paint brush blending colors on palette, NEA Targets Arts Education in Schools

The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) is providing grants to institutions that want to improve arts education in school districts. It’s part of an array of initiatives being launched by NEA in celebration of its 50th anniversary in 2015.

“We’ll be having a national conversation about the arts. We’ll work to broaden the public’s understanding of what the arts are and expand the number of people participating,” says Ayanna Hudson, NEA’s director of arts education. Hudson cites a recent Department of Education survey that found that while a majority of students have access to arts education in their schools, those who didn’t have access attended schools in poor neighborhoods.

Chicago Public Schools Facing Special Ed Cuts

School districts across the United States are still facing budgetary woes, and the ax sometimes falls in the special education area. However, Chicago Public Schools’ (CPS) CEO Forrest Claypool said the district will stick to “learning plans for special needs students,” which he called “sacrosanct.” As a result of declining enrollment, the district could lose dozens of special education aides and teachers. 

At a recent school board meeting, a representative of CPS said it “will delay the cuts until it re-evaluates every school’s needs.” Claypool said the district will be “looking at every individual student plan and making sure that the parents and the principal of the school understand that it’s met, and believe that it’s met, and it will be.” 

CPS is just one of many school districts in the United States grappling with this thorny issue. Stay tuned.

…Chronic Absenteeism on The Front Burner

Outgoing Education Secretary Arne Duncan, incoming acting Education Secretary John B. King Jr., Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro, and Broderick D. Johnson, head of My Brother’s Keeper (an organization that addresses challenges faced by young men of color) announced that the Obama Administration will begin publishing data on chronic absenteeism rates at schools nationwide as part of its “Every Student, Every Day” campaign, which is designed to address the problem of poor attendance.

“Great teachers matter, great principals matter, but they can’t work their magic if our babies aren’t in school,” Duncan said, highlighting the importance of the initiative. “I really think it is about saving kids’ lives. If kids are missing a month of school, or two months, or three months, there is nothing positive that can come of that.

“The plan calls for schools to provide mentors and other support for students who miss too much classroom time instead of suspending or expelling them. 

For more information, visit

Bill Gates: Improving Education Is Harder than Eradicating Malaria

As many principals know, implementing educational reforms is often very dicey.

Apparently Microsoft founder Bill Gates is finding that out as well, recently saying that “trying to improve education is harder than work on global health.” Case in point: “When we come up with a new malaria vaccine, nobody votes to undo our malaria vaccine,” Gates says. However, he explained, “politics makes changes to K–12 education much less predictable.” 

Gates and his wife Melinda pledged to continue pumping resources into the Common Core State Standards in K-12 math and reading, as well as maintaining efforts to improve teacher quality and personalize instruction.