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IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Cameron to open 450 new free schools by 2020 if he remains PM David Cameron has announced a plan to create 49 new free schools, adding to over 400 such institutions having been approved since the policy was launched in 2010. The list of new schools—due to open in September 2016—includes all-through schools (combining primary and secondary education), faith schools, and alternative provision free schools, which offer education outside mainstream schools, to create 230,000 places across the country (The Guardian, 3/8/15). Social-emotional programs pay off Social-emotional programs in schools may be worth the investment. The Center for Benefit-Cost Studies of Education has found that for every dollar spent on six programs studied, schools received $11 in benefits (Education Week, 2/26/15). NYC schools to close for Muslim holy days New York City is joining at least six other districts nationwide in closing schools for two Muslim holy days—Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha. Some municipalities in Massachusetts, Michigan, and New Jersey have also made provisions to recognize these holidays. Mayor Bill de Blasio described the policy that takes effect in the coming school year as a simple “matter of fairness“ (The New York Times, 3/4/15). Liberia reopens schools following Ebola outbreak Schools in Liberia reopened in February after being closed for six months due to the Ebola outbreak, which left thousands dead in this West African country. Many schools are taking safety precautions, imposing hand-washing and temperature checks (U.S. News & World Report, 2/16/15). Teachers mixed on Common Core, support blended learning According to an internal poll conducted among members of the Association of American Educators, more than nine out of 10 U.S. teachers report using technology in the classroom. Two-thirds said they support the idea of a blended classroom, where students spend part of the school day working with a teacher and part working on a computer. A similar number stated they like the idea of requiring students to take at least one online course before they graduate. Slightly more than half said they have an “unfavorable” opinion about the learning standards in the Common Core. Only three out of 10 felt the standards would improve the quality of education; 36 percent said they believe they’ll have no impact; and 34 percent said they believe they’ll have an “adverse effect” (Dian Schaffhauser, T.H.E. Journal, 02/09/15). Record number of U.S. high school students graduate in 4 years According to recent data, 81% of high school students in the U.S. are now graduating within four years. This marks the highest rate since 2010, when states began reporting data uniformly (U.S. News & World Report, 2/12/15). Graduation rate gap increasing between black and white males in the U.S. A new report from the Schott Foundation for Public Education points to persistent systemic disparities in opportunity between black and white males in the U.S. education system. The latest estimates for high school graduation rates are 59 percent for black males, 65 percent for Latino males, and 80 percent for white, non-Latino males. Since 2012, the graduation gap between black and white males has increased from 18 to 21 percentage points. The findings additionally confirm higher out-of-school suspension rates for black males, despite no evidence of greater school misbehavior, and lower Advanced Placement enrollment, with less access to AP courses in schools that serve more black students (blackboysreport.org). I want to be a teacher According to a new study, more than one in 10 secondary school pupils in the U.K. would choose education as their preferred career, despite many having inaccurate salary expectations (The Daily Telegraph, 3/10/15). Can a font help students with dyslexia? A Mississippi school is testing a special font—created by a graphic designer with dyslexia—on assignments for students with the disorder. Teachers say the font has made reading easier for some students (The Clarion-Ledger, 2/22/15). Is virtual education falling out of favor? There are more than 300 virtual schools in operation nationwide, according to the National Education Policy Center. Some reports question the quality of these programs, educator Jen Karetnick writes. Because they are not accredited in the same manner as traditional public and private institutions, a student’s credits often don’t transfer from one state to another. Moreover, the temptation to cheat is almost irresistible (The Atlantic online, 2/20/15). The U.K.’s engineering graduates may get a dedicated university A consortium of business people and academics is trying to raise the money to create Britain’s first new university in 40 years to address a shortage of engineering graduates. The New Model in Technology and Engineering would open in Herefordshire, one of only four English counties without a university. Advocates must find £20 million to recruit staff and develop the university’s first teaching building and residence halls (The Times, 3/5/15).
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