Layoff Projections and Shortages Create Teacher Workforce Challenges

The school year is kicking off across the country and administrators, teachers, students and families are navigating the many new realities caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The school reopening debate has dominated the national conversation throughout the summer, with health and safety concerns top of mind for education stakeholders. While teachers advocate for health and safety provisions in reopening plans, an economic recession resulting in state budget shortfalls has led to thousands of teacher layoffs and workforce actions like furloughs or salary reductions, with more expected. An analysis projected that state budget cuts could result in an 8.4 percent reduction in America’s public-school teaching force, which amounts to over 300,000 teachers. Reductions in teacher job postings also indicates that job prospects for new teachers and those laid off are limited. Some states, including New York, have considered legislation to incentivize early retirement for teachers more vulnerable to COVID-19 to cut costs, avoid layoffs and protect teachers.

Supporting School Improvement

The 5Essentials Survey is one of the few validated instruments to measure school climate. Schools that are strong in at least three of the five essential supports are up to 10 times more likely to experience substantial gains in students’ math and reading scores. More than 6,000 schools nationwide have administered the 5Essentials Survey.  Due to changes in education, including an increased emphasis on accountability policy and the role of the 5Essentials data in accountability, it is time to re-examine the validity of the 5Essentials in predicting school improvement and student outcomes. This study adds an important additional outcome for elementary schools—students’ GPAs—and, even more importantly, also assesses the validity of the 5Essentials Survey in high schools. The high school analyses encompass a range of outcomes: test scores, attendance, GPAs, Freshman OnTrack rates, and college enrollment.

Is it finally time for year-round school?

The pandemic has raised awareness of the many roles schools play—providing everything from free meals to Internet access and caring adults—and also of the learning losses that kids experience when they’re out of school. Even in a normal year, many educators see a  “summer slide,” as students return to the classroom with diminished knowledge after the long break. In April, the NWEA, a nonprofit assessment organization, published research showing some students could start school this fall nearly one year behind where they would normally be, part of a phenomenon referred to as the “Covid slide.” Not all students will be affected equally: Other research predicts that the losses will probably be greatest for low-income and Black and Hispanic students.

50-State Comparison: Free and Compulsory School Age Requirements

Age requirements for free and compulsory education help policymakers ensure that students receive the benefits of early education and support a reduction in dropout rates. Depending on the state, students are required to attend school for as few as nine years and up to 13 years. However, exemptions exist on both sides of the K-12 spectrum to support students with circumstances outside of compulsory attendance requirements. Some common exemptions include home instruction, mental or physical conditions that make attendance infeasible, or completion of equivalent high school requirements. This resource provides a national comparison of school age requirements for both free and compulsory education across all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Unless otherwise noted, all information in this resource was gathered from state statutes and constitutions only.

For students without home internet during pandemic, could FCC’s E-Rate help?

The Federal Communications Commission has promoted several emergency measures to boost broadband connectivity during the coronavirus pandemic, which has required millions of people to rely on inadequate at-home internet connections for work and school. But without an immediate expansion of the agency’s E-Rate program—a K-12 school-based broadband subsidy created in 1996—students around the country will continually be locked out of their virtual classrooms, FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel told StateScoop. Rosenworcel, one of two Democrats on the five-person commission, called for an immediate expansion and upgrade to the E-Rate program as one of the only national tools that the federal government has to quickly close the digital divide.

USDA doubles down against allowing schools to serve free lunch to all children this fall

The Department of Agriculture (USDA) has doubled down on its refusal to let schools serve free meals to all students this fall—despite rising food insecurity and pleas from anti-hunger advocates, school nutrition officials, and lawmakers. “While we want to provide as much flexibility as local school districts need during this pandemic, the scope of this request is beyond what USDA currently has the authority to implement and would be closer to a universal school meals program which Congress has not authorized or funded,” Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue wrote in a letter last Thursday explaining the decision.

Learning Policy Institute reopening framework emphasizes reinvented approach to K-12 education

The Learning Policy Institute recently released “Restarting and Reinventing School: Learning in the Time of COVID and Beyond,” a framework outlining how policymakers and education decision makers can address how to safely, effectively and equitably deliver in-person and online education. LPI President and CEO Linda Darling-Hammond, who co-authored the framework, said in a statement that the pandemic could be “a historic opportunity” for education leaders “to reinvent an antiquated and deeply inequitable system” and adopt “an entirely different approach—one that champions equity, authentic learning, and stronger relationships among educators, children, and families.”

Public School Priorities in a Political Year

Six in 10 adults and 7 in 10 public school parents call public education highly important in their vote for president this fall. While they express broad support for an increased focus on educational priorities, ranging from teacher retention and college tuition to anti-discrimination efforts and preK programs, support for expanded efforts falls far shorter in one area: charter schools. Regardless of who wins the November presidential election, 85 pecent of Americans in the 2020 PDK poll want the administration in Washington to focus more on attracting and retaining good teachers. Seventy-seven percent say the same  about college affordability Somewhat fewer, but still a majority at 68 percent, favor a greater focus on protecting students from discrimination in their schools, and 61 percent want more done on the availability of public school preK programs. By contrast, only about 4 in 10 favor more efforts to expand charter schools, while 3 in 10 prefer less focus on that. Now in its 52nd year, the PDK Poll of the Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools explores these views as well as those regarding testing, problems facing the public schools, substance abuse, charter schools and school vouchers, diversity, and approaches to reading and literacy.

Restarting and Reinventing School: Learning in the Time of COVID and Beyond

Across the United States, state education agencies and school districts face daunting challenges and difficult decisions for restarting schools as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. As state and district leaders prepare for what schooling will look like in 2020 and beyond, there is an opportunity to identify evidence-based policies and practices that will enable them to seize this moment to rethink school in ways that can transform learning opportunities for students and teachers alike. Our current system took shape almost exactly a century ago, when school designs and funding were established to implement mass education on an assembly-line model organized to prepare students for their “places in life”—judgments that were enacted within contexts of deep-seated racial, ethnic, economic, and cultural prejudices.

K-12 Policymakers Must Listen to Parents on When and How to Reopen Schools

Lost in the political noise of the debate on reopening schools is what parents think about this complicated puzzle. While their responses reflect this complexity, there is important consensus on many issues—though significant disagreement on one. Their opinions are detailed in a nationally representative survey of 500 public school parents and guardians conducted for the National Parents Union by Echelon Insights. Interviews occurred over eight consecutive weeks beginning late April and asked about the effect of COVID-19 on their lives.

U.S. Faces Back-to-School Laptop Shortage

Schools across the United States are facing shortages and long delays, of up to several months, in getting this year’s most crucial back-to-school supplies: the laptops and other equipment needed for online learning, an Associated Press investigation has found. The world’s three biggest computer companies, Lenovo, HP and Dell, have told school districts they have a shortage of nearly 5 million laptops, in some cases exacerbated by Trump administration sanctions on Chinese suppliers, according to interviews  with over two dozen U.S. schools, districts in 15 states, suppliers, computer companies and industry analysts. As the school year begins . . .

COVID-19 School Reopening Battle Moves to the Courts

As schools and the public argue about whether to reopen K-12 amid the coronavirus pandemic, there is one group largely not heard from yet—judges. That is about to change. Several lawsuits are percolating nationwide regarding the reopening of schools. In some, teachers and other plaintiffs are seeking to keep campuses closed amid orders from state officials to open them. Other cases present the flip side, with parents suing to open public or private schools in states where the governor has ordered school buildings to remain closed.

Schools Sound the Alarm as Key COVID-19 Meal Waiver Is Set to Expire

The U.S. Department of Agriculture will not extend a key waiver from federal school meal requirements that has given schools and community groups more flexibility to feed students during unprecedented interruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Anti-hunger groups, education organizations, and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle had pressed the agency to allow school meal programs to continue operating under summer meal program rules as schools continue to balance rolling shutdowns, periods of remote learning, and hybrid schedules caused by the pandemic.

Will Students Show Up at Private Colleges?

For private colleges, this year has been among the most difficult ever in admissions. For those that aren’t nationally known (we’re leaving out the Ivies, Stanford University and similar institutions), admissions is always a challenge. In most states, public universities dominate press attention. For many, they define higher education, with their large size, big-time athletics and more. This year has been no exception. Think about how many stories you saw about the University of North Carolina’s reversal of its decision to open its Chapel Hill campus. While the big-time sports conferences do have private university members, most are public. What about smaller private colleges? A scan of private colleges suggests that they are welcoming some or all students to campuses, and they are hopeful that they will be able to avoid the embarrassing incidents (parties without social distancing or face masks) that have taken place at so many larger, public institutions.

Effects of school resource officers on school crime and responses to school crime

The authors examined the effects of an increase in school resource officer (SRO) staffing on schools in a sample of 33 public schools that enhanced SRO staffing through funding from the Department of Justice’s Community Oriented Policing Services Hiring Program and a matched sample of 72 schools that did not increase SRO staffing at the same time. In longitudinal analyses of monthly school-level administrative data, this study compared the treatment and comparison schools on disciplinary offenses and actions. The authors found that increased SROs increased the number of drug and weapon-related offenses and exclusionary disciplinary actions for treatment schools relative to comparison schools. These negative effects were more frequently found for students without special needs. The study findings suggest that increasing SROs does not improve school safety and that by increasing exclusionary responses to school discipline incidents it increases the criminalization of school discipline.

Afterschool in the Time of COVID-19

Since the first statewide stay-at-home orders were issued in mid-March, individuals across the United States have found their lives and livelihoods upended by the coronavirus. As states enact safety measures and transition between phases of reopening to combat the virus, families are struggling with school closures, job losses, food insecurity, and more. Afterschool programs are joining local efforts to address the urgent needs of children and families while facing an uncertain future themselves. Throughout the crisis, many afterschool providers have been innovating to stay connected with students and keep them safe, healthy and engaged in learning, even while struggling to keep their own doors open. Many programs face budget shortfalls and will need additional staff and professional development, as well as more space and resources to provide consistent care for
children and families as school schedules shift.

High school students are demanding schools teach more Black history, include more Black authors

It is too soon to tell if students’ activism will see wide success, partly because administrators have been focused on deciding if and how to reopen schools. Under the decentralized American education system, local officials have wide latitude to determine what goes into their curriculums, and some school districts have already vowed to make changes. But bureaucratic red tape and resistance are common, and many teens are realizing that change may not come during their short high school careers — although they vow they will keep fighting post-graduation. Karen Murphy, director of international strategy for Facing History and Ourselves, said she feels optimistic. Facing History, a nonprofit group that helps schools and teachers examine societal racism and prejudice, saw a large spike in interest this summer, Murphy said: Its online courses, workshops and two “equity summits” were all oversubscribed, with more than 9,400 total attendees.

Usually on the first day back to work after summer break, there’s this buzzing, buoyant energy in the air. My school is a small school-within-a-school designated to serve gifted children, so there are only 16 teachers and staff members. We typically meet in a colleague’s tidy classroom, filled with natural light and the earthy smell of coffee. We hug, remark on one another’s new haircuts. Sure, there’s an element of sadness about not being able to sleep in or pee on our own schedules anymore, but for the most part, we’re eager to get back to doing work that we believe is the most important work in the world. Coming back this year was different. It was Thursday, Aug. 6, the same day that the Houston area reported its new single-day high for deaths from Covid-19. Instead of gathering, we all tuned in to a Zoom meeting from our separate classrooms.