Here are news and opinion stories educators, advocates, policy wonks and makers are talking about today:

National
Ed. Dept. Steps Up Pace of States’ ESSA Plan Reviews
After a rocky start in which U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’ team was criticized for being too heavy-handed, confusing, or inconsistent in responding to states’ plans for the Every Student Succeeds Act, approvals of state plans are now coming at a fast clip. Six states—Connecticut, Delaware, Louisiana, Nevada, New Jersey, and New Mexico—had received the all-clear on their plans as of mid-August. (Education Week)

Let Kids Experience the Eclipse
“We are going to be speaking with athletic directors, activity directors and our extended-day programs to keep all activities inside until the duration of the eclipse.” Yes, that’s one school district’s response to Monday’s rare solar eclipse – visible across the United States. And they’re hardly alone in this reaction. While some school districts are making plans for students to experience this rare natural phenomenon, many are treating it as a menace to be avoided and something to protect students from, like a storm or a criminal on the loose. (U.S. News & World Report)

Choosing a Curriculum: A Critical Act
An education system without an effective instructional core is like a car without a working engine: It can’t fulfill its function. No matter how much energy and money we spend working on systemic issues – school choice, funding, assessments, accountability, and the like – not one of these policies educates children. That is done only through curriculum and teachers: the material we teach and how effectively we teach it. (EducationNext)

After Charlottesville, some rally to take Confederate name off schools
Outrage over the violence and hate on display during a rally of white supremacists and white nationalists last weekend in Charlottesville has reenergized efforts nationwide to strip Confederate symbols out of American public life — including from the names of public schools. School officials and community members across the country have invoked the Charlottesville events — which left three people dead — to call for renaming schools in Dallas and Oklahoma City. The movement is resonating especially in Virginia, the scene of much of the Civil War. (The Washington Post)

States
Florida
Number of students chronically absent from Duval schools doubled in 2016
Nearly 16,000 Duval students, or about 12.3 percent of the student body, missed a month or more of school in 2016, School Board members learned this week. That is about twice Duval’s usual rate of 6 or 7 percent truancy in the prior four years. The spike puzzled and alarmed some School Board members. Board member Rebecca Couch said that even a 6 percent truancy — or 7,700 students — is too high; 12.3 percent would be more than 15,900 of Duval’s 129,000 students. (The Florida Times-Union)

Maryland
How Free Eyeglasses Are Boosting Test Scores
Three years ago, Johns Hopkins University researchers in Baltimore asked a seemingly simple straightforward question: Could the persistent gap in reading performance between poor students and wealthier ones be closed if they gave the poor students eyeglasses? They knew that poorer students were less likely to have glasses than wealthier white children, but data were limited on whether simply helping children better focus on the page in front of them might improve their ability to master a skill essential for early learning. (Politico)

New York
Why Charter Schools Are Good Neighbors
Far from hurting existing schools, new charter schools in New York City have actually helped their neighbors improve, according to a recent study. The study’s surprising conclusion adds some hard data to a divisive debate: Do the privately operated yet publicly funded institutions sap resources and hurt traditional public schools? Or do they exert competitive pressure that lifts all boats? (The Atlantic)

Rhode Island
New study deepens nation’s school turnaround mystery, finding little success in Rhode Island
The country’s smallest state tried to accomplish a big task in 2012: improve its struggling schools without firing principals or making other dramatic changes. Instead, Rhode Island gave schools the option to do things like add common planning time for teachers, institute culturally appropriate instruction for students, and expand outreach to families. (Chalkbeat)

Tennessee
Tennessee’s former ed chief: Betsy DeVos must resign; Trump’s comments have undercut her moral authority
Tennessee’s former education commissioner called on Betsy DeVos to resign as the nation’s education chief Thursday because of her boss’s ambivalent response to racist violence in Charlottesville, Virginia. Kevin Huffman, who led the Tennessee Department of Education from 2011 to 2014, said President Donald Trump’s comments have undercut the secretary’s ability to work on behalf of public school students, many of whom are students of color. (Chalkbeat)

Washington D.C.
Despite test gains, fewer than a third of D.C. students rated “college and career ready”
Fewer than a third of public school students in the District are considered “college and career ready” in math and English language arts, according to test scores released Thursday that showed gains in both subjects, particularly in the traditional public schools. The share of students who met the benchmark rose 4 points in English language arts to 31 percent and 2 points in math to 27 percent. Still, achievement gaps persisted and in some cases widened. (The Washington Post)

Mimi Woldeyohannes is the Executive Assistant to the CEO at 50CAN. She lives in Maryland.

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