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Room for Improvement Determined in Latest American Education Report Card

Math and reading skills among students across the United States have improved negligibly since 2016, such is the gist of the National Assessment of Educational Progress recently made public by the Department of Education. The report, which was conducted by means of nationwide testing in 2017, indicates that only one third of students in the eighth grade can be considered to be at a proficient level in reading comprehension and mathematics.

For students to be considered fully proficient at their grade level, they must show what the Department of Education describes as solid academic performance. The exams administered for this national assessment were designed to test the analytical skills of American students in relation to real-world situations.

At the fourth grade level, students fared better. A little over 40 percent of fourth graders scored proficiently; however, this was hardly the case with students at the 12th grade level since only 25 percent of them were found to be proficient in math. Just before graduating from high school, 37 percent of American students are proficient in reading comprehension, a skill that is paramount in the modern workplace.

In terms of science knowledge, the test scores of both fourth and eighth graders showed less than 40 percent proficiency.

Betsy DeVos, the controversial Secretary of Education appointed by U.S. President Donald Trump, stated that “America’s Report Card” shows a clear need for improvement across all grades in terms of reading and math skills, which have stagnated over the last few years. DeVos has been heavily criticized for apparent incompetence in handling her position.

When compared to other developed nations such as Germany, Japan and the Kingdom of the Netherlands, the U.S. is falling behind the educational curve. Even students in small Asian territories such as Macao tend to score substantially higher than their American counterparts, especially in standardized testing of math and science skills.

CTE Education is Popular But Study Shows Downsides

Among the hottest topics among educators today is the development of so-called CTE programs for high school students. CTE stands for Career & Technical Education. This involves providing vocational-type classes that teach practical skills, such as mechanics, medical billing, plumbing, construction, computer electronics, landscape design, automotives and more.

The idea is to provide students with solid skills that relate directly to high paying, high demand jobs that will get them employed faster after high school. Last year, Congress passes a bill that provides additional funds to improve CTE programming for American schools.

It sounds like a good idea and CTE programming has almost universal support among both Democrats and Republicans in Congress. But recent studies show a downside. While students benefit significantly from CTE in the short term, large numbers of them are at a distinct disadvantage later in their careers. That’s because focusing too much on specific skills does not leave them with well-rounded educations. This makes them less-equipped to adapt when job market requirements change.

A major study published in the Journal of Human Resources looked at CTE graduates in the United States and compared them to similar students in 11 European countries. The strong conclusion was that CTE students get better paying jobs and outdo their peers early in their careers, but run into big problems as they reach their 40s.

Students with nontechnical skills – or with technical skills but also 4-year degrees – easily outpaced those who focused on narrow technical skill educational programs.

The Trump Administration recently did an end-run around Congress by cutting funding for CTE programs in the U.S., even though both President Trump and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos have praised the European model of CTE.

Even so, most U.S. educators agree that significant opportunities will emerge in CTE education in coming years.

San Francisco Nonprofit Wins $1 Million Grant

San Francisco’s Mission Bit nonprofit group has secured $1 million in funding from the San Francisco government to expand their after-school computer science programs. The organization currently offers these computer classes to high school students in Oakland and San Francisco.

Mission Bit is helmed by CEO and San Francisco Board of Education commissioner Stevon Cook. Cook grew up in public housing in San Francisco’s Bayview-Hunters Point and attended Thurgood Marshall High School. After studying at Williams College in Massachusetts, Cook returned to find that his alma mater had deteriorated into a dead-end institution. After a stint as the high school’s academic advisor, he became determined to fix the institution’s problems. He launched a campaign for Board of Education Commissioner and won. As CEO of Mission Bit, he has used his experience in education to bring programming and computer skills to under-served youth.

Mission Bit began life in 2013. Founded by software engineer Tyson Daugherty, the nonprofit is designed to provide programming and coding classes to teenagers, particularly those who would not otherwise have access to these resources. Mission Bit makes an effort to encourage minority and female students to enroll in their classes. The organization offers classes in computer science and web programming. Mission Bit has three main courses for students: a fall semester, a spring semester and summer classes.

The San Francisco Department of Children, Youth and Their Families awarded Mission Bit a $1 million grant this week. The nonprofit plans to use the funds to kick-start a two-year program that will help students learn in the long term. Mission Bit hopes to dramatically expand their student body with the five-year grant. Currently, they have 150 students enrolled in their classes, and they plan to increase this number to 10,000 students by 2020.

Oklahoma Legislature Passes Additional Education Funding

All this week, public school teachers in the state of Oklahoma have been on strike, and students have had some unexpected time off. The reason for the teacher walkout is due to the fact that the teachers want the state to provide additional funding for education programs. The teachers are also seeking an additional pay raise even though the governor has just signed a bill that increased the pay for public school teachers.

Today, the Oklahoma House of Representatives passed legislation that will add some money to education spending within the state. Lawmakers passed a bill that will provide an additional $20 million in spending through an internet sales tax. The bill calls for internet sales sites to pay sales tax for purchases make by customers who reside within Oklahoma.

While the bill has passed in the Oklahoma House of Representatives, the bill still has to make it through the Senate and then be signed by the governor. The Senate is expected to act on the bill as soon as Friday.

In the meantime, teachers are still protesting. Schools in both Tulsa and Oklahoma City were closed today, and they are expected to be closed on Friday as well. Some smaller school districts remained open. However, the teachers’ union has arranged that at least one teacher in every school in the state is out on walkout.

In addition to the increase in sales tax for education, there is one other proposal that Oklahoma lawmakers are considering. It is possible that the state might allow an expansion of Native American casinos. Some of the additional revenue raised from licensing fees would be used for state educational purposes.

Need a Job? Become a Big City School Superintendent

If you glance at the help wanted ads in Washington D.C., Oklahoma City, Houston, Seattle and Las Vegas, you might notice a similar help wanted ad. These communities are all looking for school superintendents. While the pay often ranges up to $500,000 a year, there is a shrinking pool of candidates interested in accepting the pressure these jobs entail.

Communities are looking for people who have spent many years in the classroom, so they can act as a role model for faculty. They must also be willing to work as a spokesperson on national issues in education. The right individual must also work to bring together diverse parties in their own regions.

Many of the communities who are looking have recently had a scandal like Washington D.C. graduation rate and Los Angeles’ debate over charter schools. Others, like Houston, have recently had catastrophic events impact many schools in their jurisdiction.

Finding the right person, however, can be very challenging for large school districts. People who have left the job report that there are many different frustrations. Over 76 percent say they struggle with their jobs because of inadequate state and federal funding, 50 percent over the amount of time required to do their jobs and 48 percent over imposed regulations.

If you are ready to take on a new challenge, then you might want to consider applying for these positions. According to the Council of the Great City Schools, cities used to receive between 50 and 100 applicants when they went hunting, but they only receive between 10 and 20 applicants today.

Oklahoma Teachers Strike on Fourth Day

In response to the recent success of the West Virginia teachers strike, Oklahoma educators have taken to the streets in protest of their own low wages and underfunded schools. Heading into its fourth day at this point in time, there are no signs of slowing down.

On Monday, hundreds of Oklahoma teachers arrived at the state’s capitol building, many wearing red as they formed to protest their low wages. Tired of constantly being ignored, they decided to demand better pay and better funding from lawmakers directly, refusing to return to the classroom until large scale changes were enacted.

The Friday prior, their demands were partially met in the form of an overall $6,000 pay increase for teachers with a small tax increase to cover the costs, all under threat of a walk out. While this was technically a pay increase, it was rather small in the grand scheme of things and also ignored the requests for more funding for the schools themselves. As one of the lowest funded public school systems in the country, additional money is for activities and classroom essentials is sorely required. As such, teachers made good on their promise to leave school, with superintendents officially closing schools in support of the movement.

According to Shermie Potts, a choir teacher from Edmond, his school is in desperate need of the extra money. Having their funding cut every year for a decade, teachers have been forced to collect fees from students or have them raise money in order to participate in curriculum-required activities.

With schools in such dire straights within both the state and Oklahoma, the strikes are only beginning. Given the momentum generated by the victories so far, it seems less of an issue in if the state legislators will give in to the teachers’ demands, but when.

Oklahoma Governor’s Remarks About Teacher Strike Sparks Outrage

Children living in the state of Oklahoma have seen Spring Break come and go about two weeks ago. That being said, these children are currently in the midst of a break that wasn’t scheduled to happen. These events started as Oklahoma teachers assembled together to start a walkout of their own. Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin made a remark about this walkout in an interview that is causing outrage, especially among teachers.

This walkout might have started earlier this week. However, this ongoing battle between Oklahoma teachers and lawmakers has been in the works for quite some time. Teachers are seeking increased educational funding in addition to salary raises. It’s worth mentioning that Oklahoma currently has the lowest teacher pay rate in the United States.

Any potential future partnerships between teachers and lawmakers might be more strained now, thanks to a recent interview with Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin. The Huffington Post reports that Fallin was quoted as comparing striking teachers to “a teenage kid that wants a better car.” Needless to say, it didn’t take long for local educators to find out what was said in the previously mentioned interview. Many were quick to point out that comparing students seeking educational funding to teenagers wanting a better car was a poor choice to make.

To summarize, Oklahoma teachers statewide are continuing their walkout. The goal of this walkout is for teachers and schools to receive increased funding and higher overall salaries. Currently, Oklahoma teachers have been out of their classroom for four official school days. Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin recently gave an interview in which she compared the striking teachers to teenagers, a choice that didn’t sit well with many on social media.

High Profile Education Act Now Foundering Under Policy Disputes

A landmark measure known as ESSA that swept into American public education policy in 2015 was backed by an unusual embrace of bipartisan support from Congress – but many problems have emerged since the plan has had time to be implemented.

ESSA is the Every Student Succeeds Act. It returned a large amount of the control of education policy from the federal government to the states. The idea was to let important decisions about how students learn be made closer to home.

Under ESSA, states could now craft their own policies on things such as accountability, testing, grading strategies, teacher improvement and school building enhancements. Schools around the country began making plans and submitting their proposals to the Department of Education headed by Secretary Betsy DeVos.

But now many are complaining that the DeVos team is paying little attention to plans submitted from individual states. Rather, the packages sent for review are merely being “rubber-stamped” and sent back down to their originators with little or no input.

Even so, Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, has leveled fierce criticism of ESSA, calling it “federal overreach” — despite the fact that he was among the original architects of the act. Alexander wants the federal accountability standards of the measure removed.

This prompted extreme objection from two Democrats who were also instrumental in cobbling together the language of ESSA. Sen. Patty Murray, Washington, and Rep. Bobby Scott of Virginia have argued the original federal regulation standard should remain as written.

Now DeVos has joined in criticizing plans submitted by states, even though her department has offered little hands-on suggestion on how plans submitted can be approved.

ESSA may be in danger of crumbling under what has become a food fight between federal and state education policy makers, leaving the future of the once promising program in doubt.

Teachers Continue Their Walkout in Oklahoma

Teachers in the state of Oklahoma are among the lowest paid in the nation. They rank 48th in pay among the 50 states. In order to help redress that situation, the governor signed legislation to increase teacher pay. However, teachers in the state are not pleased with this raise, and they are not pleased with the fact that lawmakers in the state did not significantly increase the overall education budget.

Teachers and the teacher’s union decided to stage a walkout from the classroom in order to protest the actions of the governor and Oklahoma lawmakers. The walkout began on Monday. An estimated 36,000 people joined with the teachers and rallied at the state capitol building.

The walkout has continued, and today, several teachers from the city of Tulsa are planning to embark on a 100 mile journey from Tulsa to Oklahoma City. They are hoping to draw even more attention to the teacher’s demands for more pay and for more spending on the state’s education budget.

The teachers have a few demands that they wish to have met before returning to the classroom. They are requesting a $5,000 per year additional pay increase. They are also calling for pay increases for other educational workers. In addition to this, they are requesting that the state increase the amount of money that is being spent on education.

Governor Mary Fallon has been critical of the teacher’s demands. She has been quoted as saying that the teachers are like, “a teenager wanting a new car”.

There is no word as to when the teacher’s walkout will end. Schools in most Oklahoma districts are scheduled to be closed for the remainder of the week. The teachers are hoping that the lawmakers will acquiesce as did the lawmakers in West Virginia who raised teacher pay.

Oklahoma Governor Under Fire After Remark Against Striking Teachers

As Oklahoma teachers continued striking for the third day, the state’s Governor was the subject of much ire after remarks she made regarding the teachers. Republican Governor Mary Fallin is under heat for comparing the striking teachers to “a teenage kid that wants a better car.” The remarks were made to a CBS News correspondent after he asked her opinion of the teachers who were converging on the state Capitol steps to advocate for increased education funding and higher salaries.

The governor also remarked to the reporter her opinion that the anti-fascist group Antifa was behind the teachers deciding to strike, as opposed to it being a grassroots movement. Although the Oklahoma legislature was in session on Wednesday, there were no signs that the lawmakers were considering new legislation to move forward on educational funding.

Last month teachers announced the strike and set the date of April 2 as the first day of the walkout. The date was not arbitrary, as it coincides with mandatory federal student testing. Faced with the impending walkout, state lawmakers passed legislation last week which approved raising teacher salaries $6,100 and support staff income by $1,250 annually. The bill also provided an additional $50 million for general education funding. However, the teachers stated that this still fell well short of the $10,000 raise and $500 million in additional funding that they wanted to avert the walkout. Although many teachers are satisfied with the annual raise, they state the paltry increase to the educational fund is not nearly enough to make significant improvements to the quality of teaching that they can provide.