National School Boards Association News Items
Minnesota STEM Program Teaches Preschool Students
ABC Newspapers (MN) (1/21, Alveshere) reports two educators near the Twin Cities worked together to create the Anoka-Hennepin Early Childhood Family Education STEM classes, which ran for 15 weeks last fall. Preschool children attended the classes with their families and learned about STEM through activities and projects. In the last week's class, participants built houses out of straw, sticks, and bricks to replicate the "Three Little Pigs" story, and students identified machine parts in the structures of the houses as well as a wagon that transported the pigs between them.
Tennessee High School Basketball Team Rape Scandal Continues
The AP (1/21, Megargee) reports Hamilton County Juvenile Court Judge Robert Philyaw refused to dismiss charges against three Ooltewah High school officials related to allegations that three high school athletes under their supervision raped or sexually assaulted four team mates. The criminal case against the three high school basketball players has outraged the Tennessee community resulting in widespread criticism of school and district officials. Later in the same day, the Hamilton County school board voted against a request by Superintendent Rick Smith for the district to exercise the buyout provision of his contract. Smith sought removal from the position because of criticism he is facing concerning the rape charges. School board members said Smith is handling the situation well and that the criticism against him is unfounded.
Indiana Governor Signs Bill Delaying State Test Consequences For Teachers, Schools
The Indianapolis Star (1/21) reports that Indiana Gov. Mike Pence has signed legislation that prevents "teachers and schools from facing consequences tied to the 2015 ISTEP test." The bill "follows a deep drop in student performance on last year's test." The article notes that schools chief Glenda Ritz has "long sought" this relief.
The Louisville (KY) Courier-Journal (1/21, Clark) reports that under the law, "Indiana school districts will be spared from possible negative consequences of last year's low ISTEP scores," explaining that "lawmakers fast-tracked the proposal after test scores released earlier this month showed nearly half of students failed one or both portions of the 2015 ISTEP."
The AP (1/21, Slodysko) reports that the law, which enjoyed bipartisan support, had been a "major priority" for Pence "and fellow Republicans who sought to address students' low scores as well as troubles with administering the exam." The AP quotes Pence saying, "We transitioned to higher standards. And today we take decisive action to ensure that as we move through this transition, that it will not in any way impact our teachers' compensation and bonuses."
ISTEP Test-Run Plagued With Glitches. The Indianapolis Star (1/20) reports that a test-run of the ISTEP test resulted in "frozen screens and error messages" for students in several Indiana districts on Wednesday. The piece notes that "school leaders say the technical problems were reminiscent of ones they faced with former testing vendor CTB/McGraw Hill, which the state dumped after a series of problems with the delivery of the ISTEP." Pearson Education is the state's new testing vendor. The AP (1/21) also covers this story, following on the Star's coverage.
California Facing Growing Teacher Shortage As Demand Increases
The Monterey County (CA) Herald (1/22, Salinas) reports California's ongoing teacher shortage has caused Monterey County to offer a $10,000 signing bonus to math and science teachers. A new report concludes California's teacher shortage will get worse unless action is taken. The shortage has gotten worse since public funding for schools increased in recent years after declining after the recession. There is increased demand for teachers in the state after many were laid off after the recession. California currently has the highest student-teacher ratio in the US.
Illinois Governor Launches Effort To Take Over Chicago Schools
The Chicago Tribune (1/20, Geiger) reports that on Wednesday, Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) "launched a years-in-the-making all-out assault on the Chicago Teachers Union, pushing a state takeover of the city's public school system." Rauner said that Mayor Rahm Emanuel "had 'failed' to get the job done," the Tribune reports, adding that key Democrats "quickly decried the plan, which also would allow the district to declare bankruptcy." Rauner and Republicans in the state legislature called the plan a "lifeline" for the district, which could become insolvent by the end of the year.
In a separate article, the Chicago Sun-Times (1/21) reports that a GOP bill "would allow a state-appointed board to take over the financially troubled Chicago Public School system and pave the way for it to declare bankruptcy," saying the plan is "championed by Gov. Bruce Rauner - and rejected out of hand by Mayor Rahm Emanuel." The Sun-Times notes that the Chicago Teachers Union is moving toward a strike, further complicating Emanuel's position.
The Chicago Sun-Times (1/21) reports that the plan was presented as a "lifeline" for CPS, which "would allow an oversight board to take over Chicago Public Schools, as it drowns in debt, and create a path to bankruptcy," However, the district "couldn't paddle away fast enough from the offer."
The Huffington Post (1/20, Bellware) reports that the "aggressive proposal" comes as the district "faces sinking bond ratings and more than $1 billion in debt for the 2016 fiscal year, largely due to a massive $676 million pension liability." The piece notes that Democrats control the legislature, and "strongly oppose" the plan.
Politico (1/20), POLITICO New York (1/20), and the Christian Science Monitor (1/20) also cover this story.
Chicago Tribune Challenges Democrats To Find Better Alternative. An editorial in the Chicago Tribune (1/20) concedes that there are flaws and political overtones to the Republican plans, but argues that Democrats have yet to propose anything better.
Washington State Senate Approves Bill To Continue Charter Schools With Different Funding
The Tacoma (WA) News Tribune (1/21, Santos) reports the Washington state Senate voted to keep the state's charter schools open using funding from state lottery revenues instead of the state general fund. Last year, a state court held that using the general fund for charter schools violated the state constitution. Supporters of the new bill claim that changing the funding source will make the charter schools constitutional, but opponents say state courts will strike down the new law if passed as unconstitutional as well. The article quotes state legislators speaking in favor of and in opposition to the bill.
Sickouts Close 88 Detroit Schools As Teachers Protest Conditions
The Detroit Free Press (1/20) reports that 88 Detroit schools closed on Wednesday after teachers staged another sickout "to call attention to large class sizes, dilapidated buildings and other problems in Michigan's largest school district." As a result of the closures, 44,790 of the district's 46,325 students missed school. The series of "rolling sick-outs" are intended to "spotlight the poor conditions of dilapidated schools," as well as "stagnant wages, super-sized classes and Gov. Rick Snyder's controversial plan to divide DPS into two, one to pay off the district's debt, the other to educate children."
The Washington Post (1/20, Brown) reports that teachers in Detroit "say they are fed up with working in schools...plagued by rats, roaches, mold, ceilings full of holes and unreliable heat." Teachers also complained about a lack of teaching supplies and said "they haven't had a raise in 10 years."
The AP (1/21, Klein) reports that "disgruntled" teachers were protesting "the governor's plans for the district, its ramshackle finances and dilapidated buildings." The group Detroit Teachers Strike to Win "warned of closures" on Tuesday night, even as Gov. Rick Snyder "again pushed state lawmakers to pass bills to overhaul the school district by splitting it in two, spending more than $700 million over a decade, warning of a potential bankruptcy."
TIME (1/20), Take Part (1/20), WRC-TV Washington (1/20), and WDIV-TV Detroit (1/21) also cover this story.
District Sues Teachers To Prevent Further Sickouts. The AP (1/20, Williams) reports that Detroit Public Schools "filed a lawsuit Wednesday to try to stop" the teacher absences, and reports that the latest sickout was "timed to coincide with a visit to the city by President Obama." The district is seeking "an injunction in the Michigan Court of Claims, naming the teachers' union, activists and two dozen teachers as defendants."
The Detroit News (1/20) reports that the district is seeking "a restraining order and a preliminary injunction against teachers who engaged in alleged work strikes, ordering them to stop the sickouts and return to work." The article notes that teacher strikes are illegal in Michigan, and says the emergency motion calls for "a court order requiring teachers to follow" the law.