Schooled Reporting on education

Students set to march on Washington

Education | Teens pushing for stricter gun control will rally Saturday in cities across the nation
by Leigh Jones
Posted 3/21/18, 03:55 pm

Student gun control advocates are gearing up for protests scheduled across the country on Saturday. Organizers, mostly students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., predict as many as 1 million people will participate in 800 events.

“It just shows that the youth are tired of being the generation where we’re locked in closets and waiting for police to come in case of a shooter,” said Alex Wind, a junior at Stoneman Douglas, where a former student, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, armed with an AR-15 rifle killed 17 people on Valentine’s Day.

Another school shooting on Tuesday, this time in Maryland, gave organizers fresh incentive for their calls to action. They want a ban on sales of assault-style weapons, although gun rights advocates note that term has no objective meaning. (Any weapon can be used in an assault, and Tuesday’s shooting involved a handgun.) The protesters also want to ban large-capacity ammunition magazines and tighten background checks for gun purchasers.

Also on Tuesday, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos appeared before the House Appropriations Committee, in part to discuss the new federal school safety commission she will lead. She told lawmakers the panel will include three other Cabinet secretaries—Homeland Security, Health and Human Services, and the Justice Department. Critics questioned why the group would not include lawmakers, especially Democrats, or anyone directly involved in education. DeVos said the panel planned to work quickly and therefore needed to keep its size manageable. But she insisted the group will involve students, teachers, law enforcement, and mental health professionals as experts.

DeVos also confirmed the commission will consider recommending legislation to ban weapons sales to anyone younger than 21, among other restrictions. It’s also likely to consider a controversial proposal to arm teachers, something President Donald Trump supports. Democrats grilled DeVos about the plan, which teachers unions have opposed. She insisted states should decide whether to allow educators to participate in armed efforts to protect students.

“If there are going to be guns in schools, they need to be in the hands of the right people, those who are going to protect students and ensure their safety,” DeVos added.

Associated Press/Photo by Jessica Hill Associated Press/Photo by Jessica Hill Homeschooled student Judah James (right) paints with his brother, mother, and grandmother in Watertown, Conn.

Does state oversight protect homeschoolers from abuse?

A new analysis of homeschool regulation and abuse cases shows no correlation between stricter oversight and child safety. Researcher Brian Ray with the National Home Education Research Institute conducted the analysis after a high-profile California child abuse case prompted lawmakers in at least two states to consider new restrictions ostensibly designed to prevent abuse.

Home education advocates derided proposed bills in California and Hawaii, noting no studies on child abuse list homeschooling as a risk factor. Adding to that, Ray’s new research shows the level of state regulation had no effect on the number of abuse cases in homeschooling families.

The research used reports of abuse collected between 2000 and 2017 by Homeschooling’s Invisible Children, a group advocating for more homeschooling oversight. Ray’s analysis showed states with relatively lenient regulation had about the same frequency of abuse cases as states with medium and high levels of regulation.

“The lack of a correlation undermines the claim that there is some causal relationship between state control of homeschooling and abuse of students,” he noted in his report. “In this analysis, there was no significant correlation between regulation and homeschool abuse.”

Ray also noted homeschooled children are statistically less likely to suffer abuse than students in public or private schools: “The limited evidence available shows that homeschooled children are abused at a lower rate than are those in the general public, and no evidence shows that the home educated are at any higher risk of abuse.” —L.J.

Facebook/UW-Stevens Point Admissions Facebook/UW-Stevens Point Admissions Old Main Hall on the University of Wisconsin–Stevens Point campus

Liberal arts on the chopping block

One of the 11 campuses that make up the University of Wisconsin system has proposed a major change in its educational offerings, setting off a furor of protest from liberal arts advocates. The University of Wisconsin–Stevens Point earlier this month proposed nixing 13 majors in the humanities and social sciences, while adding majors with more direct correlation to job marketability. But the decision doesn’t really reflect a philosophical change in the university’s approach to education. It has more to do with the bottom line. Enrollment dropped 5.4 percent for this school year and 6.8 percent the previous year. Administrators hope focusing on “high-demand career paths” will boost enrollment, especially since the school’s marketing department can tout the immediate value of degrees in the workforce. Majors on the chopping block include English, French, Spanish, German, philosophy, sociology, art, and history. Administrators noted the school would continue to offer courses in those subjects, and in a letter to students and staff, Chancellor Bernie Patterson said the liberal arts remain a vital part of earning a bachelor’s degree. They’re just not much good for earning anything else, apparently. The plan still needs the blessing of the campus governance committee and the Board of Regents. But with so much emphasis on return on investment in higher education, similar proposals are likely to surface at other universities across the country. —L.J.

For-profit college fight focuses on profit

The saga over for-profit colleges continued this week when a group of former Corinthian College students sued the federal government for allegedly obtaining their earnings information illegally. The lawsuit claims Education Department officials improperly accessed Social Security Administration data to determine how much the students earned, figures the government then used to establish how much loan forgiveness they deserved. Under the Obama administration, all students who attended now-shuttered for-profit colleges received full loan forgiveness, a forbearance that cost taxpayers $550 million. But the Trump administration put the breaks on that plan, telling students the amount of fraud they suffered would be evaluated based on how much their degrees actually earned them. Several students who filed suit found out last week they would only have half their loans forgiven. The new approach is designed to save taxpayers money: Tens of thousands of students still have loan forgiveness applications pending. —L.J.

Leigh Jones

Leigh lives in Houston with her husband and daughter. She is the news editor for The World and Everything in It and reports on education for WORLD Digital.

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    Posted: Thu, 03/22/2018 04:18 pm

    "Am I Next" needs to be juxtaposed against statistics of the leading causes of teenage death in order to put this statement into proper perspective. Statistically I am understaning that gun violence (in general, "mass shootings" in particular) is really way down on the list...