A story of student loan forgiveness, 20 years in the making

Kurt Panton’s laugh, surprising and unguarded, erupts when you expect it — after his baby daughter, Pauline, babbles adorably. But also when you don’t — after he confesses frustration with the federal student loan system.
Kurt laughed a lot during our first Zoom conversation, in December of 2022, when he was worried about his $18,000 in outstanding loan debt, but also during our last conversation, just a few days ago, when he told me those debts had suddenly disappeared.
This is the story of what happened in between.
Kurt Panton is 43. He grew up in Miami with his brother and their mother, Barbara. After graduating from college in 2003, Kurt taught high school until 2016, when he moved to Germany, married Lizzy, who is German, and tried his hand at copywriting.
Through every step of his adult life, there have been a few constants: that laugh, his doting mom and Kurt’s monthly federal student loan payment.
A portrait of Kurt in his living room. Kurt Panton was a teacher in Miami an..

How schools (but not necessarily education) became central to the Republican primary

Talking about schools is a reliable applause line for Republican candidates. In Cedar Rapids, Iowa, former President Donald Trump got a roar of approval when he talked about race and sexuality in schools.
“On day one, I will sign a new executive order to cut federal funding for any school pushing critical race theory, transgender insanity and other inappropriate racial, sexual or political content on our children,” he pledged.
Schools are even more central to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s campaign, and he used the topic to fire up the crowd in November at the Machine Shed restaurant in Davenport, Iowa.
“As the father of a six, five and a three-year-old, I believe that kids should be able to go to school, watch cartoons, just be kids without having an agenda shoved down their throat,” he said, to cheers.
The issue of how gender and race are taught in schools has been a major focus for Republican candidates this entire campaign cycle, even while the issue may not really drive votes.

How do you discipline an in-school overdose? In some districts, you don’t

Perched above a major highway in central Los Angeles sits an unassuming high school where students are all too familiar with the sound of ambulance sirens. This fall, the principal has called an ambulance about five times because of suspected student drug use.
“We’re just extra cautious,” he says.
“Before, if the kid had a migraine, the kid had a headache, the kid looked a little tired. OK, let’s rest. Let’s get you going. Now, let’s check the blood pressure. If it’s high, let’s play the safe side. Let’s just call the ambulance.”
His school is part of a bold new experiment at Los Angeles Unified School District: Instead of the traditional, zero tolerance approach to student overdoses, LAUSD is piloting a focus on rehabilitation. But that effort comes with some stigma, and so we aren’t naming the principal or his school over district officials’ concerns that it become known as a “drug school.”
This pilot project is a response to a growing number of student opioid overdoses on LAUSD ..

Can AI someday help universities sort through college essays?

This story was originally published by Chalkbeat. Sign up for their newsletters at ckbe.at/newsletters.
Every year, university admissions officers read and sort through tens of thousands of essays. It’s a long, arduous process.
Now, some researchers say an artificial intelligence tool may be able to help admissions officers sort through essays and recognize prospective students who might previously have gone unrecognized.
The application is a long way off from actually being used in the admissions process, but the group that includes researchers from the University of Colorado Boulder say it has the ability to pull out key traits of students, such as leadership qualities or the ability to persevere.
The possible use of AI in admissions, however, raises questions about how universities would responsibly use it, especially because college admissions officers have said essays might carry more weight in the wake of the Supreme Court decision eliminating the use of race-based admissions..

7 Strategies to ignite active learning – and help students see its benefits

View the full episode transcript
Excerpted from Writing Their Future Selves: Instructional Strategies to Affirm Student Identity, © 2023 by Miriam Plotinsky. Used with permission of the publisher, W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. All rights reserved.
At its core, active learning relies on a collaborative, student-centered approach. As Vanderbilt University professor Cynthia J. Brame explains, “active learning approaches also often embrace the use of cooperative learning groups, a constructivist-based practice that places particular emphasis on the contribution that social interaction can make.” One would think that students embrace such a model, but an unexpected complication of creating a learning environment around active methods is sometimes a show of student resistance. After years of a more passive experience, many students can be loath to do something different, even if the end result will be more fulfilling. In “Students Think Lectures Are Best, But Research Suggests They’re Wrong..

There’s a worldwide problem in math, and it’s not just about the pandemic

Numbers don’t lie, right? But they also don’t always tell the whole story. That’s the case with the most recent results from a key global education test, the Program for International Student Assessment or PISA.
In the past, PISA results have often spurred anguished discussion about why U.S. students are so far behind other countries like Finland, Korea and Poland. But the most recent rankings, released in December 2023, indicated that U.S. 15-year olds moved up in the international rankings for all three subjects – math, reading and science. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona credited the largest federal investment in education in history – roughly $200 billion – for keeping the United States “in the game” during the pandemic. (The tests were administered in 2022.)
But that rosy spin hides a much grimmer picture. Rankings may have risen, but test scores did not. The only reason the U.S. rose is because academic performance in once higher ranking countries, such as Iceland, fell by ..

Government efforts to erase student loan debt have now reached 3.6 million borrowers

More than 900,000 borrowers have had roughly $44 billion in federal student loan debts approved to be erased in the last year because of a little-understood effort to address past mistakes with federal income-driven (IDR) repayment plans, the U.S. Department of Education announced today.
In addition, the Department said almost 750,000 borrowers have now received up to $53.5 billion in relief through changes to the once-troubled Public Service Loan Forgiveness plan.
Combined, the Biden administration says it has approved the cancellation of nearly $132 billion in federal student loan debts for more than 3.6 million Americans.
“The data released today once again make clear that the Biden-Harris Administration’s relentless efforts to fix the broken student loan system are paying off in a big way … ” U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said in a statement. “This level of debt relief is unparalleled and we have no intention of slowing down.”
The announcement is the latest result ..

The College Board releases a new framework for its AP African American Studies course

The College Board has released the updated framework for its AP African American Studies course, which was embroiled in controversy earlier this year following criticism from Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and state officials.
The College Board — which offers Advanced Placement courses that can help high school students earn college credit — said Wednesday that it arrived at the newest version of the course framework after “intense public debate.”
The new framework is intended to be used when the course officially launches in the 2024-2025 school year.
“This course is a vibrant introduction to a dynamic field that offers a broader perspective,” Brandi Waters, senior director and program manager of African American Studies in the Advanced Placement Program, said in a statement.
“This is the course I wish I had in high school,” Waters added. “I hope every interested student has the opportunity to take it.”
Months back, Florida’s Department of Education rejected the course, with state off..

How to build a Black history children’s book collection for your classroom

From Beyond February: Teaching Black History Any Day, Every Day, and All Year Long, K-3 by Dawnavyn James © 2024 by Stenhouse Publishers. Reproduced with permission.

I have been building my Black history library since my junior year of college, when I taught third and fourth graders about the Harlem Renaissance. My library has been growing ever since, but whether you have a large collection of books or are just starting out, there are always new titles for you to discover. Here are a few tips for getting started building your own collection of Black history-focused books.
Choose a Black history that interests you As I am writing this right now, I cannot choose a single Black history that interests me the most; there are so many to choose from! Cowboys were my obsession last summer, and now it’s cuisine. But I also love learning about Black artists, and inventions and inventors will always be an all-time fave. I also want to know everything I can about Africa. Do you get my point?

‘Right-to-read’ settlement spurred higher reading scores in California’s lowest performing schools, study finds

In 2017, public interest lawyers sued California because they claimed that too many low-income Black and Hispanic children weren’t learning to read at school. Filed on behalf of families and teachers at three schools with pitiful reading test scores, the suit was an effort to establish a constitutional right to read. However, before the courts resolved that legal question, the litigants settled the case in 2020.
The settlement itself was noteworthy. The state agreed to give an extra $50 million to 75 elementary schools with the worst reading scores in the state to improve how they were teaching reading. Targeted at children who were just learning to read in kindergarten through third grade, the settlement amounted to a little more than $1,000 extra per student. Teachers were trained in evidence-based ways of teaching reading, including an emphasis on phonics and vocabulary. (A few of the 75 original schools didn’t participate or closed down.)
A pair of Stanford University education r..