Senate Confirms Kenneth Marcus

The Senate has confirmed Kenneth Marcus as assistant secretary for civil rights for the Department of Education. Marcus had essentially the same duties at the department for two years during the administration of President George W. Bush.

Marcus has been president and general counsel of the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, the mission of which is “the advancement of the civil and human rights of the Jewish people and to promote justice for all.”

During Senate confirmation, Marcus highlighted his record of looking out for disadvantaged students and didn’t distance himself from what some perceive as the anti-civil rights actions of President Donald Trump and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.

Creating Effective STEM Teachers

Texas science and math teachers who are trained in the UTeach preparation program are substantially better at raising student test scores than other teachers in the state, according to a study published in the June 2018 issue of Economics of Education Review.

UTeach recruits science and math majors as early as their freshman year, the study notes, and candidates can go into classrooms in their first semester of the program to get a feel for whether they like teaching. Student teachers in the program earn a degree in mathematics or science as they work to earn a teaching credential in four years.

According to the study, “Can UTeach? Assessing the Relative Effectiveness of STEM Teachers,” there is a clear-cut difference in the performance of UTeach graduates who teach in high school and their peers.

Pennsylvania School Threat Reporting Measure Advances

The Pennsylvania state Senate unanimously passed a bill that would establish a state-administered program to keep track of anonymous reports of dangerous activities or threats of violence in schools.

The action is being taken in the wake of the February 2018 school shooting in Parkland, FL, that killed 17 people. The program is based on the Safe2Tell program created in Colorado after the Columbine High School shooting in 1999.

Senators Want Investigation Into Restraint and Seclusion

Two Iowa Republican senators—Joni Ernst and Chuck Grassley—called on the Education Department’s Office of Inspector General to investigate misreporting of seclusion and restraint used in public schools in the Cedar Rapids Community School District. The senators are concerned that the district underreported seclusion incidents from 2012 through 2016.

Seclusion and restraint is a disciplinary action used to attempt to make sure that agitated students do not harm themselves or others. The Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights is investigating underreporting in Cedar Rapids.