Education Week - August 19, 2015 - (Page 46)

LETTERS to the EDITOR STEM education and its potential for preparing our students for a vastly different world and workforce. Ron Ottinger Executive Director Noyce Foundation Los Altos, Calif. Is Out-of-School Learning The Key to STEM Success? To the Editor: The excellent blog post "The Candy Bar Effect: More Research Needed on STEM Programs' Impact" (Time and Learning blog,, June 30, 2015) deftly identifies the challenges involved in developing and evaluating "learning ecosystems" that support science, technology, engineering, and mathmatics learning for children. There's little doubt that resolving those challenges will require educators and policymakers to think differently about how the hours during and after school can be used to reinforce mastery of these important skills. This fall, the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation and the Robert Noyce Foundation will convene experts from government, business, and education for the nation's first STEM summit focusing specifically on the importance of after- and out-of-school hours in reshaping learning in these subjects. As noted in the blog post, if we seek positive impact through STEM education, we must begin to think beyond the traditional school day and utilize the hours after school and during the summer to give students alternative opportunities to learn. And if we are to achieve real education reform, we need to think through how we evaluate these programs-in school and out-to develop models that promote excellence. We believe collaboration is key to achieving this outcome. We encourage educators and policymakers to use the National Research Council's new report, "Identifying and Supporting Productive STEM Programs in Out-of-School Settings," as a platform for further exploration of Gwynn Hughes Program Officer Charles Stewart Mott Foundation Flint, Mich. Overtime-Pay Conversation Should Include Teachers To the Editor: President Barack Obama recently announced plans for changes in overtimepay regulations, and, for at least a moment, many teachers' ears perked up. The proposed revision would increase the income threshold below which workers qualify for overtime pay to slightly more than $50,000, a move that, if applicable to them, would place the salary of many new teachers below the overtime cutoff. However, provisions of the proposed rules prevent teachers from seeing any benefit. While teachers hoping for an extra paycheck may be disappointed, the national conversation on what President Obama calls a "fair day's pay" should not be allowed to pass the schoolhouse by. It is an opportunity to recognize, and remediate, the fact that teachers in this country are underpaid relative to the requirements and importance of their jobs. Teachers work on average 10 hours and 40 minutes a day during the school year, according to a 2012 report issued by Scholastic and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Moreover, the teachers whose salaries fall lowest on the pay scale, particularly new teachers, are likely to be those putting in even greater hours as they adjust to the job. Yet, the average starting salary of teachers in nearly every state falls below the proposed overtime threshold. The call for increasing teacher pay is not new, but if policymakers are ready to acknowledge that a salary below $50,000 necessitates compensation for overtime hours, then we should also recognize that teachers are no exception. We know that who is in front of the class has important implications for student outcomes. It is time that we also recognize that what happens in front of the class is made possible through that person's work outside the classroom-planning lessons, grading papers, and mentoring students, among much else. As the nation considers revisions to overtime pay, let us also consider revisions to teacher compensation. Let us recognize that it is only fair for "fair pay" to apply to educators as well as others in the workforce. F. Chris Curran Assistant Professor of Public Policy University of Maryland, Baltimore County Baltimore, Md. A Thank You to Congress On ESEA Reauthorization To the Editor: Based on our institutional experience as an advocacy organization, Congress appears to be designed not to pass countless laws, but rather to stop bad laws from being passed. The recent trend for Congress to see things over-the-line only when it is backed into a corner-witness the legislating-through-crisis budget battles of late-has proved detrimental to the nation's schools, as educators languish under No Child Left Behind, the current version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act that is now nearly eight years past due for reauthorization. Fortunately, the trend ended this summer for education, as the House and the Senate passed reauthorization proposals for the ESEA through their respective chambers ("ESEA Rewrite: What to Expect From House-Senate Conference," Politcs K-12 blog,, July 20, 2015). For the first time in nearly 14 years, Congress is poised to advance a conference bill to the president's desk, where he can sign into law an updated ESEA that provides relief from the broken, outdated tenets of current law. We commend Congress. These efforts reflect a deliberate effort to focus on our nation's schools and the students they serve. These actions truly put kids first. We agree with many others that education is the civil rights issue of this generation. Education is an unparalleled lever out of poverty. This is a prime opportunity to invest in and support the needs of the students who require our help the most. Complete reauthorization, when done right, will involve compromise, which, by definition, means everyone will be a little unhappy. This is unavoidable, because education support has no room for zero-sum, my-way-or-the-highway policies. ESEA reauthorization represents an opportunity to breathe new life into federal education policy, incorporating the latest research and on-site experience into efforts to improve outcomes and eliminate achievement gaps. We stand ready to work with policymakers as they continue to move forward with those efforts. Our students want and deserve more. Daniel A. Domenech Executive Director AASA, The School Superintendents Association Alexandria, Va. COMMENTARY POLICY Education Week takes no editorial positions, but publishes opinion essays and letters from outside contributors in its Commentary section. For information about submitting an essay or letter for review, visit How Do We Help Students With Mental-Health Issues Return to School? Getty CONTINUED FROM PAGE 45 again and this time did not return. Molly and her colleagues still don't know whether the girl moved, transferred to another school, was rehospitalized, or attempted to take her life again and, this time, completed the act. There are so many wrongs that need righting in this story, and I certainly don't have adequate answers. I can, however, offer some points to consider when addressing mental-health-related school transitions. First, teachertraining programs need to include youth mental health in preservice teachers' curricula. This topic is essential to learning and healthy youth development, and it deserves to be highlighted in educational programs, not tacked on as an afterthought. As I wrote in Education Week more than two years ago, teachers often spend more time with young people than anyone else, and thus are critically positioned to identify mental-health challenges and work collaboratively with school counselors and psychologists. This is a daunting task, however. We can't overhaul teacher education 46 | EDUCATION WEEK | August 19, 2015 | overnight, but we could start with something simple, like creating best practices for how to help a student who has been away transition back to school successfully. Here are some key questions that should be addressed in creating these potential "transition programs": * How might the disclosure of a mental illness (or an emotional/behavioral disorder) influence an adolescent's social relationships in school (above and beyond the physical, cognitive, and emotional effects of a particular disorder)? * How could we support a young person in completing the potentially perplexing task of explaining to peers where he or she had been, and why? * How could school staff members be made secure enough in their knowledge and understanding to receive children returning from residential treatment with confident and open arms? * How could we prepare and encourage all the students in a classroom or school to welcome with sensitivity and empathy a peer returning from hospitalization? Young people undoubtedly have questions when a classmate is mysteriously absent, and we need to have honest conversations with them about the mental-health challenges that others are facing and that they, themselves, might one day face. We also need to respect each student's right to privacy while negotiating the occasional need for shared information among school, family, and medical personnel. This entire endeavor can seem beyond our capacity. But it's not. We need a coalition of committed educators, mental-health professionals, policymakers, and families to confront this issue collectively, and we need research to guide effective back-toschool interventions and supports. Our youths deserve it, and if we are to keep them healthy and in school-let alone engaged and thriving-we need a plan. To do nothing is analogous to being too afraid to use the word "suicide" in schools when all the evidence suggests that talking (and writing) about suicide openly and accurately will, in fact, decrease the likelihood of it happening. n

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - August 19, 2015

Education Week - August 19, 2015
News in Brief
Report Roundup
Rookie Principals’ Group Sheds Light on Early-Career Challenges
Education Week Acquires Television Production Company
Historians See AP U.S. History Revisions as ‘Evenhanded’
Handcuffing of Students Reignites Debate On Use of Restraint
Study Casts Doubt on Impact of Teacher Professional Development
Teachers Use Minecraft to Fuel Creative Ideas, Analytical Thinking
Blogs of the Week
Education Stakes Are High in Ky., La., and Miss. Governor Races
Accountability 3.0: What Will State Systems Look Like?
Budget Deadline Could Put Education Programs at Risk
Blogs of the Week
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
How Do We Help Students With Mental-Health Issues Return to School?
Lessons From Successful School Improvement Grants
2005: In the Wake of Hurricane Katrina
Do We Need Quality Assurance for Teacher Feedback?

Education Week - August 19, 2015