national newsletter

How familiar faces push kids to show up to school

Welcome to Chalkbeat’s national newsletter! Sarah Darville, Matt Barnum, and Francisco Vara-Orta here, working to help you make sense of efforts to improve education across the country. Sign up for any of Chalkbeat’s newsletters here.

The big story

Our colleagues in Detroit recently published a series of stories about how often the city’s students switch schools. Those students also tend to have worse academic outcomes. Some say making and losing friends takes a toll, too.

“It makes you feel like you ain’t got no one to talk to,” one Detroit student said.

Today, we have a look at new research showing how that sort of social disruption can affect whether students show up to school. It offers new evidence that keeping groups of students together year after year could reduce absenteeism — something that many states are now holding schools accountable for addressing for the first time.

When kids know their peers, “Students don’t have to adjust as much to making new friends or relationships and figuring out, I don’t want to hang around this kid,” said Jacob Kirksey of the University of California Santa Barbara, one of the paper’s authors. “That sort of cognitive overload may cause kids some unintended consequences.”

This doesn’t mean that new situations are always bad — research shows that’s not true either. But one of Kirksey’s takeaways is that students moving from class to class or school to school may need extra support.

“It is to say, we need to keep a particular eye on this kid,” he said. Read the full story here.


Local stories to watch

  • The effort to raise teacher pay has created strange bedfellows in Indiana. The state’s teachers union, Republican leaders, and education advocacy groups are all working to add teacher raises into the next budget — an example of how the national conversation around teacher pay is playing out, even in states without major protests this year.
  • New York City’s education department is poised to take over some programs for children as young as six weeks old. It’s a sign that the city sees education as beginning at birth, several years after introducing universal pre-K.
  • Teachers at Chicago’s Noble charter schools say the CEO’s downfall could bolster their unionization efforts. “We’ve always been asked to trust the judgment of [founder Michael] Milkie and Noble’s administration,” one teacher said. “This shows we can’t really trust their judgment.”

Research round-up

  • There’s more evidence of a gender pay gap in teaching, according to a new study. Using national data, the paper finds a $12,000 average difference in the raw incomes of male and female K-12 educators, including administrators. Some of that seems to exist because men are more likely to have additional jobs outside of teaching. Looking just at salaries, the study finds a pay gap of nearly $5,000. That’s very similar to a separate Pennsylvania study we previously wrote about.
  • More education research partnerships around the corner: The Michigan Department of Education just announced a partnership with researchers at Michigan State University to make state data more accessible. That’s being funded by the Arnold Foundation. Meanwhile, debates continue about whether and how to create a research collaborative in Washington, D.C. The Washington City Paper has the latest developments, and Arne Duncan weighed in with an op-ed highlighting what he’d learned from the longstanding research partnership between Chicago Public Schools and the University of Chicago.

DeVos watch

After the storm: Education Secretary Betsy DeVos visited an elementary and a high school in Florida this week to see how their communities are recovering from Hurricane Michael.

Facing more scrutiny: With Democrats poised to take control of the House, DeVos and her department could face pushback from as many as five House committees, Politico reports.

On message: In a segment on Fox Business, Betsy DeVos stuck to her usual talking points — that public schools haven’t changed or improved in many years, and that school choice and innovation, not spending more money, are the solutions. (We’ve previously fact-checked DeVos’s claims about school spending.) DeVos reiterated concerns that there has been too much focus on math and reading tests. She also criticized teachers unions, prompting sharp words from AFT President Randi Weingarten.


Names to note

Lupita Cortez Alcalá will be the chief deputy superintendent at the California Department of Education.

The Boston mayor’s education chief, Rahn Dorsey, is stepping down.

Chicago schools CEO Janice Jackson is on the the transition team of J.B. Pritzker, who was just elected governor of Illinois.

Harold Levy, the New York City schools chancellor from 2000 to 2002, has died at the age of 65.

Tony Niknejad, who previously worked at the pro-voucher group American Federation for Children, was named policy director for Tennessee’s governor-elect Bill Lee.

Former Louisiana schools chief Paul Pastorek is set to consult at $250 an hour for Puerto Rico’s Department of Education.

Daniel Scarpinato, a former education reporter for the Arizona Daily Star, has been named chief of staff for Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey.

Ahnna Smith, previously the District of Columbia’s interim deputy mayor for education, has been appointed executive director of D.C’s Workforce Investment Council.


What we’re reading

  • “Okay, so I’m going to tell you guys a horror story.” What happened when a journalist returned to the segregation academy he attended: Clarion Ledger  
  • Education reformers shouldn’t give up on standards and testing, argues Sandy Kress, the former education adviser to President George W. Bush, in response to the discussion at a Center on Reinventing Public Education event we highlighted last week. The 74
  • It was “wrongheaded” of the paper’s editorial board in 1954 to not support the integration of New Orleans’ schools, its current leaders write. The Times-Picayune
  • Howard Fuller worries about how many students at the charter school he started won’t complete higher education, despite being prepped well in high school. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
  • Arizona’s new schools chief is the first Democrat elected to that office in 31 years. Here’s one set of ideas for what she should do with her limited leverage. Arizona Republic
  • Ivanka Trump and Apple CEO Tim Cook visited an Idaho school district together Tuesday. ABC News
  • Teachers of color are disproportionately failing a high-stakes licensure exam in Florida. WPTV
  • Newly elected California schools superintendent Tony Thurmond is doubling down on his call for a temporary ban on new charter schools. Politico

Photo: Anthony Lanzilote