OREGON STATE BOARD BANS NATIVE AMERICAN-THEMED MASCOTS — In a 5-1 vote, the Oregon State Board of Education banned Native American-themed mascots. Schools there have until 2017 to get rid of all references to tribal customs and traditions in sports or will face state funding cuts. Supporters of the ban have worked for years to eliminate race-based mascots and team names, arguing these images encourage stereotypes, promulgate racism, and adversely impact students’ health and safety. State board member Samuel Henry said that after reading at least 25 studies about the issue, “I could not find any research that substantiated the use of those mascots.” Opponents of the mascot ban worry the policy will destroy years of tradition and making the changes will also place undue financial burdens on schools already working under tight budgets. Source: Oregonian (5/17/12) 

10 To 15 PERCENT OF STUDENTS CHRONICALLY ABSENT, STUDY FINDS — A new report from the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University estimates that at least one in 10 students misses a month of school every year. The actual figure is an estimate because it is based only on data from the six states (GA, FL, MD, NE, OR, and RI) that actually track chronic absenteeism. The report found absenteeism occurs at all grade levels (more than 20 percent of kindergarteners in Oregon were chronically absent) and that students living at or near poverty were more likely to miss school. In poor rural areas, about 25 percent of students missed a month or more of school each year, while in high-poverty urban areas one-third of students were chronically absent. In tracking a cohort of 6th graders throughout their middle and high school years, the researchers found 20 percent of Florida students missed the equivalent of a full year of school. Because missing school is strongly linked to lower achievement, the authors said that finding ways to get more students to school would, “even without improvements in the American education system…, drive up achievement, high school graduation, and college attainment rates.” The report is available here.

More states have been taking actions recently to combat truancy. In Connecticut, state Education Commissioner Stephan Pryor said the department will present a recommendation for a statewide definition of what is an “excused” or “unexcused” absence to the state board at its next meeting. ”By establishing a standard definition … we will be able to better understand the problems in this area, and to provide interventions and support as needed,” Pryor said. Sources: The Importance of Being in School (5/16/12), Education Week (5/17/12), Connecticut Mirror (5/17/12)                               

NO ACTION TAKEN ON INTERVENTION TIMELINE FOR MISSOURI DISTRICTS — Missouri’s House Education Committee killed a Senate bill that would have let state education officials intervene in districts that lose accreditation more quickly than standing law allows. State law prevents the state board of education and education department from stepping in until a district has been without accreditation for two years. The Senate measure would have permitted immediate intervention, but the House committee’s chairman refused to hold a vote on the legislation unless the Senate approved a bill that would have eliminated seniority from being a factor in teacher layoffs. This did not occur before the legislature adjourned May 17. Two of the state’s largest districts, Kansas City and St. Louis, are both unaccredited and have been the focus of lawsuits and debate. A recent court decision held that a state law requiring unaccredited school districts pay transfer expenses for students who want to attend school in an accredited district is unconstitutional (Headline Review, May 4). Sources: Kansas City Star (5/18/12), STLBeacon (5/24/12), (Jefferson City) News Tribune (5/19/12) 

LOUISIANA BILL WOULD LET VOTERS SET SCHOOL BOARD TERM LIMITS Gov. Bobby Jindal was sent a bill by lawmakers that would allow voters to determine whether local school board members should be limited to three consecutive terms. If signed, a proposition on this November’s ballot would give voters the opportunity to make the decision for their district. The term limits of no more than 12 consecutive years in office are already imposed on state lawmakers and the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education members. The bill would be effective beginning Jan. 1, 2014. Source: Times-Picayune (5/22/12)

FEDERAL UPDATE
U.S. Department of Education Releases Guidelines for Race to the Top Competition for School Districts  The U.S. Department of Education unveiled the latest Race to the Top competition, with $417 million available to school districts. The Department will award an average of $25 million per award based on student enrollment in a winning district. Comments on the RFP will be accepted until June 8, and after reviewing the comments and making any necessary and appropriate changes, the Department will release the grant application later this summer. Go to http://www.ed.gov/race-top/district-competition for more information.

MARYLAND LAW REQUIRES SOCIAL STUDIES EXAM AS GRAD REQUIREMENT — Students in Maryland’s graduating class of 2017 (this fall’s 9th graders) will have to pass a test about government before they are allowed to get a diploma. A newly signed state law requires the exam, which the state board of education dropped last year because of budget constraints. The board voted to renew the mandate last month after lawmakers passed the bill. The law also calls on the state  board to develop middle school core subject exams, including one for social studies, in time for the 2014-15 school year. Further, the measure directs the state education department to survey how much class time is spent on science and social studies, courses that are not covered under federal education law and thus not subject to the same level of standardized testing and accompanying scrutiny. Source: Baltimore Sun (5/22/12)

ILLINOIS ANTI-BULLYING FALLS ONE VOTE SHORT IN SENATE — An Illinois bill that would have required school anti-bullying policies fell by a single vote in the state Senate after opponents contended it had a “pro-homosexual agenda.” The measure would have required schools to explain how they would investigate instances of bullying, the discipline in store for bullies, and included a provision for anonymous submission of bullying allegations and a policy statement that bullying is illegal. Some groups wanted an allowance that students or teachers could skip lessons or events, such as assemblies, that conflicted with their religious beliefs. There is still a chance that the legislature may pass the bill. Source: (Champaign) News-Gazette (5/22/12)

 

** ANNOUNCEMENTS **

MAKE PLANS FOR CHICAGO THIS OCTOBER! Join us Oct. 11-13 at NASBE’s Annual Conference on Evidence-Based Policymaking and Innovation as we ask The Future is Now…What’s Next?” Among the highlights already scheduled are addresses by U.S. Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education Deborah Delisle and 2012 National Teacher of the Year Rebecca Mieliwocki.

 SCIENCE STANDARDS OPEN FOR PUBLIC COMMENT — The draft Next Generation Science Standards will be available for public comment until June 1. The science standards are being developed by a consortium of 26 states, in collaboration with science teachers, scientists, and expert researchers in the field, with Achieve acting as the operating agent for the development of the standards. The Next Generation Science Standards are voluntary, state-led, and no federal funds or incentives have been used to develop, adopt, or implement the standards. To comment on the draft science standards visit http://www.nextgenscience.org/.

FIND OUT WHAT “GREEN CLEANING” CAN MEAN FOR SCHOOLS in the latest issue of NASBE’s award-winning journal, The State Education Standard. Read “Green Cleaning Schools” to learn just exactly what “green cleaning” means, how to recognize certified green products, examples of how states have implemented green cleaning policies, and more! Go to http://goo.gl/js1hU to purchase copies or examine downloadable articles. 

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