K-12 News Roundup: Election Season, Civics Education, 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.

Highlights and Hurdles for Education This Election Season

National Public Radio offered a concise report on what this month’s election results meant for educators in key states. Among the more controversial results were the denial of a broad school voucher expansion in Arizona, and Colorado voters did not pass a measure that would have increased public school funding by $1.6 billion. Both states saw teacher walkouts earlier this year.

Gains for education this election season include Jahana Hayes’ win in Connecticut. Hayes is a former National Teacher of the Year and will be the first black woman to represent the state in Congress. Gretchen Whitmer, a teacher union member and democrat, won the governor’s race in Michigan, and New Jersey voters approved half of $1 billion in funds to go toward vocational, career, and technical education, as well as school water infrastructure and school security.

Across the Country, States Are Encouraging Civics Education

In the wake of this month’s elections, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker approved a bill that will increase civics education in public schools, according to U.S. News & World Report. A survey earlier this year by the Education Week Research Center highlighted the lack of standalone civics courses, which are offered in less than one-third of K-12 schools. This report also emphasized that while many schools require social studies or history credits to graduate, only 11 to 25 percent of the curriculum in these courses is dedicated to civics.

During the signing of the Massachusetts bill, Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz commented, “In light of recent reports of voter suppression and the perilous state of our country's civic and political life today, this legislation is especially critical.” Others seem to agree, as 16 states are either considering or have approved civics education bills since January 2017.

Counselors Say High Schoolers Are More Interested in Political Activism

In addition to a particularly strong turnout of young voters in the midterm elections, a majority of school counselors reported an increase in political activism among their students, according to Education Week. This information comes from a report conducted online in the spring by the National Association for College Admission Counseling.

School officials hold divergent views about the consequences of this increased political interest and the current political climate. Some counselors claim students are more civil with each other; others state that civility has declined. Overall, 35 percent of schools said more of their students have expressed disillusionment.

400+ Studies Reveal Tech Plus Student Collaboration Is a Winning Combination

A review of more than 400 research studies indicates that using computers in combination with student collaboration significantly boosts learning, Education Week reports. The findings highlight the importance of this intersection; having students work alone on computers, or having them work together without technology, did not have as positive of an impact.

Not only did this specific blend of computers and face-to-face collaboration increase knowledge and skill levels, but it also improved social interactions, critical thinking, and reasoning. The digital tools and strategies that had the highest positive impact included those that monitored the group’s interactions and provided scripted guidance on how to collaborate.

Two Different Predictions About Enrollment at Public K-12 Schools

The decline in birth rate could be bad news for public schools, according to The Hechinger Report. In a decade, reports predict, there will be 8.5 percent fewer public school students, meaning that schools around the country will close.

The information comes from the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE), a nonprofit organization that predicts the number of high school students who will graduate each year. To do this, the agency’s researchers calculate enrollments for grades 1–12. The number of children enrolled in first grade dropped in 2014 and has not recovered in recent years.

However, the U.S. Department of Education’s researchers at the National Center for Education Statistics have predicted the opposite trend, predicting that student enrollment will increase between 2015 and 2027. These researchers used data from the 2014 U.S. Census and include Pre-K and kindergarten figures, while WICHE does not.

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HMH publishes a news roundup on the last Friday of each month. Check out the next one on Dec. 28.