Four Ways State Leaders Can Help Teachers Implement High-Quality Curriculum

States have a lot on their plates as they prepare for the 2020-21 school year, and the list is only continuing to grow. State leaders are navigating changing budgets and helping their communities address systemic inequities while seeing COVID-19 rates bouncing up and down as schools reopen and adjust. Getting through the school year safely and fairly – whether virtual or face-to-face – is likely a top priority for any education policymaker. Another important consideration is how teaching and learning will be impacted in the upcoming school year.

Outdoor learning is safer, but how are schools doing it?

As schools ease into the new academic year, many district administrators are sending students and educators outside to abide by social distancing rules and minimize the risk of coronavirus transmission. Although the Center for Disease Control recently urged schools to look for ways to utilize outdoor spaces for expanded learning opportunities, outdoor classes are nothing new: Open-air learning spaces were successfully used in the early 1900s to prevent the spread of tuberculosis. Current studies show COVID-19 is also less likely to spread outdoors. One such study in China, for example, revealed only one out of 7,000 coronavirus cases was caused by outdoor transmission.

How Governors Can Lead Schools Out of the Pandemic

Governors are often likened to orchestra conductors: keeping many players in sync by using the powers of office. This skill set has been on display throughout the pandemic response. As decisions continue to be made about what school looks like this year, a vital opportunity exists for gubernatorial leadership to support students and their families. From the equipment and connectivity needs of distance learning to the range of social services required to combat public health and economic crises, governors can play a major role in school success this year. The coordination of services to students and their families is sometimes shouldered by schools and other times by community-based organizations.

Improving Low-Performing Schools: A Meta-Analysis of Impact Evaluation Studies

The public narrative surrounding efforts to improve low-performing K-12 schools in the U.S. has been notably gloomy. Observers argue that either nothing works or we don’t know what works. At the same time, the federal government is asking localities to implement evidence-based interventions. But what is known empirically about whether school improvement works, how long it takes, which policies are most effective, and which contexts respond best to intervention? We meta-analyze 141 estimates from 67 studies of turnaround policies implemented post-NCLB. On
average, these policies have had a moderate positive effect on math but no effect on ELA achievement as measured by high-stakes exams.

Gov. Jared Polis launches $32.7 million fund to incubate ideas to improve student learning during the pandemic

To continue the battle against fallout from COVID-19, Gov. Jared Polis on Wednesday launched a $32.7 million grant program that seeks to create innovations that help the state’s most disadvantaged students. In an interview with Chalkbeat, Polis said he hopes the Response, Innovation, and Student Equity Education Fund, known as RISE, will plant ideas that will leave Colorado in a better place during and after the pandemic. The state describes the competitive grant fund, which uses federal stimulus money from the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund, as an incubator of ideas that advance student learning, especially among those who have suffered deeply the economic, social, and health effects of the crisis.

The immediate shift to remote learning as a result of the pandemic is forcing school districts to think differently about the delivery of education. To find out more about how COVID-19 is changing learning among K-12 communities, DLR Group conducted personal surveys with school districts across the country, representing more than 2.6 million learners. The data we collected reflects that virtual learning is here to stay and that the flexibility and individualization it enables are appreciated by both learners and educators. However, school leaders and educators voiced concern regarding how they will adequately maintain socialization and authentic learning experiences in a virtual model.

Food assistance has been extended to students pursuing technical education. The state of Michigan said federal money will help pay for the program. Roughly 16,000 low-income college students who are enrolled in career and technical education programs could be eligible for SNAP, which stands for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. The benefits typically are used at stores with a debit-style card. As students are “preparing for high-demand, critical job openings, they shouldn’t have to worry about how they’ll get their next meal,” said Jeff Donofrio, director of the labor department. “These SNAP benefits will help them focus on their educational needs and prepare for a successful future.”

How Reopening Plans Changed the Vaccination Conversation

In recent years, policy activity and public discourse has focused on religious and philosophical exemptions for mandatory vaccine requirements for school-age children. During the pandemic, the conversation has shifted to declining vaccination rates and the anticipation of a COVID-19 vaccine. States have begun developing guidelines and policies to support students in getting routine vaccinations as well as conditions for reopening that are affected by a potential COVID-19 vaccine. Pre-pandemic, the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccination rates among kindergarteners across the states varied from 87.4 percent to 99.2 percent. The Centers for Disease Control has acknowledged that there is potential for vaccination rates to fall during the pandemic as people react to stay-at-home orders and limitations on doctors’ visits.

Reform advocates urge colleges and universities to stop asking prospective students about their criminal histories

Most universities and many two-year colleges ask prospective students about criminal histories. Criminal justice reform advocates argue that simply asking the question deters many felons from seeking the additional education that is most likely to keep them from falling back into crime. The witnesses said a felony conviction does not bar an applicant from acceptance but it does cause most colleges and universities to require more information and in some cases put conditions on acceptance. Scott-Clayton said some schools ask not only about felony convictions but arrests and charges on complaints as minor as misdemeanor trespassing. She said 30 percent of all Americans under 23 have had at least one arrest and that percentage increases to 44 percent for Hispanic males and 49 percent for Black males.

Alternative Credentials on the Rise

Shorter-term, online alternatives to the college degree are having a moment. A growing body of evidence has found strong consumer interest in recent months in skills-based, online credentials that are clearly tied to careers, particularly among adult learners from diverse and lower-income backgrounds, whom four-year colleges often have struggled to attract and graduate. The reasons alternative credentials are piquing the interest of more Americans are not new, nor surprising. For years the demographics of higher education have been shifting away from traditional-age, full-paying college students while online education has become more sophisticated and accepted.

Trump, DeVos raise school choice in appeal to vexed parents

As millions of American children start the school year online, the Trump administration is hoping to convert their parents’ frustration and anger into newfound support for school choice policies that Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has long championed but struggled to advance nationally. DeVos and President Donald Trump have repeatedly invoked school choice as the solution to parents’ woes. If public schools fail to open, they say, parents should get a cut of the district’s federal funding to send their children to private schools or for home schooling, learning pods or other options that have arisen during the coronavirus pandemic.