Technology has played a critical role in sustaining schools during the pandemic: Record numbers of students now have their own school-issued digital devices, educators have become more-critical evaluators of technology tools, and a hard push is underway at the federal, state, and local levels to get all homes connected to high-speed internet.
But making all these developments translate into better use of technology in schools will not be easy.
Using in-depth reporting combined with exclusive EdWeek Research Center survey data from teachers, principals, and district leaders, Education Week’s annual Technology Counts report examines these challenges.
Below is an outline of the tech priorities schools must address now and next school year, with links to helpful resources for how to tackle those challenges.
1. Getting virtual instruction right
Teachers, principals, and district leaders should be thinking hard about how to make remote learning better, especially if they are continuing to offer it even as most students have returned to school buildings. Read the story, here.
2. Connecting SEL and technology
Social media, virtual learning, online gaming, and ubiquitous devices present new social challenges for kids. So, what social-emotional skills do they need to flourish in an increasingly tech-centric world, and are schools teaching them? Learn more, here.
3. Cutting down on excessive screen time
Without even counting digital instruction, the amount of time teenagers and tweens spend staring at computer screens rivals how much time they would spend working at a full- or a part-time job. Educators and children’s health experts alike argue students need more support to prevent the overuse of technology from leading to unhealthy behaviors in the classroom. Read more, here.
4. Protecting student data
Student data privacy encompasses a broad range of considerations, from students’ own smartphones, to classroom applications discovered and embraced by teachers, to district-level data systems, to state testing programs. Here’s why schools are struggling to protect that data.
5. Using artificial intelligence in smart ways
Schools are embracing education technologies that use artificial intelligence for everything from teaching math to optimizing bus routes. But how can educators know if the data and design processes those products rely on have been skewed by racial bias? And what happens if they’re afraid to ask? Learn more here.
Tutoring is a strategy many schools are using—or considering—to help students catch up on learning that didn’t happen during the pandemic. It has a strong research base to recommend it, but it can be tough to put into practice effectively. Here are some key takeaways as districts consider starting or scaling up tutoring programs:
Effective tutoring programs have certain key characteristics.
They’re “high-dosage,” or “high-impact,” which means they happen several times a week for 30 to 60 minutes. Students work individually or in very small groups—three or four per tutor—and they work with the same tutor throughout the program.
Sessions held during the school day are ideal, but they can also work if they’re held right after school. Tutors should be well-trained, work closely with their tutees’ teachers, be armed with good, standards-aligned instructional materials, and know how to monitor student progress with data.
Online tutoring is an option, if it’s done right.
Research emerging from Europe suggests that virtual tutoring can be effective. But it must be designed according to research-based principals, such as working in very small groups, and maintaining a relationship with the same tutor throughout the program.
You don’t have to rely just on your own teachers.
Districts are successfully using a mixture of paraprofessionals, tutors from outside organizations, and high school, college and graduate students alongside their own certified teachers. The Guilford County schools in North Carolina offer an example of this strategy. The district has partnered with two local universities to beef up its tutoring ranks.
Your tutoring program might boost flow into the teacher pipeline.
Some districts, such as Guilford County, hope their tutors will catch the instructional teaching bug and build up the teaching ranks. That would mean that investments in tutoring programs could also double as investments in the teacher pipeline.
Such programs might also diversify the pipeline: Guilford deliberately partnered with a historically Black university to channel more teachers of color into its classrooms, and to reflect the diversity of its student population.
Start small, scale up slowly.
Many districts are trying to implement tutoring programs that are at much larger scales than those researchers have studied. Starting with subsets of students, or specific grades or subject areas, might help districts work out the kinks as they expand.
Build deep roots, not a quick one-off.
Some experts are urging schools to imagine tutoring as far more than a quick fix for students in academic crisis. As a permanent addition to schools’ instructional strategies, tutoring could help schools support and challenge all students.
Inventionland Education leverages the process of inventing in a stimulating, multi-disciplinary course that promotes the real-world skills of creativity,problem-solving and entrepreneurship.
The course engages K-12 students at all levels for an entire semester, with elementary, middle and high school courses.
Working in groups, students come up with their own ideas then create a completely new product or improve an existing product, taking their ideas from concept to working model, culminating in a final business pitch.
Our student-directed Innovation Curriculum follows the proven 9-step method of inventing used by Inventionland, the world’s largest invention factory, that helps companies bring new products and ideas to market.
During the process, your students learn essential career skills, such as teamwork, collaboration, and critical thinking in a real-world environment. It’s authentic, industry-based learning.
The course is designed for cross-curriculum, interactive learning to inspire and build confidence in students from diverse backgrounds and abilities.
Bring our Invention Curriculum Full Circle with our Award-winning Innovation Labs®.
We believe that creating a truly immersive environment that brings technology, innovation and inspiration together has a huge influence on a student and the teacher’s creativity and overall engagement. It’s the future of immersive learning environments.
Inventionland Education works within your needs and budget to convert any space into an awe-inspiring experience, whether it’s a remodel or a completely new school.
Schools can choose from various design elements to turn spaces into immersive educational environments. From tree houses, pirate ships, robots and beautiful back-lit innovation labs, we help your team reinvent your space to foster creativity and teamwork in an age-appropriate setting.
Our ground-breaking design for the Seneca Valley School District in Pennsylvania helped win a bronze medal in the coveted Edison Awards from over 3,000 of the most cutting-edge organizations. Seneca Valley was the only K-12 public school to be named as a finalist. Previous winners include Elon Musk and Steve Jobs.
It’s a learning environment that’s so engaging that it transcends school, in our eyes.”
Dr. Sean McCarty, Asst. Superintendent, Seneca Valley School District
How it Works: It Starts with the Discovery Process
During the Discovery Process, we work with you to investigate the needs and goals of the proposed project. Through interviews, we learn important information about space size, school requirements, and budgets, and what’s most important to your teachers and students.
Immersive Environment Design Services:
The Innovation Labs® team will then create mood boards, themes, features and custom sketches for the space based on findings during the Discovery Process. The proposals include 3D renderings of what the final Innovation Lab would look like.
Construction and Installation Services:
During the Construction and Installation Services phase, we work directly with design architects and construction teams and help oversee the project from beginning to end. We also work with them to build all of the custom features.
Receive a No-cost Innovation Labs® Starter Kit.
Your kit comes with a complete catalog of design options for kindergarten, elementary, middle or high schools.
You’ll be able to see how we work as a true partner, acting as an extension of your team as we work with your administrators, builder, or architectural firm.
Confident teachers foster confidence in students. Our professional learning programs are designed to give teachers the tools they need to empower both students and themselves.
From single and multi-day intensive professional development courses to half-day workshops, teachers can earn state teacher continuing education credits, and can even become trainers for their district and state ESA.
Resource-rich instructional materials
Formative and authentic summative assessments State and national standards aligned
Email and live chat support
Teachers can easily use the curriculum in an in-class or remote environment and do not need to have previous ideation experience. All that’s needed is an inquiring mind, observation, and an ability to think about making on a personal level. View our professional learning options here.
Hours after federal officials released findings that the nation’s second-largest school district had failed to meet the needs of students with disabilities during the COVID-19 pandemic, the document lit up the email lists of advocates who’ve sounded the alarm about such concerns since schools first shut down in March 2020.
The U.S. Department of Education’s office for civil rights found that the Los Angeles Unified School District failed: to provide services required by students’ individualized education programs during remote learning, to adequately track special education services, and to deliver adequate compensatory services, such as additional physical therapy or reading interventions, to address those gaps.
In an April 27 resolution agreement, the district agreed to a plan to remedy those issues and to further assess the needs of individual students with disabilities moving forward.
The findings echoed what some parents around the country have said since the earliest days of the national crisis: Left without the supports, accommodations, and services promised to their students under the nation’s special education and disability rights laws, they were forced to largely go it alone, fearing lost academic and developmental progress for their children as a result.
“If I’m going to be hopeful, I would be hopeful that there will be less of these agreements coming out because districts are doing the right thing on the front end,” said Wendy Tucker, the senior director of policy at the Center for Learner Equity, a national advocacy organization for students with disabilities in districts and charter schools.
“If I’m being realistic, I would expect that we would see more of these,” she added. “I think the Department of Education is not playing. The office for civil rights is taking this very seriously.”
Advocates hope to use the Los Angeles agreement— the result of one of hundreds of federal investigations into special education during the pandemic— as an example and an affirmation to parents elsewhere that their children’s rights matter, she said.
A complicated law meets the realities of an unprecedented crisis
Providing special education services has been a tricky issue for schools since the start of remote learning in 2020, district leaders have said. It was difficult to adjust students’ personalized learning plans quickly to meet the logistics of a new reality, in which staff members like occupational therapists could not interact with students in person, and to make accommodations for things like reading processing issues in a virtual classroom environment.
In response to those challenges, some groups like AASA, the School Superintendents Association, pressed then-U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to waive some requirements of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, the nation’s primary special education law.
But DeVos and her successor, Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, instead repeatedly emphasized that schools must meet requirements in IDEA and in Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 to provide all students a free appropriate public education, or FAPE, regardless of disability status. The laws include an array of specific requirements for identifying, supporting, and equitably educating children with disabilities.
In September 2021 guidance, for example, the Education Department stressed that schools should individually evaluate students’ IEPs to determine what specific compensatory services may be necessary to address gaps from the previous year and a half. Those services could include additional therapies or interventions or more time receiving certain supports.
It’s likely other districts will soon reach agreements similar to LAUSD’s. The Education Department has opened over 1,400 investigations that address the provision of a free appropriate public education, or FAPE, for students with disabilities since March 2020, the month most schools abruptly shifted to remote learning, an agency spokesperson said.
Investigating special education in a major school system
Compensatory education was one of the issues federal officials flagged in Los Angeles in an investigation they launched on Jan. 12, 2021, the office for civil rights said in the resolution agreement Thursday.
“Los Angeles Unified has been and will continue to engage in ensuring individualized determinations are made for students with disabilities through Individualized Education Program (IEP) and Section 504 Plan team meetings,” an LAUSD spokesperson said in a statement after the agreement’s release.
Among federal investigators’ findings:
The district “did not require that the amount of services provided actually match IEPs minute for minute during remote learning” and did not have a system to evaluate whether remote services matched IEP requirements.
Special education service providers were directed to provide services “to the maximum extent feasible” to students learning remotely.
Providers documented communications, including emails and phone calls, as time spent providing services.
The district advised educators not to use the term “compensatory education” in IEP meetings, asserting in a training webinar that “compensatory education is not intended for situations such as the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Los Angeles schools didn’t enact a plan “adequate to remedy the instances in which students with disabilities were not provided a FAPE during remote learning.”
In the resolution, the district agreed to create a plan for assessing and providing compensatory services; to appoint a designated person to oversee that plan’s implementation; to conduct IEP and 504 plan meetings to assess whether students’ needs were met; and to document and report progress and related data to federal officials.
Nothing in the agreement is particularly surprising, advocacy groups said, because its components mirror what the Education Department has repeatedly emphasized to schools, districts, and state education agencies throughout the pandemic.
“We understand that districts have had a really tough couple of years, and it was logistically incredibly difficult to provide services, but we are at a point now where we can try to do things to mitigate the impact of the pandemic,” said Lindsay Kubatzky, director of policy and advocacy at the National Center for Learning Disabilities.
A signal to other school districts?
Kubatzky applauded Los Angeles schools for entering the resolution and the federal Education Department for sending a signal that it takes its “watchdog role” seriously by taking such a large school district to task.
“What I hope is that districts take this as a sign that they should be proactive and address some of the instructional loss that we’ve seen” without the need for federal intervention, he said.
Advocates also hope districts will respect the role of parents in requesting services and advocating for their children’s needs.
Tucker, of the Center for Learning Equity, said the success of plans in Los Angeles and other districts will depend on whether all parents and guardians—including those with limited income and those for whom English is a second language—are equally included.
Parents initially understood that the pandemic’s unprecedented circumstances were a big challenge to schools, Tucker said. But, as weeks of interruptions turned to years in some cases, some saw their school systems as making excuses or “kicking the can down the road.”
And, when some students with disabilities returned to in-person learning, they were greeted not with targeted plans to make things right but with general district learning-loss efforts that didn’t meet their specific needs, Tucker said.
She hopes the Los Angeles agreement will be a tool for advocacy and a signal to other school systems to address lingering concerns about learning interruptions for students with disabilities.
“Families of students with disabilities often feel like they are a low priority,” Tucker said. “That was especially true during this time.”
TAMPA, Fla., Apr. 29, 2022 – Pikmykid, the leading provider of school safety and dismissal solutions, today shares its success among schools nationwide, including its impressive Net Promoter Score (NPS), measuring customer experience and predicting business growth.
The Pikmykid platform has achieved an NPS score of 60, putting the platform in the same category of customer experience management as major brands including Starbucks, Netflix and Amazon, as well as Samsung, Intel and John Deere. Additionally, Pikmykid’s NPS score remains higher than mega-companies, such as Apple and Google.
The intent of NPS is to measure the willingness of customers to recommend a company’s products or services to others. It is used as a proxy for gauging the customer’s overall satisfaction with a company’s product or service and the customer’s loyalty to the brand.
Along with the NPS score, users in the education space who are currently implementing the Pikmykid platform provided valuable feedback.
“Our parents absolutely love it and are requesting that we keep it next year. It is efficient for our parents and students.” – Principal, Steve U.
“We love Pikmykid! It makes our lives so much easier and gives us that little bit of extra structure to have a successful pick up process at the end of the day.” – Administrative Assistant, Rebecca S.
“Pikmykid made our after school pick-up move much more quick and efficient. Parents love the safety features and we love the ease of organized carpool!” – Assistant Head of School, Holly G.
“Overall we really like the program and find it’s easy to use for all stakeholders (families, teachers, administration).” – Assistant Principal, Lauren L.
Pikmykid originally began as a solution for schools to create a more efficient drop-off and dismissal process but has evolved into a school dismissal and safety platform. The platform is used in over 2,000 schools with over 650 schools having joined in the past year alone. To date, Pikmykid has cut 33% of the time spent in the car line for parents and staff and has given an average of 15 minutes of time back to teachers every day. The platform is used in every state, as well as seven countries. There are over two million active users per day on the platform.
“We created Pikmykid with school safety in mind. To have a successful platform, it’s crucial for us to increase both the safety of students and efficiency for everyone involved that way we can focus on what really matters – learning,” said Pat Bhava, CEO and founder of Pikmykid. “Our NPS ranking provides us with the confirmation that Pikmykid has proven to be successful for schools nationwide, and that our Customer Success team has assisted in making onboarding onto the platform as seamless as possible. We love reading all of the wonderful things Pikmykid users have to say about the platform and how it’s made an impact in everyone’s daily lives.”
Pikmykid is the leading safety and dismissal platform that empowers schools to simplify dismissal without the need to purchase, install, or support additional hardware. Designed by former educators and parents, Pikmykid has helped more than 2,000 schools in all 50 states eliminate the busy work and vulnerabilities of dismissal so that teachers have more time to teach, admins aren’t bogged down in carpool calls, and principals can account for every student at the end of the day. And with extensive SIS integrations, Pikmykid easily fits into your schools’ existing ecosystems to make the tools you already have that much more powerful.
Product overview: Many schools struggle with dismissal processes that waste time, leave students vulnerable, and exhaust staff and faculty. With Pikmykid, schools can trade in their outdated methods for a combination of dismissal management, safety and emergency tools, parent messaging, and real time reporting that keeps your staff happy and students accounted for. No more long car lines, endless front office calls, or missing students – just one powerful platform that allows schools to focus on what really matters – learning.
eSchool Media staff cover education technology in all its aspects–from legislation and litigation, to best practices, to lessons learned and new products. First published in March of 1998 as a monthly print and digital newspaper, eSchool Media provides the news and information necessary to help K-20 decision-makers successfully use technology and innovation to transform schools and colleges and achieve their educational goals.
A widely used, and initially successful, intervention for struggling beginning readers may hurt students’ reading growth in the long run, a new study finds.
Reading Recovery was considered one of the breakout stars of the federal Investing in Innovation program, after a massive randomized controlled study found the literacy program helped struggling 1st graders gain significant ground in reading. But new findings from a longitudinal follow-up of the program suggest that by 3rd and 4th grades, former Reading Recovery students performed significantly worse than their peers who did not participate in the program.
The results, presented at last week’s annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, come as districts across the country search for ways to help catch up students who lost ground in reading during the pandemic. One-to-1 interventions like Reading Recovery have shown significant benefits in prior studies, but can be among the most expensive to maintain, both in training and staff time.
Reading Recovery, developed in the 1970s by New Zealand literacy researcher Marie Clay, is now used in Australia, Britain, and the United States as well.
Teachers provide 30-minute, 1-to-1 lessons with students who show early signs of reading difficulties. In each lesson, a child reads both familiar and new texts while a teacher keeps a “running record” of which words the student reads incorrectly, with notes about potential causes or miscues. The lessons also include writing and letter-sound practice.
In 2010, as part of the federal Investing in Innovation, or i3, research program, more than 8,000 of the lowest-performing readers were randomly assigned to participate in Reading Recovery either in the first or second half of their 1st grade year. That study found that after five months, children who participated in the program improved by more than 130 percent of the average reading growth for 1st graders nationwide—an effect considered at the time to be one of the largest seenfor reading interventions.
While the initial i3 studies, conducted by the Consortium for Policy Research in Education at the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Delaware’s Center for Research in Education and Social Policy, could show causal evidence of the short-term benefits of the program, it did not allow researchers to understand the long-term effects because students in the control group also participated in Reading Recovery by the end of the year.
So, in a separate study, Henry May and his colleagues at the Center for Research in Education and Social Policy also tracked reading progress in 150 to 500 Reading Recovery schools each year from 2011-2015 and again in 2016-17. Each school included at least seven students who initially scored just below the reading cutoff to participate in Reading Recovery, as well as at least three students who performed just above the reading cutoff and could act as a control group.
For these students, the early benefits of Reading Recovery seemed to reverse themselves over time. Students who participated in the program in 1st grade had state reading test scores in 3rd and 4th grade that were roughly half a grade level below the scores of the students who had barely missed participating in Reading Recovery in 1st grade.
“It’s really important to do long-term impact studies because often they differ from short-term effects,” said Sean Reardon, a Stanford University researcher who is serving on the peer review committee for the Reading Recovery study. “Either the effects of the intervention compound over time with cycles of positive feedback, or they fade out over time with compensatory interventions” for students who were in the control group, he said. “I think the big takeaway here is that the estimated long-term effects [of Reading Recovery] are negative, significant, and meaningfully large,” Reardon added.
What caused the drop?
What’s not clear is why Reading Recovery’s effects changed so dramatically over time. Some critics have argued that Reading Recovery’s focus on individual student errors can leave holes in explicit instruction for foundational skills. May said it’s also possible that the intervention improves early reading skills that don’t translate as well to skills needed for comprehension in later grades.
But he said students may also lose the ground they initially gain either because schools do not continue the same level of literacy supports in higher grades or because schools actively reprioritize literacy supports for students who show improvements because of early interventions.
The study also comes with major research caveats. For example, less than a quarter of the students in the original intervention group and only 17 percent of those in the control group had enough data to allow them to be tracked for the longitudinal study. While the researchers did not find differences between the students who dropped out of the study in the treatment or control groups, the smaller sample could provide less information on the program as a whole.
In a written response to the study, Reading Recovery advocates argued that students who were prioritized for support while they were in Reading Recovery may have been given less support in later years. “Reading Recovery was not designed to be a panacea,” they wrote, arguing, “the intervention is successful with a majority of the lowest 1st grade readers and writers who receive a full series of lessons. These students are able to continue to make satisfactory progress with the support of good classroom instruction.”
May cautioned that Reading Recovery still has more evidence of benefits in early grades than many other common reading interventions. “I would say it’s still perhaps the most effective intervention if you want to produce benefits in 1st grade,” he said. “But that said, when you look at overall impacts across grades … I do have concerns” about long-term effects.
However, the results may change the equation for schools considering the program: In a connected cost-benefit analysis of 18 reading interventions, which was also presented at the research meeting, Reading Recovery was among the most expensive, ranging from about $5,400 to more than $10,000 per student, depending on the school.
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Most historically Black colleges and universities did not receive significantly more defense research funding in 2020 than they did in 2010, even though the U.S. Department of Defense and Congress sought to boost research dollars routed to HBCUs. The same was true of other higher ed institutions enrolling a majority number of non-White students.
That’s according to a new report released Thursday by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. The report found that HBCUs and minority institutions — defined in defense legislation as institutions with at least 50% racial minority student enrollment — receive a disproportionately smaller share of research funding from the Pentagon than other institutions. It describes that fact as a “clear disconnect” between reality and the intent of Congress and the Defense Department.
The Defense Department needs to invest strategically over the long term if it wants to expand research capacities of HBCUs and minority institutions, according to the report, which was sponsored by the Department of Defense. It also said the Pentagon should request to double its targeted funding for HBCUs and minority institutions.
The new report comes at a time of high interest in investing in HBCUs and minority-serving institutions in the wake of the racial justice movement propelled by the 2020 police killing of George Floyd. Research has uncovered massive historical underfunding at HBCUs.
Federal research dollars are a major component of institutional capacity and public perception about a college. Research spending is a core component of the closely watched Carnegie Classifications for colleges, which require institutions to spend at least $5 million on research to achieve R1 or R2 status, denoting the highest levels of research activity. Critics point out that no HBCUs have received coveted R1 status, in part because of the financial barriers stemming from the disparity in federal grant distribution.
The Department of Defense’s research spending is a major driver of the science and technology ecosystem in the U.S., according to the chair of the committee that wrote the report, Eugene DeLoatch. DeLoatch is an emeritus professor and the inaugural engineering school dean at Morgan State University, an HBCU in Baltimore.
But the Department of Defense’s own research spending for HBCUs and minority institutions lags behind other federal agencies.
DOD research and development expenditures for HBCUs and minority institutions amounted to 1.1% of the agency’s total R&D spending in 2019 — $72.5 million out of $6.65 billion, according to the report. That’s a lower share than the Department of Energy, which spent 1.9% of its $1.94 billion R&D budget with the institutions, and NASA, which spent 2% of its $1.64 billion R&D budget with them.
“Clear discrepancies remain across the most recent decade of funding, geographical location and Carnegie Classification,” DeLoatch said during a webinar on the committee’s findings. Multiple HBCUs and minority institutions have demonstrated the ability to conduct research and interest in doing so, according to DeLoatch.
The stagnant progress toward research funding parity was due, in part, to a lack of formalized action by the DOD and its affiliates, according to the report.
While Congress and federal agencies have encouraged partnerships between HBCUs, predominantly White institutions, the government and industry forces, researchers could not find an example of a time when the DOD directed or incentivized such collaborations. The report also found a lack of data collection and coordination between different federal research programs. The gap made it nearly impossible to evaluate the effect of the research funding distributed to HBCUs and minority institutions.
Recommendations for the Defense Department in the report overarchingly focused on deliberate planning and consistency, with specific proposals including:
Analyze HBCU and minority institution research capacities to properly assess the effects of DOD investments.
Develop programs to increase HBCU and minority institution representation in the defense workforce, with a goal to increase proportional representation by fiscal year 2025.
Regularly contact HBCUs and minority institutions about funding opportunities to communicate about their focus, structure and requirements.
Build long-term relationships with HBCU and minority institution research personnel.
Add space for HBCU and minority institution faculty to sit on research sponsors’ advisory boards.
(April 29, 2022) –– Looking for new and exciting ways to teach your students about the animal kingdom? Look no further than Animalia, an online encyclopedia of 6341 mammals, 10360 birds, 4464 reptiles, 3421 amphibians, and 4906 mollusks. This month, Rise Vision has partnered with Animalia to help students learn, explore, and value the magnificent diversity of the animal kingdom.
What makes this partnership so great is for no additional cost to schools, Rise Vision has created new templates including the Animal Of The Day, which shows a new animal every day of the year, with fun facts including the type of vore, life span, movement speed, and population size, along with a high resolution image of the animal.
“Digital signage shouldn’t be complicated. It should be educational and informational. Rise Vision’s partnership with Animalia addresses both points, while being eye-catching and fun. As Rise Vision continues to grow we look for more partnerships to help address school and classroom communication barriers and save educators time and effort.” – Shea Darlison, Head of Marketing, Rise Vision
Rise Vision is the #1 digital signage software solution for schools. Rise Vision helps schools improve communication, increase student involvement, celebrate student achievements, and create a positive school culture.
Animalia was built by a group of proud Ukrainian wildlife researchers who love all things animals. Not only does Animalia feature animal facts, but separates animals by habitat, lifestyle and behavior, geography, continents, and so much more. This animalia kingdom encyclopedia is always growing and looking to help make animals fun and exciting to learn about.
eSchool Media staff cover education technology in all its aspects–from legislation and litigation, to best practices, to lessons learned and new products. First published in March of 1998 as a monthly print and digital newspaper, eSchool Media provides the news and information necessary to help K-20 decision-makers successfully use technology and innovation to transform schools and colleges and achieve their educational goals.
Local school boards can now find themselves on the partisan frontlines of the nation’s political battles. They have contended with aggressive, sometimes violent confrontation. They are the targets of organizing efforts by far-right extremists and of controversial new legislation, such as the newly passed Florida measure widely being called the “Don’t Say Gay” law by its opponents.
One thing local school boards can’t claim is that they reflect the diversity of our student bodies. Despite Black and brown students now comprising north of 50 percent of public school enrollment, just 14 percent of school board members identify as people of color. That’s not merely a demographic mismatch, that’s disenfranchisement.
The demographics of school leadership and of our teaching force are rightfully front and center in national conversations about diversity in public education. But the demographics of local school boards often fly under the radar. It does so to our collective detriment.
Deeply and truly understanding the experiences of those who fill the school hallways is essential to building education systems that promote equity, inclusion, and, indeed, liberation. That’s why Leaders of Color, the organization that I lead, is trying to get more Black and Latino leaders the skills and resources they need to run for and win local elected positions, including on school boards. Let me explain. We identify, train, and support Black and Latino people to become political and civic change agents in their communities.
School boards, whether appointed or elected, hold profound power over the direction of schools and districts across the country. While states and the federal government provide guardrails, incentives, and general policy direction, day-to-day decisionmaking, staffing, organization, and policy implementation are overseen by local school boards.
It’s an oft-repeated quip that the United States doesn’t have a public education system, it has nearly 14,000 of them in the form of local school districts. With this diffusion of control and the unique characteristics of those nearly 14,000 communities, the management of each district is a first-order question for educational improvement and equity. It also means that the who of local school board members is as central an issue as the how of each board’s governance. Because representation matters.
But who is elected or nominated to fill the ranks of our local school boards isn’t just about ensuring adequate representation, as important as that is. It’s about creating a governance ecosystem that actually yields policy that supports educational equity.
Local school boards with Black members create more equitable policies.
Research from as far back as the 1980s shows that local school boards with Black members create more equitable policies, better supporting Black students. And a more recent study from researchers at Florida State University found that the effects of diversity are especially beneficial with respect to student discipline. The Florida State team found that districts with more Black and Latino leaders reduced disciplinary suspension rates for all students. The study further found that with diverse school boards, the disparity between suspension rates for students of color (frequently much higher) and white students (frequently much lower) was significantly reduced.
The benefits of diverse school system governance extend well beyond discipline, however. Leadership flows through systems in ways that either support or thwart diversity, equity, and inclusion. The scarcity of Black and brown superintendents, especially in majority white districts, is a negative side effect of the scarcity of Black and brown school board members. Hiring Black superintendents can help in widening the pipeline for Black school leaders and teachers. And increasing Black school staff so that more Black students have Black teachers seems, in turn, to have significant and far-reaching effects: Students having a Black teacher benefit from higher graduation rates and college-completion rates and a host of positive social-emotional outcomes as well. Research also shows that all students benefit from greater teacher diversity. This web of effects paints a clear and powerful picture: Our schools and students only stand to gain from greater diversity in school governance.
Today, we are seeing what insufficient diversity on local school boards can do to the school environment and the academic experiences of students. From banning books to firing educators who teach honestly about this country’s history with race relations, the lack of Black and brown school board members is only empowering fringe voices to the detriment of our children and communities. Having more Black and brown voices at the leadership table can help ensure that important school conversations about contemporary issues won’t be stifled.
At the same time, district leaders, principals, and classroom teachers can play a role in improving the quality of our existing school governance by bringing their boards closer to the classroom in thoughtful and constructive ways. A good place to start is to invite board members to see for themselves what quality teaching and learning really look like. Doing so can equip those charged with governing our public school districts with the first-hand experience they need to better grasp the real needs of our schools, teachers, and students.
We see the power of having board members deeply connected to the challenges and needs of our schools in the work of Leaders of Color alum and current Shelby County, Tenn., school board member Sheleah Harris. A former teacher herself, Harris is active in her schools, making frequent and regular visits, speaking with educators and students about what they need to succeed, and meeting regularly with parents to understand and support the aspirations they have for their children. Every vote she casts, every budget decision she makes, is filtered through the prism of that first-hand knowledge—and not the politics of the latest cable-news-driven outrage.
But our schools and students need so many more board members like Sheleah Harris, which is why Leaders of Color’s goal is to train 400 leaders across the country by 2023. We’re well on our way, but given the scale of the historical and current shortfall in Black and brown leaders, we have a long road ahead of us.
With that said, just a few school board positions can make a difference in the lives and fortunes of hundreds, thousands, even millions of students. Those are stakes we can no longer afford to ignore.
Tyson Foods will soon offer all U.S. employees free degrees, certificates and other formal learning credentials, it said in an April 25 press release.
The offerings will include subjects such as agriculture, supply chain and operations, manufacturing and automation, and sustainability. Offered through Guild Education, the benefit will cover employees’ tuition, books and fees.
“Providing equity and opportunity to every single member of our team is part of our goal to make Tyson the most sought-after place to work,” said John R. Tyson, executive vice president and chief sustainability officer at Tyson Foods, in a press release. “Providing education benefits will continue to lay a foundation for personal and career growth for our team members.”
Tyson’s announcement expands on a suite of learning benefits that already included free ESL, GED, citizenship, financial and digital literacy classes to front-line employees at many locations, according to the company.
It also builds on the employer’s approach to recruiting and retention in an employee-friendly market. The company said it invested more than $500 million in wage increases and bonuses for its hourly workforce last year and is piloting subsidized and on-site childcare, as well as free health centers. An increasing number of Tyson production facilities offer flexible work schedules, too, it said in a statement.
And while employees say compensation and flexibility remain at the top of their wishlists, L&D appears to be holding its ground as a crucial part of employers’ talent strategies; Dollar General and Kohl’s, for example, recently announced a no-cost degree program similar to Tyson’s. While learning opportunities may not be workers’ No. 1 demand, a February report from LinkedIn showed they are a major factor in job hunts for members of Gen Z.
Still, such offerings aren’t without potential pitfalls: A December 2021 report from Bloombergquestioned whether Guild’s model benefits workers. Guild, founded in 2015, said it’s too early to examine graduation rates, and that such data isn’t the only measure of success anyway. Employees are gaining new skills and earning promotions well before graduation, its CEO and co-founder told the media outlet.