Education Week - November 1, 2017 - 1
VOL. 37, NO. 11 * NOVEMBER 1, 2017
AMERICAN EDUCATION'S NEWSPAPER OF RECORD * © 2017 Editorial Projects in Education * $ 5
BRE AKING NEWS DAILY
Spec. Ed. Rules
A Trust Issue
Move to Roll Back Regulations
Reignites Suspicions About DeVos
Melissa Lyttle for Education Week
By Christina A. Samuels
Senior Melvin Rivas, right, chats with his freshman mentee, Terrace Manley, during breakfast at Summit High School in Fontana, Calif.
During their breakfasts, Melvin checks on how Terrace is doing, offers him tutoring when classes get tough, or encourages him to join a sports
team-all are aimed at helping Terrace make a smooth transition into high school.
Peers Help 9th Graders Survive Critical Year
Mentoring Program Helps Reduce Freshman-Year Attrition at a California School
By Catherine Gewertz
Two teenage boys joking around before
class starts-no big deal, right? Scenes
like this play out every day at high schools
across the country. But this one is part of
a carefully orchestrated project to help
students survive a make-or-break year in
their lives: 9th grade.
The project uses 11th and 12th graders as
its secret weapons, training them to shepherd freshmen through their perilous first
year of high school, and set them on a glide
path to graduation.
It plays out so casually-in text messages, hugs, and high-fives-that, to the
casual observer, it doesn't look like any-
thing planned or significant is going on.
Take this scene: The sun is just coming
up over the quad at Summit High School, in
the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains
outside Los Angeles. Melvin Rivas, a senior,
is hanging out with Terrace Manley, a freshman. The two students shoot the breeze
about sports and homework between bites
of applesauce and cinnamon rolls.
These laid-back breakfasts have become
a daily ritual for the two boys. They've produced a steady accumulation of hang time
that offers something powerful to Terrace:
someone to turn to as he navigates his
And they give Melvin, a soft-spoken guy
with an easy smile, a stealthy way to check
on how Terrace is doing, offer him tutoring
when classes get tough, or encourage him
to get involved in school by joining a sports
team. During the day, Melvin drops Terrace
occasional text messages, too.
"It's really good to have Melvin around to,
like, help me with academic stuff," Terrace
said. "And we talk about fun stuff, too."
These interactions are part of a wellthought-out system that's designed to
save 9th graders from wandering down
the roads that can undermine their success, from failing courses to falling in with
the wrong crowd.
The freshman year is a well-known stumbling point for high school students. Moving
into a new setting, with more responsibility and less supervision, they can become
Words like "product," "artifact," and "backlog"-these are not education terms.
And yet they cover the walls at the school
system's central office here in Chesterfield
County, where district leaders are infusing
project-management strategies from the world
of software development into the daily work of
running a 60,000-student school system.
The lingo stems from a management approach for developing software that is known
as Agile, and a specific process within that
framework called Scrum. The structure is
trickling into classrooms here as well, with
some middle school teachers using Scrum
meetings and Agile processes to keep students
on track as they do project-based learning.
Agile has spread like wildfire through the
business world during the past decade, with
companies such as CarMax, Spotify, and
McKinsey all adopting it in the last few years.
And while hundreds of schools in Canada,
Australia, and the Netherlands are using the
approach, it's only just now starting to breach
the U.S. education realm.
Virginia is proving to be somewhat of a
hotspot for this work: In addition to what's
going on in Chesterfield, handfuls of teachers
With Newest Grants,
Gates Pivots Again
By Stephen Sawchuk
and school leaders in the nearby Goochland,
Hanover, and Norfolk districts are delving into
using Agile and Scrum with students.
Chesterfield is distinct in its use of Agile
and Scrum to manage central-office work.
The district has received some pro bono
training from Agile coaches at the nearby
Capital One campus during the past year,
and some Chesterfield higher-ups say the
process is already paying off.
"Everybody's getting a ton more work done,
and they're not burning out," said Thomas
Taylor, the district's chief academic officer.
Iterative software-development processes
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's announcement last month of huge new investments in K-12 education signals its latest, but
not its first, major shift in direction.
Nearly two-thirds of the $1.7 billion pledge
will go into helping networks of middle and high
schools to scale up best practices, and into improved curricula that match state standards for
student learning. It conspicuously leaves behind
the foundation's focus, beginning in 2008, on
revamping teacher evaluation, teachers' career
progression, and pay.
It is the latest iteration for a philanthropy that
has had a significant influence on K-12 policy
over its two-decades-long involvement in the sector, but has drawn harsh criticism for pushing
ideas that some see as technocratic.
"You can see it all as part of a coherent vision
in which they're just making technical shifts.
But you can also see it as haphazard," said Rick
Hess, a policy expert at the American Enterprise
Va. Schools Borrow 'Scrum' Approach From Software World
By Liana Loewus
The gulf of distrust between disability advocates and the U.S. Department of Education has
been on full display in the wake of the Trump
adminstration's regulatory rollback efforts, illustrating how anger stirred up during Education
Secretary Betsy DeVos' confirmation hearing has
yet to fade.
The latest round began when the Education Department released on Oct. 20 a list of 72 guidance
documents targeted for elimination. Most of the
guidance documents came from the office of special education programs, and they had expired,
been replaced by more up-to-date information, or
rendered obsolete by newer laws or policies.
But the administration initially cast the move
in general terms as relieving an "unnecessary
regulatory burden"-and didn't offer, at first, a
detailed rationale for why it was targeting those
specific pieces of guidance. That set off fears that
children with disabilities were losing protections.
Days later, news broke that the administration
is also considering hitting the pause button on a
new rule that would require many school districts
to use federal dollars to address minority overrepresentation in special education. That rule
has been in the works for three years, and states
are preparing for implementation for the 2018-19
Nish Weiseth, an author and activist in Salt
Lake City who has a 7-year-old son with autism
and a 4-year-old daughter, said her worries have
been amplified by her negative impressions of
DeVos, who stumbled over questions about chil-