Duke Agrees To Pay $112 Million After Being Accused Of Falsifying Grant Research

Duke University has reached a $112.5 million settlement with the U.S. government after being accused of falsifying scientific research to claim millions in federal grants, the Department of Justice announced Monday.

The North Carolina school was accused of knowingly submitting 30 grant applications containing falsified or fabricated data to the National Institutes of Health and the Environmental Protection Agency from 2006 to 2018, authorities said.

The settlement money will reimburse the government for the grants it received and cover associated penalties, the school said.

“We expect Duke researchers to adhere always to the highest standards of integrity, and virtually all of them do that with great dedication,” university President Vincent E. Price said in a statement. “When individuals fail to uphold those standards, and those who are aware of possible wrongdoing fail to report it, as happened in this case, we must accept responsibility, acknowledge that our processes for identifying and preventing misconduct did not work, and take steps to improve.” 

It was a former employee at the private school, Joseph Thomas, who brought the allegations to light after filing a lawsuit in 2014 under the whistleblower law, the False Claims Act. Under the terms of the act, he will receive $33,750,000 from the settlement, the DOJ said.

His lawsuit accused former Duke biologist Erin Potts-Kant of co-authoring the fraudulent reports, which were later retracted. She was arrested in 2013 for embezzling money from the school and pleaded guilty to two counts of forgery and paid restitution to the school.

Two of her supervisors were implicated in Thomas’ lawsuit and accused of negligence and ignoring warnings of misconduct, according to the student-led university paper, The Chronicle.

Duke argued in its court filings that it became aware of Potts-Kant’s misbehavior only after she applied for the grants.

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Dr. Dre Boasts Daughter Got Into USC ‘On Her Own’ — After A $70 Million Donation

Hip-hopper Dr. Dre gushed on Instagram that daughter Truly Young just got into the University of Southern California “all on her own.” He was taking a shot at celebrity parents, like Lori Loughlin, recently busted for allegedly paying bribes to get their children into top universities. Dre failed to mention that he and his producer donated $70 million to USC.

“No jail time!!!!” smirked Dre (real name Andre Young), who posed in the Instagram photo with his daughter holding her acceptance letter.

He removed the post Sunday after blowback about the hefty donation.

Dre and his producer Jimmy Iovine gave $70 million to USC in 2013 to create the Jimmy Iovine and Andre Young Academy for Arts, Technology and the Business of Innovation, according to a university press release. The men also have a campus building named after them. The school hailed them at the time as “forward-thinking visionaries.”

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2019 ESP of the Year Matthew Powell Does It All

NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia introduces 2019 Education Support Professional of the Year Matthew Powell to the annual NEA ESP Conference in Las Vegas, Nev. on March 23, 2019.

When he is not managing the custodial team at Graves County Central Elementary School in Mayfield, Ky., Matthew Powell can be found serving as the safety officer for the crisis management team of Grave County Schools. When the need arises, he also fills in as a special events bus driver.

Even more, in 2016, Powell established residency on school grounds as a nighttime security guard to boost student safety, and for legal reasons. By claiming residence in a small housing unit located near the Graves County middle and high schools, Powell has been able to keep the city of Mayfield from annexing school property. According to Powell, the annexation would result in revenue loss for schools and a payroll tax hike for education support professionals (ESP), teachers, and other school employees. Standing his ground, Powell has self-financed a lawsuit against Mayfield which is currently pending with the Kentucky Supreme Court.

For his undying dedication and hard work on behalf of students, colleagues, and his community, Powell was named the 2019 National Education Association (NEA) ESP of the Year during the ESP of the Year Award Dinner at the NEA ESP Conference in Las Vegas, Nev. The annual award is NEA’s highest for an ESP.

“Matthew thinks in terms of possibilities rather than impossibilities, solutions rather than problems, do’s rather than don’ts,” said NEA President Lily Eskelsen García. “Most of all, he believes that students should be at the center of every decision we make in our schools.”

Powell received a standing ovation from the more than 900 ESPs, school administrators, and other educators from across the country who are participating in the 28th annual conference.

“I will always fight for all of our students and ESPs, and public education together, said Powell. “Coming from Kentucky I know what it’s like to fight, especially when you have a senator who won’t listen. And I will continue that fight along with elevating ESPs.”

Eskelsen Garcia presented Powell with a commemorative trophy, bouquet of roses, and $10,000 check. Powell also received a coveted ESP of the Year Hall of Fame plaque.

“He not only cleans school facilities and looks out for students, but he catches potential members wherever he can and convinces them to join KEA,” said Stephanie Winkler, president of the Kentucky Education Association (KEA), in her nomination letter to the ESP of the Year Selection Committee. “He is one of the most kind, tenacious, and hard-working individuals I have ever met.”

Approximately 2.8 million school support staff work in the nation’s public school systems, with more than 75 percent living, shopping, worshipping, and voting in the school communities in which they work.

2019 ESP of the Year Matthew Powell

The conference theme, Education Support Professionals: Uniting Our Members and the Nation for Strong Communities, Empowered Educators, and Successful Students, set the tone for the 47 workshops, discussion sessions, and keynote speeches.

“Everyone knows that teaching is important, but even the greatest teachers need support from the professionals who transport students to school, keep the building safe and clean, prepare nutritious meals, offer support in the classroom and manage the front office,” Powell said to the West Kentucky Star.

Powell, a member of the Graves County Education Support Professionals and NEA board of directors. A graduate of Graves County High School, Powell has been employed with the school district since August 2007 and has worked at the elementary, middle, and high school levels. He is a graduate of the KEA Fellows program and NEA Leaders for Tomorrow, Class of 2016.

While working for Graves County Schools, he earned a bachelor’s degree in educational studies from Western Governors University in 2012. He has also served as a district softball coach and team bus driver for the past three seasons.

“I am a strong advocate for meeting the needs of the whole student,” Powell told the Star. “This approach can only succeed when parents, teachers, administrators and support staff all work together.”

School support professionals comprise more than one-third of all public school employees. Within NEA, ESPs are categorized in nine career groups:

  • Paraeducators
  • Clerical services
  • Custodial and maintenance services
  • Skilled trades
  • Technical services
  • Security services
  • Transportation services
  • Food services
  • Health and student services.

Also included in NEA’s school support job category are Specialized Instructional Support Personnel (SISP), which includes speech-language pathologists, audiologists, physical therapists, occupational therapists, psychologist-counselors, nurses, social workers and others.

“ESPs are the backbone of our schools,” Powell has stated. “We do make a difference and deserve to tell our stories.”

At the conference, ESPs attended workshops which allowed them to earn credits to further their professional goals in the NEA ESP Professional Growth Continuum (PGC) and NEA Leadership Competency Framework (LCF).

Participants enrolled in the PGC could easily identify the workshops that align to one or more of the program’s eight universal standards: communication, cultural competence, organization, reporting, ethics, health and safety, technology and professionalism. Workshops were labeled with the PGC universal standard(s) with which it aligned. Newcomers to the PGC were advised to sign up by visiting the NEA Certification Bank.

Similarly, workshops indicated in the conference program their alignment with the six LCF domains – advocacy, communication, fiscal health, governance and leadership, leading our professions, organizing and strategy. These competencies are designed to prepare NEA members as community leaders particularly with regard to education associations.

As an NEA board member, Powell helped to develop and implement the PGC. He has stated that he was inspired to help establish the program so he could “advocate for ESPs so they can be champions like the support staff who championed for me.”

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How To Raise Your Kids So That They Become Self-Sufficient Adults

The college admissions scandal highlights some very important truths about privilege, mental health and, of course, parenting.

While the vast majority of parents are not in the position to bribe their children into elite schools, this extreme case illustrates the temptation many feel to take control of their kids’ lives. But an ultra-hands-on approach can have devastating consequences when it comes to a child’s mental health and ability to thrive.

“These parents thought their kids were incapable of managing their lives by themselves. And I don’t think there’s any worse message you can give somebody than ‘I don’t have any confidence in your ability to handle your own life,’” clinical neuropsychologist William Stixrud told HuffPost.

Stixrud is the author of The Self-Driven Child: The Science and Sense of Giving Your Kids More Control Over Their Lives, along with Ned Johnson, president and self-described “tutor-geek” at Washington, D.C.-based PrepMatters.

In the wake of the federal investigation that led to charges against dozens of parents, Johnson and Stixrud spoke to HuffPost about the importance of relinquishing control and being your child’s “consultant,” not manager. Here are some guidelines for parents to keep in mind.

Understand The Power Of Control

In their research, Johnson and Stixrud have identified the importance for young people to feel a sense of control over their own lives.

“We have this epidemic of stress-related problems like anxiety and depression, and so many of those are related to the fact that kids feel so little control over their lives,” said Stixrud. “They feel like, ‘Here’s a script to get into college, and that’s what your life is going to be.’ It’s incredibly stressful and discouraging for many kids.”

In order to develop healthy self-motivation, young people need to feel a sense of agency and autonomy, which parents and educators have the power to foster.

“We have this epidemic of stress-related problems like anxiety and depression, and so many of those are related to the fact that kids feel so little control over their lives.”

– Clinical neuropsychologist William Stixrud

“The goal is to raise kids who feel motivated and want to work on themselves and contribute, but aren’t obsessively driven, or on the opposite end, smoking pot all day thinking ‘Who gives a shit?’” said Stixrud.

Letting a child take charge of his or her own life means that parents have to be less in control. This can be challenging, as losing control is stressful for many parents, who cope by seizing evenmore control.

“By definition, it’s a zero-sum game, so anxious and stressed-out parents may screw up their kids’ autonomous motivation when they try to take charge,” said Johnson.

Johnson believes the solution is helping parents understand that growth is not linear so that they don’t worry about their children’s futures as much.

“Parents fear, ‘If my kid is a C+ student in seventh grade, that’s going to be a straight-line trajectory, and he’s going to end up with a C+ life.’ But like bodies, brains develop at different rates,” Johnson explained. “We’ve seen so many kids who were kind of a mess when they were 12 or 17 or 22, but as their brains develop, they flourish. They’re post-cocious instead of precocious.”

If more parents understood this, they may realize it’s OK for their kids to struggle at times. “They can look at high school as four years of helping their child develop rather than sacrificing everything to help their kid get into a college that’s one notch higher on the U.S. News & World Report rankings,” Johnson said.

Be Your Child’s Consultant

“We suggest parents think of themselves as consultants, rather than a kid’s manager or boss, or the homework police. It’s a very different kind of thinking about your role,” said Stixrud. “As a consultant, your role is not to force anything or say ‘You need to be like this.’ Instead, help your kid understand what he or she wants to be.”

He advises parents to encourage their kids to make their own decisions long before the college years. It’s important to constantly ask, “Whose life is this?” and realize the answer is “My child’s life, not mine.”

“We suggest parents think of themselves as consultants, rather than a kid’s manager or boss, or the homework police.” 

“We think the best message you can give an adolescent is ‘I have confidence in your ability to make decisions about your own life and learn from your mistakes, and I want you to have tons of practice making these decisions and running your own life before you go off to college.’” Stixrud added.

The role of a parent-consultant is to offer help, not force help. Instead of thinking everything is too important to allow any missteps, realize that you can let some things go wrong and then figure it out.

“Ideally, they can solve their own problems and face their own failures in the context of a warm and loving family. We don’t encourage deliberately setting kids up for failure, but take a step back,” Johnson advised.

“Tell your kids, ‘I love you too much to fight with you about your homework.’ Think of yourself as their homework consultant, but don’t take responsibility for it,” he continued. “Many parents ask, ‘So just let them fail?’ No, I’m saying help them in any way you can, but don’t act like it’s not their responsibility. Because you’ll weaken them if you do.”

Let Your Child Practice Making Decisions

Stixrud recommends giving children decision-making power from an early age. With little kids, it can be as simple as asking, “Do you want to wear the blue outfit or the green one?” and being respectful of their opinions.

“You can say to them, ‘You’re the expert on you, so you know when you’re hungry or full.’ Or, maybe when deciding if a coat is necessary, say, ‘You know what it feels like to be cold. You can figure it out,’” he explained, adding that free play in preschool helps kids develop a sense of agency as well.

As kids get older, it may be a matter of choosing the right high school, the number of AP classes they take in a year, whether they get a part-time job, how they spend their summer vacation and if they study French or Spanish. With those kinds of academic choices, it’s imperative for young people to take some ownership so that they feel compelled to prove it was the right choice.

“If I make the decision for my kid, then he doesn’t own it. I do.”

– Clinical neuropsychologist William Stixrud

“If I make the decision for my kid, then he doesn’t own it. I do,” said Stixrud. “And then he may be invested in his own failure, just to say ‘I told you this was a bad idea, Dad!’”

Stixrud suggests parents give their kids experience running their own lives before they go to college and are forced to do it. Have them schedule their own appointments, do their own laundry, cook for themselves or even work a part-time job.

“What’s really helpful to kids is treating them respectfully,” said Stixrud. “Kids have brains in their heads, and they want to be successful. They want their lives to work. Trusting them and supporting them works much better than thinking ‘We know what’s best’ and trying to force kids to fit our mold.”

Be A Non-Anxious Presence

Rabbi, therapist and leadership consultant Edwin Friedman wrote of the value of being a “non-anxious presence” ― a model that Johnson and Stixrud believe can inform parenting.

“He argues that organizations like schools, churches, families and corporations work better when the leaders aren’t anxious and emotionally reactive,” Stixrud explained. “It’s much easier to handle a toddler having a tantrum if you remain calm. It’s more helpful to a 15-year-old who comes home having failed a test if we stay calm.”

Because stress and anxiety can be contagious, moving in the direction of being a non-anxious presence is more constructive for children than seeing a parent get deeply upset if they don’t do well.

Kim Metcalfe, a retired professor of early childhood education and psychology, shared a similar sentiment with HuffPost.

“When kids fail, encourage them to persist and they will build resiliency skills through the process of persistence. Encouragement looks and sounds very different from discouragement, which is steeped in blaming, teasing, shaming, degrading, or punishing children for failure,” Metcalfe said.

“Tell kids that we are on their side, that we love and care about them unconditionally and that we are there to support them despite their mistakes,” she added.

Realize College Acceptance Is Not A Golden Ticket

Needless to say, some of the most unhealthy thought patterns and feelings of pressure for young people are related to the stress of college admissions.

“So many parents and kids have shared delusions about this idea that you have to go to an elite college in order to have a successful and satisfying life, and that if you do get into an elite college, everything else is justified ― whatever you had to do to get in, whatever you had to do to yourself,” Stixrud explained.

The college admissions scandal highlights the lengths many parents will go to in order to ensure an elite education for their children. 

The college admissions scandal highlights the lengths many parents will go to in order to ensure an elite education for their children. 

“Partly it’s culture, partly it’s parents and partly it’s the competitive high schools many young people attend, but there’s this huge amount of fear about not getting into a certain level of college. There’s this sense of ‘Yale or jail,’” he added.

Of course there are certain advantages to going to elite colleges, but the idea that it’s necessary in order to have a successful career and satisfying life is patently false. And that pressure takes a toll on young people’s mental health. Johnson and Stixrud pointed to the headline-making stories of high-achieving students who died by suicide at Stanford, the University of Pennsylvania and other elite colleges.

“People always say, ‘I don’t understand it. She was such a great student, great leader, great athlete, she had so many friends’ ― as though people who wind up doing this are doing it because they somehow lost the meritocratic race,” said Johnson. “But the extreme and chronic pressure they put themselves under both allows them to achieve at such a high level and gives them profound mental health disorders.”

Instead of treating college acceptance as the golden ticket needed for a happy, successful life, parents should focus on raising kids who develop healthy brains and a strong sense of self. Julie Lythcott-Haims, a former Stanford dean and author of How to Raise an Adult, has described many high-achieving college students as “existentially impotent” ― driven by fear of failure rather than any sort of intellectual or emotional freedom.

“High school should be four years of developing yourself, finding what you’re good at and working on those skills,” said Johnson. “Young people should be trying to understand what they naturally want to do as opposed to only asking, ‘Does this look good for college applications?’”

Ultimately, the key is to keep college admissions in perspective. “There are so many headwinds kids will face as they grow up ― illness, divorce, job losses,” said Johnson. “If the worst thing that happens in a kid’s life is she didn’t get into her dream school, what a beautiful life that must be.”

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A Community School ‘Wraps Its Arms Around a Family’

Students at Walt Whitman Middle School (© 2019, The News Service & Syndicate, Reprinted with Permission)

What happens to a 13-year-old boy who witnesses the murder of his uncle, then, just days later, loses his father to suicide? What happens when he sees his great grandmother, his sole caregiver, lost in an ocean of grief over her two grandsons and filled with worry because she can’t afford their funeral expenses?

If the family is forgotten or disregarded by their community, that boy could harden against the hurt. He could withdraw, become self-destructive and face a future as grim as his father’s and uncle’s. Fortunately, he goes to a community school, which made all the difference in what happened next.

“A community school wraps its arms around a family, providing services that extend far beyond academics,” says David Greenberg, the coordinator for Community Schools for the Las Cruces Public School District.

“These kinds of services can make or break a crisis situation. If we had no way to support that student, he’d have no chance.”

The boy is an eighth grader at Lynn Community School in Las Cruces, New Mexico, which offers mental health services to students who are in crisis, so that they can cope and not fall through the cracks. The boy was able to talk about his grief and his anxiety rather than swallow it or face it alone. What’s more, the full-time community school coordinator spent hours researching and applying for a grant to pay for his father’s and uncle’s funerals, a time-consuming effort that would be impossible for staff at a regular public school to handle on top of regular workloads.

The funeral costs were covered, the great grandmother received an outpouring of support from the community. Later that fall, she came to the school to pick up a full Thanksgiving dinner to serve at home—one of 150 holiday dinners provided by the school to families who would have otherwise gone without.

What is a Community School?
(Photos by Luis Gomez)

A Long History of Community Schools

At its core, a community school is a network of partnerships offering services that remove barriers to learning, like trauma, hunger, homelessness and the myriad of other problems faced by families living in poverty. Research consistently shows that the problems of students in school and the problems of the community they live in are intertwined. One can’t be addressed without the other. The community schools model aims to tackle these problems together.

The idea of a cohesive community school goes back more than 100 years. The school house has traditionally been a social center where everyone gathered to celebrate or to grieve. Into the mid-20th century, the school-as-social-center continued. Families and neighbors came to enjoy musical performances, to cheer on the basketball team, or meet for spaghetti dinners and pancake breakfasts. When a crisis struck, the community joined together to face the crisis with the affected family, arm in arm.

Then the winds shifted toward individualism. Families moved for better jobs, then moved again, becoming more isolated. Communities became more fractured. Meanwhile the problems of society, particularly low-income society, persisted. Students whose basic needs weren’t met couldn’t focus on learning while struggling under the weight of
poverty. Enter the community school model.

Assess Needs, Offer Services

Up and down the halls of Lynn Middle School is evidence of the community- oriented mission. In a room near the front office, community schools coordinator Sylvia Chavez maintains racks of donated clothes. “We always need shoes. We have boys who wear size 11, 12, 13. I’m constantly looking at men’s feet and asking, ‘What’s your size?’” she laughs. Nearby, “the family computer center,” which includes a pair of computers, printer, and array of office supplies, can be used by parents to update resumes, print documents, sign up for community programs, or whatever they need, says Chavez.

Sylvia Chavez (photo: Mary Ellen Flannery)

During the school’s “assets and needs assessment,” a necessary precursor to the development of a community school, teachers and parents pointed most frequently to hunger and mental health issues. One in four children is food insecure in New Mexico and, as any educator can tell you, hungry children can’t learn.

A new food pantry, supplied by local non-profit Casa de Peregrinos with daily snacks and take-home bags of food, tackles hunger. Between the various agencies involved, some Lynn Community School students eat three meals a day at school, and many take home food for the weekend.

Farther down the hall, in a space now occupied by a teachers’ lounge, a mental health clinic will open later this year with visiting counselors from a community health center. “Our social workers are super overworked. They can do crisis care, but they can’t do the kind of ongoing, sustained behavioral care that parents want,” says Chavez.

These kinds of services can make or break a crisis situation. If we had no way to support that student, he’d have no chance.” – David Greenberg, Las Cruces Public School District

In the adjacent room, a school-based dental clinic will open, too. Being a community school mean inviting the community into the school, but also reaching out, says Chavez. “I meet with teachers and ask them, ‘How can you teach science and also engage with the community? How can you teach social studies and also engage with the community?” One media teacher started a student-run newspaper for and about the community, she says. Others are growing vegetables in their courtyard and sharing them.

Chavez, who was a teacher for 20 years before coming to Lynn last year, calls it a work in progress. “The struggle is to get parents to change their mindset and realize that this is truly their space. This school is for the whole family,” she says.

In essence, all community schools are works in progress as school personnel identify different needs and new partners while looking for additional funding streams and strategies to bring the community back to the schools with an “It takes a village” view.

Educators Focus on Education

Across the country in Alexandria, Va., a suburb of Washington, D.C., Walt Whitman Middle School became the second community school to open in the Fairfax County Public School district this academic year, along with Mount Vernon Woods Elementary School.

The schools were chosen based on the high needs of their students who live along what’s known as the Richmond Highway Corridor, a busy four-lane street lined with strip malls and check-cashing stores, low-rent apartment buildings and trailer parks.

It’s a pocket of disadvantage in a sprawling county that is also home to some of the most affluent families in America. At Walt Whitman, more than half of families live below the poverty line. Their most pressing need: food.

Walt Whitman students can pick up clothing in the community room. (Photo: Luis Gomez)

There are hungry students all over the country and educators do everything they can to help, but without someone to help coordinate efforts to reduce hunger on an ongoing basis, those attempts are stretched to the breaking point.

“There is no end to what educators want to give,” says Karisa Gearheart, the social worker at Walt Whitman who used to juggle feeding hungry students on top of her caseload, while helping homeless families find housing, or connecting uninsured students to free medical and mental health services.

“But in a community school, the silos are removed and helping meet students’ needs is more streamlined and sustainable,” Gearheart says.

Now, if someone at the school notices that a student has no warm coat or is wearing shoes with holes, they don’t have to make a weekend trip to Target. They can bring them to the community room to pick something out from racks of clothing brimming with coats, shoes and kid’s attire in every size, including infants. There’s also a food pantry in the community room, stocked by the Capital Area Food Bank, where students and their parents can grab whatever they need for weekday and weekend meals.

“There is no end to what educators want to give. But in a community school, the silos are removed and helping meet students’ needs is more streamlined and sustainable.” – Karisa Gearheart

The community room, a converted classroom now furnished with sofas and tables, is also a meeting space for parents who gather every Friday for workshops on managing household finances, saving for college, and drug, alcohol, and gun violence prevention.

Once a month, the school opens a fresh food market where families can get free fruits and vegetables—even whole chickens and other fresh meats.

It’s enough food to feed a family for at least two weeks. Students and staff work together to set up the market each month, bagging vegetables and carrying groceries for “customers.” The market brings together students who don’t regularly hang out and it builds comradery among educators.

“I like having the opportunity to help other people in my community,” says fourteen-year-old Mario Pineda.

“The first time I carried so many boxes to cars I was really sore the next day!”

Mario is a student in Beverly Wong’s AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) class, a college readiness course that focuses on writing, critical thinking, teamwork and leadership.

Wong, who has taught at Whitman for 17 years, brings her AVID class to the market every month so they can volunteer, earn community service hours and practice leadership skills.

“When my own kids were young, we volunteered at the food pantry and they learned so much from that experience,” says Wong. “I really appreciate being able to volunteer right here at school and involve my students in the process so they can help each other and learn what it means to contribute to their community.

Students give, students receive, and all of this allows us to do our jobs better.” The community schools coordinator, Delia Montecinos, makes it all happen.

She is the conduit between the school, the community, and the services provided through a partnership with Fairfax County Public Schools, Fairfax County Government and Neighborhood Services, the United Way of the National Capital Area, and United Community Ministries, Inc., a community advocacy organization that has worked with low-income residents of Fairfax County for more than 50 years.

By connecting the students and their families to the services they need in the community, Montecinos allows educators to focus on educating.

The hope is that all schools in the district will become community hubs—centers of learning that offer food, clothing, and classes, plus on-site laundry, medical, and dental facilities.

Their lens will widen from focusing only on students in a classroom to focusing also on the needs of a student’s siblings, parents, grandparents, and neighbors. The idea is that lifting up a student isn’t possible unless her community is lifted up, too.

According to Wong, there is one simple reason for the critical work of community schools: “We need to do this,” she says. “We’re raising the future.”

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10 Must-Read Books To Honor Women’s History Month

Women’s contributions throughout history have often been minimized, erased or otherwise removed from the public consciousness. Fortunately there are many great books that bring their stories to light. 

In honor of Women’s History Month, the folks over at Goodreads curated a list of books about women who made their mark on the world ― from more well-known names to relatively obscure stories. 

“To highlight the incredible lives of women throughout history, we looked at the most popular and highly rated biographies that have resonated with our community of 85 million members,” Goodreads co-founder and editor-in-chief Elizabeth Khuri Chandler told HuffPost.

“We also wanted to broaden our horizons, so we included biographies about women from different centuries and continents,” she added. “But the women had one thing in common: They all made an impact on our world, and this is the perfect month to celebrate that by learning more about their lives.”

Here are the 10 most popular books about women in history, as rated by Goodreads members:

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Educators Look to End the Big Corporate Tax Giveaway

When a school district is $30 million in the hole, the effects are evident.

In Louisiana’s East Baton Rouge Parish School District, some students are crammed into classrooms that weren’t built to accommodate large class sizes. Older buildings are cleaned and patched, but floods and vandalism have taken their toll.

“Conditions in some of our buildings are deplorable,” says Dr. Tia Mills, an elementary special needs educator and president of the East Baton Rouge Parish Association of Educators (EBRPAE). “Schools are underfunded and employees are not getting paid what they deserve.”

Teacher salaries in East Baton Rouge have gone down by more than $9,000 since 2008 (accounting for inflation). So many educators have left the district that in recent years, there have been classes with no permanent teacher all year.

Louisiana ranks 49th in the country for teacher salaries and pay in East Baton Rouge Parish is in the bottom third of school districts in the state, according to the Louisiana Association of Educators (LAE).

That’s why Mills, like many of her colleagues, works a second job. In addition to teaching at Eden Park, the district’s alternative elementary school, Mills is an adjunct professor of history—“another salary I can’t live off of,” she says.

But Mills—working with LAE—found a way to fight back, after pinpointing a glaring source of their funding troubles: corporate tax breaks.

Louisiana’s Industrial Tax Exemption Program (ITEP) offers an extreme example of the subsidies that states routinely lavish upon corporations.

For more than 80 years, local governments in Louisiana have lacked control over their own tax-break decisions. Instead, one state body, the Board of Commerce and Industry, has routinely granted petrochemical giants like ExxonMobil long-term property tax abatements. This program alone costs public services throughout the state about $1.7 billion per year, and schools lose the most: about $600 million annually.

EBRPAE members spent well over a year organizing, stayed vigilant during several 7-hour school board meetings, and endured some nasty name-calling from those who oppose their campaign.

“I tell everybody, this is not sexy work,” says Mills. “It’s not. But it has to
be done.”

LAE members’ perseverance paid off: This year, the East Baton Rouge
Parish School Board denied Exxon-Mobil a $2.9 million abatement—a
story so big it dominated the New York Times business section on February 5.

A Lot of Dollars, No Sense

The original purpose of such corporate tax subsidies was economic development. Starting in the 1930s, Southern states created incentive programs to lure companies from the Northeast and Midwest. Now, it happens everywhere.

When companies can credibly threaten to move jobs, they stage secretive tax-break auctions. That is why the high-profile competition to land Amazon’s second headquarters, or HQ2, gained so much attention; it
was a rare public auction.

Residents of Queens, New York, and Arlington, Virginia, were not uniformly thrilled to discover they had been chosen at a cost of $2.8 billion and $796 million in incentives, respectively. Community groups in Queens organized to successfully block Amazon’s arrival; the company abruptly cancelled its New York plan mid-February.

Another high-profile corporate tax abatement drama is playing out in Wisconsin, where former-Gov. Scott Walker awarded $4.8 billion to Foxconn Technology Group in 2017 for a massive flat-panel display factory—the largest subsidy ever awarded to a foreign-based corporation.

(Since the deal was announced, the number and nature of promised jobs has been repeatedly revised downward, and Foxconn recently admitted it may never manufacture anything in Wisconsin.)

Walker lost his re-election bid to now-Governor Tony Evers, who is working to minimize the financial fallout. As the Wisconsin Education Association Council agree has said, even if those jobs do materialize, they would come at far too great a cost to schools. The job creation incentive alone will cost the state $300 million per year between 2022 and 2026, drawing down the funds available for K-12 schools and the public university system.

The harm corporate tax subsidies do to public education has long been understood, but until now, it could not be accurately measured. That has changed as a result of a new government-accounting rule that NEA and other groups helped win in 2015.

Thanks to that new rule, we now know that in 26 states alone corporate subsidies cost schools at least $1.8 billion last year. That’s according to a first-of-its-kind report, The New Math on School Finance, from the watchdog group Good Jobs First.

Dr. Tia Mills (center) and colleagues pushed the school board to use its new power to deny corporate tax exemptions. (Photo courtesy of East Baton Rouge Parish Association of Educators)

The analysis shows that Hillsboro School District in Hillsboro, Oregon— where Intel and several cloud computing data farms enjoy big tax breaks—lost more to corporate subsidies in 2017 than any other school district in America: $96.7 million.

Under Oregon’s school funding formula, that tremendous loss is not absorbed only by Hillsboro; all 197 school districts take a proportional hit.

But that’s not easy in a state with limited revenue sources, where schools have been underfunded for decades.

“Our biggest struggle is class sizes,” says Hillsboro Education Association
President Jill Golay. “We have numbers that are really off the charts.” She’s referring to lower elementary classes of 30-plus and middle school
classes over 40.

“When I moved from Idaho to Oregon in 2010 I went from 18 to 32 first-graders,” Golay says. “That’s a lot of kids when you’re trying to teach them to read. I know the school district is committed to reducing class size if the funding is there.”

That $96.7 million would surely help.

Golay credits companies like Intel for their contributions to local schools in the form of donations and employee volunteers.

“They do a lot for us. But that’s not the same as revenue that you can count on every year,” she added.

If the goal of economic development incentives is to strengthen a local economy, then these lavish corporate subsidies are failing, says Greg LeRoy, executive director of Good Jobs First.

“When tax abatements cause school districts to have fiscal stress and reduce school quality, they actually undermine the local business climate,” LeRoy adds.

That’s because school quality is an important factor in location decisions both for companies seeking well-educated workers and for those hoping to convince key managers and their families to relocate.

corporate tax breaks schools

Knowledge is Power

Educator unions have long known that corporate subsidies drain resources for schools. But now they have a better idea by how much.

The study by Good Jobs First was made possible by a new accounting standard known as GASB Statement 77, which (finally!) requires state and local governments to report the amount of revenue they lost to corporate tax abatements each year.

That’s good news for NEA members and everyone who cares about great schools. Leaders can steer the conversation away from austerity and terrible choices to how much taxpayer money is given to corporations and whether it is too much.

Maybe some of these incentives made sense 80 years ago, but these huge corporations that make billions should not be taking this kind of money out of the local schools.” – Alexandra Clark, school psychologist

The work the East Baton Rouge local has done to organize against subsidies provides a promising example.

First, Gov. John Bel Edwards—whose election was strongly supported by LAE because of his support for public education—issued an executive order in 2016 empowering local taxing authorities to vote for or against industrial tax exemptions.

EBRPAE educators seized the moment and joined forces with Together Baton Rouge, a coalition of faith and community groups, to inform citizens about how collecting these taxes could boost their local school budgets.

EBRPAE energized its own members by connecting the subsidies to the cuts in school resources and low pay. More members became regulars at union meetings. They circulated information and “Call your school board member” action alerts to all school employees, and showed up to school board meetings wearing bright red in honor of the #RedForEd movement.

School psychologist Alexandra Clark has not only become more active in her local, but outspoken on economic issues.

“I finally understood that if Louisiana would quit giving away our wealth, we would have money for raises and support staff and could retain people,” says Clark.

EBRPAE educators have had a series of meaningful victories. They stopped one request by announcing their intention to take leave and storm the Louisiana Board of Commerce and Industry meeting to speak out against ExxonMobil’s latest exemption request—for facility upgrades that were completed two years ago. The issue was dropped from the meeting agenda.

“Our state is one of the richest in resources but has some of the lowest test scores and worst health indicators,” said Clark. “Can this go on?”

“Maybe some of these incentives made sense 80 years ago,” she said, “but these huge corporations that make billions should not be taking this kind of money out of the local schools.”

Bargaining for the Common Good

Bargaining for the Common Good is an organizing approach where public sector unions use contract fights as an opportunity to organize local stakeholders around a set of demands that benefit not just the bargaining unit, but the wider community as a whole.

In these campaigns, labor and community groups are equal partners who work together to build public support for revenue solutions—including curbing excessive corporate subsidies.

Now, educator unions can demonstrate exactly how much local schools lose to corporate subsidies.

Access the full report from Good Jobs First.Use their subsidy tracker to find out about corporate tax giveaways in your state.

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Referee Who Made Black Wrestler Cut Dreadlocks May Sue For Defamation

The New Jersey referee who was criticized for forcing a black teenager to cut his dreadlocks for a wrestling match is apparently planning to file a lawsuit alleging character defamation and emotional distress related to the incident.

The referee, Alan Maloney, sent a tort claim notice earlier this month to a dozen potential defendants, including the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) and Buena School District officials, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. A tort claim notice is not a lawsuit; instead, it informs a public entity that a person believes they have a reason to file a lawsuit against it.

Maloney alleged in his March 6 notice that he has suffered $100,000 in damages after making Andrew Johnson, a wrestler at Buena Regional High School, choose between cutting his dreadlocks or forfeiting his match on Dec. 19, 2018. Buena officials said soon after the incident that Maloney would no longer work with the school district. The NJSIAA also barred him from officiating any matches, pending results from its own investigation and a probe by the state Division of Civil Rights.

Buena School District Superintendent David Cappuccio Jr. declined to comment to HuffPost for legal reasons.

A video of the dreadlock-cutting went viral online soon after it happened, with Johnson visibly upset when an athletic trainer used scissors to cut his hair off. The footage showed Johnson winning the match but still distressed, sparking conversations about the trauma black people experience over the racist policing of their hair.

Maloney, who is white, faced condemnation on social media and from New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D), film director Ava DuVernay and Olympic wrestler Jordan Burroughs.

The incident was referred to the state attorney general’s office to investigate whether Maloney had acted appropriately. Maloney’s claim notice, obtained by the Inquirer, defends his actions during that match, which included telling Johnson he was not allowed to wrestle without a hair covering.

“Mr. Maloney properly performed his duties as the referee and fairly applied the rules governing a wrestling match,” the notice stated, according to the newspaper.

Maloney has been accused of racism before. In 2016, the referee made headlines after reportedly using a racial slur against a black referee. He later said he didn’t remember saying the word.

Maloney’s attorney, Ralph Paolone, did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment.

Johnson’s attorney, Dominic Speziali, did not immediately respond either, but told the New York Daily News that “the extent referee Alan Maloney plans to ever file a claim as a victim in this incident is outright absurd.”

Johnson, currently a high school junior, resumed competing in wrestling matches in January. He finished the season with 19 wins.

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8 Elite Public Schools In NYC Only Accepted 190 Black Students

Efforts to diversify New York City’s most selective public schools appear to be falling flat, with fewer black and Hispanic students offered acceptance letters this year while offers to white students rose.

Just 4 percent ― or 190 students ― of the 4,800 students invited to attend the city’s eight specialized schools this fall are black. That amount is down from 207 black students admitted last year out of more than 5,000 offers, the city said on Monday.

Stuyvesant High School, the city’s most selective school, similarly saw a repeat decline in black students receiving offer letters this year, with only seven black students being accepted ― down from 10 students last year. Bronx High School of Science, another highly selective specialized school, similarly offered 12 black students invitations this year, down from 25 students last year.

Stuyvesant High School, one of eight specialized public high schools in New York City that accepts students by a single test score, is seen. 

All eight of the specialized schools use a single test score ― from the Specialized High School Admissions Test (SHSAT) ― to determine a student’s eligibility. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) has advocated for abolishing the test, which he’s called a “roadblock to justice.”

The number of Hispanic students accepted at Stuyvesant did slightly increase from 27 to 33 students, though overall, across all eight schools, the number of Hispanic students accepted slightly decreased from 320 to 316 students. It also dropped at the Bronx High School of Science, from 65 students last year to 43.

In terms of white students, Stuyvesant sent invitations to 194 students this year, up from 151 last year. Among all eight schools, the acceptance rate increased from 1,344 to 1,368.

The number of Asian-American students, who make up more than half of the specialized schools, slightly decreased at Stuyvesant from 613 to 587 as well as across the board from 2,620 to 2,450.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) was among those criticizing the acceptance rates while noting that more than half of the city’s public school students are black or Latino.

“To only have 7 Black students accepted into Stuyvesant (a *public* high school) tells us that this is a system failure,” she tweeted on Tuesday. “Education inequity is a major factor in the racial wealth gap. This is what injustice looks like.”

Schools Chancellor Richard A. Carranza, responding to the acceptance rates on Monday, echoed de Blasio’s previous calls to remove the SHSAT.

“We’re also once again confronted by an unacceptable status quo at our specialized high schools. We need to eliminate the single test for specialized high school admissions now,” he said in a statement obtained by HuffPost.

The city had hoped to increase the schools’ diversity to better reflect its demographics. As Ocasio-Cortez pointed out, black and Hispanic students make up nearly 70 percent of the city’s public school system as a whole, according to The New York Times.

The city last year announced plans to increase openings for those with disadvantaged backgrounds by extending offers to students whose test scores are just below the acceptance cutoff and who agree to participate in a summer program called Discovery. It then decreased this year’s total number of offers so that approximately 500 openings could be offered to Discovery participants. 

The de Blasio administration had estimated that over two years, 16 percent of the admission letters would go to black and Latino students, compared to 9 percent at the time of last year’s announcement.

A group of Asian-American education advocates filed a lawsuit against de Blasio and Carranza late last year, arguing that the changes to the admissions policy would discriminate against Asian-American students.

The city has said that by 2020 it hopes to reserve 20 percent of its seats at each specialized high school for Discovery program participants.

Applicable students will be notified later this spring if they are invited to attend the Discovery program.

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I Oversee A Dog Therapy Program On A College Campus. Here’s What I Have Learned.

The interaction always played out the same way. I’d leave my office and make my way across campus in search of coffee, my dog Frances by my side, and I would be besieged by students who, for the most part, would ignore me and lose themselves in Frances. They would eventually look up with tear-filled eyes and say: “As much as I miss my parents, I miss my dog more.”

Now, seven years later, I run a large dog therapy program at the University of British Columbia. With 60 therapy dog teams, we offer programs to reduce stress and boost students’ wellbeing.

Ellie, a four-year-old labradoodle, enjoys many pats from students as part of the Building Academic Retention through K9s program (B.A.R.K.) at the University of British Columbia.

The B.A.R.K. program — Building Academic Retention through K9s — creates opportunities for students and community members to spend time with therapy dogs.

We offer a weekly drop-in program on Friday afternoons. For students who can’t attend that session, we have therapy dog teams stationed throughout the campus strategically near the coffee shop and in the library at other times.

The 60 therapy dogs we have in B.A.R.K. are mostly male, are all around four years old. Thirty-six per cent of them are mixed breeds, thus challenging the prevailing stereotype that only golden retrievers make good therapy dogs.

We work closely with a local rescue group, Paws it Forward which rescues dogs from high-kill shelters in the United States and elsewhere. Once these dogs are adopted, many of them find their way into our program.

We also build leadership skills in children from the Okanagan Boys & Girls Club, and provide stress reduction opportunities for police constables at the Kelowna Royal Canadian Mounted Police Detachment. It’s rewarding work for sure.

Why dogs on campus?

Life as a university student is usually thought of as an exciting and engaging time of one’s life. But for many it can feel not dissimilar to moving into a seniors’ home, in the sense of living away from home, leaving family and pets behind and adjusting to a potentially impersonal institution.

Dash, a six-year-old golden retriever, is one of 60 dogs who helps ease the transition from high school to university.

Dash, a six-year-old golden retriever, is one of 60 dogs who helps ease the transition from high school to university.

In fact, this transition sees first-year university students, especially in the first semester, experience heightened levels of homesickness.

Providing students with access to therapy dogs helps fill a void caused by this upheaval and helps to ease the transition from high school to university.

These first-year university students are adjusting to increased academic expectations and figuring out how to establish new social networks. Once they are suddenly free from the watchful eye of parents, they can thrive in their new environment or feel as if they are drowning in it.

Universities are increasingly seeking ways to support those students who need assistance with the transition from high school. No longer concerned only about students’ academic success, modern universities also strive to support their social and emotional wellbeing.

Students who fail to make the transition from high school to university are at risk for compromised mental health and potentially dropping out, which comes at a cost to not just the student, but the university too.

This is where therapy dogs come in on campuses. A 2015 study identified more than 925 canine therapy programs across U.S. college campuses and programs, but to date, no known comprehensive research is available about the number of canine therapy programs at Canadian post-secondary institutions.

After seven years, here’s what I’ve learned about supporting university students through canine therapy.

Exposing a group of therapy dogs to stressed university students is no small undertaking and efforts must be made to safeguard the welfare of therapy dogs working in sessions.

You can’t have human stress decrease at the expense of therapy dog wellbeing, so dogs in our program are carefully monitored for signs of distress. As part of their orientation, handlers learn to recognize the indicators of canine stress.

2. Being with dogs reduces student stress

Over the course of three semesters, we documented how 1,960 students confidentially assessed their stress levels upon arriving at a dog program and when departing. We found students’ stress reduced significantly from an average arrival rating of 4.47 on a five-point-scale to 1.73 on the same scale after being with dogs.

3. The half-hour sweet spot

Some programs will set limits on how long students can visit with dogs.

However, we identified that when given the option to stay until they felt their stress was sufficiently reduced, university students stay, on average, 35 minutes.

4. Dog therapy can be low-cost

Although a therapy dog program can provide a number of logistical challenges, structured properly it can be relatively low-cost.

The costs associated with running a program are borne largely upfront in the screening, training and assessment of therapy dogs and their handlers. As these programs run predominantly on the efforts of community volunteers, once dog-handler teams are identified, the costs are not prohibitive.

5. Programs must be flexible

There can’t be too many barriers impeding students’ access to dogs. Students, especially stressed students, don’t like to wait. Providing access to enough dogs to meet the demand can be a challenge.

6. It’s not just for first-year students

Although first-year students account for the bulk of our student visitors, we see students from across the undergraduate years. Generally, more female than male students seek to interact with therapy dogs.

We also see faculty, staff and community members make use of our programs. Although post-secondary faculty in particular experience heightened occupational stress, we have not yet assessed the effects of therapy dogs on faculty or staff stress.

At our drop-in space, you’ll find snacks, friendly dog handlers trained in facilitating interactions, and therapy dogs eager to comfort students who admit to missing their dog back home a little more than their parents.

John-Tyler Binfet is Associate Professor in the Faculty of Education at the University of British Columbia. This article is republished from The Conversation Canada, a nonprofit news organization unlocking ideas from academia, under a Creative Commons license.

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U.S. Professor Becomes First Woman To Be Awarded Math’s Top Prize

An American professor has become the first woman to be awarded the Abel Prize, one of the world’s most prestigious international mathematics awards.

The Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters announced in Oslo on Tuesday that Karen Keskulla Uhlenbeck of the University of Texas at Austin was this year’s winner of the prize, seen by many as the Nobel Prize in mathematics.

The award was worth six million Norwegian kroner ($704,000).

The jury cited Keskulla Uhlenbeck’s “fundamental work in geometric analysis and gauge theory which has dramatically changed the mathematical landscape.” It also praised her as “a strong advocate for gender equality in science and mathematics.”

The prize was first awarded in 2003 to honor the 19th-century Norwegian mathematician Niels Henrik Abel.

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What Motivates Educators To Step Into (and Stay) in the Classroom

Jayson Chang

It’s a well-known fact that many public school teachers enter the profession only to leave a short time later. The U.S. Census Bureau says teachers are leaving the profession at a rate that has continued to climb for the past three years.

First-grade teacher Michelle Usher stays. Currently in her eleventh year of teaching, and her second year at Brentfield Elementary School in Dallas, Texas, Usher says she considered the statistics on teachers who leave while attending last summer’s NEA Representative Assembly, and wondered, “Why aren’t we also talking about the people like me who stay?”

Her musings inspired this story about the motivations that encourage Usher and other teachers to stay.

Usher was raised by a mom who this year entered her 39th year as an educator. But it was really her third-grade teacher, Robin Johnson—with whom Usher continues to maintain contact—who inspired her to teach.

While she was a student in Johnson’s class, Usher’s grandmother died. “It was really hard on me,” she says. Johnson assured her they would weather Usher’s grief together.

Johnson’s support led Usher to understand early that teachers provide more than academic instruction. They also provide care—the lesson Usher says she most wants her students to receive: “I’m not just here to teach you something. I really care about you.”

Usher’s first teaching experience was in an Arkansas county where the number of students from families with low incomes was high. In the neighborhood surrounding her current school in Texas homes average $300,000, compared to a state-wide average of $185,000. The only difference between the two sets of students, says Usher, “is what their parents can provide.”

She says students enter school carrying with them an invisible suitcase filled with whatever is going on in their lives, and they can’t set it aside. “Even though I don’t know what’s going on, I can help them unpack their suitcase.” At day’s end, she helps pack it back up, hoping that she has helped to make the contents a bit “fluffier and brighter,” she says.

Michelle Usher (Photo: Hoyoung Lee)

And that’s why she remains. “I stay because I want to make change. Even when I started teaching, there were laws and policy procedures that didn’t fit with what is actually happening in the classroom. I could have left five years ago, but my drive is if I keep teaching in the classroom, [and] keep talking to parents, we can get the votes we need.”

She adds, “I think now, we are seeing what we decided earlier isn’t going to work. If I can impact students every day, teach them how government works, I am impacting what we will see in 20 years.”

Student Success

Jennie Campbell, a special education teacher at Pine Ridge Elementary School in Aurora, Colo., has a similar experience and agrees with Usher’s sentiment about how educators help to shape the future.

“For our kindergarteners today, the world is going to look completely different by the time they’re in twelfth grade,” says Campbell, who adds that educators strive to “help best meet the needs of our kids so that the world is accessible to all of them.”

Campbell is a fifth-generation educator and says teaching runs in her blood. Her mom was a teacher of students with severe needs. Her grandmother was an English teacher whose mother and grandmother were one-room schoolhouse teachers.

Campbell also has aunts and cousins who teach. But when NEA Today asked Campbell why she decided to teach, she, like Usher, credited her third-grade teacher.

“There are always one or two teachers in your life who stand out because they did something to help you or they connected with you on a personal level,” Campbell says. “Ms. Harper was my inspiration [to become] a teacher. There was something about her that made learning fun and magical.”

Jennie Campbell

Campbell has been a special education teacher for 12 years, and has worked with students with severe autism and Down syndrome. Her student caseloads have been, at times, overwhelming. Yet, she remains in the classroom.

“Every kid is like a puzzle and I’m trying to figure out what pieces I can give him or her to make learning a whole picture,” says Campbell, explaining that one of her students at the beginning of the year was reading 31 words a minute at grade level. Today, this student reads 85 words a minute.

“This is tremendous growth for a kiddo to read more fluidly and to more accurately comprehend,” she says. “And, to have the kids have the ability and the skills to be functional citizens within our world—however that may look—is why I’m still in it.”

Not every teacher comes from a family of educators or instantly recalls that one special teacher.

Goodbye Private Sector, Hello Public Education

California’s Jayson Chang, who teaches tenth-grade world history and twelfth-grade government and economics at Santa Teresa High School in San Jose, Calif., held an unfulfilling marketing position for two years before entering the classroom.

He recalls a staff meeting during which his manager explained how it was cheaper for someone in India to buy a TV from their U.S.-based company and have it shipped from their warehouse (also U.S. based) to India, than for the person to buy a TV from China and have it ship from China.

“China and India are right next to each other!” Chang recalls thinking that day. “It makes no sense to ship a TV back and forth across the Pacific. I made a comment about ‘That’s not good for the environment.’ My manager replied, ‘I’m here to sell TVs, not save the world.’ That’s when I knew I had to leave.”

After he resigned, Chang did some soul searching. He reflected on his love of history—how, as a high school student, he often thought of wanting to teach history so other students, like him, would love the subject, too. He thought about his undergraduate studies, which focused on being a global citizen and making human connections. He thought about making a difference in the world.

In 2016, Chang stepped into the classroom recognizing that while all students may not end up loving history, they can at least understand its importance.

“Teaching history, and why it matters—especially now that the country is so divided—is where I can make an impact,” he says. “Students are our future and they can shape it as they see fit. It’s important to teach them about community.”

While he does enjoy his students’ “aha” moments, Chang finds it most rewarding when his graduated students come back to visit.

“It’s these moments that reinforce why I teach. Students share how I made a difference in their lives or how they used the lessons learned from my class in real-world situations,” he explains. “These are the kinds of connections and the type of community experiences that get me pumped and ready to go the next day.”

From Volunteer to School Secretary

For JaTawn Robinson, a secretary at Thomasville Heights Elementary in Atlanta, Ga., the power of community is strong.

Several years ago, Robinson was a frequent volunteer at her children’s school, Slater Elementary. Robinson was a lunch monitor, volunteer reader, and a field trip chaperone.

She made copies and assisted in the office. “Whatever needed to be done, I was there,” says the mother of three sons.

JaTawn Robinson

The seed for JaTawn Robinson’s commitment to her children’s school was planted long ago when Robinson herself was in elementary school.

“My mom volunteered a lot at my school,” she fondly remembers. “Attending PTA meetings was a requirement for us, and I always appreciated the sense of community and family in school when I was a little girl.”

One day, while she was working as a volunteer monitor in the cafeteria of her children’s school, the principal approached Robinson, said, “I need to talk to you in my office,” and then walked away.

“It made me nervous,” Robinson says, “I thought, ‘Did my children do something?’”

The principal had asked Robinson about her background. She explained how she held an associate degree in education and was affiliated with the Georgia Association of Educators and the NEA.

They discussed opportunities within the school, but nothing concrete.
By the end of the school year, Robinson was offered a position as the school’s parent liaison.

Two years later, she became the school secretary. Robinson spent two years in that role, and then moved to Thomasville Heights—the elementary school she attended, and where her mother spent countless hours as a volunteer.

Robinson has been the secretary at Thomasville since 2017. Remembering her time there as a fourth and fifth grade student, she says that while the surrounding community struggled with poverty and drugs, she felt safe when she arrived at school.

“You knew you were loved here. You knew someone was going to care for you. Our babies still battle some of the things we battled when I was in elementary school, and I want to provide that same love and the same sense of safety I felt when I was a student here.”

A Teacher For Life

Erika Navarro-Dix also teaches at the school she once attended. She is a first grade teacher at Carnation Elementary School, in the small, rural town of Carnation, Wash., about 30 minutes east of Seattle.

The reason she continues to teach? “I’ve always enjoyed being around kids,” she says.

Erika Navarro-Dix

Navarro-Dix says her first year of teaching was hard. She she was young and new to the profession, and says she didn’t emerge from her preservice with a developed classroom management style.

Still, she adds, “I knew this was something I wanted to do for the rest of my life..”

Navarro-Dix sought help. She went to her principal and asked for additional classroom observations. She watched other teachers. She looked for mentors.

Ten years later, she is still in the classroom.

“For me, it’s teaching first grade because that’s a really big ‘aha’ year for kids. School starts to make sense and their light bulbs turn on and just geting to see their love for learning has made me want to stay in this profession.”

Navarro-Dix, Usher, Campbell, Chang, and Robinson are hardly alone in their decision to step into—and remain—in the classroom. Nationwide, and day after day, millions of educators step into school settings with a willingness to share love and commitment with their students. And although they use different words to describe why they stay, it all boils down to the determination to make a difference in students’ lives—one that will last a lifetime.

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Julia Roberts Nails What Could Be Saddest Part Of College Admissions Scandal

One of the saddest parts of the college admissions scandal?

Actress Julia Roberts says it’s that the parents accused of paying bribes to secure prestigious school spots for their kids didn’t truly believe in their children.

That’s the Oscar-winner’s take on the scheme, in which dozens of people, including “Full House” actress Lori Loughlin and “Desperate Housewives” star Felicity Huffman, are charged.

“That to me is so sad because I feel, from an outsider, that it says a little bit, ‘I don’t have enough faith in you,’” said Roberts, who was promoting the movie “Ben Is Back,” on ITV show “Lorraine” on Monday.

Roberts and her cinematographer husband, Daniel Moder, tried to “live a very normal experience” with their three children and didn’t want them “to have to have some of the same struggles” as she did growing up, she added. But it was a balance because they also “have to run their own race” and know important life skills.

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Brazil School Shooting Sparks A Familiar Gun Debate, NRA Talking Points And All

BRASÍLIA ― One of the deadliest shootings in Brazil’s history sparked a fresh debate over gun rights this week, deepening political fault lines that the U.S. firearms lobby helped form.

Just hours after two young men killed 10 people and injured 17 at their former school in the quiet São Paulo suburb of Suzano on Wednesday, a São Paulo lawmaker from President Jair Bolsonaro’s far-right Social Liberal Party called for arming teachers.

“As long as the guns are outlawed, only the outlaws will have guns,” tweeted Sen. Major Olímpio, a high-ranking party official and former police officer whose political influence has increased over the past few months.

The remark echoed a familiar drumbeat from the right-wing coalition that propelled Bolsonaro to victory last year.

Brazil’s influential and arch-conservative Bullet Caucus, a collection of congressional lawmakers to which Bolsonaro belonged during his nearly three decades in the legislature, threw its weight behind Bolsonaro as he campaigned on a hard-line law-and-order platform also calling to repeal Brazil’s most restrictive gun laws.

That included the Disarmament Statute, a 2003 law that makes it difficult for most civilians to legally purchase or own a firearm. Bolsonaro signed a decree in January easing the restriction.

The mass shootings that have become rote in American schools are rare in Brazil, though gun violence is common:

There were nearly 64,000 homicides committed here in 2017, according to government figures, and most tend to involve guns. In 2016, for instance, Brazil suffered more than 40,000 gun deaths — making it the only country in the world to have more gun deaths than the United States. The violence is unevenly distributed: More than three-quarters of annual victims of homicides are black

To hard-liners like Bolsonaro and his allies, the answer to this problem mirrors the solution offered by conservatives in the United States: Brazil needs fewer restrictions on guns, they say, not more.

And a movement that has taken its rhetorical, strategic and political cues directly from the playbook of the U.S. gun lobby and the National Rifle Association ― which has worked closely with pro-gun advocates in Brazil for more than a decade ― knew exactly how to respond to a mass shooting at a school with students ranging from elementary to high schoolers.

Arm teachers. Expand gun rights. Give people guns, don’t take them away.

“Another tragedy involving a minor that attests to the failure of the ill-fated disarmament statute,” Flávio Bolsonaro, the president’s son and a São Paulo senator, tweeted.

A customer wearing a shirt in support of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro views a Forjas Taurus SA firearm for sale at a gun shop in São João de Meriti, Brazil.

The immediate response horrified members of the Brazilian opposition.

Sen. Randolfe Rodrigues, the center-left leader from the northern state of Amapá, scoffed at the Olímpio’s “outlaws” statement, tweeting that the “massacre could have been bigger” if it turned into a volley of shots between teachers and former students.

At his office on Thursday, Rodrigues held up his phone to show a video on Instagram in which Bolsonaro, holding a young girl, forms a pistol with his fingers and grins while instructing the child to do the same.

“One evil feeds another evil,” Rodrigues told HuffPost in a wide-ranging interview. “If you create the idea of fundamentalism and nationalism and spread hate, people stop loving art and stop loving sports and start loving guns.”

He added: “That evil is what Bolsonaro is feeding Brazilian society now.”

Alessandro Molon, the opposition leader in the lower house of Brazil’s bicameral legislature representing the Brazilian Socialist Party, introduced legislation last month to nullify Bolsonaro’s decree.

“More guns in circulation leads to more tragedies like the one we unfortunately experienced this week,” Molon told HuffPost via WhatsApp. “Restrictive gun policy means less innocent deaths.”

Rodrigo Maia, an influential congressman whose party is a part of Bolsonaro’s governing coalition, swatted down the idea that the shooting could serve as justification for easing gun laws.

“I hope that some don’t try to defend the idea that if only the teachers had been armed, the problem would have been resolved,” Maia said Wednesday, according to AP reports. “For the love of God.”

The interest in gun ownership has increased. This is linked to … narratives that are very similar to the NRA’s and the gun discussion in the U.S.
Felippe Angeli, Institute of Peace

That the debate in Brazil sounds so familiar is not an accident ― rather, it is the result of years of collaboration between the United States’ powerful gun lobby and allies it has found and cultivated in South America’s largest nation.

The National Rifle Association has long taken an active interest in Brazil, which is home to Taurus International, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of revolvers. In 2003, NRA lobbyists began working alongside Brazilian gun rights groups in an unsuccessful effort to prevent passage of the Disarmament Statute. Two years later, the NRA helped defeat a national ballot referendum that would have banned firearm and ammunition sales with a public lobbying campaign that helped flip polling that had once shown most Brazilians in favor of the ban.

“We view Brazil as the opening salvo for the global gun control movement. If gun control proponents succeed in Brazil, America will be next,” an NRA spokesperson said at the time.

The NRA did not respond to a request for comment on Thursday about its work in Brazil. But it has expanded its global advocacy efforts over the last five years, and its efforts in Brazil have included developing public education campaigns based on its efforts in the United States. Brazilian pro-gun advocates now talk about their God-given rights to own guns and the need for firearms to promote self-defense ― the same talking points as their U.S. counterparts.

“Guns are our guarantee of freedom,” Bolsonaro said during a campaign stop last year, according to Bloomberg. His son Carlos, a Rio de Janeiro city councilman, has posted online that “The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”

That rhetoric, along with sharp spikes in violent crime in recent years, has in turn increased the appetite for gun ownership among Brazilians. In 2004, the year after the disarmament statute was approved, Brazil’s Federal Police received roughly 4,000 permit applications for legal gun purchases, said Felippe Angeli, the advocacy director for the Institute of Peace, a São Paulo-based think tank. Last year, the Federal Police issued nearly 50,000 such permits.

“Together with the rise of Bolsonaro and right-wing groups, the interest in gun ownership has increased,” Angeli told HuffPost in January after Bolsonaro issued his gun decree. “This is linked to the political polarization we have in Brazil, and the narratives that are very similar to the NRA’s and the gun discussion in the U.S.”

Students embrace outside the Raul Brasil state school one day after a mass shooting there in Suzano, Brazil, on March 14, 201

Students embrace outside the Raul Brasil state school one day after a mass shooting there in Suzano, Brazil, on March 14, 2019. 

The school shooting this week also showed disturbing links to U.S. gun culture. Citing preliminary police investigations, TV Globo reported that the shooters studied U.S. mass shootings, including the 1999 Columbine school shooting that shook Americans much as Wednesday’s massacre in São Paulo has rattled Brazil.

Bolsonaro offered his condolences to the victims and their families, and has thus far avoided joining some of his congressional allies in using the tragedy to advance his pro-gun cause. But with his presidency off to a turbulent start that has angered even some of his most fervent conservative supporters, it is unlikely that he will abandon his support for legislation that would expand on his decree and repeal parts, if not all, of the disarmament statute’s gun restrictions.

There are nearly 650,000 legally registered guns in Brazil, according to Federal Police data cited by Reuters, while the Justice Ministry has estimated that there are more than 8 million illegal weapons circulating across the country.

Experts have warned that any measure that increases access to guns and the number of guns overall will only lead to more bloodshed, whether it takes the form of mass school shootings or the everyday gun violence that grips the country.

“There is a scientific consensus that the rise of guns in circulation gets you a rise in violent crime,” Angeli said in January. “There will be more deaths in a country where, already, the homicide rates are unbearable.”

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You Need To Teach Your Kids To Fail. Here’s How.

The college admissions scandal may seem like an extreme case that only pertains to wealthy elites with the means to bribe people to get their children into top universities. But it touches on the pressured feelings almost all parents and students feel today. It also highlights the way many parents are cheating their kids out of an important life lesson: how to fail and bounce back.

The concept of “helicopter parents” who hover over all aspects of their kids’ lives has been around for a while, but over the past year, there have been more headlines about “lawn mower parents,” who mow down every obstacle or difficulty their children may have to face. Lawn mower parents are also known as “snow plow parents” (and even “curling parents” in countries like Denmark and the Netherlands).

It’s natural for parents to want to protect their children from disappointment, but doing so can ultimately lower their self-esteem and set them up for more difficulty in the future. HuffPost spoke to educators and child development experts about the importance of teaching kids about failure and resilience.

The Importance Of Failure

“Parents who give permission for kids to fail are building social and emotional skills and qualities that last a lifetime ― persistence, positive self-image, self-confidence, self-control, problem-solving, self-sufficiency, focus and patience,” Kim Metcalfe, a retired professor of early childhood education and psychology and author of Let’s Build ExtraOrdinary Youth Together, told HuffPost.

But allowing your child to fail almost seems to go against nature, noted Jessica Lahey, a teacher, journalist and author of The Gift of Failure: How the Best Parents Learn to Let Go So Their Children Can Succeed.

She said that parents feel bombarded by frightening headlines along the lines of “it’s impossible to get into college today” or “the next generation of kids is unlikely to do better economically than their parents.”

“When faced with those sorts of scary scenarios, we tend to go into ‘protective parent mode,’ which is evolutionarily rational,” Lahey explained. “But we’re reacting to things that aren’t actually threats. It’s not a threat that our child can’t get into Harvard. It’s not a threat that our kid is not the top-scoring player on the soccer team. It’s something that’s beneficial for them to have to experience.”

“Failure is part of life, and if our children don’t have the opportunity to fail or make mistakes, they’ll never realize they can bounce back. That’s what resilience is all about.”

– Michele Borba

Because parents have the instinct to protect their children from failure and disappointment, it’s necessary to take a step back and understand what real threats are versus what’s actually just part of growing up.

“Failure is part of life, and if our children don’t have the opportunity to fail or make mistakes, they’ll never realize they can bounce back. That’s what resilience is all about,” said Michele Borba, an educational psychologist and author of UnSelfie: Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-About-Me World. “Your child doesn’t learn to bounce back because you told them they could but because they experienced it. Then when the problems get really huge, they’ve got that gumption inside to realize, ‘Hey I can do this!’”

The Problem With Lawn Mowers

“We can’t plow everything out of the way,” said Lahey. “If this college admissions case is any example, they’ve just set their kids up for failure. Lori Loughlin’s daughter, the Instagram influencer, has become a laughingstock, and now her life is open to scrutiny in a way it wasn’t before.”

Parents who bribe their kids into colleges they’re not equipped to attend are not solving any problems, but rather creating a situation in which their kids will struggle, she continued. This will ultimately erode their sense of competence and self-esteem.

One of the best ways to help a child build his or her sense of self-esteem is to separate your own self-worth as a parent from your children’s accomplishments.

Rather than mowing down obstacles, parents should encourage their children to try and fail and try again. 

Like everyone, parents tend to look for concrete indicators of success and progress. But because there are no parenting report cards or performance evaluations, they simply look to their kids’ achievements and co-opt them.

Lahey noted that this is part of what psychology professor Wendy Grolnick calls the “Pressured Parent Phenomenon.”

“Parents think, ‘My child made the traveling soccer team, so that means I get an A for my parenting,’ or ‘They won the science fair. That means I’m an A+ parent,’” Lahey explained, noting that this feeds into the temptation to mow down any obstacles or challenges kids may face and deprive them of the opportunity to fail.

Obviously no one wants to watch their children fail, but they need to in order to learn to react to failure in a positive and constructive way.

“The most effective teaching tools we have require kids to get frustrated and work through it to the other side,” Lahey said, pointing to the concept of “desirable difficulties” ― educational tasks that require a considerable but ultimately desirable amount of effort in order to enhance long-term learning.

“To benefit from desirable difficulties, kids have to be able to get frustrated, redirect themselves, take a breath, reread the instructions and stick with it long enough that they can overcome that frustration and actually feel that sense of competence when they actually work it out,” she noted.

Lahey encouraged moms and dads to parent from a place of trust and focus on “autonomy supportive parenting” (giving kids more control over the details of a task and allowing them to get frustrated and work through it) rather than “directive parenting” (laying out exactly how to do things and making them follow through).

“Parents think, ‘My child made the traveling soccer team, so that means I get an A for my parenting,’ or ‘They won the science fair. That means I’m an A+ parent.’”

– Jessica Lahey

“We as parents are really good at trying to make our kids feel confident. But confidence is like this empty optimism,” said Lahey. “Competence ― when kids actually push through, figure something out, try something, screw it up, do it again, and get to a place where they really achieve something ― that’s where real self-esteem lies, not in someone telling you you’re smart over and over again.”

How To Teach Failure And Resilience Every Day

Parents can incorporate lessons of failure and resilience for their kids in their everyday lives. For instance, Lahey recommends showing young children how to load the dishwasher and then asking them to do it. Inevitably, they will do something wrong, but it’s a learning opportunity.

“If there’s still egg stuck to one of the plates, you can show it to them and say, ‘Look, because this wasn’t rinsed off, it’s all stuck on there. So let’s work together to get this off, and next time you’ll remember that this sticky yucky egg may still be stuck on there if you don’t rinse first,’” she explained.

When she goes to the airport with her own children, Lahey sometimes budgets extra time so that when they arrive she can turn to them and ask, “OK, where do we go? What do we do first?” That way when they eventually do travel alone, they will feel comfortable navigating an airport.

Lahey acknowledged that these types of experiences often require additional time and planning, but it’s worth it. “Giving them age-appropriate tasks that are fairly low stakes helps them get to a place where when things get to be higher stakes, they’ve got it,” she said.

Parents can incorporate lessons of failure and resilience for their kids into their everyday lives.

Parents can incorporate lessons of failure and resilience for their kids into their everyday lives.

Growing up, Lahey’s son loved a local chocolate shop and asked if they could go there one day. She pulled up to the store, handed him a $5 bill and told him to “go for it!” He refused because he didn’t want to go in by himself, so they left. They repeated this exercise many times over the course of a year until finally one day, he decided he could go in by himself.

“That was a turning point for him about being afraid to talk to people in stores,” she recalled. “Now it’s no problem for him, and that was a low-risk, child-friendly way for him to overcome something that really freaked him out.”

Lahey also recommends having older kids fill out their own school forms and call to schedule their own doctors’ appointments. “These are things that feel like stupid busy work to us, but they’re actually great moments of accomplishment for kids,” she said.

Books also provide a great opportunity to teach failure and resilience. Borba is a fan of Fortunately by Remy Charlip, a children’s book about a boy named Ned who finds himself in some tough situations.

“Every time he has an ‘unfortunate,’ he turns it into a ‘fortunate,’” she explained. “Every page is about how to flip the unfortunate into a fortunate, so kids see that everybody has unfortunates.”

The Power Of Brainstorming

Borba recommends making brainstorming part of kids’ day-to-day experience to help them practice coming up with solutions to problems.

“When your child makes a mistake, don’t berate the child for the mistake but make it into a question of ‘What are you going to learn from it?’ ‘What’s one way you could do that differently?’ or ‘OK, let’s figure out what to do next,’” Borba noted. “If they realize that inside their brains are opportunities to keep thinking of a different option, then they’re less likely to make the mistake again.”

She pointed to what she calls the “pocket problem-solver” method ― using your hand as a brainstorming tool. For your thumb, ask what the problem is. Then name three things you could have done differently for your pointer, middle and ring fingers. Then your pinkie is what you’re going to do next time.

“When your child makes a mistake, don’t berate the child for the mistake but make it into a question of ‘What are you going to learn from it?’ ‘What’s one way you could do that differently?’”

– Michele Borba

For older kids and teens, parents can respond to mistakes and failures by saying, “It’s OK, we can do it again. Let’s figure out another option.”

Borba believes they should own up to their mistakes and be involved in the process of figuring out other options or solutions: “Let’s say your teen is failing a class. Ask, ‘What do you want to do? How about setting up a conference with the teacher? How about getting a tutor?’ Involve them in the ‘how abouts.’”

With older kids and teens, Borba also recommended using news stories as a jumping off point for conversations. The college admissions scandal is actually a good example.

“Ask your teen, ‘Have you heard about what these parents did? How would you feel if I did something like that?’ It’s great to get their reaction,” she said. “Often the real news stories, especially if they involve teens, are a way in, and if your kid isn’t opening up, ask, ‘What do your friends think? What are other people saying about it?’ It’s powerful.”

Kids Need To See Their Parents Struggle

Sharing stories of past failures and how you moved on can be beneficial for your children, but what’s even more helpful is keeping your kids in the loop as you face adversity in the present.

“Sharing current failures allows parents to share the entire thinking and behavioral processes they engage in, which models persistence but more importantly delivers the message that no matter how old we are, we fail, we persist and we learn,” Metcalfe said. Consistently modeling resilience can help kids develop a glass-half-full attitude.

There are age-appropriate ways to be open about failure and make it clear that mistakes are acceptable in your household. Borba noted that parents don’t necessarily have to admit all their biggest failures to their young children (“Oh no, I’ve just gone completely bankrupt! What do I do?”), but it’s OK to openly say, “Oh gosh, I just messed this project up.”

“The wonderful thing is adding ‘but next time I’ll ….’” Borba explained. “For instance say, ‘Wow, I just completely blew the time frame. I thought I’d be able to get out the door on time, and now I’m so late. But next time I’ll set my alarm earlier!’”

It's helpful for parents to be open about their own mistakes and failures. 

It’s helpful for parents to be open about their own mistakes and failures. 

In Lahey’s house, they lay out three things they’d each like to accomplish over the next three months, and one has to be “a bit scary.” Her goals have included submitting work to new publications, taking guitar lessons for the first time and even studying Algebra I in her 40s to get over her “math-phobia.”

She believes it’s a powerful learning opportunity for kids to see their parents try new things that are scary and could lead to mistakes and know that it’s OK.

“My kids watched me do it, screw it up and try again,” she said. “That’s the most effective thing we can give them, yet we seem to hide it because we want them to think we’re perfect or something ― which, as many already know, we’re not.”

Ultimately, fostering a growth and resilience mindset in your child is something that takes time and effort. “Realize that a one-time talk isn’t going to change him or her,” Borba said.

Still, these are lessons worth teaching, so keep encouraging your child to try, make mistakes and see failures as a learning opportunity. With time, you’ll raise a human who’s comfortable facing adversity and able to overcome challenges. This is what every parent fundamentally wants ― not a Yale acceptance letter.

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KonMari Does More Than Just De-Clutter the Classroom

Spring is in the air! Which means, in public schools across the U.S., classroom mess is reaching full bloom.

If you’re an educator who is allergic to disorder, take inspiration from the current master of de-cluttering: the star of the new 2019 Netflix series, “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo.” Like millions of Kondo fans, NEA members are using the KonMari method to put their homes and classrooms in order and focus on what “sparks joy” or engagement or curiosity in their students.

Not only do they end up with less cluttered, more tidy and organized physical spaces, KonMari’s fans say they also gain more mental clarity and purpose.

“When everything is in its place, it feels better—and I think it works for the kids too,” says Courtney Middleton, an Oregon kindergarten teacher who applied the KonMari method to her home and her classroom this year.

“I feel like my mind is clearer and that I can focus better on what is truly important to me,” says Christy Bishop, a Florida third-grade teacher. “Keeping in mind the experience I have had so far with using the KonMari method in my home, I suspect that using this same method in my classroom will force me to define—or redefine—who I am as a teacher now and going forward. I believe that reflection will help me to grow and to be a better teacher.”

What is a KonMari?

Kondo, a Japanese author and self-described “tidy freak,” grew fans a few years ago with a best-selling book, “The Magical Art of Tidying Up.” But the “cult of Marie Kondo,” as The New York Times calls it, hit a peak this year with the New Year’s release of her Netflix series that takes her into American homes. Across the country, donations to thrift stores spiked as Americans re-examined their relationship to their stuff.

A few highlights of the KonMari method are these:

  • First, empty your drawers, closets, boxes—take it all out and make a big pile!
  • Then, hold each object in your hand and ask yourself, does it spark joy?
  • If the answer is no, then thank the item for its service—and toss or donate it. Often art teachers will want your “useless” crayons, magazines, storage boxes, and other detritus!
  • If the answer is yes, then find a correct place for it. Everything should be “easy to see and easy to access without making a mess,” says Bishop.
  • Kondo loves to organize items by size. Categories are important. She also wants you to be able to see the items that you place into storage containers.

Is every aspect of the KonMari method relevant to educators? Well, you can’t toss the students who don’t spark joy….and often there are district policies about retaining paperwork, curriculum, and other classroom items. The decluttering guru’s much-imitated method of folding socks and T-shirts may not have much applicability either.

But the essential (and often mocked) Kondo question—does this thing spark joy—is adaptable to a classroom environment, say Kondo’s educator fans.

“When everything is in its place, it feels better—and I think it works for the kids too,” says Courtney Middleton.

KonMari In Our Classrooms

Middleton started the KonMari process in her kindergarten classroom during a recent teacher workday by taking everything out of her classroom’s storage areas and piling it on the kids’ desks. “I open everything!” she says.

Then, the questions start. “The first year, I asked myself, ‘Is this something I would ever use?’” says Middleton, who has taught kindergarten for three years—and KonMari’ed her classroom each year. “Now I throw away more. It’s easy to say that, if I haven’t used it in the past three years, out it goes. As far as sparking joy, some things aren’t worth it. If it takes a lot of energy or mind space to keep a project organized, I’ll probably try to give it away and replace it with something more organized.

“I like thinking about whether something sparks joy. I think, in a classroom setting, some things do spark joy in my students!”

For Bishop, the question may be modified for an educational setting: “I think many, if not all, good teaching materials do spark joy in children (and teachers, too!) However, I think the guiding question I will use will be something like, ‘Does this spark engagement?’ Or, if ‘engagement’ is too much of a buzzword for some people’s liking, it could be replaced with ‘curiosity,’ ‘excitement,’ ‘interest,’ or whatever seems important to them.”

Examining every classroom resource also will help identify what you don’t have, says Bishop. “I may find a particular area of study for which nothing I have seems to engage students. Going through this process will help me better spot those gaps in my resources and be as prepared as possible for the following school year.”

Something else important happens while you KonMari your stuff, and it’s more powerful than a clean closet, says Bishop. “Really taking the time to ask myself if items bring me happiness or not forces me to define not only who I am right now, but who I want to be going forward. I can’t tell you how many times over the past month and a half I have asked myself, ‘Do you want to be the kind of person who owns and uses this?’ and ‘Why have I kept this so long?’”

Farewell Desks, Here Come the ‘Starbucks Classrooms’
While the idea of modeling a classroom on a Starbucks coffeeshop may elicit skepticism (and even a few groans), the move to more flexible seating is grounded in research that points to real gains in student health and classroom engagement. “Classrooms need to look different from how they did one hundred years ago, but we’re still seeing rows and rows of desks. The skills students need these days – 21st Century skills – can’t really be taught properly in a classroom where you have created islands of desks,” says teacher Kayla Delzer.

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Put More Play In the Kindergarten Day

This is guest post by NEA Today staff writer Cindy Long.

On a chilly February day, I snuck into my son’s kindergarten classroom a few minutes before story time when I’d be reading to the kids. I opened the door and quietly hung up my coat, eager for a rare look at my boy interacting with his teacher and classmates. The children were gathered around tables laughing and chatting while coloring dragons for a Chinese New Year craft. No worksheets, no sight words, no math problems—just crayons and laughter. I was delighted.

At the kindergarten orientation last fall I’d been surprised (okay, aghast) to learn that the five- and six-year-olds would be given homework folders with nightly assignments, receive 90 minutes of language arts and 45 minutes of math each day, and would even use a computer and mouse to take an assessment test. My son thinks a mouse is a cute, furry rodent with a taste for cheese.

Some fellow kindergarten parents were equally puzzled and concerned, others seem gratified that their children would hit the academic ground running, convinced that early reading and math instruction pay off in higher achievement in later grades. There’s research to back them up.

A new study finds that students in kindergarten classes with more academic content not only show higher math and reading ability, in some cases they have better social-emotional skills.

“The results bolster the stance of researchers who believe that challenging academic content is not necessarily at odds with children’s healthy development,” the five researchers wrote in the peer-reviewed American Educational Research Journal study.

Not necessarily, they say, but what about when my son asks me why some of his friends can read and he can’t? I didn’t learn to read until the end of first grade, I tell him. I didn’t read for fun until third or fourth grade, but now I write for a living and read voraciously, with books stacked on my coffee table and nightstand. “You’ll read when you’re ready,” I say.

“Yeah, okay,” he sighs, and I wish his worries were more about a wiggly tooth and a missing matchbox car than his reading ability.

Fortunately, his teacher, Sharon Collier, works hard to strike a balance between the required kindergarten curriculum and just plain kindergarten fun.

When they’re working on numbers, for example, she has them dance the number five. When they’re learning about letters and words, they act like alligators that begin with “A” or snakes that begin with “S.”

“I’ve been doing this for 20 years,” Collier says. “I know when they’re learning, and children this age simply won’t like learning if it’s not fun.”

She has different stations in her room for play and creativity, like an art station and a house station, but there’s often not enough time for that kind of kid-directed free play except during indoor recess.

kindergarten reading expectationsThe Reading Rush: What Educators Say About Kindergarten Reading Expectations
Despite the national push to get them to read and write by year-end, most kindergartners aren’t ready.

“We have a lot of students and not enough time even with a full day versus a half day,” Collier says. “Everyone in kindergarten struggles with this.”

We asked our NEA Today Facebook fans if kindergarten has become too academic. The overwhelming response: Yes!

Shawnee Wood teaches kindergarten at Oakview Elementary in Stoneboro, Pennsylvania, but she says over the last decade it’s become more like second grade disguised as kindergarten.  The rigor and academic expectations increased dramatically with the implementation of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act and the barrage of testing that came with it.

Wood has noticed that even though the Every Student Succeeds Act, which replaced NCLB and reduces the amount of required testing, has helped turn the tide, kindergartners are still “in desperate need for appropriate amounts of social and play time.”

For the first time in 12 years, Oakview’s kindergartners have a morning recess break as well as afternoon, and Wood has noticed the difference in their growth.

“When they have time in the morning and afternoon to have free play without me dictating their activities, their little bodies and minds are better able to focus on the academics,” she says. “They’re learning their sight words as well as learning how to play appropriately.”

Like Collier, Wood has been teaching for 20 years, and remembers when she a taught a letter a week and students still managed to learn how to read.  But with more rigorous expectations, students who have learning issues are buried further by the strident expectations, and their behaviors worsen with the frustration.

“Over and over I say, let me teach them to be kind little citizens, to walk and take turns, to learn to love reading and writing, and the rest will come when they are ready,” she says. “Due to state standards, standardized testing, and the demands of society, it is a fight to keep the joy in kindergarten.”

Other educators have joined the fight. Becky Adrian works with first and second grade English Language Learners and believes we need to shift back to play-based education. She says some educators forget that many students are learning sight words as a second language.

“Play lets them interact as equals and gives them crucial linguistic skills necessary for academic development,” Adrian says. “Until early childhood educators have the training to develop language-neutral academics, play is the savior of language learners. Kindergarten should be a welcoming experience for all students.”

Sharon Collier’s classroom is a safe, welcoming environment where students are introduced to basic math and language arts, but also learn to do a mean hokey pokey and to “fill each other’s buckets” with kind words and actions.

“Whether or not they read by year’s end, I want all of my students to be safe and happy,” says Collier. “My job is to bring out their best.”

Is Kindergarten the New First Grade? Without a Doubt, Say Researchers

kindergarten the new first gradeA 2016 study tracked the level of academic focus in kindergarten from 1998 to 2010. While the researchers expected to find some degree of increased attention on the reading and math skills emphasized by the now-replaced No Child Left Behind, they were somewhat surprised by the magnitude. “We’ve seen the kindergarten experience essentially transformed,” said one researcher. “Academic skill-building has really taken center stage in today’s kindergarten classrooms in a way that just wasn’t the case” in the late 1990s.

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Stanford Students Sue In College Admissions Scandal

Two Stanford University students say in a federal lawsuit that the massive college admissions scam prosecutors unveiled this week cheapens the value of their education and may prompt future employers to wonder if they have “rich parents who were willing to bribe school officials.”

Erica Olson and Kalea Woods contend in the lawsuit filed in California’s Northern District on Wednesday that they followed the rules with their college applications and were “never informed that the process of admission was an unfair, rigged process, in which rich parents could buy their way into the university through bribery.”

The suit, which names Stanford, Yale, the University of Southern California, Wake Forest and other elite schools that figured in this week’s federal indictment, seeks class-action certification and demands the return of application fees, along with unspecified punitive damages.

A Stanford degree, both students allege, is “now not worth as much as it was before, because prospective employers may now question whether she was admitted to the university on her own merits, versus having parents who were willing to bribe school officials.” 

Federal prosecutors charged 50 people on Tuesday in a scheme to buy freshman spots at Yale, Stanford and other big-name schools. Parents accused in the scam, including Wall Street titans and Hollywood celebrities, allegedly paid thousands to rig their childrens’ test scores or bribe coaches to attest to faked athletic prowess.

Olson argues in the complaint that she wanted to go to Yale and had “stellar” standardized test scores and athletic talent. She paid an $80 application fee and was rejected, and says the admissions scam shows she “did not receive what she paid for — a fair admissions consideration process.”

Woods says she wanted to attend USC, and “was never informed that the process of admission at USC was an unfair, rigged process, in which parents could buy their way into the university through bribery and dishonest schemes.”

The lawsuit also names UCLA, the University of San Diego, the University of Texas and Georgetown University as defendants. In addition, it names William Singer, founder of a college preparatory business who is a central figure in Tuesday’s indictment.

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Court Rules Gun Manufacturer Can Be Sued Over Sandy Hook Shooting

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Gun maker Remington can be sued over how it marketed the Bushmaster rifle used to kill 20 children and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, a divided Connecticut Supreme Court ruled Thursday.

Justices issued a 4-3 decision that reinstated a wrongful death lawsuit and overturned a lower court ruling that the lawsuit was prohibited by a 2005 federal law that shields gun manufacturers from liability in most cases when their products are used in crimes.

The plaintiffs include a survivor and relatives of nine people killed in the massacre. They argue the AR-15-style rifle used by shooter Adam Lanza is too dangerous for the public and Remington glorified the weapon in marketing it to young people.

Remington has denied wrongdoing and previously insisted it can’t be sued under the federal law.

The majority of the high court agreed with most of the lower court’s ruling and dismissed most of the lawsuit’s allegations, but allowed a wrongful marketing claim to proceed.

“The regulation of advertising that threatens the public’s health, safety, and morals has long been considered a core exercise of the states’ police powers,” Justice Richard Palmer wrote for the majority.

In this Jan. 28, 2013, file photo, firearms training unit Detective Barbara J. Mattson, of the Connecticut State Police, holds up a Bushmaster AR-15 rifle, the same make and model of gun used by Adam Lanza in the Sandy Hook School shooting, for a demonstration during a hearing of a legislative subcommittee reviewing gun laws, at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford, Conn.

Lanza, 20, shot his way into the locked school in Newtown on Dec. 14, 2012, and killed 20 first-graders and six educators with a Bushmaster XM15-E2S rifle, similar to an AR-15. He shot his mother to death in their Newtown home beforehand, and killed himself as police arrived at the school.

Connecticut’s child advocate said Lanza’s severe and deteriorating mental health problems, his preoccupation with violence and access to his mother’s legal weapons “proved a recipe for mass murder.”

Joshua Koskoff, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, told the state Supreme Court during arguments in November 2017 the Bushmaster rifle and other AR-15-style rifles were designed as military killing machines and should never have been sold to the public.

“The families’ goal has always been to shed light on Remington’s calculated and profit-driven strategy to expand the AR-15 market and court high-risk users, all at the expense of Americans’ safety,” Koskoff said Thursday. “Today’s decision is a critical step toward achieving that goal.”

Military-style rifles have been used in many other mass shootings, including in Las Vegas in October 2017 when 58 people were killed and hundreds more injured.

The case was watched by gun rights supporters and gun control advocates across the country as one that could affect other cases accusing gun-makers of being responsible for mass shootings. Several groups, ranging from the National Rifle Association to emergency room doctors, submitted briefs to the court.

The 2005 federal law, named the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, has been cited by other courts that rejected lawsuits against gun makers and dealers in other high-profile shooting attacks, including the 2012 Colorado movie theater shooting and the Washington, D.C., sniper shootings in 2002.

James Vogts, a lawyer for Remington, has cited the 2005 federal law and previously said the Bushmaster rifle is a legal firearm used by millions of people for hunting, self-defense and target shooting.

Remington, based in Madison, North Carolina, filed for bankruptcy reorganization last year amid years of slumping sales and legal and financial pressure over the Sandy Hook school massacre.

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Lori Loughlin Free After Posting $1 Million Bond In College Admissions Scam

Actress Lori Loughlin is free on a $1 million bond after appearing in federal court in Los Angeles on Wednesday in relation to her alleged participation in an elite college admission scheme.

Like her fashion designer husband, Mossimo Giannulli, who is also a suspect in the scam, Loughlin was allowed to put up her home as collateral to secure the bond, according to TMZ.

The actress was allowed to retain her passport for her work on a film project in British Columbia, NBC News reported. She will have to surrender her passport in December when her projects in Canada are completed, according to TMZ.

Loughlin and her husband are among dozens of people that the FBI says allegedly paid up to $6 million in bribes to ensure that their children were accepted to schools such as Yale and Georgetown.

The couple face charges of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Loughlin and Giannulli reportedly agreed to pay $500,000 in exchange for having their two daughters recruited to be part of the University of Southern California crew team ― even though neither teen actually rowed.

cooperating witness told the parents that their elder daughter’s academic qualifications were “at or just below the low end of admission standards.”

Loughlin, who is known for portraying Aunt Becky on “Full House” and for starring in numerous Hallmark Channel movies, will appear in court again in Boston on March 29.

A Hallmark Channel spokeswoman said the network hasn’t decided what effect, if any, her arrest will have on programming.

“Crown Media Family Networks is aware of the situation and is monitoring developments as they arise,” spokeswoman Pam Slay told the New York Daily News.

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Elite College Admissions Scandal Shows Irony Of Affirmative Action Complaints

For many, the college admissions scam of wealthy people allegedly paying bribes to get their kids into elite universities only confirmed what they already knew: Higher education is rigged to benefit wealthy, white students. But the scandal also laid bare the irony of people who complain affirmative action gives an unfair advantage to students of color in admissions, when in fact rich, white kids get the scales heavily tipped in their favor.

“This scandal is just the extreme, the illegal extreme, but it’s in a continuum with legacy admissions, with Jared Kushner, with all these other thumbs on the scale that wealthy kids get that are legal,” said Susan Dynarski, professor of economics, education and public policy at the University of Michigan.

“There’s a lot more kids at elite colleges because their parents are rich than because they’re brown or black,” she added.

Critics of affirmative action policies ― which allow institutions of higher education to account for an applicant’s race or ethnicity to a certain extent when considering admission ― claim that these give an unfair advantage to nonwhite students. 

But experts HuffPost spoke to pointed to the many ways, not even reaching the illegal, that access to higher education is already structured to benefit wealthy, white students over others.

Sarah Hinger, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union’s racial justice program, pointed to “non-criminal ways that privilege shapes college admissions,” such as legacy admissions preferences, donations and athletic scholarships, as well as experiences long before college such as private tutors and test prep to get into elite K-12 schools.

“Societally, we’re accustomed to families seeking to advantage their children through these methods,” Hinger said. “And the ability to do so is a privilege that largely accrues to wealthier white families.”

Meanwhile, in response to the cheating scandal, many people of color on Twitter who went to elite schools spoke of how they were often unfairly scrutinized as supposedly being there because of affirmative action, while rich white students were not targeted for being there due to their wealth.

“I’ve been told when I got in Amherst [College] that I was an “affirmative action baby,” said Anthony Jack, assistant professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. “And at Harvard as a grad student and a faculty member, it’s used as an insult.” 

Hinger pointed to the acceptance, or relative lack of criticism, for advantages of wealth and privilege compared with the frequent criticism of affirmative action programs.

“The irony is that affirmative action or race-conscious admissions programs are intended to mitigate the disparities that privilege creates, to even the playing field at least slightly,” she added.

“Who’s getting the thumb on the scale?” Dynarski said. “Largely it’s not low-income or brown or black kids, it’s wealthy kids. … If you look around a college campus and you’re thinking about who got in because of a thumb on the scale, it’s the rich white legacy kids.”

It is a notable “falsehood” in the affirmative action debate that students of color who get into a school that uses affirmative action in admissions are not as qualified as others, according to Jin Hee Lee, who oversees the NAACP Legal Defense Fund’s education and economic justice work. By the time Harvard considers any student, given the high demand for entry, they are weighing race as a factor among a pool of students who are “exceptionally qualified,” she noted.

“For black and Latinx students to be seen as not worthy of attending select universities, it’s not reflective of the facts,” Lee said, noting these are students with “exceptional” grades, test scores, extracurriculars and more. “Black and Latinx children are seen as though it’d be a surprise for them to be smart or they’re not as capable, when that’s really not the case.”

Meanwhile, this scheme of rich parents allegedly bribing college athletic coaches and exam proctors to get an illegal “in” for their children is just “the tip of the iceberg,” as Jack put it.

“A lot of people are focusing on this scandal. … It’s the culmination of a lifetime of opportunity hoarding, of parents thinking their children deserve better than other people,” Jack said, pointing to parents who hire private tutors to improve their kids’ SAT scores and writing coaches to massage their kids’ college applications. “It’s a story of power and privilege reproducing itself.”

A lot of people are focusing on this scandal. … It’s the culmination of a lifetime of opportunity hoarding, of parents thinking their children deserve better than other people.
Dr. Anthony Jack, assistant professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education

Wealthy families in the U.S. already use a variety of methods, short of the illegal, to buy their kids’ way into college, including large donations to schools, like Kushner’s dad pledging $2.5 million to Harvard University. Then there’s the extra tutors, essay coaches and interview prep professionals who help the elite get their kids into Ivy League schools.

But perhaps most egregious of all, the experts said, is the issue of legacy admissions ― or students being more likely to get accepted simply because a parent or other relative attended.

“Legacy admissions, in particular, is affirmative action for people who’ve had a very privileged life,” Dynarski said.

Legacy tips the scales heavily in an applicant’s favor ― and disproportionately favors white students. At Harvard University, for instance, legacy applicants were accepted at nearly five times the rate of non-legacies ― with legacy applicants accepted at a rate of nearly 34 percent from 2009 to 2015, versus a rate of 5.9 percent for non-legacies in the same period, per NPR.

“It’s absolutely hypocritical that children of alumni are given a leg up in admissions when there is no moral social justification or historical legacy of exclusion,” Jack said.

Race-based affirmative action was meant as a correction to historical, systemic inequality in access to education because of one’s race.

Hinger pointed to the long, well-documented history of race discrimination in the U.S. from legally segregated public schools to the racial wealth gap. She noted advantages like legacy admissions likely had a greater impact on college admissions than the consideration of race.

“The point of it, whether race- or class-based, is to try to counter the enormous inequities that hold back these kids all the way through elementary, high school ― they’re given a small boost at college entry,” Dynarski said. “It’s not anywhere near the advantage given to legacy students.”

Even with affirmative action, black and Hispanic students are more underrepresented at Ivy League schools than they were several decades ago, per The New York Times.

Meanwhile, white people are the racial group most likely to oppose affirmative action, according to The Washington Post. Nearly two-thirds of white people opposed such policies, according to a 40-year study of public opinions, while only 10 percent of black people did.

Affirmative action has also been repeatedly under threat in recent years, with a high-profile lawsuit involving the University of Texas (ironically one of the schools the alleged scammer parents bribed to get their kids into). In 2016, the Supreme Court ruled in Fisher v. University of Texas that the use of race as a factor in admissions was constitutional.

Most recently a lawsuit against Harvard, claiming the university discriminates against Asian-American applicants, is likely to bring another affirmative action decision before the high court.

If you look around a college campus and you’re thinking about who got in because of a thumb on the scale, it’s the rich white legacy kids.
Susan Dynarski, professor at the University of Michigan

Some people have argued this elite college cheating scandal has only magnified just how much programs like affirmative action are needed to level the playing field in a system already rigged to benefit rich white people.

“What these parents are accused of doing is paying to give their children a leg up above everyone else ― a leg up they didn’t deserve ― so they could gain admission to the school of their choice. Because this is how privilege works. This is how white privilege works,” Monique Judge wrote in an article for The Root.

“Shame on everyone involved in this. And shame on anyone who still thinks affirmative action is unnecessary,” she said.

And the processes that provide unfair advantages to children and adults with wealthy parents do not start or stop at college admissions, Jack noted.

“Let’s not think this is just one moment. This is a lifelong system,” he said, noting that these are the same types of parents who then pay their kids’ rent so they can afford to take a prestigious unpaid internship or call a friend to get their kids an internship in the first place.

“This is power and privilege putting you in positions that you don’t earn,” he said. “If this doesn’t show you the myth of meritocracy, I don’t know what will.” 

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Celebrity Admissions Scandal Exposes The Racism At The Heart Of College Sports

“There will not be a separate admissions system for the wealthy,” U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling vowed Tuesday as he announced his office’s indictment of dozens of people accused of paying huge bribes to help their children gain admission to elite colleges and universities.

The latest college admissions scandal is especially juicy because it involves the corruption-ridden world of college sports. Some of the parents allegedly faked their kids’ participation in sports like soccer, tennis and water polo, and coaches at big-name schools like the University of Southern California, UCLA, Wake Forest, Stanford, the University of Texas at Austin, and Georgetown were among those indicted. But this wasn’t exclusively a sports scandal.

“I wouldn’t single out athletics as being ripe for exploitation here,” said Natasha Warikoo, an associate education professor at Harvard. “What’s ripe for exploitation is the overall system.”

Rich people are going to do rich people things.

And in the cut-throat world of college admissions, one of the most common things rich people do is use athletics to gain access to elite academic institutions for which they might not otherwise qualify.

College sports have long provided a “separate admissions system,” to quote Lelling, that largely benefits the wealthy. Collegiate athletics have helped ensure that the higher education system is rigged in favor of wealthy, white people. Those rich, white, indicted folks who faked their kids’ athletic careers were exploiting a system that privileges even the rich, white folks who don’t cheat.

“The system is broken, and today is nothing but another example of the troubling dysfunctionality of college sports,” Don Jackson, a sports attorney and owner of The Sports Group legal practice, said Tuesday. “Especially because of the fact that none of these kids were really athletes.”

“There will not be a separate admissions system for the wealthy,” U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling said at a March 12 news conference in Boston announcing charges against more than 40 people.

‘Purported Athletic Recruits’

It’s no secret that universities privilege athletes when it comes to the admissions process, and the nation’s most elite institutions are no exception. For years, a large donation to the athletic program or the right academic department has been an easy way for ultra-wealthy parents to get their aspiring young athletes into a school and onto a team.

This is, in essence, legal bribery. It was only a matter of time before a crafty huckster would figure out how to take it even further ― into illegal territory ― to benefit other rich people whose kids weren’t as good at sports or had no interest in filling the role of human victory cigar.

That is precisely what the U.S. Department of Justice says happened.

William “Rick” Singer, the founder of a for-profit college preparatory company, was the mastermind behind the scheme, according to the federal complaint. He positioned himself as a middleman who could take a cut of the money that had otherwise gone directly to the schools by convincing parents to go along with a scheme that benefited him, the coaches who helped, and the parents and students, too. (Singer pleaded guilty to multiple charges in federal court on Tuesday afternoon.)

At USC, one student gained admission ‘as a purported rowing recruit, even though she was not competitive in rowing, but instead was an avid equestrian.’

As Singer knew, schools like USC and UCLA “give consideration” to prospective students’ athletic abilities and may admit sports-focused applicants “whose grades and standardized test scores are below those” of other applicants, the complaint notes. Other schools, like Georgetown and Wake Forest, hold more than 100 admissions slots open annually for their coaches’ picks.

The complaint alleges that the conspirators, in some cases, exploited that system by paying bribes to college coaches to designate students “as purported athletic recruits ― regardless of their athletic abilities and in some cases even though they did not play the sport they were purportedly recruited to play.”

At Georgetown, Yale and UCLA, coaches took bribes ranging from $100,000 to $950,000 to help students gain admittance as athletes even though they hadn’t played the sports in question. At USC, one student gained admission “as a purported rowing recruit, even though she was not competitive in rowing, but instead was an avid equestrian.” Georgetown tennis coach Gordon Ernst and UCLA men’s soccer coach Jorge Salcedo are both facing racketeering charges.

USC water polo coach Jovan Vavic, meanwhile, accepted a bribe “to designate” a student “as a purported recruit to the USC men’s water polo team, thereby facilitating his admission to USC.” Parents sent fabricated awards and statistics to Vavic, who is now facing racketeering charges and has been fired. Vavic then argued to USC’s admissions officials that the student would be “the fastest player on our team.” That student withdrew from the water polo team after just one semester, according to the complaint. In another instance, a parent “sought reassurance that his daughter would not actually have to join the USC water polo team.”

Parents went so far as to photoshop a supposed water polo recruit into an image of someone else playing the sport. The absurdity was evident to everyone involved.

“Last year I had a boy who did the water polo, and when the dad sent me the picture, he was way too high out of the water,” Singer told one parent, according to the complaint. “That nobody would believe that anybody could get that high.”

But the fraud worked nearly every time.

“Is there any risk of this blowing up in my face?” asked Agustin Huneeus, a parent who is facing conspiracy charges after allegedly helping his daughter gain admission to USC as a fake water polo recruit, according to the complaint.

“Hasn’t in 24 years,” Singer replied.

Sixty-five percent of Division I water polo athletes are white, an even larger majority than in D-I college sports as a whole

Sixty-five percent of Division I water polo athletes are white, an even larger majority than in D-I college sports as a whole.

‘Affirmative Action For Affluent White Kids’

Throughout college sports, and at the most elite institutions in particular, the primary beneficiaries of the privilege of playing on a team have been white students.

“College sports at elite schools are a quiet sort of affirmative action for affluent white kids,” The Atlantic’s Saahil Desai argued last year, adding that they “play a big role in keeping these institutions so stubbornly white and affluent.”

At many top-tier colleges, the admissions structure overwhelmingly benefits athletes. At Harvard, The Atlantic noted, non-athletes are admitted at rates “nearly 1,000 times lower” than athletes with comparable scores on the school’s admissions scale. Twenty percent of students admitted to Ivy League colleges each year are athletes, according to Columbia University professor Jonathan Cole.

This isn’t an accident. As Desai noted, schools value the economic and prestige benefits that come with successful sports programs. That gives coaches leverage to obtain students they want, even if those kids might not otherwise beat out other qualified applicants.

In 2012, a Dartmouth academics adviser told Business Insider that they were “constantly peeved by athletic admissions,” a process under which “coaches submit lists to admissions officers, ranking recruits, saying these are the kids we really want, and as you get to the top of the list you can be more lenient with academic standards.”

Most white student-athletes play sports like baseball and lacrosse, sailing and crew, soccer and tennis. While the Justice Department’s complaint does not mention the race or ethnicity of the more than 40 people charged, most of them were white people pretending that their kids played sports in which the overwhelming majority of Division I participants are white. In 2017-2018, according to the NCAA’s own numbers, 69 percent of Division I women’s soccer players were white. Eighty-two percent of Division I sailors were. For water polo and volleyball, it was 65 percent. (Overall, more than 60 percent of Division I athletes are white. At elite schools like the Ivies, white athletes make up an even larger majority.)

This flies in the face of what we think we know about college sports: The archetypal college athlete in most Americans’ minds is the black male student who makes up the majority of Division I basketball and football teams ― the athletes whose labor draws thousands of fans to arenas and stadiums and fills the coffers of university athletic departments with millions of dollars.

That the majority of black students at top colleges and universities tend to be athletes fosters the biased idea that sports serve as another form of affirmative action for black people ― that were it not for sports, most of the black students on college campuses wouldn’t be there at all.

You can hear this in the paternalistic tone the NCAA’s higher-ups use to remind us how many poor black kids they’ve helped. And you can see the ways that perception of the black athlete as a faux student is reinforced by the sports scandals that do grab our attention: the University of North Carolina’s Afro-American Studies academic fraud scandal that hit the school’s prominent football and men’s basketball programs, former University of Memphis star Derrick Rose’s questionable ACT and SAT scores, or the overly easy tests and fake grades handed to two University of Georgia basketball players in the early 2000s, to name but three.

But Tuesday’s news ought to shift our perceptions of who’s really benefiting from college athletics, or from the sort of bribery that some rich white folks turn to even when their kids aren’t athletes.

Men's basketball is one of just two Division I college sports in which a majority of the athletes are black.

Men’s basketball is one of just two Division I college sports in which a majority of the athletes are black.

What stood out to Jackson, the sports lawyer, was that each alleged athlete in the latest scandal appeared to get away with cheating so easily.

The NCAA requires anyone who wants to play college sports to register with its Eligibility Center, a clearinghouse that certifies academic eligibility and checks athletes for potential violations ― including suspicious test scores. (This part of the system applies to scholarship and non-scholarship athletes at the Division I and II levels.)

“If a kid makes a 12 on his first [ACT] attempt, and then a 12 on his second, and then a 29 on his third, you should probably red-flag that kid and take a long, hard look at his test scores,” said Jackson, who is also a law professor at Alabama’s Samford University. “On the other hand, I’ve represented African-American kids who took the SAT one time and made a satisfactory score, but the NCAA or a conference red-flagged that score, [and then] the testing service investigated it and canceled that score.” (In 2015, Jackson publicly complained about an instance in which a single test score from a black athlete he represented triggered a review by the NCAA Eligibility Center, telling The Sporting News that the center’s processes were “racist as hell.”)

And yet many of the “purported student-athletes” involved in Tuesday’s complaint apparently passed muster with ease, despite their parents allegedly paying a middleman to falsify their scores or help them cheat on entrance exams. It’s hard to imagine that the fact they were white kids pursuing opportunities in overwhelmingly white sports and, in some cases, overwhelmingly white schools wasn’t a factor.

“I feel to some degree of certainty that these kids, their test scores, were likely not questioned by the NCAA,” Jackson said. “Now that says something.”

The corrupt relationship between so many colleges and their sports programs perpetuates this unequal and racially biased system in one more way.

Especially at larger universities, the money made off football and basketball helps to fund all the other sports. Or as Jackson put it, “The revenue generators are African-American student-athletes, and the people who are benefiting are not.”

A federal government that wanted to ensure that college sports weren’t entirely rigged in favor of the wealthy could take action to fix that, particularly in its other major case involving college athletics. In 2017, the Justice Department obtained indictments against multiple college basketball coaches and shoe company executives as part of an ongoing probe into corruption and bribery within college basketball. The schemes involved alleged undercover payments to basketball players and their families ― a black market result of the NCAA’s refusal to pay players in top sports what they’re worth. But in that ongoing probe, the Justice Department took the side of the privileged and decided to effectively enforce the NCAA’s most pernicious rules.

Most of the basketball players who would benefit if the feds forced the NCAA to fairly compensate athletes for their labor are black.

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5 Key Trends in the Teacher Workforce

Thanks largely to a nationwide campaign by educators, the country is finally talking about how we can recruit, support and retain teachers. This is an important discussion, says Richard Ingersoll,  professor of education and sociology at the University of Pennsylvania, because “the teaching force has been transformed over the last 30 years, with significant financial, structural, and educational consequences.” 

Ingersoll recently updated “Seven Trends: The Transformation of the Teaching Force,” his longitudinal study on the elementary and secondary teaching force that culls data from several comprehensive sources, including the Schools and Staffing Survey.

“Too often, researchers, school leaders, and policymakers are still operating under false assumptions about who goes into teaching and how teaching careers unfold,” Ingersoll said. “If we want to improve student performance, we must understand this new reality.”

Here are Ingersoll’s key  findings:

A Growing Profession

Since 1987, the size of the teaching force, says Ingersoll, has “ballooned.”

Student enrollment and the number of teachers peaked in the 1970s, then leveled off before climbing again in the late ’80s. The teaching force has been on the uptick ever since (except for the period following the Great Recession), even outpacing the rate of increase for students.

From 1987-88 to 2015-16, total K-12 student enrollment in the nation’s public schools went up by 24 percent. During the same period the teacher workforce increased by 65 percent.

Pinpointing one decisive factor to explain the growth of the profession is difficult. Ingersoll cites the demands for more math and science teachers and more special education teachers. In particular, there has been dramatic increase (225 percent since 1987) in the number of bilingual/English-as-a-second language teachers.

Gender Imbalance Wider

Teaching in public schools has aways been a predominantly female occupation. Over the past 30 years, the gender gap has only grown. Both the number of women entering the field and the percentage of female teachers has increased. In 1987, 67 percent of teachers were women. By 2016-17, that number had risen to 76 percent.

Despite the dramatic increase of women employed in the U.S. labor force overall – 36 percent growth between 1988 and 2016 –   the number of women who entered K-12 classrooms increased by 80 percent during the same period.

If the trend continues, soon 8 of 10 public school teachers in the nation will be women, and more students will encounter few, if any, male teachers during their elementary or secondary school careers.

Moreover, Ingersoll wrote, “an increasing proportion of women in teaching may have implications for the stature and status of teaching as an occupation. Traditionally, women’s work has been held in lower esteem and has paid less than male-dominated work. If the feminization of teaching continues, what will it mean for the way this line of work is valued and rewarded?”

Grayer and Greener

Overall, the teaching force is older than it was in 1987 and retirements are increasing. But Ingersoll notes that this trend is coming to an end.  The number of teachers age 50 and over hit a peak in 2008 with 1.74 million. By 2016, the number had declined to 1.13 million.

At the same time, another trend is occurring, which Ingersoll calls the “greening” of the teaching force, driven by a dramatic increase in new hires.

In 1987-88, there were roughly 65,000 first-year public school teachers. 30 years later, there are more than 190,000. In 2007-08, the most common age for a teacher was 55. In 2015-16, the most common age ranged from the mid-30s to mid-40s.

While new teachers can help revitalize a school, the report noted that a large number of beginners also has its downsides.

“A sufficient number of experienced teachers makes a positive difference for beginning teachers,” the report said. “A solid body of empirical research documents that support, including mentoring by veteran teachers, has a positive effect on beginning teachers’ quality of instruction, retention, and capacity to improve their students’ academic achievement.”

Progress on Diversity But How Much?

In what Ingersoll calls “something of an unheralded victory,” the public school teaching force has seen a bump in racial diversity.

Numerically, there are far more minority teachers than ever before. In 1987-88, there were about 305,200 minority public school teachers. Today, there are over 760,000.

Ingersoll says growth in the number of minority teachers over the past several decades outpaced growth in minority students and was about three times the growth rate of white teachers.

Still, a slightly more diverse teaching profession hasn’t done much to close the wide teacher-student racial gap. It’s also worth noting that the increase in teachers of color is primarily due to an uptick in the number of Hispanic teachers – 3 percent to almost 9 percent. The share of African American teachers, on the other hand, has actually declined, from 8.2 percent to 6.7 percent.

Michael Hansen and Diane Quintero of the Brookings Institution project that in the near future, the change in student demographics will evolve at a  higher rate than any expected shift in teacher diversity. “This means the underrepresentation of teachers of color will likely persist or even grow in the coming decades,” he wrote in a report issued last week.

Where Instability is Concentrated

Teachers of color also have particularly high turnover rates, more so than their white counterparts.  This departure rate is increasing and is driven in large part by where they work.

Newer teachers, regardless of their race, have among the highest rates of turnover of any group of teachers.

The teaching professions has always been hampered by a high attrition rate, but, as Ingersoll points out, it’s not spread out evenly. Half of all turnover occurs in 25 percent of public schools, predominantly in high-poverty urban and rural areas.

Indeed, there is an “asymmetrical shuffling of  significant numbers of employed teachers from poor to not-poor schools, from high-minority to low-minority schools, and from urban to suburban schools.”

Ingersoll notes that while demographic characteristics of schools do factor in a teacher’s decision-making process about where to work, later decisions about whether to stay or depart are driven by other issues.

“What does impact their decisions, our analyses show, are school working conditions, in particular the degree of autonomy and discretion teachers are allowed over issues that arise in their classrooms, and the level of collective faculty influence over school-wide decisions that affect teachers’ jobs,” the report said.

What Happens When a Teacher Leaves Mid-Year?
teachers leaving mid-yearU.S. teachers leave the profession at higher rates than other countries, but the debate and discussion over teacher attrition – reflected in research and in the media – focuses on educators exiting the profession before the beginning of a school year, based on the assumption that’s when turnover occurs. Little is known about teachers leaving mid-year.

A Growing Recruitment Strategy for a Diverse Teacher Workforce

grow your own teachers“How do we help those who should be in classrooms working with students who look like them, sound like them, and will connect with them?” asks NEA President Lily Eskelsen García. An answer may rest within grow-your-own programs, which recruit local community members and help them become teachers, creating a workforce that’s reflective of the full diversity of the student population.

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Kellyanne Conway’s Hot Take On College Admission Scandal Backfires Spectacularly

It didn’t go well, given that President Donald Trump has been mired in a scandal of his own over Trump University seminars. In 2017, Trump paid $25 million to settle a class-action lawsuit accusing him of fraud.  

While no one was defending those indicted in the scandal, critics took Conway to task for attacking the celebs’ kids ― and many suggested that she was the wrong person to chime in on the issue in any case:

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The College Admissions Process Is Already A Scam

On Tuesday, dozens of parents were among 50 people charged with participation in a widespread college admissions scam. The parents ― who included famous actors, financial leaders and other successful business people ― allegedly were part of a scheme in which athletic coaches and exam proctors were bribed to get an illegal leg-up for their children, even after the kids had gotten the advantages of a privileged upbringing.

These parents broke the law, according to federal prosecutors.

But the wealthiest of families in the U.S. can rely on multiple legal ways to buy their children into college, even as universities continue to market themselves as meritocracies ― a selling point that long has been an essential part of perpetuating the American dream.

There’s the donate-a-ton-of-cash-to-a-fancy-college route, just like Jared Kushner’s dad did for him by pledging $2.5 million to Harvard University. Or there’s the cottage industry of boutique services for students ― extra tutors, essay coaches and interview prep professionals – designed to help the elite get their kids into Ivy League schools and other prestigious colleges.

“People believe the meritocracy is real and they want to participate in it,” said Tressie McMillan Cottom, who has studied and researched access to higher education. But compared with the upper-hand enjoyed by the upper classes, low-income and working-class families aren’t even close to competing on an even playing field, she said.  

One New York-based college consultancy firm, Ivy Coach, charges up to $1.5 million for its most advanced package, according to Brian Taylor, the company’s managing director. Marketed as a concierge service that helps students apply to up to 20 schools, it is “the ultimate level of continuous personal attention to every detail,” according to the company’s website. 

Taylor said he recognizes that the college admissions process is certainly a game. The parents charged in Tuesday’s indictment allegedly made the mistake of operating outside the legally acceptable rules.

Instead of paying for test prep, they are accused of paying for a test proctor to fix incorrect answers their children gave in entrance exams. Instead of paying to shuttle their kid from one extracurricular activity to another, they are accused of paying college coaches to create a fake spot on a team for a sport their kids didn’t even play.

In the process, these alleged schemes reveal greater truths about the college admissions’ horse race.

“It’s a totally unfair system and we help students beat an unfair system at an unfair game,” Taylor said. “We do so ethically, though.” 

People with the means to do so will pay for specialized knowledge that is not democratically available.
Tressie McMillan Cottom, assistant professor of sociology at Virginia Commonwealth University.

The machinations that give powerful people access to exclusive colleges usually occur outside the public spotlight. Tuesday’s indictments break wide open the false promise of equal access to higher education ― exposing the bag of goods so much of the public was sold about why people succeed, according to Cottom, an assistant professor at sociology at Virginia Commonwealth University.

The internet has only further stratified the system. It was supposed to democratize access to information about elite institutions. But these schools aren’t accepting more students as more students apply. In turn, people with money are taking greater steps to get a big edge.

“People with the means to do so will pay for specialized knowledge that is not democratically available,” said Cottom, author of “Lower Ed: The Troubling Rise of For-Profit Colleges in the New Economy.”

While lawsuits threaten to overturn affirmative action ― one of the systems that does help low-income students gain access to distinguished colleges ― no signs are evident that colleges will end any of the processes that help people of privilege, like legacy admission advantages.

And even with affirmative action, black and Hispanic students are more underrepresented at Ivy League schools than they were several decades ago, per The New York Times.

Bari Norman, co-founder and president of Expert Admissions, a college admissions counseling agency, said he hopes Tuesday’s indictments serve as a wake-up call for colleges, signaling that the current system is broken. She told HuffPost she suspects admissions officers are now having difficult conversations about the type of environment that fostered the breath of the alleged cheating ― and what type of system created such apparently desperate parents.

But she remains pessimistic that any big changes will result.

Her company helps students pick classes and extracurriculars in high school to best position themselves for the admissions process. The company usually starts working with students their sophomore or junior year of high school, although in some cases even earlier.

Norman wouldn’t say how much her company charges for its services, and she noted that they sometimes work pro bono.

But at Ivy Coach, they’re upfront about their sky-high prices.

It’s a fee that the company makes “no apologies for,” according to its website.

Taylor said the admissions business operates within a free market economy. The fees his company charge result in expert advice that helps students optimize their chances for admission to a top-notch school..

“We take no issue with any company that charges high fees. We take absolute issue with companies bribing college coaches or college admissions officers,” he wrote in an e-mail, adding, “Don’t cheat on the SAT or ACT. Hire an outstanding tutor ― who may very well cost a whole lot of money ―  to help your child improve his or her score tremendously.”

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NYC To Dish Out ‘Meatless Monday’ Lunches At All Public Schools

New York City public schools, the country’s largest school system, will enforce a “meatless Monday” in its student lunches beginning this fall in an effort to improve health and curb environmental effects, the city announced.

“People are going to look at this, and they’re going to start to emulate what the New York City schools are doing,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a press conference on Monday.

The initiative, which will impact 1,800 schools, follows a successful pilot program in Brooklyn involving 15 schools last year, the mayor said.

“We had such overwhelmingly positive feedback that we decided this was the right thing to do,” said school chancellor Richard A. Carranza.

New York City public schools will enforce a “meatless Monday” in its student lunches beginning this fall.

Carranza touted the health benefits of a vegetarian meal, with studies finding that it reduces the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.

“It’s also good for the environment because it helps us reduce our carbon footprint and preserve essential resources including water,” he added.

Mark Chambers, director of the NYC Mayor’s Office of Sustainability, called meat reduction “one of the single biggest ways individuals can reduce their environmental impact on our planet.”

“Meatless Mondays will introduce hundreds of thousands of young New Yorkers to the idea that small changes in their diet can create larger changes for their health and the health of our planet,” he said in a release.

The program is one of several initiatives undertaken by the school system to improve students’ eating habits.

Back in 2017, it began offering free breakfasts and lunches to all of its students, regardless of their financial need. During the summer months, the city also offers free breakfast and lunch to any New Yorker under the age of 18 through its Summer Meals program. BostonChicagoDetroit and Dallas similarly offer free lunch to its public school students.

Every Thursday the NYC school system also provides locally-sourced or produced food to its students, according to the city.

All New York City public schools also include recycling stations in the cafeterias, allowing students to sort their recyclables and compostables from their landfill waste. It has also swapped out its polystyrene trays for compostable plates.

Staten Island Borough President James Oddo swiped at any critics of the efforts by citing current health trends among children across the country.

“Look at the data. Look at the childhood obesity. Look at pre-diabetes diagnoses. Look at the fact that 65% of American kids age 12-14 shows signs of early cholesterol disease. Then, perhaps you will embrace the fact that we can’t keep doing things the same way, including welcoming the idea of Meatless Mondays,” he said in a statement.

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The High-Powered Names In The College Admissions Bribery Scandal

The Justice Department on Tuesday announced dozens of charges related to a massive college admissions bribery scheme, involving big names from Hollywood actresses to Wall Street and Silicon Valley executives. Documents describe a scheme in which wealthy parents paid a company to help their children cheat on college entrance exams or bribe athletic recruiters. Several Division 1 athletic coaches are among the cooperating witnesses in the investigation.

Here are some of the high-powered people allegedly involved.

Felicity Huffman

Felicity Huffman

The actress, best known for her role on ABC’s “Desperate Housewives,” allegedly participated in a scheme involving making a fake charitable donation to a company that purported “to provide educational and self-enrichment programs to disadvantaged youth.”

In reality, the company enabled participants’ children to cheat on the ACT or SAT, such as falsely claiming that their children had learning disabilities to get special accommodations like extended time. The students then could take the exam “over two days instead of one, and in an individualized setting.”

When administering the test, the company bribed test administrators and hired a third party “to serve as a purported proctor for the exams while providing students with the correct answers, or to review and correct the students’ answers after they completed the exams. In many instances, the students taking the exams were unaware that their parents had arranged for this cheating.”

The company then sent the “doctored exams” back to the testing companies.

The indictment alleges that Huffman and her husband, actor William H. Macy, who was not charged Tuesday, paid $15,000 to the fake charity to enable their elder daughter to cheat on the SAT. They later began making the arrangement for their younger daughter “but ultimately decided not to.”

Mossimo Giannulli and Lori Loughlin

Mossimo Giannulli and Lori Loughlin

Lori Loughlin and Mossimo Giannulli

The “Full House” actress and fashion designer allegedly participated in the scheme involving fake athletic recruiting. According to the indictment, the couple paid $500,000 to get their two daughters into the University of Southern California by having them “designated as recruits to the USC crew team — despite the fact that they did not participate in crew.”

As part of this, the company created a fake profile of their younger daughter that “would present [her] falsely, as a crew coxswain for the L.A. Marina Club team. The couple sent an “Action Picture” of her on an ergometer to create the appearance that she was a rower.

Gordon Caplan

Caplan, a private equity lawyer at New York firm Willkie Farr & Gallagher, also allegedly participated in the cheating scheme, paying $75,000 to the company to help his daughter cheat on the ACT.

Last year, American Lawyer magazine named him a “Dealmaker of the Year.”

Manuel and Elizabeth Henriquez

The indictment alleges that the couple used the scheme “on four separate occasions” to help their two daughters cheat on the exams. They also participated in the athletic recruiting scheme, bribing the head coach of tennis at Georgetown University and falsely portraying their elder daughter as a highly ranked high school tennis player.

In reality, the indictment notes that “at her best, she appears to have ranked 207th in Northern California in the under-12 girls division, with an overall win/loss record of 2-8.”

Manuel Henriquez is the founder and CEO of Hercules Capital, a Silicon Valley investment firm. According to Bloomberg, he earned an estimated $8.2 million in 2017.

Bill McGlashan

McGlashan founded TPG Growth, a private equity firm that has invested in companies like Spotify, Uber and Airbnb. He also co-founded STX Entertainment, known for producing midlevel Hollywood movies, including “The Edge of Seventeen,” “Molly’s Game” and, most recently, the Kevin Hart comedy “The Upside.”

According to the indictment, Rick Singer, who orchestrated the scheme and led the company behind it, told McGlashan that his son’s doctor “should come up with stuff, discrepancies, to show why he needs multiple days. That he can’t sit six and a half hours taking one test,” he said in a phone call, while wearing a wire to cooperate with federal investigators.

“Perfect,” McGlashan replied, according to the transcript of the call.

McGlashan also participated in the scheme to help his son get accepted to USC as a recruited athlete.

“I’ll pick a sport and we’ll do a picture of him, or he can, we’ll put his face on the picture whatever. Just so that he plays whatever,” Singer said.

“Well, we have images of him in lacrosse. I don’t know if that matters,” McGlashan replied.

“They don’t have a lacrosse team. But as long as I can see him doing
something, that would be fine,” Singer said.

Later, they settled on falsely portraying McGlashan’s son as a football punter, with McGlashan providing a photo of an NFL player for the company to alter.

“That’s just totally hilarious,” McGlashan said.

Gamal Abdelaziz

A hotel and casino mogul, Abdelaziz worked as a senior executive for MGM Resorts. From 2013 to 2016, he oversaw the Macau division of Wynn Resorts, founded by Las Vegas mogul Steve Wynn (who stepped down in 2018 after sexual harassment allegations).

The federal investigators allege that Abdelaziz tried to get his daughter recruited as a star basketball player for admission at USC, working with Singer to create a profile containing “falsified honors” like “Asia Pacific Activities Conference All Star Team,” “2016 China Cup Champions,” “Hong Kong Academy team MVP” and “Team Captain.” 

Abdelaziz allegedly paid Singer’s company $300,000 as a fake charitable donation. Through Singer, he arranged to bribe USC’s senior associate athletic director, Donna Heinel, with Singer and Heinel concealing the money as a gift to the school’s basketball arena, according to the indictment. 

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

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Felicity Huffman, Lori Loughlin Charged In College Admission Scheme With More Than 40 Others

Actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin are among dozens of people charged by the FBI in an elite college admission scheme, documents unsealed Tuesday in Boston revealed. 

The Hollywood stars allegedly joined CEOs of private and public companies, real estate professionals and a fashion designer in paying up to $6 million in bribes to ensure that their children were accepted to schools such as Yale and Georgetown. Most of the parents paid $250,000 to $400,000 per student. 

The alleged scheme, which the FBI called a “nationwide conspiracy,” allowed parents to pay for their children to cheat on exams and apply to elite schools as student athletes, regardless of their actual skills. Top college coaches at the schools are also among those charged, but authorities said they are not investigating the schools themselves.

Federal prosecutors said 33 parents bribed entrance exam administrators along with varsity coaches and administrators.

The bribery ring allegedly got its start several years ago when William Rick Singer founded a for-profit college admissions company in Newport Beach, California, that masqueraded as a not-for-profit group, according to authorities. He agreed to plead guilty to charges including racketeering and money laundering conspiracy.

Singer’s “sham charity” allowed him to conceal the nature of the payments made by parents, who could then “take the tax write-off at the end of the year,” U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling said at a press conference Tuesday morning.

More than 200 law enforcement officials were involved in “Operation Varsity Blues” over the course of a year, arresting over 50 people in six states on both coasts, authorities said at the press conference. Most defendants had been taken into custody as of noon Eastern time on Tuesday. 

For every student admitted through fraud, an honest, genuinely talented student was rejected.
U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling

The plot allegedly affected applications to a long list of schools including Yale, Stanford, the University of Texas, the University of Southern California, the University of California at Los Angeles, the University of San Diego and Wake Forest University.

Some parents allegedly paid for someone to pose as their child during entrance exams ― and even during classes ― with those scores submitted as part of the college application, according to court documents. Other cases involved exam administrators allegedly providing students with answers during the tests or correcting wrong answers afterward. 

Lelling alleged that some parents also falsely claimed that their children had learning disabilities, requiring extra time on the exams, and that those claims were bolstered by notes from therapists. 

“Everybody’s doing it” seemed to be the rationale most parents accepted as they negotiated terms to cheat. “The whole world is scamming the system,” an unnamed cooperating witness told one parent.

In this Feb. 26, 2015, file photo, students walk on the University of California, Los Angeles campus.

Some of the kids applying as student athletes didn’t even play the sports they were recruited to play. Singer allegedly helped the parents by either staging photos to make it appear that their children played those sports or simply providing Photoshopped images of the children engaged in sports.

The daughter of former Wynn Resorts Chief Operating Officer Gamal Abdelaziz, for example, got into USC on the premise of being a valuable asset to the school’s basketball team but never joined the team once in school, according to court documents. Several other cases followed the same pattern: Students were said to be crew stars and tennis champions but they never joined teams on campus.

Coaches named in the court documents included Georgetown University tennis coach Gordon Ernst, Yale soccer coach Rudy Meredith and USC water polo coach Jovan Vavic.

“For every student admitted through fraud, an honest, genuinely talented student was rejected,” Lelling said. 

A cooperating witness discussed with some of the parents how to plausibly deceive their children. One parent, William McGlahsan, said he’d tell his son that some of his dad’s friends in the athletic department were helping him get into USC, as a supposed football kicker. 

“Maybe he’ll become a kicker. You never know,” McGlashan told the witness, per court documents detailing a recorded phone conversation. “You could inspire him.”

Another parent, Jane Buckingham, discussed how she could convince her son he was taking the SAT at home — with her as proctor — while someone else actually took the test for him at a Singer-controlled testing location.

Federal officials say they have recorded phone calls in which Huffman, who is best known for starring in the ABC hit show “Desperate Housewives,” and Loughlin, who is known for her role on ABC’s classic “Full House,” discuss the scheme with a cooperating witness.

Both women are charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud in the Central District of California. Huffman surrendered in California on Tuesday.

Actress Felicity Huffman and her husband are accused of paying $15,000 to help improve the SAT score of their elder daug

Actress Felicity Huffman and her husband are accused of paying $15,000 to help improve the SAT score of their elder daughter. 

Huffman and her husband are accused of paying $15,000 to Singer’s Key World Foundation, ostensibly to “provide educational and self-enrichment programs to disadvantaged youth.” In reality, prosecutors say, the money helped improve the SAT score of their elder daughter. (Huffman’s husband, actor Willam H. Macy, has not been charged.)

The plan hit a snag, however, after their daughter secured double the standard allotted test time. Instead of taking the test in Singer’s “controlled” testing center, Huffman’s daughter’s school wanted to proctor her exam. 

“Ruh Ro!” Huffman wrote in an email about the problem to a cooperating witness, who responded, “We will speak about it.” They arranged for Huffman’s daughter to take the test on a weekend at the “controlled” facility, saying they didn’t want her to miss any school. 

A proctor allegedly flew from Tampa, Florida, to Los Angeles to help Singer’s clients’ children cheat. Court documents indicate that at least some of the students were unaware their parents had arranged the cheating.

Singer claimed to control two testing locations: one in West Hollywood and another in Houston. When travel was required for students, Singer advised parents to make up a reason ― such as a bar mitzvah or family wedding ― that would justify their son or daughter needing to take the exam so far from home. 

Huffman contacted Singer’s organization about helping her younger daughter, but she did not follow through.

Court documents say Lori Loughlin and her husband agreed to pay $500,000 in exchange for having their two daughters recr

Court documents say Lori Loughlin and her husband agreed to pay $500,000 in exchange for having their two daughters recruited to be part of the University of Southern California crew team — even though their daughters had never rowed crew. 

Loughlin and her husband, fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli, agreed to pay $500,000 in exchange for having their two daughters recruited to be part of the University of Southern California crew team, despite the fact that the girls didn’t participate in the sport, according to court documents.

A cooperating witness told the parents that their elder daughter’s academic qualifications were “at or just below the low end of admission standards.”

Prosecutors say the couple submitted pictures of their daughters on stationary rowing machines to help a cooperating witness facilitate their acceptance into the school as crew recruits. They paid bribes to Singer’s Key World organization along with USC’s senior associate athletic director Donna Heinel ― who was named in multiple cases.

The scam flew under the radar until a high school guidance counselor suspected something was awry in 2017 and asked the younger daughter about her sister’s athletic recruitment, prosecutors said. The younger daughter had already been provisionally accepted to USC as a recruited athlete, but Loughlin, appearing to worry the guidance counselor was on to them, emailed the cooperating witness for help on submitting the rest of her college applications.

“[Our younger daughter] is confused on how to do so,” Loughlin allegedly wrote. “I want to make sure she gets those in as I don’t want to call any attention to [her] with our little friend at [her high school]. Can you tell us how to proceed??”

The cooperating witness responded by directing an employee to submit the applications on the daughter’s behalf.

This article has been updated with additional details about the allegations. 

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5 Memoirs By Women That Are Even Better When You Listen To Them

What could be better than bringing your favorite stories — or the ones you don’t even know yet — to life through audiobooks? Listening to a narrator perform a story takes the words off the page in a way that reading a book just can’t do. This is especially the case when the writer reads their own work, making it as if a friend is sharing an intimate tale only with you.  

To celebrate Women’s History Month, we teamed up with Audible to share some of the best memoirs by females that are narrated by the authors themselves. From Roxane Gay’s raw storytelling in Hunger, to Maya Angelou’s emotive prose in I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, these books are even better when you listen to them.     

This article was paid for by Audible and co-created by RYOT Studio. HuffPost editorial staff did not participate in the creation of this content.

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During Lockdowns, Collaboration Among Staff Key to Student Safety

Shielding her students against a storm of gunfire is something Andrea Beeman hopes she will never experience. It is gut-wrenching to even ponder, says Beeman, a paraeducator at Maple Heights High School in Maple Heights, Ohio.

Contemplating such a deadly scenario is tempered, she says, by knowing her school’s crisis response team includes administrators, teachers, and education support professionals (ESP) who participate in active shooter drills and have specific roles and responsibilities.

“The more collaboration among school staff during a drill, the better prepared we are to keep students safe,” says Beeman, who also serves as a building monitor. “My students will need to listen to my directions and trust me in an emergency.”

In today’s school climate, active shooter drills are as common as fire drills. Nine out of ten public schools currently conduct active shooter drills, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

To prepare for an armed assailant on school grounds, it is advised that schools create a safety team that includes an administrator, mental health professional, nurse, security officials, educators, and even parents, according to the National Association of School Psychologists and the National Association of School Resource Officers, who jointly published a guide book titled, “Best Practice Considerations for Schools in Active Shooter and Other Armed Assailant Drills.”

Andrea Beeman

Planning for an active shooter situation should include the adult experience, personal skills, and professional knowledge of food service workers, custodians, and other ESP, says Dan Kivett, a security officer at Citrus Valley High School in Redlands, Calif., and president of the Redlands Education Support Professionals Association (RESPA).

“Trainings and drills must be all-inclusive,” says Kivett, an NEA board member. “For example, if bus drivers are parked on campus during an emergency, do they stay or go?”

Whether mandatory or not, Beeman advocates for staging an active shooter drill within a month of starting school while communicating policies and procedures with parents.

“The start of the school year is when everyone in the education community is reviewing rules and procedures,” she says. “Parents attend open house events and meet with staff. Conducting a drill early on will show our emergency preparedness.”

With ESP located in all areas of a school campus, even during non-working hours, it is vital that they be included in school crisis plans, Kivett adds.


The NEA 2018 School Crisis Guide includes cafeteria, transportation, maintenance, and health and student service professionals among staff who are vital to a comprehensive approach in preventing unnecessary violence during an emergency, though this is not the case at some schools.

“Unfortunately, some ESP may not know what to do because they aren’t trained or fully involved in drills,” says Kivett. “It’s a safety issue that concerns me.”

Kivett trains security officers and helps to conduct emergency operations planning for the Redlands United School District. He’s particularly concerned about playground supervisors and building monitors who may not have been prepared for responding to a range of emergencies, whether caused by humans or by a natural disaster.

“People may reactively know what to do in a crisis, but do they know what to do when they’re responsible for dozens of children,” he says. “With a shooter or earthquake or chemical spill, for example, every second lost can be the difference between living and dying.”

Any School, Any Time

The Educator’s School Safety Network estimates that threats or actual violence happen about 10 times a day in U.S. schools. The 1999 shootings at Columbine High School in Colorado heightened the need for schools to be better prepared to respond to armed assailants and other forms of violence, such as bomb threats. About 16 campuses lock down daily, with nine of those incidents related to gun violence or the threat of it, according to an analysis by The Washington Post. More than 6,200 lockdowns occurred during the 2017-2018 school year.

Dan Kivett

Following the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings in Newtown, Conn., the U.S. Department of Education recommended expanding the lockdown-only approach for schools, which confined students and staff to their rooms. Instead, the department now recommends an options-based approach that allows school staff to make more independent decisions about how to protect their students depending on evolving circumstances, such as to evacuate a building rather than stay locked in a classroom.

These approaches include adapting the “run, hide, fight” model that was originally developed for adults in response to workplace violence. This expansion has spurred an increase in the number of school districts conducting drills.

“Drills really help staff consider the “what if” scenarios,” says Kivett. “If it’s a hurricane or fire, what do you do? If it’s a shooter, where do you go?”

Student Stress

While lockdowns may save lives during a real crisis, the drill itself can inflict “immense psychological damage on children convinced that they’re in danger,” according to the Post study. More than 4.1 million students endured at least one lockdown in the 2017-2018 school year.

A report from the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence indicates that some drills “foster fear and anxiety” and “can intensify the fear of gun violence children already suffer.”

“We encourage immediate access to a counselor in a safe space to ease any stress or anxiety caused by a drill,” says Beeman,  who works with high school students with developmental disabilities.

Should the need arise, NEA encourages schools to work with local hospitals and mental health agencies to aid students experiencing trauma.

Beeman faithfully meets students in the morning as they exit buses and stays with many of them until they are picked up after last bell and head home.

“I escort them to breakfast, lunch, electives, and help them develop soft skills needed to maintain a job after they graduate,” says Beeman, an NEA board member. “I can sense when they are experiencing undue stress. We are there for them.”

Says Kivett: “The point is not to scare students but to do all that is humanly possible to keep them safe in this era of violence.”

‘School Hardening’ Not Making Students Safer, Say Experts

A skewed focus on target hardening neglects the time and resources needed to spend on professional development training, planning, behavioral and mental health intervention supports for students, and other best practices.
But research and experience consistently shows that a comprehensive approach is needed for school safety programs.

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