Weekly news Brief 11/18-11/24 More Study Needed on Shortened School Week | One School District’s Simple Solution to the Homework Gap?

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More study needed on shortened school week – By Ken Olson, Minot Daily News

It is not exactly new to education but the four-day school week is getting more attention these days.

There is plenty to be cautious about with children’s education on the line. Or is it just the older generations that are more suspicious of a shortened school week? The concept, even though it is already in use in North Dakota, deserves ongoing scrutiny by the state to make certain students and parents aren’t being short-changed. Perhaps then more school districts would seriously consider making similar changes and saving taxpayers in the process.

Who knows, someday a four-day school week might be the norm.

The Minot Daily News recently reported that Alexander has adopted just such a four-day week, and with great success. That assessment is according to superintendent Leslie McDonald, who was interviewed by Minot Daily News reporter Andrea Johnson.

About 35 minutes have been added to each school day, which runs from 8 a.m. to 3:45 p.m., Johnson wrote.

“It was tiring in the beginning,” McDonald acknowledged in the article, but she said the district built additional breaks into the schedule for preschoolers and kindergarteners.

Teachers have said they like the additional time built into the schedule because they have more time to answer questions from students and to finish lessons. At the elementary level, the extra time has meant that the district doesn’t have to cut short classes in robotics or physical education or art to focus on the mandated reading and mathematics instruction.


One School District’s Simple Solution to the Homework Gap? Local Businesses – By Emily Tate, EdSurge

When Winterset Community Schools launched its one-to-one device program, staff celebrated the milestone. They felt they were a step closer to leveling the playing field for students.

Then the other shoe dropped.

Parents and students at the Iowa school district began to complain that they didn’t have sufficient Wi-Fi at home to access the online assignments students were expected to complete after school hours. They had Chromebooks, but no connection.

Students who are able to access digital learning at school, but not at home, are part of what is known as the “homework gap,” and it affects an estimated 12 million students in the U.S. today, according to a congressional report from last year.

“And we said, ‘That’s not acceptable here. We’ve got to figure out a way to fix that,’” Susie Meade, the superintendent of Winterset Community Schools, tells EdSurge.

Fix it they did. In a world where complex problems like the homework gap might demand costly, technical solutions, Meade found that a simple answer might just do the trick.

As she began thinking about ways to help Winterset students get home internet access, Meade recalled hearing about a district that had tapped local businesses to allow students to come in after school hours and use their Wi-Fi for free. “And I thought, ‘Well, we could do that,’” she says.


Nearly 130 Chicago Public Schools employees, including 9 teachers, ousted over background check issues – By Juan Perez Jr., The Chicago Tribune

Nearly 130 Chicago Public Schools employees have been terminated, recommended for dismissal or simply resigned amid scrutiny following an enormous review of worker backgrounds prompted by a Tribune investigation this year.

That group of employees includes nine teachers, 35 people classified as classroom aides and an unspecified number of people the district lists as substitute or hourly workers, according to CPS. In addition, 124 employees are still barred from work because they have not submitted fresh fingerprints for an updated district background check.

More than 130 school volunteers also have been dismissed or resigned under review, as have 184 vendors employed by companies that do business with CPS. Roughly 150 of the vendors were custodial staff — and most were removed because they did not provide “sufficient information” after CPS asked about their background check results.

The Tribune’s investigation revealed in June that ineffective background checks sometimes exposed CPS students to educators with criminal convictions and arrests for sex crimes against children. In response, the district announced what it called an “unprecedented step to recheck all employees” prior to the start of this school year, as well as additional measures to protect children.


Immigration policies, deportation threats keep kids out of school, report states – By Nicole Acevedo, NBC News

Current immigration policies and fears of deportation are keeping U.S. children out of school.

Authors of UNESCO’s new Global Education Monitoring report, Building Bridges, Not Walls studied how the way different countries implement education and immigration policies can either promote or learning environments for immigrant children, migrants or refugees.

Experts found that in the U.S., deportation fears are having an impact on school attendance, whether students are afraid of their own deportation or of a loved one's.

The fear is exacerbated if schools allow Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents to search the facilities or collect immigration information from students.

Seven percent of U.S. children are born to parents who don't have legal immigration status.

A school district in Las Cruces, New Mexico, saw a 60 percent spike in absenteeism after an immigration raid shook the community in February of last year. As a result, the school board changed its policies. They stopped collecting information regarding the immigration status of its students and started rejecting requests from ICE agents to access school grounds without judicial warrants.

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