that, “as a bachelor’s degree has become a requirement rather than an option for many desirable jobs, college-bound students must take a certain course load to be considered for admission.” With that course load often comes summer homework that consumes the hours not already allotted to a host of summer extracurricular activities.

While some teens intentionally pass on summer employment, other teens who need jobs are having trouble getting them. “Low-income teenagers are locked out of work because they don’t have the sort of connections that middle or upper-class students have: the neighborhood parent who can shell out $10 an hour for a babysitter, or the family friend who needs an assistant at their law firm,” Paul Harrington, professor of labor markets and policy at Drexel University, told Business Insider.

Move over, yellow school bus

Ride-sharing companies like Lyft and Uber have changed the way many people travel around town. Could a similar transformation be ahead for school transportation? Among other things, such a change could improve access to academic and enrichment programs for low-income students whose families can’t easily provide transportation to such opportunities, according to U.S. News & World Report.

Schoolpool, a free platform used by some 200 schools in the Denver region, connects families interested in sharing transportation—be it carpooling, walking, biking, or riding mass transit or the school bus together.

In both Colorado and California, ride-sharing “is increasingly poised to offer an alternative to traditional school transportation,” the report says. Paul Teske, who studied trends in transportation for a University of Colorado, Denver, analysis, declares, “In many urban places across the U.S., the era of the yellow school bus is probably already over.”

Seat belts for new school buses

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has recommended that all new large school buses be equipped with both lap and shoulder seat belts. Board chairman Robert Sumwalt called using the equipment a “tried and true” safety protection, the Associated Press reported. The NTSB, which investigates transportation disasters, also recommended requiring collision-avoidance systems and automatic emergency brakes on new school buses.

The new recommendations are not binding on government agencies or the transportation industry. Eight states already require seat belts on larger school buses, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. New Jersey requires lap belts on its larger buses. But the NTSB is also suggesting that it and three other states that use lap belts — Louisiana, Florida, and New York — also install shoulder belts.

Impact of social-emotional learning

To teach kids how to better manage emotions, handle stress, and improve interpersonal relationships, some schools have added group therapy sessions to students’ schedules. NPR reports that efforts to teach social and emotional skills in school is more than 20 years old, and that research has shown this kind of intervention is effective and has a lasting impact. One analysis published last year in the journal Child Development reviewed dozens of programs with similar approaches. Participants were 11 percent more likely to graduate from college and less likely to have mental health problems or be arrested than students who never went through these programs.

Structured, school-based social-emotional learning programs already are being implemented on a large scale in Australia, Canada, and the U.K., NPR notes, but adds that these programs have not spread in the U.S. “as quickly as some would hope. With all the mandates that schools have to keep up with, social-emotional learning gets moved to the back burner.”

School librarian numbers drop

Public school districts have lost the equivalent of more than 10,000 full-time school librarian positions since 2000, a 19 percent drop in the workforce, an analysis of National Center for Education Statistics data shows. The number of positions declined from 53,659 to 43,367 between 1999-2000 and 2015-16. One analysis of the figures, by Education Week, suggests that the decline has hit districts serving minorities the hardest. It reports that among districts that have retained all their librarians since 2005, 75 percent are white. However, student populations in the 20 districts that lost the most librarians during the same time comprised 78 percent students of color.

Baltimore hopes to improve student-officer interactions

Baltimore City Public Schools approved new regulations dictating how school police interact with students. A goal of the regulations is to de-escalate tense situations involving students and then refer them to resources like counseling. Sonja Santelises, the CEO of schools, told WJZ TV that the policies will keep schools safe while also protecting students from being unjustly pushed into the criminal justice system.

The policies were written by school district police and the district’s legal office, according to The Baltimore Sun, and “emphasize that disciplining students is the responsibility of school administrators, while responding to serious crime is the job of the school police.” One provision of the policy, which would have required school officers to read a modified, “youth-friendly” version of the Miranda warning if arresting a juvenile — so it would be easier for them understand — was eliminated from the final set of regulations.

States requiring CPR for graduation

Cardiopulmonary resuscitation is such an important life-saving skill that 39 states and the District of Columbia have mandated CPR training for high school graduation. This fall, California becomes the newest state to join that list under a bill Gov. Jerry Brown signed in 2016. Maine and Colorado are among the 11 states that do not require the training to graduate, according to the American Heart Association (AHA). As schools work to provide students with more technical skills, including competencies in the health field, CPR training is a natural fit. CPR begun within the first few minutes of cardiac arrest, “can double or triple a person’s chance of survival,” the AHA’s website says.

Health educators tell Education Dive.com that, in addition to learning a life-saving skill, CPR instruction helps students learn confidence and teamwork, and can also introduce students to careers in the medical or fire/EMT fields.

Students wary of college finances

High school graduates may feel ready for college, but they’re less confident when it comes to paying for or managing college costs. More than half of students in a survey by Junior Achievement and Citizens Bank say they feel underprepared for the financial responsibilities of higher education. That includes 52 percent of high school juniors, 39 percent of high school seniors, and 34 percent of college freshmen. One reason so many feel ill-prepared: Between 30 percent and 40 percent of those student groups say they have less than $1,000 earmarked for college expenses.

Also, more than half of each group agreed that they had not done enough research on how to pay for college. A large majority of each class has either never spoken to their parents or only spoken to their parents once about paying for and managing the cost of college.

Holding alternative schools accountable

Recognizing that alternative schools serve at-risk students who are frequently credit deficient and often don’t complete their education on a traditional timeline, the California Department of Education approved a new policy that will allow these schools — such as dropout recovery schools — to report one-year graduation rates instead of the percentage of students who earn a diploma within four years. The change begins this fall and will apply to the category of schools — known in California as those with Dashboard Alternative School Status (DASS) — that enroll students behind on credits for graduation, but who are expected to complete the requirements within a year. Education Dive.com reports that approving the accountability method for calculating a one-year-rate is “part of a larger effort to create a set of measurements that better capture what takes place in DASS schools.”

Go to top