NPR’s weekly education roundup is back after a short hiatus. This edition features a longer list to catch you up on the news you may have missed over the long, hot summer.
1. Student loan ombudsman resigns, and slams the door
In a scathing resignation letter, provided to NPR, Seth Frotman, the top official in charge of protecting students at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, said the Trump administration “has turned its back on young people and their financial futures.”
2. NPR investigation finds two-thirds of reported school shootings didn’t happen
This spring, the federal Civil Rights Data Collection reported 235 incidents in which a gun went off at a school in the 2015-16 school year. NPR reached out to all those schools. Out of the three-quarters that responded, we confirmed just 11 incidents. (One researcher said this was the first time the federal survey asked about firearms, and schools may not have been prepared to respond.)
3. The number of chronically absent students is on the rise
Nearly 8 million students were chronically absent in the 2015-16 school year, according to a new analysis of the Civil Rights Data Collection by the advocacy group Attendance Works. That’s up from the 2013-14 numbers. (Yes, this is the same Civil Rights Data Collection referenced in our story above; however, according to the nonprofit Child Trends, measurements of more common items, such as absences, have a higher likelihood of being accurate than a very rare event, such as a shooting.)
Another analysis of this large data collection found students missed over 11 million days of school in 2015-16 because of suspensions.
4. A new study casts doubt on the “30 million word gap”
This is the notion that children growing up in poverty hear dramatically fewer words, harming their language development. Turns out, it may not be 30 million words, and it may not be best to think of it as a gap.
5. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is changing the rules on borrowers
She’s making it tougher for defrauded students to get their loans forgiven.
6. A national Gallup poll finds 7 in 10 parents are “completely” or “somewhat” satisfied with their children’s education
But when you ask Americans about the quality of K-12 education generally in the U.S., only 48 percent are satisfied.
7. For-profit colleges left students with debt and no better financial prospects
The Center for Responsible Lending, a consumer advocacy group, interviewed 75 people in Florida who had attended for-profit colleges in the last 10 years, and who borrowed to finance their educations. The study found respondents left school with a median $22,000 debt, but with no better financial well-being than the average high school graduate.
8. Problems with the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program
A story in Mother Jones details a pattern of errors and other issues with a company called FedLoan Servicing that is leaving many Public Service Loan Forgiveness participants with ruined credit and mounting debt. Our own reporting has documented a similar pattern of errors by the same company, affecting the TEACH Grant program, which is specifically for teachers.
9. A Parkland parent won her school board election
Lori Alhadeff lost her daughter Alyssa in the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. “On Valentine’s Day my daughter was brutally shot down and murdered and I became a school safety activist,” she told NPR in June.
On August 28, she won her school board race. Other education-related candidates who fared well this summer include Wisconsin’s state school superintendent, Tony Evers, who secured the Democratic nomination for governor; and Jahana Hayes, the 2016 National Teacher of the Year, who is on a path to become Connecticut’s first black Democrat in Congress. The American Federation of Teachers counts more than 250 members who are running for office at all levels nationwide, which it says is triple the number who ran in each of the last two election cycles.
10. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation announces $92 million in grants
One of the nation’s largest philanthropies, the Gates Foundation, has been associated in the past with “big ideas,” like measuring teacher effectiveness and creating small schools. The problem: By their own metrics, these initiatives didn’t work.
In the last week of August, they trumpeted a new approach: give $92 million in 13 states to help networks of schools collaborate and improve on what’s already working, testing and refining as they go.
(The foundation also supports NPR’s coverage, including of education.)
Bonus: The top high school play and musical
Sacrebleu! Beauty and the Beast was the most popular high school musical in the 2017-18 school year, according to Dramatics magazine. The publication has been tracking school theater productions since 1938.
Almost, Maine, an anthology of scenes, was the top play. (Fun fact: That play flopped in its original production.)