News Roundup: School Safety Bill, Hurricane Damages, 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.

Students Ratify Bill of Rights on School Safety

One hundred students gathered in Washington, D.C., this past weekend to discuss, draft, and ratify a Students' Bill of Rights on School Safety, The 74 reports. The final 15-point bill called for universal background checks, waiting periods for firearm purchases, and increased access to mental health counseling for students, among other things.

During the three-day summit, students attended education sessions and small workshops. Some of the students had been personally affected by school gun violence, including a senior from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

Gun control issues took center stage in February after the Parkland shooting, but support for stricter gun laws has faded over time, according to a May 2018 poll. Students who spoke with The 74 remained optimistic that politicians on either side of the debate would acknowledge their efforts.

According to Education Dive, the importance of education in this year’s midterm elections and the large number of educators running for office could impact whether lawmakers will take these students’ voices into account.

Wisconsin High School’s ‘University’ Model Integrates Four Schools Into One

The Kettle Moraine High School Campus in Wales, Wisconsin, caught the attention of Edutopia this week for its inventive university-like model. The campus houses four distinct high schools, one traditional public school and three public charter schools (which focus on the performing arts, health sciences, and global leadership, respectively). Despite attending different schools, students at Kettle Moraine share classrooms, resources, teachers, and sports teams.

This unique model is the result of a 2005 motion passed by the school board to change the school to “better and more efficiently meet the needs of all students.” With feedback from students, families, and community members, district leaders prioritized student-led learning, career-oriented experiences outside of school, and access to cutting-edge technology.

As a result, the campus now has 3D printers and collaborative learning spaces, and teachers have redesigned lesson plans to focus on learning in our digital world. Students can also work at hospitals and local businesses to build skills that align with their future aspirations, according to the article.

Superintendent Pat Deklotz commented that the campus model is intended to nurture the love of learning that can get stifled with “the factory model of education.” “When kids come to us in kindergarten, they are so eager to learn. You can’t turn off the spigot,” she told Edutopia.

Post-Hurricane Repair Costs a Concern for Districts

As schools recover from Hurricanes Michael and Florence, many face new obstacles in the form of mounting bills and insurance issues, according to Education Week. Some districts can utilize surplus funds to pay for damages, but there are limits on what state-provided insurance will cover, as New Hanover County, North Carolina, Superintendent Tim Markley discovered. His district’s insurance may not cover mold cleanup or damages that could have been caused before the storm, according to the article.

A measure passed in North Carolina last week will send millions to schools to pay for storm damage. Many district leaders are already working to figure out what these funds can be used for. The time it takes to sort this out could have impacts on rebuilding efforts and costs, David Stephens, executive director of risk management for the Florida School Boards Insurance Trust, told Ed Week. Stephens explained that the key is to start fixing small problems before they become bigger, more expensive ones. Issues like mold and mildew can develop when repairs stretch out over time. Larger districts may have access to these immediate funds, but for smaller schools, gathering resources can take valuable time.

Rebuilding fees are just some of the long-term issues schools face. Enrollment losses are high, for example. Many students, teachers, and their families were displaced by the storm, and major damages to homes and businesses mean that many may not return to the area for years.

Report: School’s Socioeconomic Standing Greatly Impacts Student Achievement

A new report says socioeconomic inequalities in education are an international issue, according to an article by U.S. News & World Report. The 192-page report, conducted by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), analyzed student achievement levels in 70 countries, focusing mainly on data from the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA).

Researchers found that around the world, a school’s socioeconomic profile was the most important factor in student achievement. Students who attended more advantaged schools performed better on the PISA than students who attended less advantaged schools, no matter their individual socioeconomic status. On average, disadvantaged students who attended advantaged schools scored much higher than disadvantaged peers who went to disadvantaged schools. “Basically those students get penalized twice,” Andreas Schleicher, director for education and skills at OECD, told U.S. News. “They come from a poor family and they go to a school that is also disadvantaged…. Where they go to school really matters a lot."

But strides have been made in recent years. Some countries have made improvements in equity between 2009 and 2015, including the U.S. The achievement levels of disadvantaged students in the U.S. have inched upwards, even though the country’s overall rank has not markedly changed.

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HMH publishes a news roundup on the last Friday of each month. Check out the next one on Nov. 30.