Weeekly NewsBrief 9/30-10/6

News Clip


Secretary DeVos Announces New Grant Awards that Encourage Grantees to Rethink Education – From the U.S. Department of Education

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos today announced $123 million in new grant awards to 41 school districts, nonprofit organizations and state educational agencies across the United States as part of the Education Innovation and Research (EIR) program. These grants provide funding to create, implement, or take to scale an evidence-based innovation to improve academic achievement for high-need students, and for a rigorous evaluation so that others may learn from its results.

"For too long, the one-size-fits-all approach to education has failed too many students," said Secretary DeVos. "Through the EIR program, grantees have the opportunity to rethink education and approach student learning in new ways. I'm excited to see states, school districts and nonprofits proposing more creativity, innovation and personalization on behalf of students."

In addition to promoting innovation generally, the awards include over $30 million to eight grantees serving rural areas and over $78 million to 29 grantees focused on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) education. Over 85% of the funded STEM projects include a specific focus on computer science.

The EIR program is authorized under Section 4611 of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, as amended by the Every Student Succeeds Act, and is administered by the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Elementary and Secondary Education.


As Colorado invests more in preschool, a gold-standard study shows benefits of full-day classes – By Anne Schimke, Chalkbeat

new study shows large literacy gains and other benefits for full-day preschoolers as they enter kindergarten compared with their half-day peers — timely findings given the surge of new publicly funded preschool classrooms in Colorado.

The new evidence, gleaned from a study of students in the Westminster school district north of Denver, comes amid the rollout of two major early childhood initiatives championed by Gov. Jared Polis. They include the launch of free full-day kindergarten statewide and the expansion of free state-funded preschool for students with certain risk factors.

The preschool expansion, rolling out this fall and winter, has allowed school districts across the state, including Westminster, Denver, Aurora, and Englewood, to create new full-day preschool seats. District officials say many parents want the full-day option because it aligns better with their work schedules. Plus, they say the longer day gives youngsters additional time to learn important social, emotional, and pre-academic skills.

Now there’s homegrown research using gold-standard methodology to support the shift.

“From a research perspective what is so exciting here is it’s the first experimental evidence on full vs. half-day pre-K,” said Allison Atteberry, a University of Colorado Boulder researcher who co-authored the study with two researchers from the University of Virginia.


New era for charter schools: Newsom signs bill after intensive negotiations – By John Fensterwald, EdSource

Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Thursday a comprehensive rewrite of the charter school law that will expand the authority of local school boards to reject new charter schools while requiring that they more clearly justify their reasons for doing so.

Newsom’s staff negotiated the revisions during weeks of tense discussions with organizations that for years have been battling over the growth of charter schools in California. But at the signing ceremony for Assembly Bill 1505, the leaders of the two main antagonists, the California Teachers Association and the California Charter Schools Association, stood side by side next to him, smiled appreciatively and thanked the governor for a compromise that contains elements they like.

“The fact that you are standing together makes me proud as a Californian,” Newsom told CTA President E. Toby Boyd and charter schools association President and CEO Myrna Castrejón. He said that he hoped that the trust built during the negotiations would lead to further collaboration.

Calling the law a significant achievement, Newsom said, “This is what policy-making is about — the nitty-gritty work of moving the needle and making a difference for millions of kids.” They had been affected, he said, by disputes over charter schools “that continued to fester and became front and center in our education debate.”


Kansas City High Schools Add Real-World Learning – By Tom Vander Ark, Getting Smart

The good news is that more young people are graduating from high school than ever. The bad news? High school is often less relevant to them and their futures than ever.

The largest effort to make high school more valuable—to young people and their communities— is underway in the six-county two-state Kansas City metro area.

About 60 schools in 15 districts from Kansas and Missouri are spending this school year investigating ways they can make high school more valuable to young people by incorporating more real-world learning. The goal is to add more powerful and relevant learning experiences and to youth capture and communicate those experiences with credentials and assets recognized by higher education and employers.

In a monthly meeting with regional superintendents, Aaron North, vice president of education at the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, noted that we as a country need to bring an equal amount of intentionality and investment to non-degree career pathways as we do to college pathways. Only a third of all Americans have a four-year college degree and only half of all jobs requiring a postsecondary credential require that to be a four-year degree. Most people end up finding their way to work outside the college path and we can do more to support the opportunities available to those millions of individuals.