K-12 Recent News Roundup: October 12, 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.

Possible Cause for Record Low Voting Rates Among Young Adults: A Lack of Civics Education

In the past few years, young adults have turned up at the ballots in record low numbers, The Atlantic reports. Only 20 percent of eligible youth voted in the 2014 midterms, the lowest ever recorded. The article proposes a connection between these low turnout rates and a lack of civics education in school, given evidence that suggests civics education is linked to voter participation.

Only nine states and the District of Columbia require one year of government or civics classes in high school. A few states, like Florida, require these classes in middle school, when experts say students are particularly suited to learn about civics. Florida also requires civics education in elementary school, which the Atlantic article links to the increased number of passing grades on the seventh-grade state civics exam (from 61 percent in 2014 to 70 percent in 2017).

While young people have been increasingly vocal in politics lately, a recent Gallup poll reveals that only 26 percent of 18-to-29-year-olds say they are “absolutely certain” they will vote in the upcoming midterm elections, compared with 82 percent of adults 65 and older.

What the U.S. Can Learn from International Early Education Systems

An article by The Hechinger Report calls attention to a study released in September that examines the early childhood education systems in six countries. The researchers looked at how governments (and private companies and families) support young children in Australia, England, Finland, Hong Kong, Korea, and Singapore.

All of these countries differ from the U.S. in that they offer free, near-universal services providing education for children over 3 years old with no income level requirements. With the exception of Hong Kong, these countries also offer services for infants and toddlers, from subsidized care to extended paid parental leave (the U.S. is one of eight countries that do not have a national law guaranteeing paid parental leave).  

These other early education systems have their issues, too. But the author of the study, Professor Sharon Lynn Kagan, maintains there is lot to learn from them. “There are incredible lessons from these other countries … not only in what we can do but in how we actually think about young children and the services for them.”

Rural School District in Montana Opens Makerspaces, Sees Great Results

With resources and support from tech partnerships, one school district in northern Montana has created makerspaces to the benefit of both students and teachers, The Hechinger Report writes. In a rural district, Havre Public School students often have less access to the latest technology and digital lessons than their urban or suburban counterparts. The makerspaces allow students to explore hardware and software and build valuable problem-solving skills.

Teachers in the district attended workshops before the makerspaces opened. These workshops not only provided teachers with necessary skills to support students throughout the year, but also helped change the mindset around new technology. After introducing the makerspaces, teachers quickly saw the benefits of project-based learning, reporting higher student engagement.

Students With Autism Benefit From Teachers With Specialized Training, Study Finds

A new study examines the effects of training public school teachers to work with students who have autism, Disability Scoop reports. The study focused on elementary teachers from 60 schools in California, Georgia, and Florida who received specialized training and coaching.

Classes were videotaped throughout the year to examine whether the behavior of students with autism changed after their teachers received the training. The study found that these students, compared with those in control classes, were more likely to actively engage and interact with others.

Researchers consider these findings meaningful because general education teachers in most states are not required to learn about autism, even though many students with autism attend general, non-special education classes.

Schools Focus on Student Well-Being in Classroom Redesigns

Education Dive highlights two K-12 school districts that focused on student wellness during their renovation efforts. Specifically, Illinois’ Glenbrook High School District 225 took into account student’s academic and social-emotional well-being when they redesigned—for example, eliminating large teacher desks and creating 360-degree classrooms that encourage movement.

Baldwin Schools in Baldwin, N.Y., emphasized individuality in their renovations, making sure the layout and structure of classrooms matched the needs of the students in that subject. Superintendent Shari Camhi asked teachers’ advice on what they needed, and teachers also went on tours of modern workplaces to get a sense of what students could expect later in their careers.

Research, like one 2014 report, suggests that even small changes in lighting and wall decorations can have a positive impact on student learning. The co-author of that report, Sapna Cheryan, maintains that these changes are a step in the right direction, but adds that structural changes are also necessary to create the “optimal learning environment.”  

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HMH publishes a news roundup every other Friday. Check out the next one on October 26.