But now, as educators everywhere try to figure out how to do their jobs remotely, the coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the instability of relying on one counselor, or just a few, to guide hundreds of students through new academic hurdles, prepare them for an uncertain future and triage their mental health crises. Besides being away from counselors, kids are also out of sight of their teachers and peers, two groups that often help counselors identify who might need their help. Even as the ratio of students to counselors declines nationally, many states remain well above the 250-to-1 recommended by the American School Counselor Association (ASCA). And counselors around the country have scrambled to find answers to questions about how to ethically and logistically approach the new virtual reality of their work.
We as state leaders have faced challenging questions in the past few months as we work to protect the health and safety of our citizens. This is particularly true when it comes to the already unique challenges of educating and supporting students. Should we close schools for the remainder of the school year? How can we ensure students that receive free or reduced-priced lunches still have access to nutritious food? How do we ensure that the learning process continues in homes with widely varied access to the internet and necessary technology? What supports can we give daily to teachers and parents, who are dealing with an entirely new educational reality?
The state of Michigan early Thursday announced a settlement in a lawsuit over poor reading skills that was filed on behalf of Detroit schoolchildren, weeks after a federal appeals court issued a groundbreaking decision recognizing a constitutional right to education and literacy. The 2016 lawsuit that the appeals court had sent back to a federal judge in Detroit alleged that the city’s public schools were in “slum-like conditions” and “functionally incapable of delivering access to literacy.” Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the plaintiffs announced the agreement in a joint statement. “We are pleased to announce that we have reached a settlement that will help secure the right of access to literacy for students in Detroit who faced obstacles they never should have faced,” they said. “This landmark court decision recognizes that every child in Michigan deserves an opportunity to obtain an education, which is essential to having a strong foundation in life and a brighter future.”
With distance learning possibly extending into fall, teacher contracts settled or being negotiated prior to school closures due to the coronavirus are now being reexamined. Talks have been structured differently based on the speed of the outbreak and holes in previous contracts, and some changes could last post-pandemic. “When the crisis hit, none of these districts had provisions in their existing collective bargaining agreements that could handle the crisis,” said Nicole Gerber, director of strategic communications for the National Council on Teacher Quality. The think tank keeps a running database of collective bargaining agreements and board policies across 147 sample districts, and it has so far analyzed the COVID-19 responses of 58. “What was in there was intended for weather-related closures.”
At a recent Chicago Board of Education meeting, Schools Chief Janice Jackson made a pointed, passionate statement as she defended her position that students and teachers be held accountable for work done during the pandemic. At a time when critics are accusing the school district of not being understanding enough about what kids are up against, she insisted the accountability was about protecting the gains made by the district’s students. “I want to make sure that we are not throwing out all of the hard work we have done to support our students, and to push students who people didn’t believe could perform to do great things,” Jackson said. “We are not throwing that out because of COVID.”
Thousands of education jobs around Illinois went unfilled last school year. The 6,052 teaching and support vacancies signal a complicated problem that won’t be solved just by recruiting more college students, according to education experts. Instead, they said, the solution lies in making the profession more attractive, providing more support and funding across the board, improving teacher retention, and diversifying educators. Warnings about the teacher shortage have reverberated around the state for years, but a new report released Wednesday from the policy group Advance Illinois offers insight and suggests possible remedies.
A new Tennessee Tutoring Corps aims to recruit at least a thousand college students to provide summer tutoring for elementary-age students whose education has been disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic. Funded by the family foundation of former Gov. Bill Haslam and his wife, Crissy, the program will run from June to August in partnership with organizations representing nearly 90 Boys & Girls Clubs across the state, from Memphis to Bristol. The goal will be to stem learning loss for up to 5,000 students from low-income families who participate in Boys & Girls Clubs.
Almost 320,000 teaching jobs could be lost if states cut their education budgets by 15 percent in a coronavirus-inflicted recession, a new analysis has found. That hypothetical cut would mean an 8.4 percent reduction in the U.S. teaching corps, with some states seeing reductions as large as 20 percent, according to the analysis by the Learning Policy Institute. With schools cutting that many teaching positions—either through layoffs or eliminating vacant positions—class sizes would increase.
Voluntary or mandatory? Remote or in person? Districts grapple with summer school logistics, equity questions
What does summer school look like during a pandemic? Chicago Public Schools, like districts across the country, is still deciding. If public health offices say it’s safe, Chicago may hold summer school in its buildings, perhaps in small groups. If that doesn’t happen, it could be held virtually. The district has decided one thing: students who received an “incomplete” in a class will get first priority, including students who didn’t complete online work or printed work packets while school buildings were closed. But that decision has raised questions, too, about what’s fair and whether the district will be able to reach students they struggled to help while school was in session.
College of Education builds on K-State’s cyber land-grant university initiative with free Remote Learning P-12 community
Kansas State University is expanding its resources to help people across the world transition to remote learning with a new free digital community for P-12 education. The K-State College of Education’s Remote Learning P-12 community is another cyber land-grant university initiative and a place where educators and parents can share innovative ideas and resources that support student success. The online forum is open to parents, teachers, principals, superintendents and school counselors in Kansas and around the nation and world and can be accessed through K-State Global Campus. The community can be found online at remote-learning-p-12.mn.co.
Facing a budget crisis resulting from the coronavirus, the city’s education department is rethinking spending for future capital projects, officials said Thursday night. The proposed capital plan, developed before the pandemic upended life in New York City, maps out nearly $19 billion in spending through fiscal year 2024. It would include spending on a litany of projects, including building capacity for 57,000 more students to address overcrowding and making school buildings more accessible for students with disabilities. Now officials have gone back to the drawing board.
Nearly 60% of school districts in Wisconsin have asked the state Department of Public Instruction to waive its requirement on a set number of instructional hours due to the coronavirus. The department has received waiver requests from 248 of the state’s 421 school districts. COVID-19 canceled in-person classes beginning March 18 for the remainder of the school year. Some school districts took weeks to transition students to online education. The State Journal reports DPI requires a minimum number of annual instructional hours: 437 for kindergarten, 1,050 for grades 1 through 6, and 1,137 for grades 7 through 12. Districts have until the end of the academic year on June 30 to apply for a waiver.
The Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act, introduced Tuesday in the U.S. House of Representatives, includes $3 billion to support school nutrition programs. It also include a 15% increase in the maximum Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program for families. “With unemployment soaring and food insecurity on the rise, so many more students depend on school meals to nourish their bodies and minds,” said Gay Anderson, president of the School Nutrition Association, in a statement. Congress must pass The Heroes Act to ensure school nutrition professionals have the resources to safely meet students’ critical nutrition needs this fall.” But the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council said its members don’t want a federal bailout.
In the last few weeks U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has put forward three initiatives intended to privatize the provision of public education. Given her long known and widely declared conviction that vouchers and related schemes to deliver public dollars into private hands are the panacea for all that ails education, this is not surprising. Watching her leap into the breach caused by the COVID-19 emergency is troubling, though not unexpected.
An expanded summer school session in Los Angeles Unified will be offered in three parts to help make up for lost learning during school closures, Superintendent Austin Beutner said Monday. One of those programs will be “an intensive set of classes” offered to a small number of students who are struggling the most, while other courses including math and English will be available to all students, Beutner said during a televised speech. Beutner did not say which grades would be offered the intensive classes. Barbara Jones, a spokeswoman for LA Unified, said the district has no further details about the program.
Educators and policymakers have been worried about the math skills of the nation’s students for decades now. U.S. students lag behind their peers in international assessments. And just last month, a nationally representative EdWeek Research Center survey found that nine in 10 teachers are “very” or “somewhat” concerned about a math deficit during this time of learning remotely. Students can’t afford to shrug off the subject as “too hard” when, more than ever, Americans depend on big data and math-fueled technology. This special report showcases bold approaches—math discourse, “de-tracking” math teachers, and addressing math fears, to name a few—that educators are using to help all students succeed at math.
In 2013, the NYC Leadership Academy (NYCLA) developed a leadership intervention—the Targeted Intensive School Support (TISS) program—in collaboration with the New York City Department of Education (NYC DOE) to support schools that were facing particular challenges. NYCLA asked the RAND Corporation to provide an independent evaluation of the program’s implementation and effects, and those findings are detailed in this report. The TISS program consisted of five key components: (1) teaming and collaborative training in aligned preservice preparation programs for a principal and assistant principal (AP); (2) coplacement of a principal and AP into an NYC DOE school; (3) team-based coaching to support the principal and AP; (4) 328 hours of extended coaching over the first three years after placement; and (5) use of a diagnostic process to guide goal setting and coaching according to school needs.
Across the country, school buildings remain closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. These school closures are a stark reminder of the important role that schools can play in the lives of children and young adults. For many students, schools are a place of stability, where they can learn, grow, and nurture relationships. They are even a source of daily meals for many students. However, students of color, students from low-income backgrounds, English learners, students with disabilities, and other vulnerable groups such as homeless students and students in foster care, were less likely to have rigorous, engaging, and positive educational experiences before the pandemic. There is a real risk that school closures will deepen these existing inequities in our education system.