Violence and bullying may be declining in schools
Data from two new National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) studies suggest that the rate of violence and bullying in schools may be decreasing. A study released yesterday, Public School Safety and Discipline: 2013-14, reports overall violent incidents at school occurred at a rate of 15.8 incidents per 1,000 students in school year (SY) 2013-2014, with serious violent incidents occurring at a rate of .5 incidents per 1,000 students. In SY 2009/2010, NCES reported the rate of overall violent incidents at 25 incidents per 1,000 students, and the rate of serious violent incidents at 1.1 incidents per 1,000 students. Both studies are based on voluntary responses to a survey of a representative sample of schools and contain detailed notes on levels of data reliability.
According to an NCES report released earlier this month, a national survey of students reveals that the rate of bullying incidents in schools may also be on the decline. According to an NCES blog:
The School Crime Supplement (SCS) to the National Crime Victimization Survey collects data on bullying by asking a nationally representative sample of students ages 12-18 if they had been bullied at school. In 2013, about 22 percent of students reported being bullied at school during the school year. This percentage was lower than the percentage reported in every prior survey year in which these data were collected (28 percent each in 2005, 2009, and 2011 and 32 percent in 2007).
For more information on the serious problem of bullying in schools and what can be done to address it, visit NEA's Bully Free: It Starts With Me campaign site.
Seattle turned down for NCLB waiver
The Department of Education (ED) declined a request by Seattle public schools for an NCLB waiver. Seattle felt that its teacher evaluation and overall accountability system met the requirements for a waiver, and in a May 7 letter Assistant Secretary of Education Deborah Delisle told Seattle she appreciated the district's collaborative work with stakeholders developing a teacher and principal evaluation system. Delisle added, however, that as Washington state continues to express a desire for a waiver, "I do not believe it would be prudent for me to grant waivers to an individual district that would enable it to operate outside the State's accountability system." A copy of ED's letter was posted by EdWeek.
NEA responds to PARCC reduction in testing time
NEA today expressed cautious encouragement at a decision Wednesday by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) Governing Board to reduce testing time and simplify test administration. "The PARCC Governing Board listened to students, parents, and educators who want more time to learn and less testing and test prep," said NEA President Lily Eskelsen García in a statement. "We are studying exactly what the board removed from the assessment, but this is a step in the right direction." PARCC plans to consolidate two testing windows into one and to reduce test time by about 90 minutes.
Studies affirm NEA's call to raise standards for early childhood educators
Last week the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) released the State of Preschool 2014, an annual report profiling state-funded prekindergarten programs in the United States. The yearbook compares each state's preschool program standards against a checklist of 10 research-based quality benchmarks. Four of the 10 benchmarks are related to the education and training of preschool teachers and teacher assistants. A notable finding of the report is the troubling number of state-funded preschool programs with inadequate requirements for preschool teacher preparation. According to NIEER, only 30 of the 53 state-funded preschool programs require teachers to hold a bachelor's degree. In 2010, NEA published a policy brief, Raising Standards for Early Childhood Professionals Will Lead to Better Outcomes, addressing educator preparation issues. NEA recommends that "all teachers working in publicly funded preschool programs hold a bachelor's degree in child development and/or early childhood education."
Similarly, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) and National Research Council (NRC) recently released a report, Transforming the Workforce for Children Birth through Age 8: A Unifying Foundation, wherein experts also recommend lead teachers of young children have a minimum of a bachelor's degree with specialized knowledge and competencies specific to working with children from birth through age eight. NEA, NIEER, and IOM/NCR recognize that achieving this goal will take time, incentives, and supports from states and the federal government to enable teachers currently working in preschool programs to obtain the recommended credentials without further compromising the quality of and access to preschool programs for young children.
ED tells Colorado opt-outs must be counted in test participation rate
In an April 28 letter ruling on several waiver requests from Colorado, ED said that Colorado must count students who opt-out of testing when calculating whether 95 percent of students have participated in a required ESEA test. Standardized testing is still required under the NCLB waiver program, though states now have more flexibility in how test scores are used in their accountability systems.
The treatment of families who decline to have their children take standardized tests, a growing movement around the country, is also under consideration in Congress as it prepares to pass a new ESEA bill. To learn more about state and local opt-out laws, read NEA's analysis here.
90 percent national graduation rate within reach, but gaps must be addressed
Recent data show that the country's record 81 percent graduation rate sets the nation on course to potentially reach 90 percent by 2020. According to the 2015 Grad Nation Report, which highlighted the data in its annual analysis of graduation rate progress, reaching a 90 percent graduation rate will require prioritizing students with disabilities, large school districts and states, as well as minority and low-income students. Among the report's specific recommendations: eradicate zero-tolerance policies; expand the use of early warning indicators; and, make state funding of schools more equitable. NEA supports maintaining a national focus on dropout prevention, including strategies that engage students, foster collaboration, intervene during middle grades, and provide professional development.
Take Action: ESEA heads to Senate floor
ESEA legislation is heading to the Senate floor soon where a wide range of amendments are likely to be debated. Will the final bill prioritize testing or teaching? Will it promote punishments or supports for schools? Tell your Senators to get ESEA right and pass a bill that focuses on opportunity for all, ensures more time for students to learn, and empowers educators to lead.