It began a few weeks ago: the back-to-school memes.
One featured dejected kids dressed in new school clothes waiting for the bus while elated parents look forward to an empty house. My favorite meme so far is one with a mom in mid-kick, child flying through the air toward a waiting school bus. Freedom, at last.
Kids, go to school! It’s time to go back. Some will have already started. A ritual that we adults attend every year with a mixture of nostalgia and indifference: nostalgia because we remember the beautiful — or ugly — child we were, and indifference because at least this time the math teacher will not ask us to explain the lesson. However, both feelings can coexist naturally with something deeper and more important: We need the teachers, and we need the teachers to do their best work possible.
At least a dozen states are considering implementing or already have free student meal programs to continue the federal government’s COVID-19 giveaways, while some activists are demanding for more things to be made free.
Congress allowed a pandemic-era free student meal waiver to expire on Sept. 30, returning to the pre-COVID posture where only students at some schools or those whose families met specific income requirements were given free or reduced-price meals.
Now is often the time of year when parents begin looking into other learning options and schooling alternatives for their kids. The new school year has been in session for several weeks and some parents may be finding that bubbling issues may have reached a boiling point.
Perhaps their child isn’t a good match with his or her assigned teacher. Perhaps parent-child battles over homework have emerged. Perhaps parents see certain elements of their child’s curriculum that they dislike, or hear about various classroom practices that they find unsettling. Perhaps their child is bored or withdrawn, frustrated or irritable, anxious or depressed. Perhaps the bullying has started or worsened.
This back-to-school season, many parents are eager to drop-off their kindergarteners to begin the 13-year journey toward high school graduation. It can be a joyful time, full of anticipation and excitement. But just because something may be desirable for many families doesn’t mean it should be mandatory for all.
California is the latest state to try to mandate kindergarten for all students, angling to become the 20th to do so. The California legislature recently passed a bill for compulsory kindergarten attendance that is now awaiting Governor Gavin Newsom’s signature.
A Washington school board approved a policy on Aug. 24 prohibiting the teaching of Critical Race Theory (CRT) in classrooms.
The Kennewick School Board in Kennewick, Washington, voted 5-0 on a policy which bans educators from teaching students CRT or that “their race determines their value or worth.” The policy requires that students learn “factual” U.S. history in all disciplines at school.
Students in Ohio’s largest school district will begin classes Wednesday remotely after teachers rejected a final contract offer and voted to strike late Sunday night.
Columbus Education Association teachers were on the picket line at several school buildings Monday morning, the first day teachers were scheduled to report, after 94% of its members voted to strike for the first time since 1975.
The fight outside North High School in Denver was about to turn more violent as one girl wrapped a bike chain around her fist to strike the other. Just before the attacker used the weapon, school staff arrived and restrained her, ending the fight but not the story.
Most high schools would have referred the chain-wielding girl to the police. But North High brought the two girls together to resolve the conflict through conversation. They discovered that a boy was playing them off each other. Feeling less hostile after figuring out the backstory, the girls did not fight again.
This alternative method of discipline, called “restorative practices,” is spreading across the country – and being put to the test. Many schools are enduring sharp increases in violence following the return of students from COVID lockdowns, making this softer approach a higher-stakes experiment in student safety.
The Iowa House voted 60-30 in favor of passing a bill that would require Iowa public and charter schools to post their curriculum and books online for parents to review.
Some educators have argued that the bill (HF2577) will limit their ability to “adapt and meet the individualized needs of their students.”
The bill will give parents the ability to review instructional materials and request that their children opt out of certain reading materials. If the schools materials do end up changing, teachers will be required to update the information online by week’s end or be subject to a fine between $500-$5,000.
They’re not exactly schools, but they’re not homeschools either. They have elements of structured curriculum and institutional learning, while offering maximum educational freedom and flexibility. They provide a consistent, off-site community of teachers and learners, and prioritize abundant time at home with family. They are not cheap but they are also not exorbitant, with annual tuition costs typically half that of traditional private schools.
Hybrid schools are, in the words of Kennesaw State University Professor Eric Wearne, the “best of both worlds,” drawing out the top elements of both schooling and homeschooling while not being tied too tightly to either learning model.
Wearne studies hybrid schools and is the director of the National Hybrid Schools Project which seeks to better understand this educational approach and why it’s been gaining popularity in recent years. Wearne joined me on this week’s episode of the LiberatED Podcast to talk more about hybrid schools and how they are reshaping American education.
Des Moines this week suffered its first fatal school shooting – reigniting a controversy in the city after the district removed police officers from its schools last year.
Police say a group of teenagers in vehicles outside Des Moines’ East High School fired multiple rounds onto school property on Monday, killing a 15-year-old boy and critically wounding two female students who were bystanders. Six teenagers, some of them current Des Moines students, have been charged with first-degree murder.
The deadly drive-by shooting now hovers over the decision by Des Moines officials, along with about 30 districts across the country, to exile cops from schools. These moves were part of the “defund the police” movement that erupted after the murder of George Floyd in 2020. It’s a movement now reeling in the face of violent crime surging nationwide, punctuated by President Biden’s State of the Union vow last week to “fund the police.”
The Texas Lieutenant Governor has stated his priority to eliminate tenure in an attempt to stop Critical Race Theory (CRT) from “poisoning the minds of the next generation.”
During a Feb. 18 press conference, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick argued that academia has been infiltrated by “tenured, leftist professors” and called for additional oversight methods to crack down on the controversial curriculum.
Patrick defined CRT as “an offshoot of critical legal studies, which is an offshoot of a socialist program (which says) that everything that happened in life is based on racism.”
The American Bar Association House of Delegates has approved new law school accreditation standards at the 2022 ABA Midyear Meeting, of which two amendments were focused on “diversity.”
In order to eliminate bias and enhance diversity, the ABA’s amended Standard 303(c) requires that “a law school shall provide education on bias, cross-cultural competency, and racism: (1) at the start of the program of legal education, and (2) at least once again before graduation.”
To fulfill this requirement, “Law schools must demonstrate that all law students are required to participate in a substantial activity designed to reinforce the skill of cultural competency and their obligation as future lawyers to work to eliminate racism in the legal profession.”
Legislators are considering changes to Missouri’s teacher and non-certified school employee pension plans to alleviate pandemic-related teacher and staff shortages.
HB2114, sponsored by Rep. Rusty Black, R-Chillicothe, will reduce restrictions on pensions if a retired public school teacher returns to the classroom or to a non-teaching position in a public school. The legislation also increases from two to four years the length of time a retired teacher or retired non-certified public school employee can work while still receiving their pension.
During testimony before the House pensions committee, Rep. Black, the committee vice chairman, said similar legislation was passed by the House and died in the Senate last year as the legislative session ended in May. He said the legislation simplifies and improves the amount retirees can earn before their pensions are restricted.
Missouri Republican Attorney General Eric Schmitt on Monday filed lawsuits against nine public school districts with mask requirements.
Schmitt, a candidate for the seat of retiring U.S. Republican Senator Roy Blunt, filed suit against 36 school districts on Friday. Today’s districts being sued include the Kirkwood School District and the Special School District of St. Louis, both serving where Schmitt resides in Glendale, Mo.
“As we’ve made clear from the beginning, the power to make health decisions for their children should be in the hands of parents, not bureaucrats,” Schmitt said in a statement. “Today I’m filing nine more lawsuits against school districts that are illegally enforcing mask mandates on schoolchildren. Masking children all day in school is ineffective and these endless pandemic restrictions lead to lasting, negative psychological impacts on children and teens. This is a fight worth fighting, and I’m not going to back down.”
Missouri Republican Attorney General Eric Schmitt completed on Friday a promise made earlier this week by filing lawsuits against 36 public school districts for requiring masks.
“Mask mandates in schools are illegal, they simply don’t work, and they contribute to alarming and negative psychological impacts on our children,” Schmitt, a candidate for the seat of retiring Republican U.S. Senator Roy Blunt, said in a statement announcing the lawsuits. “My Office has been on the frontlines of the fight to end the forced masking of children all day in school, and today we took concrete legal action toward that end. Parents and families, not bureaucrats, should have the power to decide what’s best for their children. With this litigation, we’re seeking to return that power back to parents and families, where it belongs.”
Earlier this week, leaders of two Missouri public school district collaboratives told The Center Square that attorneys for many school boards believe two Missouri statutes require districts to create and enforce policies to ensure the health and safety of students. Schmitt stated a November Cole County Circuit Court ruling, now being appealed by St. Louis and Jackson Counties at the Missouri Court of Appeals, prevents school districts from enforcing any public health orders. Schmitt set up an email box through his office in December and received 11,000 messages and photographs from people witnessing mask requirements in public schools.
The North Carolina State Superintendent walked back plans to implement a statewide curriculum that would teach disabled preschoolers to “deconstruct whiteness,” according to a report from Education First Alliance (EFA).
Catherine Truitt, North Carolina’s superintendent of public instruction, said she has not “will not sign” a contract proposal that would teach disabled preschoolers “we are all products of a racialized society” and that “Whiteness affects everything … inside and outside the classroom.”
“Instead, I will create a new contract proposal that has strict guardrails and new accountability measures to ensure the true needs of our youngest and most vulnerable learners are met,” she said. “As long as I am Superintendent, our pre-K classrooms will remain places of play and learning.”
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues into its third year, William Paterson University is now laying off 100 full-time faculty over the next three years.
The university, located in Wayne, New Jersey, originally planned to let 150 professors go before union negotiations revised the number to 100, or 29% of the institution’s 340 faculty, reports Inside Higher Ed.
Thirteen tenured professors lost their job at the end of 2021, according to the outlet.
Students across the U.S. are planning school walkouts in protest of in-person learning as COVID-19 cases spike amid the rise of the Omicron coronavirus variant.
There are nearly 3,500 schools actively disrupted as of Friday, according to Burbio’s K-12 School Opening Tracker, which tracks school closures for 1,200 districts, including the 200 largest school districts in the nation.
On Tuesday, New York City students staged a walkout in protest of in-person learning over what they said were concerns about testing and safety mitigation measures. NYC Mayor Eric Adams said school was the “safest place” for children during a Friday news conference.