School Funding & Real Estate

The current school funding system reinforces and divides schools district boundaries between rich and the poor. Keeping resources in wealthy communities while making it very difficult for low-income students to keep from accessing broad opportunities. This past June, the Supreme Court decided Texas v. Inclusive Communities Project, affirming that no government policy may create “artificial, arbitrary or unnecessary barriers” for minority individuals and families seeking quality housing in a good neighborhood. Yet barriers are created by the delineation of schools district boundaries. Where a student goes to school in the United States is still primarily determined by where their family lives. The current system ties school budgets to to the value of local property wealth and incentivizes boundaries between upper and lower income communities. This concentrates education funding within affluent schools and keeps low-income students from opportunities and upward socio-economic mobility.

Achievement Disparities Among Neighboring School Districts

An interactive map put together by EdBuild shows Census Bureau poverty rates in each of the nations 14,000 school districts. This is the first time a study has produced a visual of poverty in relation to schools districts. The map, shows concentrations of poverty along the Mississippi River in the Deep South and also stark disparities between affluent and the poor districts. Researchers see this map as a wakeup call that gerrymandering is as much a problem kids in public schools as it is for voters. In the case of education, boundaries are drawn to contain poor families rather than favor a certain political party.

High Graduation Rates in Chicago

Chicago has seen a double digit increase in the percentage of students graduating from high school. A student who passes ninth grade is almost four times more likely to graduate than one who doesn’t. Chicago was a pioneer of this freshman year strategy in 2007 setting forth initiates to get teenagers to finish their first year of high school. Between 2007 and 2013, the number of freshman in Chicago Public Schools making it to 10th grade grew by 7,000 students. Freshman graduation rates jumped to 84% in 2014 from 57% in 2007. The four year graduation rate jumped from 49% in 2007 to 68% in 2014. Nationally graduation rates are up, but Chicago’s double digit growth is note worthy. These are stand-out results in a school system with a low income of majority and shrinking funding.

Every Child Achieves & Student Success Act Debate

The No Child Left Behind Act, that expired in 2007 may be on its way to becoming fully defunct. The Senate recently debated its Every Child Achieves Act, an updated No Child Left Behind rewrite. The House of Representatives is doing the same with their version called the Student Success Act. It’s unclear what the final bill will look like exactly, but civil rights groups, politicians and teachers agree it’s time for an update. The new bill will maintain an emphasis on standardized testing while giving more control to states’ education policy. A criticism of these new bills in their current state is that they lack accountability measures.

Updating Vocational Programs

Vocational programs for high schooler students are teaching how electricity makes subway cars operate, how to build a model frame home, or programming a computer controlled model ski lift through hands on experiences and advanced academic courses. Students coming out of the programs are more engaged in their learning experience. And often end up pursuing college in fields like engineering. Internships, during high school allow students to see what careers are like before they leave high school. Vocational schools used to be an alternate to college that lead directly into jobs, but now some are designed to push kids towards college while giving them a more hands on experience and specialized focus during high school to help them explore their professional pursuits.

Humor as an Instructional Tool

Students ranked “sense of humor/ability to laugh” as the third highest motivating factor in the classroom. Research finds that humor in the classroom can be used a tool to facilitate retention of information, increase the speed of learning, improve problem solving, relieve stress, reduce test anxiety and increase student perception of teacher credibility. Sara Given, a music teacher shares her background as a young musician and comedian. And what she learned from comedy that crosses over into her classroom instruction practice.

Student Designs Architectural Material that Reacts to Rain

A water-reacting architectural surface, a laminate made from fabric, film and veneer, has been engineered by a student designer in London. During a walk on a rainy day Chao Chen noticed that pinecones close their outer shells when wet. He took this concept to create a building material that would react to the weather. When the veneer takes in water the fibers expand perpendicular to the grain, elongating and curving the materials just like the shell of a pine cone. With this materials Chen is developing a water-reacting shelter for parks or public spaces, that stay open on sunny days and form total shelter when it reacts to rain.  Check out a video of the materials here.

Practices Surrounding Calculating High School Graduation Rates

The current reported record high of 81% graduation rate has come under much scrutiny because of varying practices surrounding graduation school-to-school state-to-state. Some students are mislabeled or are moved off the books. Districts with this issue are beginning to investigate what systems the schools are using to collect this data. In some states the path to a diploma gets easier each time a student appeals failing grads. It’s not all bad though. Some districts and schools have drastically increased student support, improved academics and school culture to achieve these record gradation rates.

Student Data Privacy

The FPF (Future of Privacy Forum) held its second Student Privacy Boot Camp for ed-tech start-ups and small businesses. The forum on student data privacy was set up to better understand complex and expansive legal requirements and best practices for handling student-data-privacy. The current laws on student privacy are almost 20 years old and not easily understood within the context of present day ed-tech. At the state level student data privacy laws are unique, expanding and sometimes conflicting state-to-state.

Personalizing Blended Learning Benefits Student Learning and Engagement.

Leadership is important in blended learning. The critical role in-person teachers and mentors, not just monitors, play on students and the learning environment is paramount. As is the important role collecting data plays in responding to students learning needs for personalization. Schools must remain persistence while adapting and navigating the successful implementation of blended learning models. When the focus is on student attainment, persistence and engagement through personalized learning, we see improvement in performance and engagement. It’s important to acknowledge students don’t learn in the same way or time.

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