K-12 Recent News Roundup: August 3, 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. 

Most States Fall Short of Special Education Requirements

Disability Scoop reported last week that only 21 states met requirements in the annual U.S. Department of Education compliance review, which measures how well states provide education and support for students with disabilities from ages 3–21.

States can fall into four possible categories: “meets requirements,” “needs assistance,” “needs intervention,” and “needs substantial intervention.” Twenty-eight states were designated “needs assistance,” with Michigan and Washington, D.C., falling short and being labeled “needs intervention.” If states fail to meet requirements for two or more years in a row, the Education Department must step in, as mandated by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA. No states fall under the “needs substantial intervention” category in the review.

North Dakota District Eliminates Grade Levels

According to The Hechinger Report, one school district in North Dakota is taking competency-based education to new heights by eliminating grade levels. In Hunter, North Dakota, the Northern Cass School District will soon start year two of a three-year initiative to group students by skill level rather than age. By 2020, Northern Cass plans to have all students organize their own course sequences in this way. While competency-based education systems are not unheard of, few schools remove grade levels entirely.

Teachers and leaders at Northern Cass have spent months shadowing other districts with similar experimental goals. They have now remodeled many aspects of school life to meet the unique challenges that come with this independence. But superintendent Cory Steiner argues that the struggles are worth it: “We can’t keep structures that would allow us to fall back into a more traditional system. If we’re going to do this, we’re going to have to manage without grade levels.”

Students are enthusiastic about the program, reporting less stress and more time to deeply explore subjects that interest them. Still, Steiner is realistic about the work left to do, stating, “I’d love to tell you we have every answer, but we’ve got a long way to go.”

Bill for Career-Technical Education Funding Passes Congress

A bipartisan bill on career-training programs for high schoolers has passed Congress and is on its way to President Trump, EdWeek reports. Called the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act, this bill is a revamped version of a 2006 program. If passed, it will supply funding for job training and related programs, which is especially important for students considering post-grad options besides a four-year college degree.

The legislation quickly passed Congress in part because of heavy lobbying by the Trump administration. Many education groups and the business community were unified in their support of the bill, agreeing with Rep. Glenn Thompson, R-Pa, who said, the bill “will restore rungs on the ladder of opportunity."

How Reflective Writing Can Help At-Risk Students

In an article for Edutopia, Amy Purevsuren, an alternative classroom teacher, praises reflective writing as one of the most effective ways for students to deal with trauma, addiction, mental health issues, and more. Purevsuren organizes her writing workshops around Nancie Atwell’s model and has seen her students grow from nervous and uncertain to vocal and confident.

Purevsuren highlights the story of one of her students (nicknamed Jenny for the article), a freshman who struggled with alcohol addiction and became suicidal. When Jenny joined Purevsuren’s class, she had difficulties figuring out what to write and worried about sharing her private issues with the class. With Purevsuren’s guidance, Jenny discovered that putting words to her struggles helped her overcome them.

Over the rest of her high school career, Jenny became a passionate writer and mentor, giving talks to younger students and publishing her work in Teen Ink. Jenny’s story is one example of the power of writing, says Purevsuren, and of the essential role teachers play in helping children see their true potential.

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HMH publishes a news roundup every other Friday. Check out the next one on August 17.