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Survey Finds Teacher Shortage Crisis Exacerbated By Push to Ban Classroom Discussions of Race and Gender — THE Journal

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State Legislation

Survey Finds Teacher Shortage Crisis Exacerbated By Push to Ban Classroom Discussions of Race and Gender

Education-equity advocacy nonprofit Stand for Children has released a new national survey of teachers that finds that 3 in 10 teachers are considering leaving the profession at the end of this school year, and more than a third of the 2,000 K–12 educators surveyed cited as a reason new state laws restricting classroom discussions on race, gender, and sexuality.

“Censorship laws being passed by Republican-led legislatures across the country – and which bar teachers from discussing topics of race, gender, and sexuality – threaten to exacerbate the teacher shortage,” Stand for Children said in a news release. Of the teachers surveyed, 37% said that the push for laws that “prevent honest teaching and conversations in their classrooms would make them more likely to leave teaching at the end of this school year.”

“There is a direct connection between states pushing for censorship laws and teachers’ willingness to stay in the teaching profession, and students and families are paying the price,” said Jonah Edelman, executive officer at Stand for Children. “At a time when public officials should be supporting kids and families to help students to catch up academically and recover socially and emotionally, these laws are instead fueling crippling staff shortages, and preventing students from learning a truthful, thorough, fact-based account of U.S history that enables them to learn from the past in order to create a better future.”

The organization noted that 32 states have introduced legislation to ban classroom curricula and conversations on important but challenging topics such as the ongoing effects of racism and inequality in the United States. Thirteen states have already enacted such laws, many of which include stiff punishments for teachers who violate the often-vague guidelines, Stand for Children said.

Some recent examples include:

  • Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis rolled out legislation that would allow parents to sue schools that teach “critical race theory.”
  • In Ohio, a bill introduced in the state Legislature teachers accused of discussing “banned ideas” could have their classes not count toward graduation requirements.
  • In Wisconsin, the proposed legislation would withhold 10% of funding to schools that promote “race or sex stereotyping.”
  • In Texas, after a conservative lawmaker listed 850 books he wanted banned, hundreds of books have already been pulled off the shelves, preventing students from learning from Pulitzer Prize-winning authors like Toni Morrison and historical figures like the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

One respondent explained their dismay with such bans: “Laws restricting classroom discussions take away from the students in that classroom,” said the respondent, a high school teacher in Montana. “Schools are not there to make you think one way or another, and laws restricting discussions force students to only think in one way. Students should be able to discuss what they believe. This helps better prepare them for a world in which they will disagree with others and a world in which their voice matters just as much as other persons.”

The Ohio program director for “suburban housewife” advocacy group Red Wine & Blue, Crystal Lett, said she’s concerned that adding restrictions on what teachers can discuss in the classroom will make the ongoing teacher shortage much worse.

“Additional loss of teaching staff will place our education system in full crisis, with harmful consequences for our children, our families, and ourselves as parents,” said Lett, also a parent of three K–12 students. “Our children are very aware of the world around them, and the focus must be on preparing them for success by giving them the skills needed to address inequality and understand complex, tough issues.”

Overwhelmingly, respondents agreed that students need to learn honest, accurate, and truthful history even if those conversations are uncomfortable, with 93% of teachers surveyed saying that students “deserve a thorough and accurate account of American history” and that “it is essential for schools [to teach historical truths] to help children learn to value and respect the humanity of every person.”

The national survey was conducted by SurveyUSA, an independent survey research firm, from September to October 2021. The full results can be viewed on the Stand for Children survey website.

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Inventionland Course and Contest Leads to Product License for Middle School Students — THE Journal

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STEM & STEAM

Inventionland Course and Contest Leads to Product License for Middle School Students

Two eighth-grade students in the Grove
City (PA) Middle School
have garnered a product
license for their invention following completion of Inventionland’s
K–12
Innovation Curriculum
course and winning both their
middle school and regional contests. The course, which Inventionland
describes as a “cross-discipline STEAM toolbox,” uses the same
proprietary
nine-step invention process
the company follows in its
own commercial applications.

The
Innovation Curriculum is divided into elementary, middle, and high
school sections, with age-appropriate activities for various grades.
Students work in teams to develop a new product. Upon completion,
teams can enter their inventions in local, regional, and national
contests. Inventionland also helps schools to design and reconfigure
classrooms and underutilized spaces into “innovation
labs
” that facilitate immersive learning.

In
Inventionland’s nine-step process, steps 1 to 3 focus on
discovering a problem and inventing ideas to solve it using STEAM
skills. In steps 4 to 6, students sketch and create concept models of
their invention. In steps 7 to 9, they make a working model, create
packaging, and develop a marketing presentation.

They
are then ready to enter their inventions in contests
,
starting at the local level, with winners moving on to regional and
national levels, as the Grove City students did. Inventionland’s
founder, George Davis, impressed with the two girls’ invention,
contacted a product distribution company, who offered a licensing
agreement.

Visit
this page for more background on Inventionland’s history and its
education curriculum
. See
a video about how Grove City Middle School implements the Innovation
Curriculum.

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Texas CIO Report Calls for New Law Requiring K–12 Schools to Report All Cyber Incidents — THE Journal

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Cybersecurity & Data Privacy

Texas CIO Report Calls for New Law Requiring K–12 Schools to Report All Cyber Incidents

Expansion of Digital Signatures, Regional Joint IT Operations for Local, State Agencies Also Proposed

The Texas Department of Information Resources, in its newly released Biennial Performance Report, has asked the state legislature to require Texas school districts to report cybersecurity incidents to its office within a minimum reporting timeframe.

Currently, public schools in Texas are required to notify the Texas Education Agency of cyber incidents that result in unauthorized theft, duplication, transmission, use, or viewing of student information that is “sensitive, protected, or confidential as provided by state or federal law.” And the Texas Business and Commerce Code says that includes encrypted data, too, if the threat actor has the decryption key.

But, as the Texas Association of School Board discusses at length in several website guides for districts, neither of those laws explain much beyond that — and neither law requires the TEA to publish or share any accounting of the cyber incidents that are reported by school districts. Historically, the TEA has considered such data to be exempt from Freedom of Information laws.

The BPR, released Nov. 16, also requested legislative action to expand DIR’s pilot program with Angelo State University in West Texas that established a Regional Security Operations Center to provide university students with hands-on cybersecurity experience and give boots-on-the-ground support to local taxpayer-funded agencies — including K–12 school districts — that need assistance with major cybersecurity incidents.

The BPR tracks state-funded agencies’ technology progress in fiscal years 2021 and 2022; highlights their technology accomplishments; lists areas of concern; and recommends policy and legislative changes to improve the effectiveness of IT operations at state and taxpayer-funded agencies.

“Over the past two years, state agencies in Texas showed significant progress in delivering secure, innovative technology that makes government more efficient, effective, transparent, and accountable,” said Amanda Crawford, DIR’s executive director and Texas’ Chief Information Officer, in a statement announcing the report’s release. “I applaud the hard work and effort of state agencies which, along with the support of the Texas Legislature, drive the state of Texas to lead the nation in delivering a secure, digital government through well-designed, innovative, and efficient technology solutions.”

The 2022 BPR is available on the DIR website at https://dir.texas.gov/strategic-planning-and-reporting/biennial-performance-report.

Other legislative recommendations relevant to public schools included in the new BPR:

  • Enable private sector peer-to-peer payment solutions commonly used by the public to provide additional payment methods for government services
  • Enable broader access to digital government services, streamlined processes, and digitization by expanding the use of digital signatures

In discussing the need for better, thorough incident reporting, the BPR states:

“Sharing information is essential for protecting public sector assets, personal or sensitive information, and critical infrastructure. State agencies and institutions of higher education are required to report certain types of security incidents to DIR within a minimum timeframe … suspected cybersecurity incidents, including breaches and ransomware attacks, to DIR. School districts report cybersecurity incidents to the Texas Education Agency and county election officials are required to notify the Secretary of State,” the report reads.

“Also, Texas law does not set a standard timeframe for local governments to report cyberattacks. This incongruent reporting of cybersecurity incidents may hinder Texas in tracking trends and understanding the scope and complexity of cyberattacks as well as how they may be related to another cyberattack. By requiring municipalities, school districts, and counties to report cybersecurity incidents to DIR, the state will have a more complete picture of potential threats and may be able to prevent future attacks, avoiding costly response and recovery efforts.”

About the request for funds to expand the RSOC pilot program, the report states:

The law authorizing the RSOC pilot program states the RSOC “may offer network security infrastructure that local governments can utilize and provide real-time network security monitoring; network security alerts; incident response; and cybersecurity educational services. Eligible customers of the RSOC include counties, local governments, school districts, water districts, and hospital districts,” according to the BPR summary.

“DIR’s vision for the RSOC initiative is to partner with additional public universities and establish RSOCs throughout the state to serve local entities and assist in protecting the state from cyber threats,” Crawford wrote in the report. “This vision aligns with a whole-of-state approach to cybersecurity that increases the threat protection and cyber maturity of all of Texas through collaboration and partnerships. DIR is requesting funding from the 88th Legislature to establish two additional RSOCs including one in the Rio Grande Valley and one in central Texas.”

Calls for More Digital Signatures and Blockchain Guidance

Another DIR recommendation that would impact public schools statewide, if lawmakers act, is for new legislation to enable broader access to digital government services, streamlined processes, and digitization by expanding the use of digital signatures.

“Currently, a digital signature can be used to authenticate a written electronic communication sent by an individual to a state agency or local government if the signature complies with DIR’s rules as well as rules adopted by the state agency or local government,” the BPR explained. “Allowing more digital signatures in lieu of handwritten signatures, without additional rule-making, could lead to improved administrative efficiency and reduced costs.”

A final recommendation for lawmakers spelled out in the BPR is “provide guidance for distributed ledger and blockchain technology best practices.”

Nationally, a handful of U.S. universities have piloted using blockchain technology to store and share digital credentials such as academic records; although widespread adoption of blockchain for academic records at any level isn’t seen as likely to happen anytime soon, the DIR noted that 10% of state agencies have said they’re considering adopting distributed ledger-based systems.

View or download the full 2022 BPR at https://dir.texas.gov/strategic-planning-and-reporting/biennial-performance-report.

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Smart Technologies Rolls Out Android 11 Update as Part of iQ 3.12 Release for Smart Boards — THE Journal

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Classroom Technologies

Smart Technologies Rolls Out Android 11 Update as Part of iQ 3.12 Release for Smart Boards

Interactive whiteboard maker Smart Technologies has announced its iQ 3.12 release, which includes an over-the-air upgrade to the Android 11 operating system. The company says the automatic update includes better performance, features, and security and privacy upgrades, allowing more product cycle control and convenience for users.

Smart Technologies announced in Spring 2022 it was the first manufacturer to launch interactive displays supporting Android 11, with functions that relieve users from having to purchase new panels or modules. The November 2022 over-the-air update provides:

  • Android 11 upgrades to SMART V3 interactive displays with the iQ platform;
  • Greater interoperability and support for 64-bit apps; and
  • Improved iQ platform longevity using the Android 11 support timeline for patches and security updates.

In addition, all supported iQ displays will automatically receive these features, the company said:

  • Whole-class collaborative whiteboard improved with content attribution for student contributions from their devices;
  • New pedagogically designed ready-made resources for student contribution from devices;
  • Single-question assessments such as polls;
  • ‘Shout it Out’ brainstorming templates; and
  • Exit tickets and knowledge gathering.

Visit this page to learn more about Smart interactive boards for education and see this page for a comparison of Smart board displays and specs.

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URGENT: CYBER SECURITY UPDATE