Bluegrass and Brain Rest: This Week’s Top 7 Education Stories

The best recent writing about school

Five female tennis players are running.
Toby Melville / Reuters

Girls’ Opportunities to Play the Sports They Love

Jane Meredith Adams | EdSource

Lacrosse came to Avonna Usher, a 16-year-old junior at Granite Bay High School northeast of Sacramento, the way sports come to many young athletes—at school. The pure pleasure of hurling a 40-yard pass has driven her to attack her learning disability, improve her grades and win a verbal commitment to play lacrosse for the University of Oregon Ducks.

But a new study finds that many California schools aren’t reporting their data, as required by a recent state law, to show that girls are getting the same shot at team sports as boys.

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Visiting Cuba, Poetry in Hand

Natalie Bruzda | Las Vegas Review-Journal

While American exports to Cuba are a mere trickle, a [University of Nevada, Las Vegas] professor is about to bring to a new product of immeasurable value to the Caribbean island nation: poetry.

Claudia Keelan, who has taught English at the university since 1996, is part of the first delegation of American poets to attend the Havana International Literary Festival.

“We were invited as Americans, and that has never happened,” Keelan said. “We want to go there and wage peace and show the good face of America.”

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One State’s Long Road Toward Teacher Diversity

Trisha Powell Crain |

While evidence shows a diverse teacher workforce can benefit all students, researchers are finding just how important it is for black students to have black teachers.

But that's not always easy to accomplish in Alabama. Ten school systems in North Alabama have no black classroom teachers.

"It's essential that we diversify the workforce," said Dr. Barbara Cooper, Alabama's chief academic officer, referring to studies demonstrating the positive impact black teachers can have for black students, including reducing the likelihood of being suspended or expelled, possibly due to a better understanding of the lives of black students that nonblack teachers might not have.

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Why are Texas Schools Losing International Applicants?

Lindsay Ellis | Houston Chronicle

Students from India, China, Iran and other countries have long flocked to Texas campuses to work with top professors and to earn a prestigious American degree.

But this year, those students appear to be less enamored by the Lone Star State.

International applications to Texas' four-year public universities have plummeted over the past year by at least 10,000, a 12.5 percent decrease from last fall, according to a Houston Chronicle review of university data. ...

Several factors are likely causing foreign students to look elsewhere, analysts and campus administrators say, noting a sluggish global economy and greater competition from other countries. Still, many bluntly point to President Donald Trump's anti-immigrant rhetoric as significant, saying it is creating an unwelcoming environment.

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The Politics of Studying Bluegrass in College

Nick Roll  | Inside Higher Ed

Bluegrass music has its roots in rural Appalachia. In recent years, however, its growing popularity has also helped bring it to the classroom, prompting debate and discussion about its origins and those who are taking it into the mainstream, both via the lecture hall and the concert stage.

“Do the available opportunities represent real choices for students, or are they more effective marketing as colleges seek to recruit adolescents burning with a fever to succeed in music?”

“Does a college degree function to offer more choices or narrow opportunities?”

Those are some of the questions raised by Ted Lehmann, well-known in the bluegrass world for his writing and blogging on music, in a recent post on the roots-music website No Depression. …

To be clear, Lehmann isn’t saying that roots musicians who receive an education are worse off or can’t improvise, but rather that the changing educational environment around bluegrass, and a lack of awareness of the class and social gaps in the bluegrass music community, could lead to a change in the music.

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How Goofing Off Helps Kids Learn

Lea Waters | The Atlantic

Savoring and gratitude are both forms of directed attention. But in contrast to that type of on-task focus, free-form attention is what the brain defaults to when it’s off-task, allowed to move in any direction it wants. It happens when the brain is in what scientists call the resting state. In the 1990s, neuropsychologists began to delve into free-form attention and found that it has many benefits, including for children’s learning and their brain development. To shift instantly into free-form attention, all an individual has to do is goof off.

Now just any kind of goofing off won’t do. There’s a constructive form of goofing off that is restorative to the brain and therefore important for strength-based parenting—parenting that focuses on kids’ strengths instead of their weaknesses.

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New Attempts to Limit Greek Life on Campus

Hannah Natanson and Derek G. Xiao | The Harvard Crimson

A faculty committee has recommended that the College forbid students from joining all “fraternities, sororities, and similar organizations”—including co-ed groups—with the goal of phasing out the organizations entirely by May 2022. …

“All currently enrolled students including those who will matriculate this fall will be exempt from the new policy for the entirety of their time at Harvard,” according to the report. “This will lead to a transition period, whereby USGSOs would be phased out by May 2022.”

The committee suggested that Harvard model its new social group policy very closely on those enforced by Williams College and Bowdoin College, both of which forbid students form participating in social clubs during their time as undergraduates.