School hardening against gun violence, the primary candidates, and computer-based learning programs


This weekly segment by Democrats for Education Reform CT looks at the top education stories Democrats are watching, providing bite-sized analysis and links to recent articles. On the roster this week: school hardening in the face of gun violence, an overview of the primary candidates, and push-back on computer-based, personalized experiences.

Does More Security Make Schools Safer?

2018 was the worst year on record for school shootings and gun-related incidents. Still, the NY Times has reported on federal data finding that schools remain among the safest places for students to be (despite a public perception to the contrary). Experts caution against over-preparing for mass shootings, suggesting, rather, a focus on everyday safety matters, such as trauma and mental health problems. In fact, a review of 18 years of reports on the effectiveness of school security measures has found no evidence that efforts to "harden" public schools in the face of gun violence have worked. This includes efforts such as installing video cameras and metal detectors, developing active shooter plans, and arming school resource officers. Here in Connecticut, local news this week has looked at the potential negative side effects of increasing the number of police and armed school resource officers in schools. A study by Connecticut Voices for Children has linked the presence of school resource officers in schools to an increased rate of arrests and law enforcement referrals of Latino students.

Primary Candidates Make The Case on Ed

This week, we saw Town Hall meetings for five Democratic presidential hopefuls (Amy Klobuchar, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, and Pete Buttigieg) in New Hampshire. Senator Warren unveiled a $1.25 trillion plan to cancel most student loan debt and eliminate public college tuition. She has proposed funding the policy through a “wealth tax” of two cents on every dollar over $50M--which she says would cover her higher education plans, as well as universal child care and universal pre-K, with nearly a trillion dollars left over. Senator Harris has stated that she supports debt-free college, as well as permitting students to refinance student loan debt.

Computer-Based Learning: Too Much, Too Soon?

This past weekend, the NY Times reported that Summit Learning--a web-based platform, developed by Facebook engineers and purported to emulate "personalized learning"--is meeting with resistance from students and families. Summit has students spending much of their day on laptops, taking lessons and quizzes at their own pace online--and receiving mentoring sessions from teachers. Focused on Kansas, the story reports that some students have come home with headaches, hand cramps, and anxiety. Students in Brooklyn walked out after their school started using Summit. Here in Cheshire, CT, the program was cut in 2017 after protests.

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