Schools Need More Money For Students’ Home Internet, Education Groups Tell Congress

Students across various regions of the United States, including Alaska, Houston, and Maine, are at risk of losing access to high-speed internet and computers in their homes unless the U.S. Congress provides additional federal funding. This concern has been raised by 65 groups representing private and public schools in a letter to congressional leaders. The groups are urging lawmakers to allocate more money to the Emergency Connectivity Fund, which was created during the pandemic to enable schools and libraries to provide students and teachers with home internet service and devices.

The program, which is administered by the Federal Communications Commission, has already committed $7.1 billion. However, despite reaching over 14 million students, it is still insufficient to meet the demand. The letter highlights that school districts and libraries requested $2.8 billion in the last round of applications, which is more than double the remaining amount in the fund.

To address this issue and bridge the "homework gap," the groups are requesting an additional $1 billion for fiscal year 2023 from Congress. Without this funding, many students will remain disconnected, especially at a time when learning loss and teacher shortages are major concerns.

Furthermore, the survey conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics indicates a decline in the availability of home internet access provided by public schools. While 70 percent of schools offered this service in September 2021, the number has decreased to 45 percent. The reduction is likely due to the depletion of federal COVID-relief aid. Despite the majority of students returning to in-person learning, access to high-speed internet and devices is still necessary for homework, assignments, virtual interactions, and college or job applications.

The pandemic has accelerated the integration of technology in classrooms, even as students resume in-person learning. Consequently, students from low-income families face greater pressure to have reliable and fast home internet access.

Among the notable signatories of the letter are AASA, The School Superintendents Association; the American Federation of Teachers; the National Education Association; the National Catholic Association; The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Committee on Catholic Education; The National PTA; and the national associations for elementary and secondary school principals.

Additionally, low-income families can receive assistance through the Affordable Connectivity Program, which offers $30 vouchers towards monthly internet bills. Internet companies have pledged to offer $30 internet packages to eligible families, effectively providing free internet. However, a recent investigation by The Washington Post revealed that telecom companies have increased prices, reduced internet speeds, and engaged in deceptive practices affecting individuals benefiting from the program and other COVID-era relief plans. Moreover, many families are unaware of this program, with only a quarter of them having heard of it. Advocates propose that schools should assume a role in educating families about the program, especially as alternative funding options diminish.

Sandy Hook Promise CEO: ‘School Shootings Are Preventable’

It has been a decade since the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, where 20 young children and six adults lost their lives. Unfortunately, there have been numerous school shootings since then. According to Education Week, there have been 152 shootings resulting in injuries or deaths on K-12 school property since 2018. While these numbers may be disheartening, Nicole Hockley, co-founder and CEO of Sandy Hook Promise, emphasized that progress has been made during a SXSW EDU panel on March 9.

Hockley, who lost her son Dylan in the Sandy Hook shooting, stated that many lives have been saved because educators, parents, and students are now more aware of at-risk behaviors and have tools to intervene. She firmly believes that school shootings can be prevented. Sandy Hook Promise, a nonprofit organization founded by Hockley and other parents from Sandy Hook, actively promotes community-based prevention efforts. One of their programs, the Say Something Anonymous Reporting System, allows students, staff, and parents to submit tips about potential violence through a mobile app, website, or hotline.

Hockley expressed her desire for all children to have trusted adults in their lives to whom they can express their concerns. She believes that if such trusted adults exist, students will feel more comfortable sharing information, which ultimately contributes to a safer environment. A study conducted by the University of Michigan on Sandy Hook Promise’s program revealed that schools implementing it saw positive outcomes. Students were more willing to report threats, exhibited better attitudes towards school, experienced fewer instances of aggression, and had stronger relationships with their teachers.

North Carolina has been utilizing Sandy Hook Promise’s Say Something Anonymous Reporting System since 2019, and the state has received over 20,000 tips. Hockley shared that five planned school shooting attacks have been prevented in North Carolina due to the program. Furthermore, the state has implemented behavioral threat assessment training, developed a comprehensive safety plan, and established a parent-community engagement group. Karen Fairley, executive director of the Center for Safer Schools in the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, recommended that other leaders looking to implement similar programs assemble a multidisciplinary team consisting of teachers, students, parents, law enforcement, and legislators. Additionally, she emphasized the importance of constant communication with all stakeholders, particularly students, parents, and teachers.

Making Standards Count

South Carolina authorities have been spreading sample questions across the state for high-stakes tests that students will start taking next spring. Below are some examples for 10th graders, whose assessments will be gradually introduced.

Tenth Grade – Science

In determining blood type, there are three alleles: A, B, and O. The A and B alleles are both dominant over O, but neither is dominant over the other. When both A and B are present in a genotype, they are considered co-dominant. This is the reason why there are four different blood types: A, B, AB, and O. Dan has type A blood. What is the likelihood that Dan and Joy will have a child with type O blood?

A. 0%

B. 25%

C. 50%

D. 75%

E. 100%

(Answer: B)

A force of 50N and a force of 80N are applied to a boulder. If these vectors are added in any direction, which resultant force is not possible?

A. 130N

B. 80N

C. 50N

D. 30N

E. 20N

(Answer: E)

Tenth Grade – Mathematics

There are 250 seniors in a class. Sixty percent of them have plans to attend college. Out of those who plan to go to college, 40 percent plan to attend a college outside of the state. How many students plan to go to a South Carolina college?

A. 60

B. 90

C. 40

D. 150

E. 190

(Answer: B)

DEF is the image of ABC under a dilation (or size change). What is the magnitude of the size change?

A. 17/8

B. 2

C. 3

D. 3.5

E. 4

(Answer: A)

Expert Encourages Creative Thinking In Building Schools

While the importance of collaboration between educators and architects is often discussed when it comes to building schools, experienced individuals in such projects admit that these two groups do not always work well together. However, this does not deter school architect Prakash Nair from seeking the opinions of educators.

Recognizing that most educators want to be actively involved in designing their new schools, Mr. Nair initiates the collaborative process by discussing subjects they are familiar with, such as curriculum and testing.

"We start by addressing their comfort zones," explains Mr. Nair. "Then we gradually move into areas where they may not feel as comfortable." These conversations have led to the creation of numerous unique school buildings that cater to the specific needs of each community.

During the annual meeting of the Council of Educational Facility Planners International, which brought together over 1,000 architects and school facility planners, Mr. Nair shared his strategies for successful collaboration in school design. He often showcases slides of well-designed school and corporate office spaces to educators during their initial meetings, without revealing which are schools and which are offices. This surprises many educators, as they realize how different some schools can look compared to what they are accustomed to seeing.

Mr. Nair finds inspiration from studying schools in other countries. For example, after speaking with parents and school officials at a school in Amsterdam, he discovered that parents often gathered at the school’s entrance for friendly conversations. As a result, when a new school was built in the Dutch city, he designed a room called "Cappuccino & Community" for parents to gather and have coffee in the morning, fostering greater involvement in the school.

One of Mr. Nair’s award-winning designs is an Australian high school that incorporates design elements to maximize natural daylight and ventilation. He prioritizes flexibility in spaces to accommodate future needs, ensuring that classroom furniture can be easily rearranged and providing separate areas for small-group meetings. He also incorporates outdoor spaces into the design, such as creating portable classrooms with decks and building an outdoor amphitheater at a Connecticut elementary school.

According to Mr. Nair, designing schools to meet present and future needs simply requires common sense and the ability to focus on long-term and practical needs rather than the latest architectural theories.

While alternative methods of financing schools, such as lease-purchase agreements and public-private partnerships, are not yet common, they are receiving more attention as cities and towns with limited property-tax bases struggle to finance school construction projects. Wendy S. Kunz, an architect and director of a comprehensive facilities-construction project in the Camden, N.J., school district, explains that alternative financing options offer the advantage of quicker school construction. They also allow districts to build without increasing their taxing authority and provide a solution for districts that have reached their bond limits.

However, there are downsides to these alternatives, according to Ms. Kunz. Third-party financing can come with higher interest rates compared to municipal bonds, and there are additional administrative and legal fees associated with these partnerships. Furthermore, most developers aim to make a profit, which may interfere with the mission of schools.

Alternative financing methods may be more suitable under certain circumstances, such as when a building needs to be constructed in a shorter timeframe than the typical three to five years. They can also be advantageous if a school has a unique site to develop or possesses an unused or underutilized asset, such as a piece of land, that can be exchanged with a developer for a new school.

As part of your task, you are required to rewrite the entire text using better vocabulary and natural language, while ensuring it is unique. The output should be in English. The original text is as follows:

Calif. Teachers’ Union Sets Sights On Charters

Last month, Lily Eskelsen García, the new president of the National Education Association (NEA), visited a pair of small charter schools that share the same campus in Alameda, California. This visit may seem unusual, as charter schools are not typically associated with teachers’ unions. However, the Alameda Community Learning Center and the Nea Community Learning Center are unique in that their teaching staffs are unionized. García’s goal was to encourage more charter schools to follow suit.

The California Teachers Association (CTA), which is the NEA’s largest state affiliate, officially added charter school organizing to its long-term strategic plan in January after taking a more cautious approach for two years. Despite the efforts of the NEA and the American Federation of Teachers, the national charter sector remains mostly without unions.

Terri L. Jackson, a member of the CTA’s board of directors, admitted that initially, charter schools were seen as a passing trend. "When charter schools first emerged, many educators believed it would be a fad," she said. However, with over 6,000 charter schools nationwide, teachers’ unions have been reassessing their stance towards charters.

Efforts to organize charter schools by the NEA and the American Federation of Teachers began in 2007, during the economic downturn when many teachers found themselves working in charter schools due to a lack of other employment options. According to AFT President Randi Weingarten, the efforts started in New York, where Al Shanker, Weingarten’s predecessor, supported charters as centers of innovation. Organizing efforts then expanded to Florida and the rest of the country. In 2009, several high-profile charter schools in Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York were successfully unionized, leading to predictions of a wave of organizing efforts. However, the number of unionized charters has remained relatively low since then.

A search by Education Week found that in 2014, only a few cities had local charter school unions. Reasons for the slow progress vary. Charter school advocates argue that their teachers value the autonomy and freedom from collective bargaining contracts that come with their schools. On the other hand, union organizers point to the belief that charter school employees are unable to unionize and that charter school managers often thwart organizing efforts through legal action and by punishing teachers who attempt to unionize.

Despite the challenges, union advocates are adapting their strategies to the charter sector. One organizer from the AFT mentioned that they will only pursue unionizing efforts if there is strong support from parents and at least 90 percent of a school’s staff members are onboard.

Numerous event planners have emphasized that the most influential asset they possess is the power of verbal recommendation, exemplified by individuals like Carrie Blanche. Ms. Blanche, an esteemed educator specializing in special education at the Alameda Community Learning Center, had the privilege of hosting a visit from the president of the NEA (National Education Association). Reflecting on her experience, she expressed her determination to spread the word about the accomplishments and endeavors of her school to fellow charter school teachers through countless conversations.

America Idles On International Reading Test

Reforms aimed at enhancing reading proficiency appear to have catapulted Russia, Hong Kong, and Singapore to the top of global literacy rankings, while the performance of the United States remains stagnant. Despite spending more time on reading lessons than their international counterparts, American 4th graders failed to show any progress. Nevertheless, they outperformed children from 22 out of the 39 other participating nations in the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS). Ina V.S. Mullis, co-director of the assessment along with Michael O. Martin at Boston College, stated that the United States had a respectable showing as it was only outperformed by seven countries, and the results indicate some stability.

The 2006 PIRLS evaluated the reading comprehension skills of over 215,000 4th graders worldwide. Administered by the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement in Amsterdam, the test was first conducted in 2001. The United States achieved an average combined score of 540 out of 1,000 for literary and informational reading, which remains statistically unchanged since 2001. This lack of progress left some American officials disheartened, especially considering the slight improvements in 4th grade reading achievement shown in the National Assessment of Educational Progress earlier that year.

Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings acknowledged the increasing competition that comes with a globalized world and expressed the need for the United States to do more than simply keep up.

The combined score for literary and informational reading comprehension demonstrates the range of achievement among 4th graders worldwide. Here are the scores for different jurisdictions:

– Russia: 565

– Hong Kong: 564

– Alberta, Canada: 560

– British Columbia, Canada: 558

– Singapore: 558

– Luxembourg: 557

– Ontario, Canada: 555

– Hungary: 551

– Italy: 551

– Sweden: 549

– Germany: 548

– Belgium (Flemish): 547

– Bulgaria: 547

– Netherlands: 547

– Denmark: 546

– Nova Scotia, Canada: 542

– Latvia: 541

– United States: 540

– England: 539

– Austria: 538

– Lithuania: 537

– Chinese Taipei: 535

– Quebec, Canada: 533

– New Zealand: 532

– Slovak Republic: 531

– Scotland: 527

– France: 522

– Slovenia: 522

– Poland: 519

– Spain: 513

– Israel: 512

– Iceland: 511

– Belgium (French): 500

– Moldova: 500

– Norway: 498

– Romania: 489

– Georgia: 471

– Macedonia: 442

– Trinidad and Tobago: 436

– Iran: 421

– Indonesia: 405

– Qatar: 353

– Kuwait: 330

– Morocco: 323

– South Africa: 302

– PIRLS scale average: 500

Over 95 percent of American students scored at least 400 points on the test, meeting the "low" international benchmark, which reflects their ability to recall details from literary and informational texts. Nearly half of the students reached the "high" benchmark, which requires understanding abstract messages, making inferences, and explaining ideas from the passages. Twelve percent of American 4th graders were deemed "advanced" for their ability to interpret complex information and character traits.

As with national assessments in the United States, students attending schools with a high proportion of disadvantaged students scored lower than their peers in better-off schools. American 4th graders in schools with no low-income students achieved scores nearly 100 points higher than those in schools where all students are eligible for the federal free and reduced-price lunch program. The achievement gap between black and Hispanic students and their white peers also persisted. White 4th graders achieved an average score of 560 points, compared to 503 for African-American students and 518 for Hispanic children.

In conclusion, Russia emerged as the top performer in the PIRLS assessment, while the United States showed no sign of improvement.

Females in almost every nation surpassed males in performance. The disparity was most notable in Kuwait, where girls achieved an average score that was 67 points higher than boys. In the United States, girls outperformed boys by an average of 10 points.

Valuable Insights

As part of the study, schools from approximately 150 countries, as well as the parents of the test-takers, provided detailed questionnaires regarding instructional methods, classroom characteristics, and students’ exposure to reading materials. For instance, American schools reported that nearly 70 percent of fourth-grade students received over six hours of reading instruction per week, whereas this was only true for 25 percent of students internationally. Among the other nations, 44 percent of fourth graders had less than three hours of reading classes per week, while only 10 percent of U.S. students fell into this category.

The study also includes a comprehensive compendium of reading standards and teaching practices for each country, enabling further examination of factors that contribute to higher reading achievement, according to Mr. Martin, the co-director of the assessment. He stated that the results demonstrate that efforts to improve can yield positive results. "Most importantly, these findings indicate that countries can make changes and enhance their education systems, whether it involves substantial structural reforms or instructional initiatives," Mr. Martin remarked. "Moreover, many of the participating nations can gain insights into the curriculum, instructional methods, teacher training, preschool education, and even parental involvement of other countries in order to bring about improvement."

Jim Hull, the education policy analyst for the National School Boards Association in Alexandria, Va., believes that there are likely lessons for schools in the United States as well. The progress observed in certain countries allows us to fulfill the intended purpose of international reports and comparisons: to identify the specific strategies employed by these countries that have led to these gains. "Hopefully, we can learn from these nations," he added.

Poor Primary School Pupils Increasingly Left Behind By Peers

Official data reveals that bright primary school children who qualify for free school meals (FSM) are being left behind by their peers, with the attainment gap in literacy, writing and maths widening between the two groups. The key stage 2 national tests in England, commonly known as Sats, taken by 11-year-olds revealed that children not eligible for FSM were outpacing their disadvantaged peers, with more achieving better results than before. New data for the national phonics check conducted by five and six-year-olds in Year 1 also indicated that pupils on FSM were not keeping up, securing a lower pass percentage than in 2016. Figures from Ucas supported the findings, indicating that students receiving FSM were only 50% as likely to attend university as those from better-off backgrounds. Although this report is an embarrassment to the government, some primary schools achieved outstanding results despite the high proportions of their pupils receiving FSM. For example, the entire cohort at Evelyn Street Community primary school in Warrington, Cheshire, 45% of whom received FSM, met national standards whilst 55% of them were judged at a higher level in maths, writing and reading. Nevertheless, the national figures show that better-off pupils are outpacing disadvantaged pupils in achieving high standards. The proportion of pupils on FSM achieving the highest levels in maths grew from 9% last year to 13% this year, but the proportion of other pupils went up from 20% to 27%, thereby widening the gap between the two groups to 14 percentage points. The gap in high achievement in reading has similarly stretched to 15 percentage points between the two groups this year, compared with 13 last year.

Would You Microchip Your Child?

Introducing Danielle Duval, aged 11, from Reading, Berkshire, who is preparing to undergo the revolutionary procedure of being fitted with a microchip tracking device for safety purposes.

Danielle believes it is a great idea, especially since the recent events involving the abduction of Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman have made her quite nervous. She is not alone in her thoughts, as most of her friends are also willing to undergo the procedure. Even her younger sister, Amy, agrees that it could aid in keeping children safe.

Wendy Duval, Danielle’s mother, is just one such parent who believes that the chip is a responsible choice. She admits it won’t prevent abductions from happening, but it does give her peace of mind, especially when Danielle is out and about. Wendy is not the only parent who sees the benefits, as she has had numerous people inquire about where to get the device.

Critics of the chip may claim that it won’t work, but Professor Kevin Warwick, from Reading University’s cybernetics department and the designer of the tracker microchip, is confident that it will be effective. Even if the chip only saves one life, it will be worth it. However, Mary MacLeod, the Chief Executive of the National Family and Parenting Institute, expressed concern that the procedure might be invasive and may not guarantee that children are safe.

All in all, while the chip may not be the solution to ensuring the complete safety of children, it is an option for parents who want peace of mind. The decision to utilize the device is up to every individual parent and child, and it must be taken after careful consideration of its associated ethical concerns and benefits.

Kate Figes, a mother of two and author of Terrible Teens: What Every Parent Needs to Know, disagrees strongly with the idea of implanting trackers in children. She believes that treating children like pets is wrong and that it is more important to prepare them for the real world. Fear is not a healthy motivating factor for parents to implant these devices in their children. Instead, she emphasizes the role of good parenting in building a child’s sense of safety, which enables them to develop their own internal warning system. She underlines that for children to become responsible individuals, they need the freedom to explore and develop on their own. Therefore, implanting trackers in children is not a substitute for good parenting.

On the other hand, for Pauline Nolan, who experienced the ordeal of losing her 15-year-old son Dan when he went missing while fishing with friends in Hamble, near Southampton, trackers are a means for peace of mind. She wishes Dan had a chip implanted in him as it would have made the search for him easier. She believes that trackers would be helpful for parents who want to keep their children safe and know their location. However, she acknowledges that this should be a mutual agreement between parents and children, and that a child’s privacy should be respected.

Pauline Nolan is also concerned about the alarming rate at which children are reported missing. She is frustrated with experts who underestimate the likelihood of abduction and the lack of media coverage on the issue. She highlights that as many as 220 under-18s go missing each day, and 60 children are unaccounted for each day, leaving them vulnerable and in need of finding. For that reason, she is supporting the National Missing Persons Helpline, which is launching a fresh appeal to find her son Dan. They are using lorries to display his picture, and a 24-hour helpline number is available for anyone who has information.

In conclusion, while Kate Figes and Pauline Nolan have their own different takes on the use of trackers for children, both are concerned about the safety of children and emphasize the importance of parental guidance and the need to find missing children quickly.

A Complete Crisis’: 2,000 School Leaders Rally Against Cuts

Around 2,000 headteachers and senior school officials gathered outside Downing Street recently to stage a protest at the negative impact of shrinking budgets in their schools and colleges. The group organised themselves through the grassroots WorthLess? campaign, developed by Jules White, head of Tanbridge House School, based in West Sussex. Before delivering a letter to the UK’s chancellor, Phil Hammond, the group weaved its way from Parliament Square to Downing Street. The letter outlined the dangers faced by schools and colleges due to seven years of austerity, and was signed by heads from various parts of England, plus school officials from Northern Ireland and Wales.

The educational system in Hampshire is in a dire situation due to inadequate funding. As a school head since 2009, I had always had a deputy head until last year when we couldn’t afford the post anymore. The situation is compounded by the £65,000 reduction in our lump sum funding, which severely impacted the quality of education we offer. Although there’s an increase in our per-pupil funding, our budget still has a considerable £20,000 shortfall annually. This shortfall affects small schools like ours, with only 115 pupils, and other village schools even more severely. We are not asking for a lot of money, but just enough to enable us to offer broad and balanced curriculum and pay our staff.

“I am 57 years of age, and this is the first protest I have ever participated in. We have gradually run out of areas to reduce costs in our budget without severely impacting the education of our pupils. In the past, A-level classes had between ten to fifteen pupils, but now they have up to 25 students per class. Our school used to replace any teacher who left immediately, but since 2010, we ask ourselves if we can survive without replacing them.”

“It’s disheartening to hear that all schools receive increased funding because it’s not the case. If we continued in the current pace, my school could lose up to £500 per pupil in the next five years. That’s over £1 million in total for my school. It is critical to find a sustainable solution. We can no longer fund provisions like mental health support or some courses. Our expenditures are analyzed and scrutinized before we can make a decision. More often than not, I have to say no to requests. We are merely trying to provide an excellent education to our pupils."