K-12 Recent News Roundup: August 31, 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 so you can stay up to date on issues that matter to you.

Pennsylvania School District Develops First K-12 AI Curriculum

In the future, jobs requiring artificial intelligence (AI) skills are expected to increase as they have dramatically in recent years. With that, the Montour School District in Pennsylvania has designed the first K-12 AI curriculum in the U.S., Ed Tech magazine reports.

Students will learn “how to work, live, and thrive with AI,” according to the magazine, and will dive into topics such as machine learning and the ethics of AI. A primary goal of the AI curriculum is give K-12 students a firm knowledge of data literacy and programming and a deeper understanding of how to enter the workforce in an ever-changing digital world. 

After Walkouts, Six States See Rise in Support for Higher Teacher Pay

A new poll has found that a rising number of people “support higher pay for teachers and more funding for public schools,” according to U.S. News & World Report. The release of the EdNext poll—which the Harvard Kennedy School’s Program on Education Policy and Governance conducted for the nonprofit journal Education Nextfollows a wave of teacher walkouts in six states related to those issues, which may have impacted the poll results, according to U.S. News. In those states, the poll found a greater jump in support. The poll also revealed that Americans’ support for charter schools and school voucher systems has increased slightly, while overall views on the Common Core state academic standards has held steady. 

Survey: Parents, Educators Equally Value Soft Skills, Academics

A new report conducted by Gallup, which surveyed more than 4,000 parents, teachers, principals, and superintendents, suggests that a large majority (more than 8 in 10) of each of these parties feel it’s equally important to assess students’ academic and nonacademic skills—the latter namely including teamwork, critical thinking, and creativity, according to Tech & Learning magazine.

But only one-tenth of teachers say the assessments that their districts currently utilize to measure these nonacademic skills do so “very well,” and just one-fifth of parents feel that these assessments adequately measure their children’s likely future success in college. Still, a majority of parents agree or strongly agree that their children are learning skills in school that will help prepare them for a successful future.

States Take Measures to Address Teacher Shortages in U.S.

There are 100,000 classrooms in the U.S. where teachers are "either not adequately certified or lack experience," Education Dive recently reported. The article states that in Oklahoma, the state Board of Education has approved more emergency teacher certificates than ever before; even though a strike in the state resulted in teacher raises, shortages remain. In states such as Colorado, where teacher strikes also occurred in the previous school year, teachers earn about 65 percent of what other college-educated professionals make annually, and 9 out of 10 teaching positions are filled because teachers have left rather than retired.

But some states are taking measures to address the shortages. Among them are loan forgiveness and service scholarships, teacher residency programs, and strong induction programs, according to a report released earlier this week by the Learning Policy Institute (LPI).

House Democrats Urge Education Secretary to Reject Funding for Guns in Schools

According to The Washington Post, House Democrats are asking Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to "make clear that a federal grant program cannot be used to buy firearms for schools." Of the 193 Democrats in the House, 173 signed a letter stating that DeVos has the authority to prevent such spending and that she should do so per the law. The question boils down to whether Student Support and Academic Enrichment grants can be utilized by states to purchase guns with the intent of strengthening school safety. 

Many Democrats have asked DeVos to clarify in the coming days that she won't permit this spending to take place, yet an Education Department spokeswoman says DeVos doesn't have any specific action planned on this particular issue. Some Republicans have said DeVos doesn't have much of a choice as the program "was written to given states flexibility and does not explicitly bar spending on firearms," according to the Post.

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HMH publishes a news roundup every other Friday. Check out the next one on Sept. 14.