Education Week - September 12, 2018 - 1

Education Week

VOL. 38, NO. 4 * SEPTEMBER 12, 2018

AMERICAN EDUCATION'S NEWSPAPER OF RECORD * © 2018 Editorial Projects in Education * $ 6


DNA Testing
Seeks Answers
For Dyslexia
But Some Worry Students Could
Become Stigmatized by Results

Gretchen Ertl for Education Week

By Sarah D. Sparks

Julie Latessa sings to students in a summer learning program in Providence, R.I., earlier this summer. The program is part of coordinated
efforts between the city and school district to boost students' academic performance and overall well-being.

Thriving Students Are the Goal of City, District Partnerships
By Denisa R. Superville
Salem, Mass.

If a mother needs after-school child care
to work extra hours but can't afford to pay
for it, who is responsible for helping her
figure it out? What about helping families
find housing after a fire? A summer job for
a high school student?
Should city officials step in? Or the school
In Salem, Mass., the historic city of about
43,000 on the state's north shore, city and
school leaders say it should be both.
"The wheelhouse is the schools," said Kim
Driscoll, Salem's mayor. "But this is really
about how do we support youth, how do we
have thriving young people in our community and make sure they are achieving at
their highest potential?"

Salem-and a handful of other small- to
mid-size cities-is blurring the lines between the role the school district and the
city play in children's lives. It's main vehicle for that work is City Connects, a student-support system that city and school
officials rolled out in pre-K-8 schools last
Coordinators sit down with each child's
teacher and review his or her strengths
and weaknesses at the beginning of the
school year, then develop an "individualized student success plan" based on the
student's needs.
The customized plans can include housing assistance, tutoring, or after-school activities like karate.
The idea is that focusing on student's
individual needs in four areas-academics, health, family, and social-emotional

DeVos Tries to Steer Clear of Debate
Over Federal Aid to Arm Teachers
Use of ESSA
money is being
eyed by some
districts under
a flexible grant

By Alyson Klein
U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has made it
clear in response to queries from some school districts and
congressional Democrats that she believes districts have
the flexibility to arm teachers using federal funds provided
under the Every Student Succeeds Act.
But that doesn't mean the Education Department is
going to put out guidance on the issue or go out of its way
to encourage states or districts to use the money this way,
even though President Donald Trump has said arming
teachers would make schools safer.

well-being-and matching them with the
right kinds of assistance and enrichment
programs, will lead to more successful citizens in the long run.
Weaving a seamless and tailored web of
services for children and families inside
and outside of school has been the central
tenet of an experiment underway in Salem
and five other communities over the past
two years.
The cities-Somerville and Newton,
Mass.; Louisville, Ky.; Providence, R.I.; and
Oakland, Calif.-set off in 2016 on an experimental endeavor with the Education
Redesign Lab at the Harvard Graduate
School of Education to rethink how they
support children and families, in some
cases from birth through college. (Newton
dropped out of the program before the pilot

There's personalized education. And then there's
precision education.
The use of genetic information in health has
opened vast new areas for medical research and
treatments in the past decade, along with questions about how personal genetic information will
be used and who will benefit. And debates over
those potential benefits and concerns are starting
to enter the education field.
The New Haven, Conn., school district is working
with a team of education, genetics, and neuroscience researchers from Yale University in what may
be the first attempt to design so-called "precision"
gene-based education help for an academic disorder, dyslexia.
The controversial $20 million project is supported by the nonprofit Manton Foundation. As
part of the project, more than 450 New Haven
students who entered school with literacy scores
in the bottom 20 percent were given four years
of two intensive, widely used reading programs,
Reading Recovery and Empower, to provide at
least an hour of supplemental support five days
a week each school year. But the researchers are
not evaluating Reading Recovery or Empower. Instead, near the end of the study, the students spit
into a test tube, and researchers sequence the
students' full genome to look for differences bePAGE 9>

Teacher Activism
Shows Momentum
By Madeline Will

"Let me be clear: I have no intention of taking any
action concerning the purchase of firearms or firearms
training for school staff under the ESEA," DeVos wrote
in response to a letter from Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va.,
and dozens of other Democratic lawmakers. "Congress
did not authorize me or the department to make those
Scott and his colleagues wrote to DeVos after the New
York Times and other media outlets reported that she
may allow districts to use the Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants, a flexible block grant, to arm
That pot of money, better known as Title IV of the
law, can be used for a range of purposes, including
arts education, Advanced Placement course fees,
foreign-language classes, computer science, student
mental health, school safety, and more. It received

The momentum from the historic wave of statewide teacher strikes last spring seems set to continue this school year.
After thousands of teachers in a half-dozen
states walked out of their classrooms to protest
issues like low pay and cuts to school funding-to
varying degrees of success-some onlookers are
predicting this school year will see continued activism.
Already, teachers in more than a dozen districts in
Washington state have gone on strike over contract
negotiations. Teachers in Los Angeles, the secondlargest district in the nation, have overwhelmingly
voted to authorize a strike, which could take place
next month. And teachers in North Carolina, who
protested in droves at the state capital in May, forcing schools across the state to close, are weighing
future collective actions this year.
"The critical issue is really the extent to which
teachers feel confident and empowered to challenge
the political status quo," said Lois Weiner, a New
York-based researcher and independent consultant
on teachers' union transformation. "I think that's really the question, and I don't see the rising activism
slowing at all. I see it accelerating."
So far, any concrete labor actions taken in this

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