Education News Round-Up

As President Obama’s executive action deferring deportation for undocumented students goes into effect and teacher layoffs become a focus of the administration, this new school year is off to an eventful start. Read on to find out what’s happening now in the world of education!

High School Teachers Help Undocumented Students Become DREAMers

Back in June, President Obama announced an initiative to provide an opportunity to defer deportation for 700,000 undocumented students. The executive action has been called a precursor of the DREAM Act, which provides students who are in good standing, entered the country as a minor and are enrolled in a four-year university with a more secure path to permanent residency. Obama’s initiative is now in effect, and 150,000 students enrolled in high school can now apply for “deferred action.” According to U.S. News, teachers and school administrators will play a crucial role in helping students apply by helping them find information on eligibility requirements and contacting organizations that can help with the application.

The National Education Association (NEA), the country’s largest teacher’s union, is partnering with the advocacy group United We Dream to hold “application clinics” at schools to help students navigate the complicated application process. The partnership will also help students find information on resources to alleviate the $465 application fee.

300,000 Teachers Won’t Be in the Classroom this School Year

The economic recession officially ended three years ago but since then, 300,000 educators have lost their job — 7,000 this month alone — according to a White House report,“Investing in Our Future: Returning Teachers to the Classroom,” released this past Saturday. The report was compiled from research by the National Economic Council, the Domestic Policy Council and the Council of Economic Advisers. According to the report, schools in Pittsburgh laid off 280 teachers and schools in Cleveland cut music, art and gym teachers. Other drastic measures to respond to financial issues included 292 school districts that switched to a four-day school week and cut full-day kindergarten.

According to a radio address by President Obama, “This year, several thousand fewer educators will be going back to school … These cuts force our kids into crowded classrooms, cancel programs for preschoolers and kindergarteners, and shorten the school week and the school year. That’s the opposite of what we should be doing as a country.” As education reform becomes a hot topic in the upcoming election, this report will hopefully emphasize the importance of protecting teachers’ jobs and reducing class sizes.

Education Reform Denies Tenure to Nearly Half of NYC Teachers

The New York City Department of Education said on Friday that as part of teacher tenure reform, only 55 percent of eligible teachers earned tenure in 2012. Forty-five percent of NYC teachers had their probationary period to prove their performance extended for another year, and three percent of teachers were fired. This move comes in response from increased pressure to improve accountability standards and the quality of education by the federal government, and it is reflected across the country. Idaho has completely eliminated tenure, according to The New York Times, and in Florida, teacher contracts must be renewed annually with renewal based on performance. New Jersey has also overhauled the nation’s oldest tenure law.

Current education reform aims to eliminate tenure based on seniority and the mandate that teachers prove themselves by being good teachers rather than attaining job security through how long they’ve been with a school. The debate has now become whether or not the new tenure practices are too rigorous, or if tenure itself should continue to be reformed to guarantee maximum accountability for teachers.

NBC Hosts 2012 National Summit “Education Nation”

The Education Nation National Summit is “NBC News’ initiative to engage the country in a solutions-focused conversation about the state of education in America.” This year’s summit will be held at the New York Public Library’s headquarters in midtown Manhattan from September 23 to 25. Over 300 innovative professionals are expected to attend, and the New York Public Library will partner with NBC News to offer free programming at library branches throughout the entire city during the week leading up to the summit. The focus for this year’s Education Nation summit is “innovation in education.”

According to NBC News President Steve Capus, “The goal of this year’s ‘Education Nation’ Summit is to showcase and discuss solutions in education, and the New York Public Library is a great partner to help us host this important national conversation … The NYPL is at the forefront of the power of educational programming and how to broaden access beyond the walls of its buildings, and we are looking forward to the opportunity to bring ‘Education Nation’ to more people both locally in New York and across the country.”

Illinois Strengthens Bilingual Education Program

In 2010, Illinois was the first state to require bilingual preschool programs. Now, the state has taken the initiative to evaluate and strengthen bilingual education programs across all its schools. On August 9, Governor Pat Quinn signed HB-3819 into law, which proposes the creation of “parent academies” to involve parents whose first language is not English in their children’s education. The bill, which was unanimously passed, also requires an evaluation of the success of bilingual programs.

Governor Pat Quinn says, “Understanding that language is really the window to understanding another culture. We do not want to be tongue-tied Americans, we want to make sure we understand language as much as we can… .”

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