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Education Update

Below is the current Education Update.  Click here for a list of other recent updates.

August 13, 2018

In Legislative News…
 
Session Schedule – The House returns September 12 and the Senate September 24, both with limited voting session days before the November election. The two-year legislative session ends Nov. 30.
 
Across the State…
 
Utilizing Artificial Intelligence in Schools – Beginning in the fall of 2018, Montour School District will offer a new program in artificial intelligence (AI), providing students with a myriad of opportunities to explore and experience AI, using it to cultivate, nurture, and enhance initiatives aimed at increasing the public good. The new program, Montour AI, will be housed at David E. Williams Middle School. The 3,000 sq. ft. classroom will be the hub for the interdisciplinary artificial intelligence educational community program. Just as AI hinges on the data collected, Montour AI's success will hinge on a collection of shared stakeholders including higher education scholars, community leaders, business executives, parents, and students. Read the rest of the story: “Coming This Fall to Montour School District: America's First Public School AI Program” (from Education Week, 7/18/18).
 
In National News…
 
Hate Incidents and Bullying in Schools – Three swastikas were scrawled on the note found in the girls' restroom, along with a homophobic comment and a declaration: “I Love Trump.” Found inside the backpack of a Latina student, a note that said: Go back to Mexico. Two other hate-filled incidents—invoking Donald Trump’s name and using swastikas—were also reported that same day. The school: Council Rock High in this mostly white, affluent Philadelphia suburb. The day: Nov. 9, 2016, the day after the election of President Trump. Council Rock school district Superintendent Robert Fraser condemned the incidents, but told parents he believed they were isolated events. The acts, he wrote in a letter on Nov. 10, were “inappropriate” and would not be tolerated. But, he emphasized, they were “likely the responsibility of a very small number of individuals whose actions should not damage the reputation of the larger group.” Soon after, the district formed a council on diversity, mostly composed of parents, and took several other steps, including training for school staff to better identify and respond to hate incidents. Despite those efforts, Council Rock High, said some parents and students, continues to have a culture where racist views are sometimes boldly expressed, but oftentimes ferment under the surface. The hate-fueled incidents at Council Rock in the wake of the divisive 2016 presidential election, and the school’s rocky path to addressing them, are not unusual. Read the rest of the story: “Hate in Schools: An In-Depth Look” (from Education Week, 8/6/18).
 
Low Interest in Teaching – High school students who are thinking about becoming teachers would be more interested in the profession if it paid more, according to a new survey from ACT, the college-admissions testing organization. The survey, which about 2,400 students took during a national ACT administration in the 2017-2018 school year, looks at which students want to be teachers, what's drawing high schoolers to the profession, and what about the job would need to change for more students to express interest. As in past years, a small percentage of students said they were interested in working in K-12 schools: Only 5 percent of test-takers said they were interested in teaching. And students who wanted to be teachers were lower-performing on the test than students who wanted to enter other professions. (The same thing was true on past ACT surveys about interest in the teaching profession.) The ACT results suggest that the societal perception of teaching matters for students considering the profession: 30 percent of potentially interested students said they would want more prestige and respect, and more opportunities for career advancement. In addition, 40 percent of potentially interested students said they would want more flexibility in how they do their job. Read the rest of the story: “Few High School Students Are Interested in Teaching. But Better Pay Could Help” (from Education Week, 8/7/18).
 
The Need for Recess – “As superintendents, principals and teachers plan for the upcoming school year, one thing is certain: We are serving a generation of children who are more anxious, depressed and suicidal than any generation before,” writes Michael J. Hynes, superintendent of the Patchogue-Medford School District (Long Island) in Education Week. “A recent NPR Education Series broadcast states, ‘Up to one in five kids living in the U.S. shows signs or symptoms of a mental health disorder in a given year.’ It would be very easy to cite the multitude of reasons why our schools are so incredibly susceptible to the rise of psychopathology in children and adolescents. We can reference the noteworthy increases of screen time with technology, social media, cyber-bullying, diabetes and obesity in children, school shootings, standardized tests and the hyper-focus on academic scores in schools. However, I believe there is one noteworthy reason that has contributed to this mental health crisis like no other: recess and play are on the endangered species list in our public schools. If school leaders don't act now, they will soon to be extinct.” Read the rest of the story: “Kids Need Play and Recess. Their Mental Health May Depend on It.” (8/1/18)
 
ESSA Financial Transparency Requirements – When it comes to educating a child, the role of money —how much and how it gets spent—has long mystified policymakers and educators. This school year, an often-overlooked provision in the Every Student Succeeds Act will offer some deeper information when states start reporting to the public school-by-school spending. Actual school spending—rather than average district per-pupil spending—can reveal where the most experienced teachers are working, whether racial minorities and districts’ neediest children are receiving their fair (and necessary) share of tax dollars, and if schools that get the same amount of money are getting the same academic results. ESSA for the first time requires the public reporting of that data, starting in the 2018-19 school year. But how to collect and report this data, a technically challenging and politically thorny process, has roiled the school finance community. Read the rest of the story: “What Is ESSA's New School-Spending Transparency Requirement, and How Will It Work?” (from Education Week, 8/9/18).
 
Public Comments on Net-Neutrality: The Cyberattack That Wasn’t – It was the cyberattack that wasn't. Last year, during the heat of a torturous debate over "net neutrality," the Federal Communications Commission said that its system for accepting online public comments was upended by distributed denial of service attacks, described by the agency as "deliberate attempts by external actors." But now the FCC's inspector general has concluded that assertions of an outside attack were unfounded. A report released by the agency's IG on Tuesday said that rather than a distributed denial of service attack, the disruption to the FCC's electronic comment filing system was likely caused by two culprits. The first was "flash crowd" activity that followed the TV comedian John Oliver urging his viewers in May of last year to contact the agency and weigh in on a proposal by Pai to eliminate an Obama-era net neutrality policy. The other factor was flawed system design, exacerbated by a high volume of traffic. Read the rest of the story: “Cyberattacks During FCC's 'Net Neutrality' Fight? Didn't Happen, Agency Now Says” (from Education Week, 8/7/18).
 
On the Calendar…
 
August 15         Strategic Plan Advisory Team meeting (virtual)
August 23         Women’s Caucus Board meeting (PASA office)
Sept. 13-14       Board of Governors’ meetings (PASA office)
Sept. 24            PASA Webinar: Educator Discipline Act
Sept. 26-27       New Superintendents’ Academy Session 2 (PASA office)

(pdf for printing)