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5 States in Crisis: Budget Battles, Court Challenges, Political Bickering Leave Schools Millions Short

The 74 Million – Carolyn Phenicie

“Chicago Schools are laying off 1,000 staff members. In Kansas, schools closed their doors early. And the situation in Oklahoma schools is truly grim. In Oklahoma City Schools, leaders first cut 208 teaching positions, then 92 members of the administrative staff. Fine arts budgets will be cut in half for the upcoming school year, and there will be no money for new library materials. Oklahoma’s Newcastle Public Schools will start charging $100 per student for extracurricular activities — and that’s after district officials have already eliminated most field trips, increased class sizes, delayed a major textbook purchase and moved to a four-day school week. Celebrity talk show host Ellen DeGeneres helped one elementary school librarian in the state’s Union Public School District pay for a summer reading program. Leaders in Tulsa are filling budget holes with a community fundraiser, forebodingly called “SOS” — Save our Schools.”(more)

Social-Emotional Learning: States Collaborate to Craft Standards, Policies

Education Week – Evie Blad

“Eight states will work collaboratively to create and implement plans to encourage social-emotional learning in their schools, the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning announced this month. The organization, which is also known as CASEL, will assist the states through consultation with its own staff and a panel of experts. The participating states are California, Georgia, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Washington. And an 11 additional states that originally applied to join the collaborative will have access to the materials it develops. Each participating state has a unique plan, and many of those plans include creating developmentally sensitive standards that show how social and emotional skills are demonstrated at each grade level, developing materials to infuse traditional classroom concepts with social-emotional learning concepts, building strategies for state-level support, and implementing professional-development plans for schools about the subject.”(more)

This district’s blended learning program is putting struggling readers back on track

E-School News – Judith Culang and Linda Baker

“In Neshaminy School District, northeast of Philadelphia, nearly 20 percent of our struggling K–2 students spend 30 minutes a day, five days a week in small-group reading intervention. To limit the time these students spend in intervention programs, we have an “all hands on deck” approach: With parental involvement and our blended learning model, Neshaminy educators identify and build upon students’ strengths to lay the foundation for reading success. Our blended model starts with an engaging digital curriculum, one-to-one instruction, and small-group work. After we implemented this approach districtwide last year, we saw enormous growth in a majority of our students, especially among struggling or reluctant readers. Ten to 15 percent of students entering the intervention program at the start of the school year were able to “graduate” and transition back to the traditional classroom by January. We have found that by focusing on phonics and the skills needed to decode the English language, our students are able to bring what they’ve learned into the classroom, effectively bridging the gap between intervention and our ELA curriculum.”(more)

Early education key to developing skilled workforce, strong military

The Times Leader – Bill O’Boyle

“Education, particularly early childhood education, can be one of the best workforce development tools in Pennsylvania’s toolbox, Labor & Industry Secretary Kathy Manderino said Tuesday. Manderino joined Greater Wilkes-Barre Chamber of Business and Industry officials and military leaders to discuss a new ReadyNation/Mission: Readiness report titled: “STEM and Early Childhood – When Skills Take Root.” The officials warned of a “workforce skills gap” in STEM — science, technology, engineering and math — skills affecting the pool of qualified workers needed today and into the future.”(more)

Education’s Mr. Fix-it

The Christian Science Monitor – Sarah Garland

“Several students sit around a conference table at Simon Gratz High School in North Philadelphia on a surly winter’s day, the kind that makes even the school’s drafty classrooms seem welcoming. They are there to give their assessment of the school – and they’re not afraid to be blunt. “I like this school, but I kind of don’t,” says Chynah Perry, age 15, a thin girl with straight posture and stylish black-rimmed glasses. “It’s strict. Real strict.” Quaseem Foxwell, a linebacker on the football team, says several of his friends left the school because of the tough rules. Yet he defends the strictures. He says he improved his own behavior after a heart-to-heart with his teachers and administrators.”(more)

‘Kindness Workshop’ criticized for making students vulnerable to bullying

The Christian Science Monitor – Olivia Lowenberg

“A workshop promising to deliver on anti-bullying measures recently had the exact opposite effect at a Pennsylvania middle school, parents say. In the so-called Kindness Workshop, students at the West Allegheny Middle School in Imperial, Pa., were asked highly personal questions about themselves and their families that parents say exposed them to ridicule from their classmates. The questions varied, but included asking the students about their religious backgrounds and their family finances. The program was intended to promote empathy among students, a goal set by many schools across the United States as faculty and students strive to reduce bullying both on and off campus. The dispute over the Kindness Workshop highlights one of the key challenges of any anti-bullying program: getting kids to buy in.”(more)