America’s gifted education programs have a race problem. Can it be fixed?

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This article about gifted education was produced in partnership with The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit, independent news organization focused on inequality and innovation in education. This is part 1 of the series “Gifted Education’s Race Problem.”

BUFFALO, N.Y. — On a crisp day in early March, two elementary school gifted and talented classes worked on activities in two schools, 3 miles and a world apart.

In airy PS 64 Frederick Law Olmsted, in affluent, white north Buffalo, 22 would-be Arctic explorers wrestled with how to build a shelter if their team leader had frostbite and snow blindness. Unusually for Buffalo’s public schools — where 20 percent of students are white and 46 percent are Black — about half of the fourth grade class was white.

In PS 61 Arthur O. Eve, on the city’s majority-Black East Side, 13 first graders, all of them Black, Latino or Asian American, folded paper airplanes in their basement classroom as part of an aerodynamics and problem-solving lesson. Unlike at Olmsted, the highest-scoring elementary school in the city, students at Eve scored around the dismal city average in math and English in 2019, when fewer than a quarter of students passed state tests.

The gifted program at Eve opened two years ago as a way to increase access to Buffalo’s disproportionately white, in-demand gifted and talented programs. Buffalo educators hoped Eve’s new program would give more children — particularly children of color — a chance at enrichment and advanced learning.

Yet two years in, Eve’s gifted classes are under-enrolled, while Olmsted always runs out of room — last year, more than 400 children applied for 65 gifted spots. And even though the district made it easier to apply for gifted classes, Olmsted gifted classrooms still don’t look like the rest of the district. White families


Tennessee education department announces $2M for educator training programs

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Aspiring teachers attending seven universities across the state will be able to apply for limited full scholarships, thanks to a $2 million allocation by the Tennessee Department of Education through it’s Grow Your Own teacher education program.

Funded by Grow Your Own grants, university educator training programs partner with school districts to provide tuition-free education for aspiring teachers. Participants work as education assistants at placements in partner school districts, learning under qualified teacher mentors. The program was initiated with an eye to increasing access and removing barriers to the teaching profession.

“The Grow Your Own initiative will expand across the state and support hundreds of individuals to become teachers for free – while employed in our Tennessee school districts,” Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn said. “Right now, it could not be more important to remove barriers to the teaching profession, and I am proud of the way our state is coming together to continue preparing great teachers in innovative ways.”

The $2 million investment will support teacher training and associated placements in 35 school districts across the state and enable 262 aspiring teachers to receive training, classroom experience and a teacher license at no cost.

The competitive grant awards will expand existing Grow Your Own programs at Austin Peay State University, Lipscomb University and the University of Tennessee Knoxville campus, and initiate programs at Lincoln Memorial University, Tennessee State, Tennessee Tech and the University of Tennessee Chattanooga.

“UTC is thrilled to be selected as one of the Grow Your Own awardees and thankful to the Tennessee Department of Education for the award,” said School of Education Director Renee Murley, of the University of Tennessee, Chattanooga.

Between 1971 and 2017, the number of graduates earning bachelor’s degrees in education dropped by 51 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Education. Tennessee


Colleges are cutting sports programs and upending lives

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A freshman track and field athlete cried on the bed in his dorm room. He felt angry and screamed. A baseball coach tried to explain the situation to his two young children before focusing his efforts on finding his players a home. Months later, he scrolls through Instagram and struggles with mixed emotions as he sees his players in their new uniforms.

The novel coronavirus pandemic has financially strained athletic departments. Schools didn’t receive their usual distribution from the NCAA after the men’s basketball tournament was canceled. They have lost revenue from student fees and donations. Most conferences are playing a shortened football season, with limited or no fan attendance, hurting yet another revenue stream. Many smaller schools are no longer receiving the payouts from nonconference matchups against Power Five programs. Schools have responded to these deficits by eliminating teams.

Around 80 Division I programs no longer exist, affecting roughly 1,500 athletes. Success and prominence don’t guarantee immunity. Furman baseball had a 125-year history. East Carolina men’s swimming won a conference title in February. Power Five schools — Iowa, Stanford and Minnesota — have discontinued programs.

“As an Olympic sport at a Division I college, you always have this understanding in the back of your head that if something is going to be cut, it’s potentially going to be your sport,” said Dan Shuman, a former East Carolina swimmer. “It’s living in the shadow of the guillotine.”

If that day comes, as it recently has for hundreds of athletes, they are forced to transfer to a new school or give up their sport to stay on campus. Coaches lose their jobs and must move their families for the next one. This process repeats around the country, each time beginning with an emotional team meeting that leaves athletes scrambling to adjust.


Why mid- and low-major college basketball programs are in big trouble without buy games

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Montana Grizzlies men’s basketball coach Travis DeCuire stayed close to his phone last week. The Grizzlies’ seventh-year coach was busy trying to salvage his Division I program’s nonconference schedule one week after the NCAA approved a Nov. 25 start date that was delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

In most years, the 49-year-old DeCuire would be asking opposing coaches and administrators the typical questions about the potential nonconference matchups that anchor his schedule. How much are you willing to pay? Commercial or chartered flight? How many hotel rooms for the program?

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The pandemic has changed those conversations, and DeCuire’s exchanges last week had a different tone. He wanted to know if schools were frequently testing players for COVID-19. What are the rates in your community? Can you promise that my team won’t have to run through multiple airports to get to your school?

“I want to know that they’re testing and the results are accurate,” he said. “I want to know that they’re negative before they get on the bus or the plane, if they come to play us.”

When Dan Gavitt, the NCAA’s senior vice president of men’s basketball, announced that the season would commence two weeks after its original start date, the sport’s Power 5 programs — with the assistance of their ample budgets — began devising ideas about bubbles and regional matchups that aim to secure the health and safety of participants by limiting exposure.

For DeCuire and other mid-major coaches throughout the country, the road to the 2020-21 season isn’t that simple. The financial pipeline that will allow major programs to plow forward and play games isn’t accessible to non-Power 5 programs. There are more schools like Montana than like Duke in the Division I landscape of 350-plus college basketball programs.

Per the Knight


Coronavirus forces University of Michigan to cancel winter study abroad programs

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ANN ARBOR, MI – The University of Michigan has suspended its undergraduate study abroad programs for the winter 2021 term, due to ongoing concerns about COVID-19, including continued travel restrictions and the planning time needed for students.

a large brick building: The University of Michigan Union is seen on Tuesday, December 5, 2017. The Union is closing in the spring and is expected to stay closed for 20 months

© Hunter Dyke | [email protected]/ANN ARBOR NEWS/mlive.com/TNS
The University of Michigan Union is seen on Tuesday, December 5, 2017. The Union is closing in the spring and is expected to stay closed for 20 months

Almost every country is under a UM travel restriction right now and it’s difficult to do an accurate risk assessment of COVID-19 conditions, predict entry and exit bans and confirm the availability of quarantine housing and other safety measures at all study sites across the globe, UM Associate Vice Provost and Director of Global Engagement Amy Conger said.

“We’re trying to make careful decisions that are in everybody’s best interest,” Conger said in a news release. “Because there’s still uncertainty, we just don’t want to put the students at risk.

“We also have to remember, it can take nine months to a year to plan a program. And most of our students usually have to make financial commitments at least three or four months before travel.”

There is no clear timeline for when students are expected to be able to travel again, due to COVID-19 conditions in countries throughout the world, Conger said.

Significant planning goes into students’ study abroad choices, Conger said, with students often planning at least a year ahead to prepare applications, map out their courses, make financial arrangements and select housing.

The university noted its schools and colleges also need time to design the learning experiences, reserve sites, hire instructors and secure accommodations, with contracts signed and students making deposits several months in advance of departure.

UM typically offers study abroad programs in

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