The 10 Biggest Education Stories of 2019​

We Count Down the Most Important K-12 Education News from the Past Year

From discipline debates to teachers strikes to woke education, these are the ten K-12 education stories everyone was talking this year. Before heading into the new year, join us on our countdown of the 10 biggest education stories of 2019.

A City with No Traditional Schools

New Orleans Quietly Becomes First Major American City without Traditional District Schools

Marta Jewson | The Lens

On a typically hot July 1 in south Louisiana, when many students and educators are enjoying long holiday vacations, New Orleans has quietly become the first major American city without any traditional schools.

The Orleans Parish school district has teetered on the edge of an all-charter district for years. Each year the number of the district’s direct-run schools has dwindled as some have closed and others have converted or been taken over by charter organizations. During the 2018-2019 school year, the district ran just three schools directly, and that was only after unexpectedly taking control of two struggling charter schools. Read the Full Story

Disruptive Kids Get a Pass

California Bans Schools from Suspending Disruptive Kids

Andrew Sheeler | The Sacramento Bee

It is will soon be illegal in California for both public and charter schools to suspend disruptive students from kindergarten through eighth grade

Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law Senate Bill 419, which permanently prohibits willful defiance suspensions in grades four and five. It also bans such suspensions in grades six through eight for five years.

The law goes into effect July 1, 2020. Read the Full Story

A Deplorable District

Heartbreaking Dysfunction: Investigation Reveals Chaos in Providence Schools

Linda Borg | Providence Journal

Students in the Providence public schools aren’t learning much, bullying and fighting are rampant, bad teachers are nearly impossible to fire, and a thicket of bureaucracy makes it difficult to know who is in charge.

Those are some findings of a scathing review of the city’s public schools. Read the Full Story

Girls Want a League of Their Own

Three Connecticut Female High School Athletes File Federal Complaint over Having to Compete Against Students Born Male

Alex Putterman and Lori Riley | Hartford Courant

Three Connecticut high school track and field athletes have filed a federal discrimination complaint against a statewide policy on transgender athletes, saying it has cost them top finishes in competitions and possibly college scholarships.

The conservative Christian law firm Alliance Defending Freedom filed the complaint on behalf of the girls with the U.S. Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights. It seeks to reverse a Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference rule allowing athletes to compete in sports corresponding with their gender identify. Read the Full Story

The Quiet Rooms

‘I’d Rather Die’: Illinois Schools Lock Children Away in Isolation Rooms for Hours

Jennifer Smith Richards, Jodi S. Cohen and Lakeidra Chavis | ProPublica and The Chicago Tribune

The spaces have gentle names: The reflection room. The cool-down room. The calming room. The quiet room.

But shut inside them, in public schools across the state, children as young as 5 wail for their parents, scream in anger and beg to be let out.

The students, most of them with disabilities, scratch the windows or tear at the padded walls. They throw their bodies against locked doors. They wet their pants. Some children spend hours inside these rooms, missing class time. Through it all, adults stay outside the door, writing down what happens. Read the Full Story

Teachers Unions across the Country Go on Strike, Interrupting Learning for Hundreds of Thousands of Students

Linda Jacobson | Education Dive

Several school districts saw teachers strike this year. Most notable were work stoppages in large cities with thousands of teachers and hundreds of thousands of students, including Chicago, Denver and Los Angeles.

Democrats Abandon Charters

Minority Voters Chafe as Democratic Candidates Abandon Charter Schools

Erica L. Green and Eliza Shapiro | The New York Times

The night before Democratic presidential candidates took to a debate stage here last week, black and Latino charter school parents and supporters gathered in a bland hotel conference room nearby to make signs they hoped would get the politicians’ attention.

“Charter schools = self-determination,” one sign read. “Black Democrats want charters!” another blared.

At issue is the delicate politics of race and education. For more than two decades, Democrats have largely backed public charter schools as part of a compromise to deliver black and Latino families a way out of failing district schools. Charters were embraced as an alternative to the taxpayer-funded vouchers for private-school tuition supported by Republicans, who were using the issue to woo minority voters.

But this year, in a major shift, the leading Democratic candidates are backing away from charter schools, and siding with the teachers’ unions that oppose their expansion. And that has left some black and Latino families feeling betrayed. Read the Full Story

Schools Spy on Students

Schools Are Paying Big Money to a Surveillance Service that Monitors 5 Million Students Who Can’t Opt Out

Caroline Haskins | Buzzfeed

For the 1,300 students of Santa Fe High School, participating in school life means producing a digital trail — homework assignments, essays, emails, pictures, creative writing, songs they’ve written, and chats with friends and classmates.

All of it is monitored by student surveillance service Gaggle, which promises to keep Santa Fe High School kids free from harm.

Santa Fe High, located in Santa Fe, Texas, is one of more than 1,400 schools that have taken Gaggle up on its promise to “stop tragedies with real-time content analysis.” It’s understandable why Santa Fe’s leaders might want such a service. In 2018, a shooter killed eight students and two teachers at the school. Its student body is now part of the 4.8 million US students that the for-profit “safety management” service monitors. Read the Full Story

Feds Bungle Billions

Congressionally Mandated Report Confirms Much of Federal Education Funding Is Wastefully Spent and Unfairly Allocated

Lauren Camera | U.S. News

When Congress overhauled the federal K-12 law in 2015, a bipartisan group of lawmakers from both chambers sought to change the way federal funding for poor students was distributed.

They argued that a complicated and outdated formula used to dole out the federal dollars had resulted in a series of significant funding discrepancies that benefited larger districts and big urban areas instead of poorer, rural districts and small cities with high concentrations of poverty.

An investigation by U.S. News later found that 20 percent of all Title I money for poor students – $2.6 billion – ends up in school districts with a higher proportion of wealthy families because those districts are frequently so much larger that they can have larger numbers of poor students than even districts where poverty is more pervasive but populations are smaller. Read the Full Story

Woke K-12 Education

Woke History Is Making Big Inroads in America’s High Schools

John Murawski | RealClearInvestigations

Like growing numbers of public high school students across the country, many California kids are receiving classroom instruction in how race, class, gender, sexuality and citizenship status are tools of oppression, power and privilege. They are taught about colonialism, state violence, racism, intergenerational trauma, heteropatriarchy and the common thread that links them: “whiteness.” Students are then graded on how well they apply these concepts in writing assignments, performances and community organizing projects. Read the Full Story

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