Education News Round-Up

Half the summer may remain before school starts again, but things are still moving quickly in the world of education! Read on to learn more about what’s happening this week!

Largest Teacher Union Experiences Record Membership Loss
The National Education Association is not only the country’s largest teacher union, it’s the largest union period. In 155 years, it has grown to approximately 3 million members. Now, however, the union is experiencing a crisis: losing over 100,000 members since 2010, with an estimated 308,000 gone by 2013. That is an estimated $65 million loss in membership dues and other revenue. The rapid decline is attributed to the economic recession, Republican action against public-sector unions, and education reform and technological advances that are changing the role of the teacher in the classroom. The NEA is hoping to rectify the situation by reestablishing itself as a powerful political force, throwing full support behind Democratic politicians and hoping that this endorsement affects legislative change that encourages educators to return to the union.

Standardized Testing for 5-Year-Olds?
Can we measure the likeliness of a child to succeed in college beginning at age five? ACT. Inc, the creators of the widely used college entrance exam, announced that they are developing tests to determine if students as young as five are acquiring skills to succeed in college and beyond. The tests chart performance across grade levels to help teachers tailor lessons to support students as they go along. The first tests will target students in grades three through 12 and later tests will begin as early as kindergarten. The president of ACT’s education division, Jon Erickson, maintains that the tests respond to the “college and career skills gap” and are more of an “exploration of awareness” than an attempt to label students and place them on certain educational tracks.

Delaware Regulates Schools’ Access to Students’ Facebook
Delaware legislators have approved HB 309, a bill that forbids educators from looking at their students’ Facebook or social media activity. Targeted at secondary schools, the bill will offer some of the strongest protection of students’ privacy in the country, not only prohibiting schools from looking at students’ Facebook, but by also denying them the right to ask for passwords, force students to submit to monitoring or mandate that students add teachers to their friends list.

The Los Angeles Times reported on the bill and quoted one of its writers, attorney Bradley Shear, as saying: “The bill is a win for the personal privacy rights of students … it may protect secondary schools from social media monitoring lawsuits while also protecting the personal digital privacy rights of students. Since schools generally do not have a duty to monitor their students’ off-campus activities in the real world, they shouldn’t have a duty to monitor their students’ off-campus digital activities.”

Controversial NYC Charter School Continues Expansion
Eva Moskowitz’s Success Academy charter school network is one of the most well-funded and rapidly expanding charter school systems in New York City. Beginning fall 2013, six new schools will be opened across the city, bringing the total number up to 18. Two of the schools will be opened in Hell’s Kitchen and Union Square, expanding the network’s reach from Harlem and the South Bronx. “While most of our schools have been in disadvantaged communities, we didn’t build schools for disadvantaged communities,” Moskowitz said. “We were trying from the get-go to build world-class schools.”

Aside from receiving generous funding (approximately $2,000 per student), Success Academy draws criticism because of its co-location with schools: It opens academies in the same buildings as existing schools. While some welcome the chance to learn from the charter model, others are opposed to co-location, which they believe diverts resources from schools and causes a rift between students and faculty. The two public schools in Manhattan — Washington Irving High School and the School of Graphic Communication Arts — which are co-located with Success Academies are already suffering: Washington Irving is not accepting new students and will close in a few years; the second school was slated to close next year before the Bloomberg Administration allowed it to stay open. The question is whether the Success Academies in these schools will help or hinder the situation and how these charter schools will impact more affluent communities.

Miami Valedictorian Impacted by Obama’s Immigration Policy
President Obama’s June 15 executive action encouraging a halt on the deportation of young undocumented immigrants pursuing their education is already impacting students across America. One of those is Daniela Pelaez, the valedictorian of Miami Senior High School in Florida and an immigrant from Columbia. Though her father and brother were granted legal residency (her brother even served for two years in Afghanistan), Daniela and her sister, Dayana, made headlines when they received a threat of deportation despite a two-year deferral. The announcement caused an uproar as people rallied to support the two sisters, including congressional representative Ileana Ross-Lehtinen, who wrote a letter to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to block the girls’ removal.

ICE released a statement on July 13 that no deportation actions will be taken against the sisters: “ICE exercised prosecutorial discretion in March and granted Daniela and Dayana Pelaez deferred action for two years. There has been no action taken by or contemplated by ICE since that deferred action was granted … This motion only discussed the legal opinion, and nothing in this motion disturbs the agency’s decision to grant deferred action to the sisters.” Daniela will be attending Dartmouth in the fall.

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