Education Week - August 23, 2017 - 1
VOL. 37, NO. 1 * AUGUST 23, 2017
In Va. District,
Back to School
Charlottesville Works to Assure
Safe Return After Violent Protests
During her days as a 4th grade teacher in
Charlottesville, Va., Janette Martin remembers
taking students on field trips to the site of the
city's controversial statue of Confederate Gen.
Robert E. Lee.
The place Martin often used to enliven Civil
War history lessons has now become synonymous with something else entirely: a textbook
example of hate.
In the wake of a violent white nationalist and neo-Nazi protest that erupted at the
site that resulted in three deaths and dozens of injuries, preparations for the Aug. 23
start of the school year in this racially mixed
district of 4,200 students took on a somber
District students and staff were among those
injured during the violence-and parents, including the school board president, now have
reservations about allowing their children to
walk and bike the streets.
"We saw it, we felt it, and it was my hope that
children in the 21st century, our children today,
would never have to have images like that in
their minds. Visible images of hate and racism,"
Charlottesville schools Superintendent Rosa
Atkins said in an interview. "But unfortunately
Atkins and Pamela Moran, the superintendent of the nearby Albemarle County,
Va., schools-along with their school board
presidents-quoted the U.S. Constitution in
issuing a joint statement after the violence
that condemned the Aug. 12 rally organized
to protest the planned removal of the statue
"Most of it is about power, supremacy,"
said Martin, a retired teacher and president
of the Albemarle-Charlottesville NAACP
branch. "The [education system] has to come
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Amanda L. Smith for Education Week
By Corey Mitchell
Assistant Teacher Kimberly Fisher talks with a student preparing for kindergarten at the Prairie Mountain School in Eugene, Ore.
Seeking a Smooth On-Ramp to Kindergarten
Easing the Transition to This Early Grade Can Yield Dividends Later On
By Christina A. Samuels
The kindergartners are coming.
And these children, nearly 4 million strong
in the 2017-18 class, are more likely than any
other grade to be a blank slate to their teachers.
But states, districts, and individual schools are
working to change that, by creating transition
programs to ease children's entry into school.
In some areas with publicly funded pre-K,
teachers are huddling to share information
about children's strengths and weaknesses
with the kindergarten teachers who will educate them next. In other areas, some districts
have created their own programs, such as short-
Tax Breaks for Big-Box Stores
Can Drain Money From Schools
By Francisco Vara-Orta
Paying attention to how much nearby
corporate retailers pay in property
taxes may not be a priority for most
school district leaders, but some policymakers think that could change soon.
Across the country, retailers-in particular big-box stores-are pushing
back on how local governments assess
the value of their properties with the
goal of lowering their tax bills. Using
a tactic known as "dark store theory,"
retailers and their legal teams are increasingly arguing that the massive
stores they operate ought to be appraised as if they were vacant or "dark."
When they succeed, the annual property taxes that retailers pay-which
help fund public schools in most local
communities-can drop precipitously.
The retailers, most of them corporate giants such as Target, Lowe's, and
Home Depot, contend the large buildings their stores occupy-typically
more than 100,000 square feet-are
difficult to sell because they are customized to a particular retailer. They argue
their stores, even if they are brand new
and bustling with business, shouldn't
be assessed at the "best and highest
use"-which is how most assessors determine how much tax they owe-but
PAGE 18 >
term summer classes that give young children a
taste of what kindergarten will be like or home
visits that allow teachers, parents, and children
to connect in a familiar environment.
These programs do more than calm first-day
jitters or ease the minds of anxious parents. Research demonstrates that children and teachers
reap tangible benefits when schools engage in
more transition activities. Parents initiate more
involvement in school during the kindergarten
year, and children end the year with measurably higher academic achievement.
The same research, however, has shown that
the pupils for whom this impact is strongest-
children from low socioeconomic backgrounds-
tend to attend schools that are the least likely
to offer transition activities.
That is not true everywhere, however. At
Maconce Elementary in rural Ira, Mich.,
where about 75 percent of the children are
eligible for free or reduced-price lunches,
the principal and the kindergarten teachers
have made an effort to conduct home visits
with every incoming child. It's challenging
to do some years-this year, for example, the
300-student school is still down one kindergarten teacher-but it has been a worthwhile
practice in creating a positive relationship
with students and parents right away, said
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Betsy DeVos Stalls as Tenure Hits Six-Month Mark
By Alyson Klein
When U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy
DeVos came into office, many in the education community were terrified the billionaire school choice advocate would
quickly use her new perch to privatize
education and run roughshod over traditional public schools.
Maybe they shouldn't have been quite
so worried. Six months into her new job,
a politically hamstrung DeVos is having
a tough time getting even the lowest-lift
elements of her agenda off the ground.
* Key Republicans in Congress have
already dealt a big blow to her signature
school choice ambitions by giving them the
cold shoulder in the budget process.
* She's way behind in staffing the Educa-
tion Department, including top positions.
* State chiefs and local superintendents
complain about mixed messages coming
from her department on just how free they
are to set their own course on policy.
* One of her closest Capitol Hill allies
has taken a key member of her team to
task over implementation of the Every
Student Succeeds Act, arguably the
most important K-12 item on the department's plate.
* Protestors continue to dog her public
appearances, making it harder for her to
take advantage of one of the most important tools in her arsenal: the bully pulpit.
And DeVos, who was approved by the
Senate Feb. 7 after a bruising confirmation process, remains a polarizing figPAGE 25 >
Track how the
is faring on key
after a half-year