K-12 News Roundup: Constitutional Rights, Equity Gaps, and More

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.

Federal Suit Regarding Constitutional Right to Education

A class-action lawsuit in federal court, Cook v. Raimondo, has the potential to significantly change federal control over education, reports The Atlantic. The lawyers for the Rhode Island public school students’ suit argue that the Constitution has an implicit guarantee of high-quality education, basing their argument on the idea that the the constitutional system requires its citizens to be highly educated in order to properly function. However, the Constitution does not have an explicit right, therefore the lawyers for the suit must argue that in denying citizens of Rhode Island a less than quality education, the state is preventing people from exercising their constitutional rights such as voting or forming a legal assembly.

Our governments’ federalist foundation means that public education is the state’s responsibility. While this system has benefits for some, it means that both quality and access to resources varies greatly based on students’ geography. The resulting inequality has spurred activists for years to try to convince the Supreme Court of a more explicit constitutional educational right, but none have previously won a majority vote. If Cook v. Raimondo  does succeed, it could result in a major federal overhaul.

High School’s ‘Do No Harm’ Motto Creates Inclusive Culture

The Washington Post recently covered the school culture at Health Sciences High and Middle College (HSHMC) in San Diego, California. The school is “gold” winner of the 2017 “Schools of Opportunity” project, an accolade awarded to public high schools that work to close the opportunity gap and create welcoming learning environments.

Students at HSHMC benefit from the school’s culture of respect, understanding, and agency. Instead of harsh disciplinary measures, students take part in “restorative circles,” designed to help them work through issues with dialogue. The school’s “Day of Understanding” encourages students to share their experiences with adversity and inspire others with their stories. Professional development at the school focuses on inclusivity, and special education students are actively recruited. What results from HSHMC’s continuing efforts is an enthusiastic, close-knit culture. As senior Hamza Mohamoud shares, “Here at HSHMC, your teachers are more than a teacher. They’re more like a parent, and the connection is unbreakable. It’s hard to find that in this world.” 

Suspension Rates Drop But Gaps in Equity Remain

An analysis of student suspension rates reveals mixed results, according to NPR. Researchers at the nonprofit Child Trends examined data from every public school in the country from 2012-2016.

The good news: The percentage of all students suspended at least once during the year fell from 5.6 to 4.7. For just high school students, it fell from 9.6 to 7.6 percent. Suspensions for Hispanic students fell 30 percent, and the rates fell fastest for student populations suspended most frequently —black students and those with disabilities.

But there was bad news, too. Black high school students are still twice as likely to be suspended when compared to their white or Hispanic peers—12.8 percent compared to 6.1 and 6.3 percent, respectively. Student with disabilities are also twice as likely to be suspended compared to those without disabilities, at 12.8 compared to 6.8 percent.

A Summary of Major 2018 Education Research

The 74 compiled a collection of 11 charts that highlight some of the important findings from the many educational reports released in 2018.

Among these was a study done by researchers at Georgetown University and the University of California, Berkeley, which found that free school lunches can reduce student suspensions. Authors of the study point to a decrease in hunger and improved school culture as possible reasons for the connection.

Another study on the post-Katrina New Orleans school system revealed that immediate college entry for students is up 15 percent since before the storm, and college graduation rates are up 7 percent. Black and low-income students saw the fastest improvement, which has also helped to lessen the achievement gap.

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HMH publishes a news roundup on the last Friday of each month. Check out the next one on Jan. 25.