School reopenings: What can the US learn from other countries’ experiences?

Two countries that have been cited for their positive experience in school reopening without a significant increase in infections are Norway and Denmark, which started reopening schools for younger children about a month after they closed with small classes, improved sanitisation and social distancing. In Denmark pupils are divided into micro-groups of about 12 students who arrive at a separate times, eat lunch separately, stay in their own areas of the playground and are taught by one teacher with sufficient physical distance between students and teachers.

How did the world’s highest performing education systems approach distance learning?

Almost all top-performing education systems transitioned to distance learning this year so students could continue learning during coronavirus-related school closures. In a new paper, NCEE summarizes initial takeaways from their experiences, including why top performers were initially better prepared than the U.S. to implement distance learning quickly, how they increased capacity in real time, and how they responded to key distance learning challenges. The paper also looks toward the future, as jurisdictions worldwide reflect on what they learned during this year’s distance learning experiment and consider the role of online and in-person schooling in the fall and beyond.

Data You Can Use: How Much Virtual Schooling Happened During the Pandemic?

When school leaders cobbled together emergency distance learning plans in March and April, they knew they were turning a blind corner. Would they reach all or even most of their students? Would students be invested in their schoolwork? Would uneven access to devices or the internet limit some students’ learning opportunities? A pandemic that has driven students out of their schools is also thwarting mechanisms for measuring the impact of that disruption. When face-to-face schooling stopped, so did traditional attendance records, end-of-year tests and teachers’ daily observations of their students. Fortunately, the U.S. Census Bureau has stepped in with timely data to help educators and policymakers assess and address the pandemic’s impact. The data confirm fears that the pandemic squelched children’s opportunities to learn, but they also offer guidance for the months ahead.

States sue U.S. Department of Education over diverted virus relief funds for schools

The U.S. Department of Education is attempting to take pandemic relief funds away from K-12 public schools and divert the money to private schools, California and four other Democratic-led states argued in a lawsuit filed Tuesday against the Trump administration. California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel announced the lawsuit, which was joined by Maine, New Mexico, Wisconsin and the District of Columbia. The suit also names Education Secretary Betsy DeVos as a defendant.

New Jersey offers ‘bridge’ year for high school students to make up for class time lost in coronavirus pandemic

A new “bridge year” pilot program will allow some New Jersey high school students to stay behind for an extra year to make up what they missed when schools were shut down abruptly by the coronavirus. Under a law signed last month by Gov. Phil Murphy, upcoming juniors and seniors can opt to defer graduation to attend classes at their high schools, participate in extracurricular activities such as musicals, and play spring sports that were canceled because of the pandemic.

More than half of students lost 39% of year’s learning over summer

A study published this week in American Education Research Journal, following students in grades 1 through 6 over five summers, shows 52% of students lost an average of 39% of their total school year gains during the summer months. The study used data from Northwest Evaluation Association that included 200 million test scores for 18 million students in 7,500 school districts. The research also identifies differences in resources like family income, parental time availability, and parenting skill and expectations as potential factors further widening the gap, as some students continue to gain knowledge over summer. And because many students haven’t been in school since March due to the coronavirus pandemic, many experts believe the extended period will exacerbate learning losses.

Opening Schools in the Fall Is a Political Hot Potato

On Tuesday, the House Subcommittee on Labor/HHS/Education Appropriations, chaired by Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), adopted a spending bill for FY 2021, which begins October 1. Because the bill was required to stay within previously agreed upon budget caps, there were only modest increases for education. Overall, education spending was increased by 1.7%, or $1.2 billion, bringing federal education spending to a total of $73.5 billion. The bill will likely be passed by the full committee next week and then head to the House floor for a full vote the week of July 20.  Chair Lowey has indicated that she would like to have all 12 funding bills passed by the House before the August recess. The Senate has no plan to begin consideration of the funding bills for FY 2021. Thus, the likelihood of a continuing resolution or simple extension of current funding levels, becomes greater as we move toward the November election.

NWEA: Rethink online assessments, student growth in wake of COVID-19

In addition to shifting school online, the coronavirus has required leaders to rethink testing, grading, assessments and where learning takes place. But many of these changes could be long term. Echoing what many administrators have said throughout the months of coronavirus-related school closures, Aaliyah Samuel, vice president of policy and advocacy at NWEA, said the pandemic “has presented leaders with a unique opportunity to reimagine education.” “Instead of enacting short-term solutions, state and federal policies should focus on reimagining our educational system into one that reduces inequities and best equips future generations with the skills they need to thrive within the modern economic system,” Samuel said in a press release.

The Other Branch: Outcomes of Gary B. v. Snyder

A year ago, we wrote about Gary B. v. Snyder: a federal case filed in 2016 on behalf of students in the Detroit Public Schools Community District (DPSCD). The case argued that the conditions in the school district denied students the opportunity to attain literacy. The essential question was whether literacy, and the necessary education and instruction to develop literacy, is a fundamental right. The judge granted a motion to dismiss the case because there was no such fundamental right to literacy.

We Need To Talk: How states can lead the conversation on equity

At first glance Ohio and Washington are very different states (coastal vs. Midwest, the Seahawks vs. the Browns and Bengals, blue vs. red) but in reality we’re more alike than we think. In both states, despite hard work, low-income students and students of color lack opportunities to achieve prosperity, success, and upward social mobility. But there is something we can all do about it. A new report by the Aspen Institute and the Council of Chief State School Officers identifies concrete actions state education leaders can take to help achieve educational equity in their states. One of the first recommendations in the report was for state leaders to “proactively initiate and lead conversations about equity.”

Recent State Education Policy Actions Supporting LGBTQI+ Students

While it is difficult to determine the total number of LGBTQI+ students nationwide, a recent national survey estimates 1.3 million high-schoolers across the country identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual. Studies show these students experience more bullying, depression and homelessness, as a result of their identities. The CDC’s resource page on LGBT youth stresses the importance of safe schools and homes specifically for these students and their overall health and success. In recent years, states have been setting policies that support LGBTQI+ students, foster safe school environments and promote tolerance and acceptance in school curricula. Policies that support LGBTQI+ students increase not only their chance of academic success — including participation and overall health — but also the well-being of other students around them, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.

Why Social Emotional Learning Should Be a Right, Not a Privilege

While COVID-19 has not fired a shot, it is still leaving many children without families. Even after Noemi’s family finally found housing, her mother, who watched over her in their small two-person tent, couldn’t fight off the coronavirus. Years of living on the street and passing her daughter from relative to relative took too much of a toll on her frail body. Noemi finally found some stability then lost it again to this silent killer. Now more than ever, students need support not just at school but during distance learning.

Supporting Students to be Independent Learners: State and District Actions for the Pandemic Era

In May 2020, the Aspen Institute Education & Society Program shared ten recommended state actions for Fostering Connectedness in the Pandemic Era that were developed with a diverse group of education leaders. The pandemic and resulting closure of school buildings have revealed the deep inequities that already existed in many schools, and connectedness is one of those gaps. Data from school climate surveys demonstrates that students of color, English-learners, and students from low-income families do not feel safe at school, in part because they do not have the kind of caring, trusted relationships that create belonging – and in part because they do not feel challenged with meaningful, rigorous work.

How to modernize history lessons? NC Board of Education asks high schoolers

The North Carolina State Board of Education on Wednesday turned to Middle Creek High School students to guide a discussion on how to better teach history in public schools. The hour-long discussion centered around social studies lessons on the history of racism in America and how they can be adapted to better serve classrooms.

Media Use and Literacy in Schools: Civic Development in the Era of Truth Decay

Public schools that serve kindergarteners through 12th graders can play a key role in combating Truth Decay by supporting students’ civic development and engagement. Media literacy instruction is one way that schools can do this. Assessments of American students’ media literacy capabilities have shown that large majorities lack the knowledge and skills needed to interpret media accurately. This Data Note examines public-school social studies teachers’ reports regarding how they and their schools promote media literacy and the appropriate use of media by students. It also summarizes teachers’ perceptions of challenges associated with media literacy and use. This Data Note is intended to provide a broad, nationally representative view of how social studies teachers and schools reported addressing (or planning to address) media literacy and media use in fall 2019. These data can help policymakers and education leaders understand how the nation’s schools are addressing these topics, the extent to which these practices vary across different types of schools, and the supports that teachers might need in order to provide effective instruction in this area.