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Executive Briefs

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1 Managing School Threats Is an Ongoing Struggle

Schools around the country have been setting up teams to assess threats posed by students who display signs of violence. Despite consensus on the benefits of the approach, school officials say they’re limited in what they can do by privacy concerns, a lack of resources, and limits on what they can communicate once a student leaves school. The goal of screening programs at a growing number of schools is not only to flag and address threats raised by students, but also to track and manage any risk they might pose to themselves and others. Under protocols endorsed by the Secret Service and the US Department of Education, school districts are encouraged to set up a threat assessment team that includes at least a school administrator, a mental health professional such as a school psychologist, and a school resource officer or another law enforcement representative. Schools are coming under pressure to have threat assessment systems in place because of new state laws and court rulings that have held school systems liable, according to Stephen Brock, a professor at the School Psychology Program at California State University, Sacramento. Students who engage in threatening behaviors need to face consequences, but any disciplinary response must also be accompanied by intervention to address the root causes, Brock says.

2 SETDA’s New Educational Resources Tool Gathers Reviews across States

Thanks to a new tool designed by the State Educational Technology Directors Association, education leaders across America can now view detailed reviews of educational resources targeting various subjects. The tool, which SETDA calls its instructional materials dashboard, contains reviews from 12 states participating in the program and focuses on secondary math and language arts materials—from textbooks by established publishers to open educational resources. The association says this is a pilot program and resources for other subjects and from other states will eventually be added. While many states already publish reviews on their own websites, SETDA’s dashboard enables leaders to use a single search to access evaluations made by multiple states and to find vetted resources quickly. This can help educators make better and faster decisions about which materials their schools use.

3 FCC Changes Rules and Puts Educational Spectrum Up for Auction

Rural school districts had hoped to close “homework gaps” via access to wireless spectrum set aside for educational use 50 years ago. Those hopes were dashed recently when the FCC revised its rules and decided to sell licenses to that bandwidth at open auction. At issue is a small slice of electromagnetic spectrum—the frequencies that carry wireless signals for everything from remote controls to radio—that the government had carved out for instructional television and later designated Educational Broadband Service, or EBS, for the internet age. Now, on the cusp of issuing a bunch of new EBS licenses that will cover huge swaths of rural America, the FCC decided to turn EBS over to the free market. Even after the Department of Education urged the FCC commissioner to “maintain and modernize the current educational priority of EBS,” the decision remained unchanged. “It’s surprising to me that the Commission says to the Department of Education and to the representatives of rural America, ‘We don’t care about your perspective,’” says Reg Leichty, a legal and policy consultant for CoSN. Backers of the FCC’s decision, however, call it an overdue fix for an antiquated program that tied up a valuable resource with red tape and never lived up to its educational mission.

4 Today’s CTE Investments Help Boost Student Success

There is a renewed focus on CTE amid broader debates about the value of college and the student debt crisis as well as the need for viable postsecondary alternatives. In 35 states, manufacturing remains the top industry for workers without a bachelor’s degree, according to the most recent statistics from Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce. Through the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act, the federal government provides almost $1.3 billion a year for CTE through the US Department of Education, supporting instruction for elementary and secondary students as well as adults. The Education Department’s Pathways to STEM Apprenticeship program is another example of a broader interest in CTE. The ED awarded a share of $3 million to six states to improve high school CTE students’ access to post-secondary education and STEM careers. State departments of education and private foundations also provide funding and program content for CTE. These efforts, along with other significant investments in CTE, enable students to enter college better prepared or to graduate with technical skills that can offer solid footing for a viable career.