K-12 Recent News Roundup: July 20, 2018

With so many stories in the news every day, it’s easy to miss developments that are relevant to you and your district, school, or classroom. We’ve gathered a variety of highlights in education news, from policy changes to teacher spotlights, so you can stay up to date on issues that matter to you. 

No-Zero Policies Rise in Popularity, Stirring Debate

According to a recent Edutopica article, a growing number of K-12 schools are adopting no-zero policies, sparking some debate over their effectiveness. A “no-zero” grading policy means students cannot receive a grade lower than 50 percent on an assignment or test, no matter the quality of the work or whether the assignment was handed in at all.

Proponents of the policy maintain that some students have difficult home-life situations or learning disabilities that contribute to their low performance. Failing grades often encourage these students to give up rather than strive more. For generally high-achieving students, a single zero can disproportionately impact their overall grade, providing a misleading marker of proficiency.

Opponents of the policy argue that giving a 50 percent for a missed assignment sends the message that there are no consequences for slacking off. Some students have even figured out how to cheat the system, doing little or no work one semester, and then making up for it later in the year. There are pros and cons on both sides of the argument, and some experts and teachers think the key is to find a middle ground and give nuanced feedback. 

DeVos Retracts Obama-Era Guidance on School Desegregation

As Chalkbeat reported earlier this month, the Trump administration revoked an Obama-era guidance that provided advice on how districts can racially integrate schools legally. The Supreme Court decisions on this issue are complex, and the document offered help for navigating the complicated legal waters.

It is unknown how many districts took this guidance into consideration. Those who support the decision to rescind it argue that involving race in public policy is unconstitutional. Others are concerned that without clear advice from official channels, fewer schools will make an effort to diversify their student populations.

An Indianapolis Teacher Uses His Learning Disorder to Change Students’ Mindsets

“I am upfront and honest with my students and my families about my struggles as a learner,” says Erik Catellier, a language arts teacher at Center for Inquiry School 2. “I have the fact that I am dyslexic in my email signature.”

In an interview with Chalkbeat, Catellier explains that he was diagnosed with dyslexia at a young age, but he had many supportive teachers who believed in him. He says these teachers inspired him to become an educator himself, and he strives to be a role model for his own students. When asked how his learning disorder has affected his teaching, Catellier answered that it allows him to convey the importance of greatness, not perfection. When he makes an error, he uses that moment to show his students that everyone is always learning and growing, even teachers. 

In the Wake of Teacher Strikes, Educators Run for Office

News of teacher strikes dominated headlines earlier this year, and many educators are now using that momentum to run for public office, according to an article by National Public Radio. 

Brianne Solomon is one of many public educators on the ballot in West Virginia for a state house seat in the November midterms. Solomon hopes to gain seats for the Democrats, who lost the majority in 2014. While the strikes helped gain a 5 percent pay increase for teachers, some say pay is only part of the problem, as there are few rewards for good teachers or incentives to attract young educators. 

Some Republicans maintain that the strikes will have little effect on voting across the state. Phalen Kuckuck, executive director of the West Virginia Republican Legislative Committee, points out that it was his party that provided the largest pay raise teachers have won in decades.

Whatever the results are come November, educators will appear on the ballot in many states where strikes occurred, including North Carolina, Kentucky, and Colorado. There will also be more than 70 educators running for office in states where teacher strikes didn’t take place this year.