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Education Department Drops Fight Over School Money

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Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander and Education Secretary John B. King Jr. had been in a battle over Title I enforcement for some time.

LA Johnson/NPR

The U.S. Department of Education has withdrawn a proposal that could have fundamentally changed the flow of federal dollars to schools that serve low-income students.

“The law is clear that it is unacceptable to systematically underfund low-income schools and fill the hole with federal resources,” explained Dorie Turner Nolt, a spokeswoman for the education department. “While we worked tirelessly to put forward a regulation that implements that simple requirement and to incorporate the extensive feedback we received, we ultimately did not have time to publish a strong final regulation that lives up to the promise of the law.”

This brings to an end a long and bitter fight between the Education Department, led by Secretary John B. King, Jr., and Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn, himself a former education secretary and current chairman of the Senate committee that handles education.

“This is an intolerable situation,” Alexander said of the Department’s so-called “supplement-not-supplant” proposal back in May, in a heated speech on the Senate floor. “If the regulations are not consistent with the law, I don’t believe [states] should follow them,” he said. “If the department persists, then the state should go to court to sue the department.”

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Education

After 50 Years, Head Start Struggles With Uneven Quality

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LA Johnson/NPR

For more than 50 years, Head Start has provided free early childhood education and other services to low-income families. But new national research, out Wednesday, shows great variation from state to state in how well the program works.

The study comes from the National Institute for Early Education Research, and it examined Head Start programs in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and U.S. territories.

It focused on quality and ranked states accordingly. Kentucky and Vermont came out the best, while 18 states ranked very poorly: Arizona, Alabama, California, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

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Education

How Investing In Preschool Beats The Stock Market, Hands Down

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LA Johnson/NPR

If you got 13 percent back on your investments every year, you’d be pretty happy, right? Remember, the S&P 500, historically, has averaged about 7 percent when adjusted for inflation.

What if the investment is in children, and the return on investment not only makes economic sense but results in richer, fuller, healthier lives for the entire family?

That’s the crux of a new paper out Monday, The Life-Cycle Benefits of an Influential Early Childhood Program, co-authored by Nobel laureate James Heckman, a professor of economics at the University of Chicago and the director of the Center for the Economics of Human Development.

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Education

Trump’s Pick For Education: A Free Market Approach To School Choice

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Betsy DeVos, nominee for education secretary.

Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call,Inc.

The unofficial motto of a public charter school co-founded by Betsy DeVos — President-elect Trump’s choice to lead the Department of Education — could be “No Pilot Left Behind.”

Nearby a small maintenance hangar that’s part of the West Michigan Aviation Academy, one of the school’s two Cessna 172 airplanes chugs down the tarmac of Gerald R. Ford International Airport. The school is based on the airport’s grounds, just outside Grand Rapids.

Besty DeVos and her husband, Dick DeVos, led the effort to create this charter high school and got it off the ground — literally — in 2010. They donated the first Cessna. Delta Airlines’ foundation donated the second.

But few other Michigan charters have billionaire founder patrons and A-list connections. The school’s annual fundraising gala has included Apollo 13 astronauts as well as former president George W Bush and other luminaries.

The school’s principal, Patrick Cywayna, says there’s a long waiting list to attend this tuition-free, nonprofit high school. “I think the word choice says it all,” he says. “The philosophy of our school from Dick and Betsy, obviously, is to provide opportunities for all kids. So the word opportunity and choice to me go hand in hand.”

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Education

Dyslexia: The Learning Disability That Must Not Be Named

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Megan Lordos, a middle school teacher, says she was not allowed to use the word “dyslexia.”

She’s not alone. Parents and teachers across the country have raised concerns about some schools hesitating, or completely refusing, to say the word.

As the most common learning disability in the U.S., dyslexia affects somewhere between 5 and 17 percent of the population. That means millions of school children around the country struggle with it.

Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), schools are required to provide special services to help these students — things like reading tutors and books on tape. But those special services can be expensive, and many schools don’t have the resources to provide these accommodations.

That has led some parents and advocates to worry that some schools are making a careful calculation: If they don’t acknowledge the issue — or don’t use the word “dyslexia” — then they are not obligated to provide services.

Last year, when Lordos was teaching English at a public school in Arlington, Va., she recalls a parent-teacher meeting in the conference room. Things started smoothly.

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Education

Raising A Child With Dyslexia: 3 Things Parents Can Do

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LA Johnson/NPR

A mother, who spent years coaching and encouraging her dyslexic son, recalls his childhood with one pervasive feeling: “It was really scary.”One father told me his home life was ruined. Trying to do homework with his struggling daughter, he says, felt like “a nightmare every night.” Optimism and determination would inevitably descend into tears and anxiety. The culprit: dyslexia.

Yet another mom — whose son and daughter both have dyslexia — suggests changing the definition of dyslexia: “It’s no longer a reading problem. It’s a life crisis.”

As the most common learning disability, dyslexia affects somewhere between 5 and 17 percent of the U.S. population. Its reach extends far beyond the classroom, causing stress, tension and confusion for families with a dyslexic child.

But experts and parents say there are three key things that can help.

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