Category: education

Virginia college enrollment down less than anticipated

Early head counts from Virginia’s colleges and universities show an overall 1.3-percent decline in student enrollment this fall — a total of 6,658 students, according to a new report from the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia.

Spokeswoman Laura Osberger said it was the first time that SCHEV publicly announced the preliminary estimates, which can change between November and early January as four-year and community colleges submit official student records. But the announcement came after months of uncertainty for higher education amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, with some analysts predicting a 20-percent drop in enrollment earlier this year.

“One of the reasons we came out with this information is because this year is different than other years,” Ms. Osberger added. “We sort of took a risk by releasing it, but we did so because it’s not as bad as everyone predicted.”

Overall, much of the decline was driven by enrollment in two-year community colleges, which dropped by 9.7 percent compared to 2019. Enrollment at public four-year colleges and universities declined by 0.2 percent. >Read More

Virginia’s State Board of Education Approves Virginia Discovery Education Science Experience

Following a comprehensive evaluation, Virginia’s State Board of Education has approved Virginia Discovery Education Science Experience for statewide use as a core instructional resource through its state adoption process. The State Board of Education’s adoption of Virginia Discovery Education Science Experience empowers the state’s school systems to purchase and integrate this innovative digital curriculum into teaching and learning. Discovery Education is the global leader in standards-aligned digital curriculum resources, engaging content, and professional learning for K-12 classrooms.

Virginia Discovery Education Science Experience is aligned to Virginia’s 2018 Standards of Learning. In addition, Virginia Discovery Education Science Experience provides educators detailed lesson plans, embedded formative assessments, hands-on activities, digital simulations, and robust teacher supports that immerse students in instruction by sparking their natural curiosity about the world around them. Virginia Discovery Education Science Experience is comprised of the following award-winning Discovery Education services that are updated regularly at no cost:

Discovery Education Science Techbook. Science Techbook empowers K-12 educators to transform science instruction through a seamless print and digital curriculum that includes video, audio, text, interactives, hands-on activities, and virtual labs that help educators differentiate instruction and provide a rich and engaging learning experience for students. Additional student features include Spanish/English text-to-speech, leveled reading tools, note-taking and highlighting capabilities. Science Techbook also includes valuable STEM resources including STEM Project Starters that encourage students to connect math, technology, and engineering to their understanding of science concepts to produce creative solutions to real world problems. Also, the STEM In Action resources help students connect their work to STEM careers, which promotes a clearer understanding of how skills used in school can be applied to jobs “in the real world.”

>Read More

Virginia public schools getting about $239M in federal COVID-19 relief

By Jason Schaumburg | The Center Square | May 4, 2020 

Virginia Department of Education Superintendent of Public Instruction James Lane said Virginia public schools will receive $238.6 million in federal funding under the federal Coronavirus Aid, Recovery and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

VDOE said 90 percent of the funding – more than $214.7 million – will go directly to the commonwealth’s school divisions. The CARES Act gives school divisions much leeway in how they spend the money, including expenses directly related to the COVID-19 pandemic, expenses related to extended learning, services for economically disadvantaged students, expanding and improving distance learning, mental health services and career and technical education.
>Read More

Virginia education advocates praise measures to get rid of ‘School to Prison Pipeline’

By Brent Solomon | Posted: Mon 2:44 PM, Feb 24, 2020

The General Assembly approved two new measures last week.

One will get rid of the option schools currently have to insist students are charged with disorderly conduct if they act up in school, which is a misdemeanor. The second measure will give school leaders more power to decide whether a student’s behavior really constitutes a need to get the police involved. Both proposals are now in the hands of the governor.

“In Virginia, they have actually called the police on children in elementary schools and have had them arrested for their behavior and discipline,” said Dr. Marla Crawford of Elite Educational Consulting.

She’s praising the actions of the General Assembly, which just passed Senate Bill 729 and Senate Bill 3. Both eliminate what some education advocates call the “school to jail pipeline.”

“If a child is in the school fighting, and it may be just a simple interaction among children, but they can be charged with assault…We need to look at the overhaul of how we’re educating youth in Virginia,” said Crawford.
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After 10 Years of Hopes and Setbacks, What Happened to the Common Core?


It was one of the most ambitious education efforts in United States history. Did it fail? Or does it just need more time to succeed?

By Dana Goldstein | December 6, 2019 | Source: The NY Times

The plan was hatched with high hopes and missionary zeal: For the first time in its history, the United States would come together to create consistent, rigorous education standards and stop letting so many school children fall behind academically.

More than 40 states signed on to the plan, known as the Common Core State Standards Initiative, after it was rolled out in 2010 by a bipartisan group of governors, education experts and philanthropists. The education secretary at the time, Arne Duncan, declared himself “ecstatic.”
>Read More

Improving reading scores is about a whole lot more than teaching kids to read

by Natalie Wexler
Trustee, The Omega Foundation

Why is it harder to raise reading scores than math scores for students from low-income families? And why do kids who seem to read well in elementary school then struggle with grade-level text in middle and high school?

For decades, most elementary schools have taught reading as a skill: children have practiced reading comprehension strategies like “finding the main idea” or “making inferences” on simple stories. The theory has been that it doesn’t matter what students are reading, as long as they’re reading something. And in many elementary schools, especially those serving low-income students, the curriculum has been narrowed to “the basics:” reading and math.

But reading comprehension is highly dependent on background knowledge – as Daniel Willingham, Professor of Psychology at the University of Virginia, will explain at the second event in WRAG’s Public Education Speaker Series on June 2. If students don’t learn about history, science, and the arts in elementary school, they’ll be at a tremendous disadvantage in high school, when they encounter texts that assume a lot of knowledge and vocabulary they don’t have. That’s particularly true for low-income students, who are far less likely to acquire academic knowledge at home.

Willingham – an accessible and engaging speaker as well as the author of several popular books – was recently cited in a speech by Secretary of Education John B. King. “We know from decades of research from folks like Daniel Willingham at the University of Virginia that knowledge matters for reading success,” King said. “It is not about reading vs. science and social studies.”

Willingham’s talk will shed light on why the achievement gap between wealthy and low-income students hasn’t narrowed in decades (in fact, some say it’s wider than ever), why it widens during school years, and what it will take to begin to close it.

WRAG’s 2016 Public Education Speaker Series is generously supported by The Omega Foundation, with additional support from the Tiger Woods Foundation. The series touches on a variety of critical topics facing students today. Education funders should click here to learn more about the series and to registerPlease, note that these programs are open to grantmakers only.

Gray administration cuts $15 million nonprofit grant fund from 2015 budget

Earlier this week, Mayor Vincent Gray announced that he had cut the $15 million allotment to the City Fund, the fund first created in this year’s budget to support D.C. nonprofits, from his FY2015 budget. (WBJ, 5/12)

The City Fund is administered by the Community Foundation for the National Capital Region. We reached out to Terri Freeman, head of the Community Foundation, to comment on the change.

Said Terri,

“It’s clear from the overwhelming response we had for the first round of grants from the City Fund that there is a need for additional resources to support the work of nonprofits in the community.  With the spend-down of several local foundations over the next year or two we know the need will only increase.  The issue of continued funding for nonprofit organizations will only grow.

– The D.C. Housing Authority plans to tackle the more than 72, 000 names on their housing assistance waiting list.  After closing the list just over a year ago, the Housing Authority will devote the next 100 days to contacting families on the list to check for eligibility and interest (CP, 5/15):

People on the waiting list are asked to respond by mail, by phone, online, or at one of 12 public kiosks. Anyone who verifies his or her interest and eligibility will be listed as active; anyone who hasn’t after 100 days will be deemed inactive. People on the list who have been in contact with the Housing Authority in the past year, totaling more than 11,500 households, are automatically considered active. That leaves just more than 60,000 households to be verified.

“Our goal in reengineering is simple: to make the list easier to manage for the agency so that we may set realistic expectations for our clients as to how long it will take to get housed,” Housing Authority Executive Director Adrianne Todman said in a statement.

Opinion: Amid reports that D.C.’s homeless population has grown 13 percent from last year, how can the crisis truly be solved? (WaPo, 5/15)

EDUCATION │Working to eliminate the “school-to-prison pipeline,” a principal in D.C. has implemented some effective methods to serve students.  Will other schools in D.C. – and the region – take note? (DCist, 5/15)

– Sure, high school truancy is a prevalent issue that needs to be solved, but according to a recent study by DC Action for Children, 1 in 5 D.C. preschoolers had more than 10 unexcused absences last year. (GGE, 5/15)

FOOD │As Park Service Culls Deer in Washington, It Helps Charities Fill Bellies (NYT, 5/14)

TRANSIT │If funding permits it, Marylanders and Virginians may soon see improved commutes as MARC and VRE contemplate joining forces to extend service. (WBJ, 5/16)

I’ll be putting this app to the test today.

Funders meet with Dr. Joshua Starr, superintendent of Montgomery County Public Schools

By Rebekah Seder, Program Coordinator

While Montgomery County has a reputation of being a homogeneous and wealthy jurisdiction, in reality the county is rapidly changing.  In the words of Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) Superintendent Dr. Joshua Starr, who recently spoke with members of the Public Education Working Group, “we are no longer the image people think we are.” The county is now marked by changing demographics, increasing poverty, and a student body growing by 3,000 students each year. To Dr. Starr, however, these issues are not challenges to be “dealt with,” but opportunities for Montgomery County to continue to lead the country in providing quality public education to all.

Dr. Starr, who started in his position this past July, outlined some of the areas he has been focusing on during his transition, including:

  • Curriculum 2.0: With funds from a federal Investing in Innovation (i3) grant, MCPS has launched a new curriculum that is focused on developing the “whole student,” by integrating core academics with arts, social sciences, and humanities. Based on internationally-driven standards, Curriculum 2.0 is being introduced in grades K-2, with the expectation that it will be integrated into additional grades over time, and as funding allows.
  • Professional development: In Dr. Starr’s words, variability in student performance is not always a “student learning problem, but an adult learning problem.” For this reason, providing ample opportunities for teachers to engage in effective professional development plays an integral role in creating a “21st century culture” of continuous learning and information sharing.
  • Issues of race and equity: Putting issues of race and equity on the table and dealing with them frankly is central to Dr. Starr’s efforts to improve the achievement levels of all students in the school system. Dr. Starr spoke about the achievement disparities between white, Hispanic, and African American students not as an “achievement gap,” but rather an “education debt” that has accrued over time due to structural barriers that have impacted achievement for decades. MCPS will take a comprehensive and integrated approach to improving the achievement of all students, by honing the processes by which schools intervene to provide supportive services to students and families, ensuring differentiated instruction to address the individual learning needs of each student, and partnering with community agencies to facilitate parental engagement.

Recognizing that MCPS is already one of the strongest school systems in the country, Dr. Starr is determined to build on MCPS’s solid foundation to continue strengthening schools, and avoid the risk of stagnation. There are many opportunities for local funders to help ensure MCPS’s continued improvement. At a big picture level, Dr. Starr emphasized his hope to partner with the philanthropic community to look deeply at what works in education reform and to serve as a thought partner on strategically aligning all aspects of the MCPS system to be as effective as possible.  Dr. Starr also highlighted the potential for philanthropic support of smaller projects as well, such as a mobile outreach van that could provide basic medical care, bilingual counseling, and other services to promote community engagement in the public education system.

This was the second in a series of Public Education Working Group meetings focusing on education throughout the region. In June, funders met with Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker and Superintendent William Hite. Later this fall, funders will meet with school officials from Northern Virginia.

Mario Morino’s new book released today…High rates of students in remedial community college courses…Talking with new DHCD head [News, 5.19.11]

COMMUNITY | Today Venture Philanthropy Partners, in collaboration with McKinsey & Company, are launching their latest publication, Leap of Reason: Managing Outcomes in an Era of Scarcity, by Mario Morino. The book calls on funders to empower their grantees to focus on impact and outcomes, rather than onerous reporting requirements, particularly during the current economic downturn when maximizing nonprofits’ impact is especially important.

BUDGETS | Yesterday advocates demonstrated to protest the cuts to services for the homeless in the District’s FY2012 budget. They seem to have gotten their message across: Council Chairman Kwame Brown told the crowd that he would “do everything I can to restore all of the homeless services” in the budget, though he said he wouldn’t be doing it by raising the income tax. (WAMU, 5/19)

– A new report shows that significant segments of students at the region’s community colleges have to enroll in remedial English, math, and English as a second language courses. (Examiner, 5/19)

– Jay Matthews takes a look at the controversy around an extremely rigorous new DC charter school, which opponents think won’t adequately meet the needs of special education students and students learning English as a second language. (WaPo, 5/12)

Closing more bad charters sooner (WaPo, 5/15)

– D.C. schools investigate security breaches in 2011 tests. (Examiner, 5/19)

HOUSING | John Hall, the new director of the Department of Housing and Community Development, talks about his plans and priorities for his new position, particularly with regard to ensuring a supply of affordable housing. (City Paper, 5/17)

ENVIRONMENT | New technology being acquired by DC’s Wastewater Treatment Plant will be the “largest source of clean renewable energy in Washington, D.C.,” according to George Hawkins, the head of DC’s Water and Sewer Authority. (WAMU, 5/17)

– The Community Foundation for the National Capital Region is inviting nominations of exceptional youth and young adult leaders for its 2011 Linowes Leadership Award. The foundation awards four people annually, with one award specifically recognizing a young person, age 18 or younger. Nominations must be in by May 25. More information is available here.

– Greater DC Cares’ 2011 Impact Summit, where regional business, nonprofit, and volunteer leaders who have made an impact in philanthropy, volunteerism, and service will be recognized, is coming up on June 15. The is an open call for nominations in each category. Nominations are due by May 27. Forms and more information can be found here.

GIVING | Today is the Dulles Greenway’s annual “Drive for Charity” day. 100% of the tolls collected today will be donated to five Loudoun County nonprofits. If you’re wondering how much one day of tolls amounts to, last year’s Drive for Charity day raised $226,427.

Today’s news round-up by Rebekah.

Awards galore…Discrimination complaint against charter schools…A hope for budget autonomy? [News, 5.13.11]

AGING | Yesterday, WRAG’s Working Group on Aging was recognized by Emmaus Services for the Aging as one of their 2011 Aging in Community Honorees. Tamara and Kathy Freshley received the award on behalf of the working group at the awards luncheon, where WRAG member Richard England (picture) and the Honorable Kathy Greenlee, Assistant Secretary for Aging at the US Department of Health and Human Services, were also honored.

COMMUNITY | Jean Case, co-founder of The Case Foundation, was honored this week by the Washington Business Journal as the Corporate Philanthropist of the Year:

“Jean Case is an actively engaged philanthropist and pioneer in the world of interactive technologies…The Case Foundation is recognized for its innovative efforts to increase giving and catalyze civic and business participation, as well as to promote innovation, collaboration and leadership in the nonprofit sector.” (Washington Business Journal, 5/12)

Related: The Case Foundation has also been a pioneer in their use of social media. Learn more about their efforts at an upcoming WRAG event, “Social Media: How and Why Foundations Should Join the Conversation,” on June 9.

EDUCATION | Advocates filed a complaint with the Justice Department’s civil rights division yesterday contending that DC charter schools discriminate against special education students and others with special needs. The complaint says that charter schools’ admissions practices “‘contribute to…the failure’ of all DC schools to properly serve the city’s most vulnerable and fragile children.” (WaPo, 5/12)

– When Mayor Gray and Chairman Brown testified yesterday before the House oversight committee, some expected to hear threats of a return of the financial control board. However, the session has been described as “relatively cordial,” with Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) afterwards suggesting that they might be willing to give the city a higher degree of budget autonomy in the future, as well as creating a contingency budget to ensure that the city continues to function normally in the event of a government shutdown. (WaPo, 5/12)

– The various committees of the DC City Council have submitted their reports on Mayor Gray’s proposed FY 2012 budget. The Committee on Human Services’ report lodges significant complaints about the proposed Department of Human Services budget, saying that it “will devastate the city and and further spending pressures will ensue in various city services as a result of neglecting the basic needs of poor families, children and homeless adults.” Meanwhile, the Housing and Workforce Development committee report calls for more funding for the Local Rent Supplement Program and Housing Production Trust Fund. (City Paper, 5/12)

Friday the 13th news roundup brought to you by Rebekah.