In August, the Tennessee Department of Education launched a competitive grant program to facilitate the development and expansion of Grow Your Own (GYO) teacher programs across the state. The $2 million dollar initiative aims to increase access to the teaching profession by removing financial barriers and promoting partnerships between educator preparation programs (EPPs) and local educational agencies (LEAs). The program is designed to help boost interest in the teaching profession and increase the racial diversity of the state’s educator workforce.
As schools around the country begin the 2020–2021 school year, COVID-19 remains a threat. The possibility that schools could exacerbate the pandemic is a serious concern. In some communities, local infection rates are high enough that schooling must be conducted remotely. But keeping school buildings closed creates educational, social and emotional, and economic harms, creating wrenching trade-offs in communities with low or moderate infection rates, where leaders must determine whether, when, and how to open school buildings while mitigating spread of the virus, all in the face of enormous uncertainty.
As school ended last year, parents and teachers were ready for a reset. Summer not only promised a break from an exhausting spring of remote learning; it provided much-needed time to bend the COVID-19 curve low enough to safely return to schools in the fall, and for districts to create an aggressive learning plan to make up for learning losses in the spring. Of course, the resurgence of COVID-19 thwarted those hopes and forced districts to plan for the fall amidst tremendous uncertainty. As the last weeks of summer passed, many plans to return to school buildings fell by the wayside as districts announced that they would return to remote learning this fall.
In his letter to students and families in Providence, Rhode Island, Superintendent Harrison Peters sums up the challenge facing every U.S. school district: “We have the responsibility to reopen schools in a manner that keeps our kids and entire school community safe, that attends to the trauma that many have suffered, that acknowledges the district’s role in disrupting systems of racial oppression, and that provides every student equitable and excellent opportunities to learn and thrive.”
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 guidance 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-99.2 percent.
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.
Students in Southern and Midwestern states appear to be at greater academic risk in key areas than those in other parts of the country as a result of pandemic-driven school shutdowns, concludes an analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data by the EdWeek Research Center. The Research Center’s new Coronavirus Learning Loss Risk Index examined time spent learning and interacting with teachers and family members during this spring’s physical closures of K-12 schools, and the availability of devices and internet access that enable remote learning.
Datacasting, or data broadcasting, has been used for years in the public safety sector, helping first responders prepare for natural disasters, search and rescue missions and school safety operations. Now, the concept is being repurposed to provide rural students who don’t have reliable access to the internet with remote learning opportunities. The technology, which bypasses the need for a cellular network or internet service, uses television broadcast signals to distribute information to any device that is wireless enabled, like a smartphone, tablet or Chromebook.
Declaring that Michigan’s education system is “inequitable and provides unequal opportunity,” the state’s commission on civil rights is urging a host of changes to ensure that all students have a shot at success no matter where they live or their economic status. Among the many fixes the commission is encouraging: Changing Michigan’s funding system so that it provides additional funding for the most vulnerable students, educating school staff on implicit bias, expanding early childhood opportunities, allowing traditional schools to keep a portion of the funding they lose when students leave for charter schools, and eliminating “cutthroat competition,” that has districts fighting for students and teachers.
A nationwide divide: Hispanic and Black students more likely than white students to start the year online
Missi Magness wanted her children back in school. The parent of a first-grader and a sixth-grader who attend schools on Indianapolis’ southeast side struggled trying to oversee her children’s schooling while working from home this spring. “They need the structure, they need the socialization, they just need to go,” said Magness. “‘I love you, but here’s your backpack, here’s your lunch … have a good day!’” Many other local parents agreed. Now, their school district, Franklin Township — where two-thirds of the 10,000 students are white, as is Magness — has allowed younger children to return to school buildings full time.
SPRINGFIELD — Gov. J.B. Pritzker and the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) announced Tuesday that 471 Local Education Agencies (LEAs) will receive $80,092,677 to help close the digital divide among Illinois students. Funding for the Digital Equity Formula Grant comes from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The CARES Act directs federal funding to governors and State Education Agencies to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Chicago Public Schools said that 49,000 students failed to log into classrooms on the first day of remote learning, a figure it has now winnowed down to fewer than 6,900 after expanded outreach efforts. The figures released at Wednesday’s Board of Education meeting offer the first look at how many of Chicago’s 300,000 students the school district is still trying to contact. They are a stark reminder of the ongoing challenges that Chicago faces in connecting with students remotely.
In education, one of the more bizarre debates of the past quarter century has been over whether more money improves students’ outcomes. It’s tough to think of anywhere else in American life where we’d even have that discussion. Yet a remarkable amount of attention has been devoted to the notion that it doesn’t, as well as to the equally dubious idea that more money is the answer to all our educational ills. Few school-spending skeptics argue that money can’t help; rather, they fear that funds will be spent on things that they deem unlikely to make a difference for students.
It has been six months since the coronavirus changed just about everything in our lives. How we work, play, and learn have all been dramatically altered since March. The pandemic has also upended state education budgets, leaving policymakers and analysts unsure how to plan for coming needs. Although cuts to school budgets have not yet been as severe as originally predicted, the evidence indicates that much more severe challenges lie ahead. This blog explains how COVID-19 has affected state education budgets—and explores the implications for public education funding this year and into the future.
Administrators in Anchorage, Alaska, cranked up the volume on their annual back-to-school campaign a few weeks ago when, after scanning district attendance rolls, they realized they were more than 4,000 students off from their projected enrollment. District leaders appeared on the nightly newscasts and the morning radio shows, they extended in-person registration into the weekend, called parents of kids who were MIA, and then dispatched teachers to start knocking on students’ doors.
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.
Judith Hernandez never thought she’d miss the old remote learning. When the pandemic confined her four children to their home this spring, their schools in Newark, N.J. distributed paper packets, loaned out laptops, and posted online assignments. Hernandez helped her children complete their work, while their teachers recorded short videos and checked in by phone or text. It wasn’t much, but it was manageable.
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.
The COVID-19 outbreak has led schools across the country to assess their level of preparedness for a pandemic. Forty-nine states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands have statutes and/or regulations that govern how schools or school districts should respond to a disease outbreak. This resource from Child Trends and EMT Associates, Inc. provides the text of state statutes and regulations—as well as noncodified guidance from state health and education agencies—that relates to pandemic planning for schools. This tool is designed as a resource for educators, policymakers, and general audiences to learn more about pandemic planning for schools within their states; it is not designed to provide a comprehensive analysis of these policies.
A host of issues have complicated school reopening plans, including liability concerns if students or staff are infected. This issue is especially relevant as we see colleges and K-12 schools carefully measure reopening plans, and manage outbreaks to keep students and staff safe. Our first blog post examined the federal role and state engagement regarding school liability issues. While no federal policy is in place, states have considered legislation to limit liability for K-12 schools and higher education institutions.
The Indiana Arts Commission (IAC) released today its newest report on the Partnering Arts, Communities, and Education (PACE) program written by Dr. F. Robert Sabol of Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana. The 2018-2019 PACE Project Report reflects a collection of data on student growth and shows that, through arts integration, students are gaining knowledge, skills, and understanding in the arts and in literacy skills. This research demonstrates that the arts create important pathways to learning for students and that learning through the arts produces long-lasting, positive impacts. The data shows, when there is a highly qualified teaching artist embedded in the school’s learning, students benefit.
As schools and districts continue to negotiate the safest mode of learning this year, the question of whether schools can be held liable for infections to students or staff looms large. This issue has been gaining a lot of attention lately with various news outlets reporting on the topic, and state and congressional action. A recent Education Dive article discussed whether schools will require the anticipated COVID-19 vaccine or face liability for potential infections and spread in schools.