How Will COVID-19 Emergency Spending Bill Help Education?

In terms of IDEA, it calls for the Secretary to provide a report within thirty days with a list of waivers needed to be included in IDEA and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.  Presumably, Congress would then amend the law to provide her with the authority to grant such waivers. The disability/special education community voiced strong concern about this provision since key provisions in the law could be altered.  In addition, amending IDEA in the Congress to provide waiver authority could attract other troubling amendments.  Some organizations, such as the National School Boards Association, called for additional authority for the Department to grant waivers and flexibility in relation to IDEA.

Study: Boosting Soft Skills is Better Than Raising Test Scores

Education researchers are trying to come up with different ways to measure success. One of them, economist Kirabo Jackson of Northwestern University, has zeroed in on soft skills, which include traits like empathy and perseverance, and found that if you were to set up a competition between schools that raise test scores and schools that foster soft skills, the soft skills schools would win.

Switch to Remote Learning Could Leave Students With Disabilities Behind

School leaders are grappling with how to deliver special education services  and stay compliant with state and federal civil rights law — as governors shut down school buildings to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. A handful of districts announced in recent weeks that they won’t yet require distance learning because they haven’t figured out a way to serve all students, including students with disabilities, English Language Learners and students who don’t have internet access at home. The U.S. Department of Education told schools Saturday that they should not let concerns over how to reach students with disabilities stop them from offering distance learning, and that they don’t have to reach all students the same way.

State Auditors Suggest New Ways to Track Effectiveness of Funds Allocated to High-Poverty Schools

Earlier this month, members of the state House Education Finance committee convened to hear the findings of a state audit on a large bucket of state funding for public schools. It’s called compensatory education revenue, and it’s intended to help schools pay for the educational needs of students who do not meet performance standards appropriate for their age. These dollars are generated by students who qualify for free-and-reduced-price lunch — an indicator of poverty, which correlates with low student achievement. The state formula also takes the concentration of these students at individual school sites into consideration. Typically, schools invest this revenue into programming, staffing, interventions and other expenses at the school sites serving the bulk of students who generate it.

Proposal to Let 16-year-olds Vote in Colorado School Board Elections Advances

The next time candidates campaign for school board seats in Colorado, they might have a new voting bloc to consider. Legislation that would allow 16- and 17-year-olds to vote in local school board elections cleared the House State Affairs Committee on Tuesday. That same committee voted down similar legislation last year amid concerns from county clerks, who run these elections, and the Colorado Association of School Boards. Some have questioned if the idea is constitutional. Young people “are persistent,” said state Rep. Serena Gonzales-Gutierrez, a Denver Democrat and the bill’s sponsor. “They are highly intelligent. I have full confidence in their ability to make the right decisions.”

Adjusting to a New ‘Normal’ in Education

Now that many school and district buildings are closed, state leaders, educators and in some cases, business leaders are looking at how best to provide continuity of education and support services to their students and communities. While states and school districts already have plans for emergency management and temporary school closures for natural disasters and other events beyond our control, this is the longest sustained disruption to the idea of normalcy in American life — and American schools — that many of us have encountered. In times such as these, it’s important to look to one another for answers, examples and inspiration.

Addressing Pre-Service Capacity in Ed Tech: How Can States Reimagine Educator Preparation?

Educator preparation programs have the opportunity to help candidates use digital tools and resources to make activities and assignments more meaningful and relevant for all students, encouraging creativity, communication, problem-solving and inquiry-based learning. Connecticut has made significant strides in preparing educators to use technology effectively. Here, Doug Casey, executive director of the Connecticut Commission for Educational Technology (CCET), describes the importance of thoughtful investments into educator preparation and shares his advice for other state leaders.

The Coronavirus Double Whammy: School Closures, Economic Downturn Could Derail Student Learning, Research Shows

Studies of student absences, summer learning loss, and lengthy school closures show that losing time in school sets students back academically. Research on the last recession found the resulting drastic cuts in school spending lowered students’ test scores and college attendance rates. And other research has shown that families’ financial stress affects how well students do in school. Together, these findings paint a grim picture of what the latest crisis could mean for students — and indicates that many will not be able to easily shake off its effects. But it also hints at opportunities for policymakers to cushion the blow.

Ed Department Offers More Special Education Guidance Amid COVID-19

As schools across the nation shutter in response to coronavirus, federal officials are giving educators additional insight on how to handle the needs of students with disabilities. The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights issued a webinar and fact sheet this week for education leaders aimed at ensuring that students’ civil rights are upheld while schools are closed due to COVID-19. The webinar reminds school officials that distance learning must be accessible unless “equally effective alternate access is provided.” Online learning tools should be compatible with any assistive technology that students use and schools must regularly test their online offerings for accessibility, the Education Department said.

Illinois School Districts Weigh Competing needs after Governor Suggests Freeze

Illinois school districts are rethinking next school year’s budget, after Gov. J.B. Pritzker surprised them in announcing last week that the state will increase education spending but hold back some of the funds they expected pending the outcome of a November tax vote. If the legislature approves Pritzker’s $350 million school spending increase, the governor would place in reserve $150 million for schools, and deliver it only if voters pass his progressive income tax plan in November. Pritzker has argued that would bring in additional revenues in future years to shore up schools and other critical areas.  In the interim, districts are paring back their expectations and budgets for next year.

Senate Passes Resolution Encouraging Utah School Districts, Charters to Study Benefits of Late Starts for High Schools

The Utah Senate gave final passage Friday to a resolution that asks school districts and charter schools to study the benefits of late starts to high schools. HCR3, sponsored by Rep. Suzanne Harrison, D-Draper, encourages schools to study the physical health, mental health and academic benefits of starting high school at a later hour, and then craft solutions that would work for them. The Senate voted 22-1 to pass the resolution. Sen. Lincoln Fillmore, R-South Jordan, cast the lone no vote, explaining that schools and districts are already having these conversations and implementing changes.

USDA and Partners Plan to Offer Food Delivery for Rural Students

While school is out in the majority of states across the country due to COVID-19 prevention efforts, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and state education authorities are working to ensure students who rely on free and reduced-price food can still access it. The USDA already waived requirements for all 50 states and the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico that food be served in “congregated” settings, allowing for brown bag-type lunches for students who need it.

How Remote Learning will Work in New York City

When New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Sunday that city schools would close Monday in response to the coronavirus pandemic and remote instruction would begin March 23, it was somewhat unclear exactly how virtual education would work. But over the past few days, the city Department of Education has been working on finalizing plans to take lessons online in order to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Maryland Senate Passes Sweeping Schools Reform Bill 

In a state where more than 60 percent of graduating high school seniors can’t read at a 10th-grade level or pass an Algebra I test, the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future bill ― the formal name of the Kirwan legislation ― is designed to boost the state’s public schools to world-class levels by adopting strategies used in educational powerhouses, such as Finland, Singapore, and Ontario. A commission report calls for dozens of additional programs, including expanding prekindergarten to more students; tougher standards and higher salaries for teachers, including a starting salary of $60,000; more vocational training programs in high schools; and more support for schools with high concentrations of students from poor families.

Illinois Just Took A Big Step For Arts Education

The state of Illinois made history in March when it became the first state in the nation to include the arts as a distinct, weighted indicator of K-12 performance in its school accountability system. At a board meeting on Wednesday, the Illinois State Board of Education voted to approve State Superintendent Carmen Ayala’s recommendation a weighted arts indicator to its Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) state plan. Adding the arts indicator could result in more funding and access to arts education across the state.

In Response to Coronavirus Pandemic, Tennessee Governor Slashes Proposed School Budget, Retains Vouchers

Gov. Bill Lee’s administration unveiled a revised budget plan Wednesday that halves the proposed increase for teacher pay and cuts most of the education initiatives he announced before the new coronavirus created a public health emergency in Tennessee. Gone is the $250 million trust fund that the Republican governor proposed to support and grow mental health services for students in the state’s highest-risk schools. Also slashed is $68 million to overhaul literacy instruction, $25 million to bolster low-performing schools in the state-run Achievement School District, and $24 million to help charter schools with building costs.

States Move to Require the FAFSA for High School Graduation

High school students in three states: Illinois, Louisiana and Texas already or will soon face a new graduation requirement: completion of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Lawmakers in at least another five states plus the District of Columbia are currently considering similar legislation. The simplicity of the policy is part of its appeal: If the FAFSA were a requirement for graduation, presumably, more students would complete the form, learn of aid availability and matriculate on to postsecondary education. Here at Education Commission of the States, we are learning all the time about what states can do to help preserve and leverage this simplicity into increased rates of college-going.

The Lasting Benefits and Strong Returns of Early College High Schools

There is growing interest across the country in dual enrollment programs, which allow students to earn a high school diploma and college credits at the same time. Many policymakers and practitioners see these programs as a way to increase college access and better prepare students for postsecondary success. A body of research from the American Institutes for Research (AIR) confirms that one type of dual enrollment program—Early College High Schools—has a positive, lasting impact on postsecondary enrollment and success and that there is a strong return on the investments made in Early Colleges. These findings, as well as insights and recommendations for federal and state policymakers, are included in a new AIR policy brief, The Lasting Benefits of Early College High Schools.

How States Allocate Funding for Rural Schools

All states have rural districts and schools and must contend with barriers that prevent equitable and adequate education for all. In fact, in 23 states, more than 20 percent of students attend a rural school. Research shows that rural schools face many of the same challenges as urban schools, albeit in a different context: High levels of poverty negatively affect property tax revenue, an educational achievement gap between racial and ethnic groups remains, and it’s difficult for schools to recruit and retain good teachers. Indeed, teachers are expected to do more with fewer resources in rural schools. One way states attempt to address these challenges is by increasing the amount of money rural schools receive through funding formulas, specifically with small school size and isolated school funding adjustment policies. According to our recent 50-State Comparison on K-12 Funding, 29 states have a small size or isolated adjustment policy in statute.

Report Identifies Strategies for Scaling Work-Based Learning

A new report from the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices ​(NGA Center) aims to narrow the gap between what employers need and the type of skills employees entering the workforce possess, identifying core elements of system changes governors can use to embed work-based learning in K-12. The lessons were collected as NGA worked with 19 states and territories for four years to build opportunities for youth to access work-based learning experiences. The report recommends specific action items such as aligning work-based learning goals with governors’ education and workforce priorities.

Task Force Recommends Ways To Reduce Hate Crimes In Massachusetts Schools

A task force charged with reducing hate crimes in Massachusetts has released a set of recommendations aimed at helping schools address the problem. The recently released recommendations from the Governor’s Task Force on Hate Crimes include encouraging schools to use educational programs that promote awareness, understanding, and acceptance of all people — including inviting people from a variety of backgrounds to visit classrooms to share their cultures and religions. The recommendations also include talking with parents about the importance of recognizing and reporting hate crimes or other incidents based on bias and strengthening the relationships between schools and local police departments.

Report: Safety Tip Lines Flag Bullying, Drug use, Suicide Risk

More schools are using safety tips lines, but not just for gun violence prevention — the technology is addressing bullying, drug use and suicide risk among students. Those are among the findings of a nationwide study looking at how schools are using tip lines as a safety measure. The report, which was conducted by RTI International, a nonprofit research institution, was based on responses from a nationally representative sample of 1,226 school principals surveyed between February and July 2019. The study, said to be the first of its kind, was funded by an award from the U.S. Department of Justice.