Education Update – April 09, 2021

From: The Washington Post’s Breaking News


April 9, 2021

Biden seeks huge funding increases for education, health care and environmental protection in first budget request to Congress

The White House said one focus of the proposal was to help children rebound from the disruption in schools during the coronavirus pandemic. In the budget plan, non-defense, discretionary spending would increase by roughly 16 percent while the military’s budget would remain essentially flat. The proposal is focused on the budget year that begins in October.


From: ASCD’s Smartbrief

March 28, 2021

Pandemic drives down enrollment in teaching programs

Enrollment fell at 19% of undergraduate and 11% of graduate teaching programs, according to data from the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education. The decline comes as some students may fear that teaching carries more risks because of the coronavirus pandemic and follows years of challenges in teacher recruitment and retention.
Full Story: The New York Times (3/27)

Handgun access among high-school students examined
Researchers studied over 46,000 high-school students in Colorado and found that students were 24% more likely to report easy handgun access if they felt hopeless or sad nearly every day for two weeks, and that they were about 30% more likely to report easy access to a handgun if they had attempted suicide or had engaged in a physical fight in the past year. The findings in the Journal of Pediatrics also showed that 20% of respondents said they had access to handguns, with more male students indicating they could acquire handgun access, compared with females.
Full Story: United Press International (3/29)


March 30, 2021

More women are writing education policy

While 77% of teachers in the US are women, 31% of school district chiefs are women, according to a 2019 report by the nonprofit Chiefs for Change. As more women hold positions in state legislatures and are in staff policymaking positions, some officials are pointing to California as an example of how there could be an effect on education policy.
Full Story: The Hechinger Report (3/29)


Virtual rural students get less live instruction
Data from a recent US Department of Education survey indicates that, among students in rural middle schools, up to 21% of remote learners had less than an hour of live instruction each day, and 13% had none at all. Rural Schools Collaborative Director Gary Funk says lack of high-speed internet access is the main reason for this discrepancy, adding he’s looking to the president’s infrastructure bill to help level the field for these students.
Full Story: The 74 (3/28)


March 30, 2021

Pandemic complicates detection of child abuse

An analysis of data from state agencies suggests the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated child welfare concerns in the US, as reports and investigations of abuse and neglect dropped 18% during the period from March through November 2020, compared with the same period in 2019. The move to remote learning left teachers, counselors and other professionals with fewer opportunities to see and report signs of abuse, and experts say cases that have been detected have tended to be more serious.
Full Story: The Associated Press (3/29)


April 1, 2021

Pfizer says COVID-19 vaccine effective in young teens
The Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine was safe and effective in 12- to 15-year-olds in a clinical trial, and the companies will seek emergency use authorization for the age group, Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla announced.
Full Story: Reuters (3/31)


Infrastructure proposal invests in school buildings

New school construction and building updates would get $100 billion in a $2 trillion proposal to improve infrastructure in the US. The American Jobs Plan, proposed Wednesday by President Joe Biden, also includes funding to expand broadband internet and replace lead pipes, which would help cut lead exposure at many school and child care sites.
Full Story: Education Week (3/31)


CDC: Young adults disproportionately getting COVID-19
Young adults — those ages 18 to 29 — make up a disproportionate number of new coronavirus cases, according to CDC data. Tina Tan, a pediatric infectious disease doctor at Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago, predicts this data could indicate another surge is likely after spring break, and some experts advise schools to set clear health guidelines and offer structure for students to socialize.
Full Story: Education Week (3/30)


April 2, 2021

Pandemic worsens food insecurity for children

The coronavirus pandemic has worsened food insecurity in the US — particularly among children and older adults. With school buildings closed, fewer free school meals are being served, and Reggie Ross, president of the School Nutrition Association, says there are “definitely a certain amount of students that are falling through the cracks.”
Full Story: The Associated Press (4/1)


Youth suicide exposure varies by sexual, gender identity
Sexual- and gender-minority youths were more likely to know someone close to them who has attempted or died by suicide, compared with cisgender heterosexual male youths, researchers reported in Pediatrics. The findings, based on data involving 3,979 teens ages 14 and 15, also found gender minority assigned female at birth youths reported the highest levels of depressed moods, compared with peers.
Full Story: Healio (free registration) (4/1)


April 6, 2021

Some teachers work 900 more hours during the pandemic

More than half of teachers say their morale is “positive,” even though a majority of those who taught students remotely or via a hybrid approach report working 900 additional hours during the pandemic, according to a survey by Sykes. For the upcoming school year, 48% of the teachers say they’d prefer to teach in person.
Full Story: District Administration (4/2)


School districts consider how to spend federal aid
School leaders nationwide are deciding how to spend $123 billion in federal funds for education included in the coronavirus relief package. Officials say they intend to use the funds for immediate needs, such as reopening buildings and recovering learning loss, and to make important investments in student learning without incurring long-term, unsustainable costs.
Full Story: The Associated Press (4/4)


April 7, 2021

Report: College enrollment falls 6.8%

College enrollment has declined by 6.8% — with 56.5% of the class of 2020 enrolling compared with 60.5% for the class of 2019 — according to a report from the National Student Clearinghouse. Greater declines were seen among students of color and students from low-income families, data shows.
Full Story: Education Week (4/6)


Survey: 34% of students are learning in person

Almost 46% of public schools in the US were open to in-person instruction five days a week in February, yet only 34% of students were participating in full-time, in-person learning, according to data released today by President Joe Biden’s administration. The data shows that more older students are learning online, and more students in the South and Midwest are learning in person.
Full Story: The Associated Press (4/7)


Most teachers, child care workers are getting vaccinated

About 80% of teachers, school staff members and child care workers in the US have received at least a first dose of the coronavirus vaccine, the CDC announced Tuesday. The report comes after President Joe Biden called for teachers to be prioritized in vaccine planning and amid a push to safely reopen schools to in-person learning.
Full Story: U.S. News & World Report (4/6),


April 8, 2021

More teachers are reporting burnout

The challenges of the past year and new obstacles supporting students learning remotely at home are taking a toll on US teachers. Melissa Diliberti, an assistant policy researcher at RAND Corp., reports an uptick in burnout, with 3 in 10 teachers reporting feeling burnt out previously — compared with 6 in 10 now.
Full Story: PBS (4/7)


April 9, 2021

FEMA guidance on reimbursements vague, some say
The Federal Emergency Management Agency reversed a previous policy that the agency would stop reimbursing schools for spending related to the coronavirus, such as masks and other personal protective gear. Yet, some school leaders are seeking more specificity on what will be reimbursed as costs continue to mount.
Full Story: Education Week (4/8)


Implications for schools seen in Biden’s actions on guns
President Joe Biden took several executive actions Thursday aimed at curbing gun violence in the US. The measures include steps to curtail gun violence affecting children and schools, such as red flag laws and new guidance for school prevention programs.
Full Story: Education Week (4/8)


Data: More young children having thoughts of suicide
The number of elementary- and middle-school-age children who have gone to emergency departments or had inpatient visits with thoughts of suicide or self-harm has doubled over the past five years, according to data from the Children’s Hospital Association, and mental health experts say not enough attention is paid to this age group. Losses from the pandemic could worsen mental health for children who were experiencing difficulties before the pandemic, says Jonathan Singer, an associate professor of social work.
Full Story: NBC News (4/8)


From: Education Week’s EdWeek Update

March 29, 2021

Two More States Pass Restrictions on Transgender Students. Will Others Follow?
States have considered dozens of bills on the rights of transgender students. They cover everything from sports to pronouns used in schools.

Republicans Tell Miguel Cardona His Plan for ESSA Waivers Seems to Violate the Law
The Every Student Succeeds Act doesn’t permit the education secretary to seek certain data he’s asking for, the two GOP lawmakers say.

Reports of Child Abuse From School Sources Fell Sharply During the Pandemic
At-risk children can be invisible to the system without the attention of an in-person school environment, a new analysis finds.

Biden Education Team Squashes States’ Push to Nix All Tests But Approves Other Flexibility
The department has telegraphed its decision to deny states’ requests to cancel federally mandated tests for weeks.


April 1, 2021

Children as Young as 12 May Soon Be Able to Get Vaccinated
The Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine is safe and effective for 12- to 15-year-olds, and that age group could be vaccinated before next school year.

Biden Infrastructure Plan Calls for $100 Billion for School Construction, Upgrades
President Joe Biden’s $2 trillion American Jobs Plan would also fund replacement of lead pipes and expand broadband internet access.


April 6, 2021

Justice Department Memo Could Stoke State-Federal Fights Over Transgender Students’ Rights
Title IX prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in schools, a Justice Department memo says.


April 7, 2021

How Does Sending a Child to School Change a Family’s Risk of COVID-19?
In-person schooling that doesn’t lead to outbreaks can still raise the risk of kids bringing the virus home, especially in poor families.

CDC: Nearly 80 Percent of K-12, Child Care Workers Have Had at Least One COVID-19 Shot
About four out of five teachers, school staffers, and child care workers had first COVID-19 vaccine doses by the end of March, CDC says.

Ed. Dept. to Review Title IX Rules on Sexual Assault, Gender Equity, LGBTQ Rights
The review could reopen a Trump-era debate on sexual assault in schools, and it could spark legal discord over transgender student rights.

Fewer Students in Class of 2020 Went Straight to College
First-year college enrollment dropped steeply last year, a study finds, and the declines were sharpest among poorer students.


April 8, 2021

Biden Education Department Approves One Request to Cancel State Tests But Rejects Others
Officials will allow D.C. to cancel tests. They denied similar requests from two other states and approved less extensive waiver requests.


April 9, 2021

Most Students With Disabilities Still Attend Remotely. Teachers Say They’re Falling Behind
A new survey finds that students with disabilities are struggling in virtual classes, even with added support from teachers.


From: Whiteboard Advisor’s WHITEBOARDNOTES

April 1 , 2021

Senate Education Committee Unanimously Approves Bipartisan K-12 Bill: After days of heated debate, the Senate education committee unanimously approved a bill last week that embraces the President’s calls for more testing and consolidating of federal K-12 education programs. The legislation includes versions of Bush’s K-2 and early- reading initiatives, which a White House source described as the administration’s attempt at “making reading the first priority for schools.”. (The ESEA reauthorization is overdue, after Congress failed to complete work on it last year.) Both sides made clear that last week’s vote was the first step in what will likely mark the conclusion of a long-running debate over the government’s role in improving schools.


Democratic Bill Would Sharply Increase Pell Grants and Aid to Minority Colleges: As the country comes to terms with an unprecedented $5 trillion in national debt, House Democrats introduced legislation Thursday that would raise the maximum Pell Grant award to $7,000 over a three-year period and double federal financing under Titles III and V of the Higher Education Act of 1965 for programs that aid certain institutions with large minority enrollments. The “21st Century Higher-Education Initiative” would also provide more funds for programs seeking to help disadvantaged students prepare for college and share aid for schools to restore historical landmarks.


President Shares Ambitious Education Plan During National “Education Week”: The Administration, today revealed a comprehensive new education plan that would hold states accountable for student progress based on annual assessments but would give schools more flexibility in meeting federal regulations. The President’s plan would also provide private school vouchers to students in failing Title I schools – a proposal that is sure to meet opposition from congressional Democrats. “While some administrations get caught up in Infrastructure Weeks, we are building an education strategery that moves all of our students along so none of them are left behind.”


The Shrinking Digital Divide: Urban school districts appear to be addressing the digital divide but inequalities in computer access remain, according to new research from Frederick M. Hess at the University of Virginia. Hess found that districts with a higher percentage of African American students provided fewer computers per student, whereas community educational level, family income, and Latino enrollment had no effect. On the other hand, districts with more African American students reported recent decreases in the student‐to‐computer ratio, and comparisons with recent research suggest that the magnitude of this digital divide has decreased.


Census Bureau Report: Boomers’ Enrollment Record Equalled in 1999: According to a new report titled “School Enrollment in the United States—Social and Economic Characteristics of Students,” enrollment in elementary and secondary schools has equaled the all-time record of 49 million students set in 1970. The data paint a portrait of an increasingly diverse America – 88% of Asian and Pacific Islander children and 65% of Hispanic children have at least one parent born outside the United States.


States Spend $400 Million Per Year On Testing: A survey of 50 state officials by estimates that states are spending a paltry half-billion dollars per year on standardized testing. These costs are expected to increase dramatically if Congress approves the President’s education plan, which will mandate annual assessments of third- through eighth-grade students in reading and math. The President is optimistic that increased assessment will show that “childrens do learn.”


Students’ Grasp Of Civics Is Mixed: Confirming findings from Jay Leno’s “person on the street” interviews seen on late-night TV, a new report has uncovered a troubling gap in civic education among the nation’s schoolchildren. Despite having a good grasp of the fundamental principles of democracy, American teenagers’ understanding of democracy is often superficial and detached from real life, according to a new study from the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA). The National Assessment of Educational Progress found that while a majority of the 4th, 8th, and 12th graders tested knew basic facts about government—such as who was the president—most could not demonstrate deeper knowledge, such as how a country benefits from having a constitution, or how bills become laws. Experts caution that inadequate civics education could have lasting effects on the state of democracy in the United States and could lead to the rise of dangerous and authoritarian leaders in the future.


April 8, 2021

Secretary Cardona Continues “Help is Here” School Reopening Tour: “We can safely reopen schools if we follow certain steps and we can do it quickly,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona during a visit to Philadelphia and Upper Darby Tuesday. Cardona’s visit was part of the Biden Administration’s Help is Here tour, which started in Boston last week and is designed to monitor the president’s goal of reopening K-8 schools within his first 100 days in office. [Chalkbeat Philadelphia; U.S. Department of Education]


Education Department Approves One Request to Cancel State Tests But Rejects Others: The Department of Education granted its first broad waiver from testing requirements to the District of Columbia. The department also approved a request from Oregon to reduce the number of statewide tests it will give this year and previously approved a similar plan for Colorado. However, the agency rejected a request from New York to cancel assessments and turned down proposals from Michigan and Montana to substitute local tests for state ones. The department’s waiver for D.C. schools comes as a surprise following the administration’s February announcements that it would not consider granting “blanket waivers” from ESSA’s testing requirements. [Education Week, subscription required]


Education Department Begins Reviewing Title IX Rules: The Department of Education said in a letter Tuesday it will formally begin the process to amend federal rules around Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, beginning with a public hearing. Last month, Biden’s executive order called for a broad review of sexual discrimination policies and specifically requested scrutiny of controversial policies finalized by then-Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. The department’s announcement comes after 30 students at evangelical colleges filed suit last week against the U.S. Department of Education, asking that the religious exemption to Title IX be declared unconstitutional in how it is applied to LGBTQ students. The law prohibits educational institutions that receive federal funding from discriminating on the basis of sex but includes an exemption for institutions “controlled by a religious organization” – a distinction students say has failed to protect them from policies of discrimination. [U.S. Department of Education; Education Week, subscription required; Inside Higher Ed]


CDC Says Nearly 80 Percent of K-12 and Child-Care Workers Have Had at Least One COVID-19 Shot: Nearly 80 percent of the nation’s teachers, school staff members, and child care workers – about 8 million people – had received at least their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by the end of March, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Tuesday. “Our push to ensure that teachers, school staff, and child care workers were vaccinated during March has paid off and paved the way for safer in-person learning,” said CDC Director Rochelle Walensky. In March, President Biden directed states to prioritize teachers for early vaccines and made doses available to them through a federal pharmacy program. [Education Week, subscription required]


Meta-Analysis: School-Based Math and Reading Interventions Work: According to a review of 205 studies of K-6 students with, or at risk of, challenges with reading and math, targeted interventions were effective at mitigating these difficulties. Among the most successful interventions at improving reading and math skills, as measured by standardized tests, were peer-assisted instruction and small-group instruction by adults, although there were a large variety of successful interventions. [ScienceDaily]


From: The National Superintendents’ Roundtable’s Roundtable News

April 2, 2021

Massachusetts superintendents and boards urge Cardona to abandon this year’s state tests

In a powerful letter, the associations representing superintendents and school committees in Massachusetts recently urged U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona to “waive the federal requirement for student standardized testing for the current academic year”

In a March 29 letter available here, the two associations said, “We are struggling to understand the point of diverting our time, energy, and talent from the very real work of ensuring that our students return to in-person learning, and that they and their families are supported as they confront food and housing insecurities, physical health and safety issues, socio-emotional and mental health concerns, and academic gaps and foundational learning losses.”


Internet usage varies by age, income, and demographics

Fascinating data from Pew Research. While 40% of U.S. adults with an annual household income of $75,000 or more say they use the internet “almost constantly,” this is true for just 27% of those living in households earning less than $30,000 a year.

Are you always doom scrolling? You have a lot of company. Nearly one third of Americans report being almost continually on line. Still, internet usage varies greatly by age, income, education, location, and ethnicity.


Nearly half of school finance officials report sufficient federal pandemic aid “for now”

A survey of hundreds of K-12 local school district financial officials finds that nearly half—45 percent—’say they’ve received “sufficient” federal funding and support to help them address the coronavirus pandemic so far,’ reports Andrew Ujifusa for Education Week. Of course that means more than half cannot report such encouraging news.

Many of these administrators, says Ujifusa, are still worried about covering long-term costs associated with things like learning recovery, payroll, and facility repairs.

The survey from the Association of School Business Officials revealed that March 2020 funding under the CARES Act was most often directed at purchasing personal protective equipment, supplies, technology, and broadband services. Broadband and ed-tech continued to be popular uses of funds in the December 2020 relief package, but meeting student’s learning needs became a higher priority.


April 9, 2021


American students: high poverty, low support

“The United States is almost off the international charts in terms of high levels of student poverty and low levels of support for families with children.”

That’s one of the main points made by executive director James Harvey in a feature article in the March issue of Equity and Access, the official journal of the American Consortium for Equity in Education. Although public education is indeed a great success story in the United States, argues Harvey, a substantial achievement gap continues to grow between high- and low-income students. Out-of-school factors account for a major portion of the achievement gap and must become part of the reform agenda, he says. Charters and vouchers are ersatz solutions to the problem.


Parents sue school district for mandating masks

A group of parents in Texas has sued Katy Independent School District for requiring its students to wear masks after Governor Greg Abbott lifted the state’s mask mandate, reports Neelam Bohra for The Texas Tribune. The lawsuit claims district policies are unconstitutional and violate Abbott’s recent executive order.

Among other claims, the parents’ lawsuit cites Brown v. Board of Education, arguing that the use of virtual schooling practices amounts to an example of “separate but equal” schooling.

The Texas Education Agency has left mask-requirement decisions to local districts.


How mothers spend their time

Mothers are expected to do it all during the pandemic.

A group of researchers organized by the Brookings Institution has prepared a report documenting trends in women’s labor-force participation that outlines ten economic, data-driven facts about how mothers spend their times during national crises such as the pandemic.

The report points out what anyone paying attention knows: many women dropped out of the labor force during the pandemic to care for homebound children. Even those who did not have seen significant increases in the amount of unpaid labor they perform at home. And Black and Hispanic mothers of young children were more likely to be unemployed this past year than their White peers.


From: Special Education Smartbrief

March 29, 2021

Students get more sleep during remote learning
Some students have been able to sleep later — and get more total hours of sleep — thanks to remote instruction start times. Rebecca Robbins, an instructor in medicine at Harvard Medical School, said this “reset” has been positive from a health standpoint.
Full Story: The Washington Post (tiered subscription model) (3/27)


April 2, 2021

Study examines development of children with ASD
A study in JAMA Network Open found that 78.8% of children with autism spectrum disorder appeared to be doing well by middle childhood according to growth or proficiency metrics in one or more key domains and 23.6% in four or five key domains. The findings, based on data involving 272 children with ASD, also showed that children who did well on growth or proficiency metrics for all domains had higher initial scores on that outcome domain.
Full Story: Healio (free registration) (3/31)


April 6, 2021

J&J COVID-19 vaccine trial to include kids ages 12 to 17
Johnson & Johnson announced on Friday that it will broaden the scope of its ongoing Phase 2a trial launched in September to include children between the ages of 12 and 17. The single-dose vaccine will be tested initially using a stepwise approach from adolescents ages 16 and 17 to younger groups. Enrollment is ongoing for its trials in the UK and Spain, with Argentina, Brazil, Canada, the Netherlands and the US to follow.
Full Story: The Hill (4/2)


From: The Council for Exceptional Children’s Special Education Today


April 2, 2021

New data highlight disparities in students learning in person vs. remotely


The U.S. Education Department has released the first in a series of school surveys intended to provide a national view of learning during the pandemic. It reveals that the percentage of students who are still attending school virtually may be higher than previously understood. As of January and early February of this year, 44% of elementary students and 48% of middle school students in the survey remained fully remote. And the survey found large differences by race: 69% of Asian, 58% of Black and 57% of Hispanic fourth graders were learning entirely remotely, while just 27% of White students were.


Poll: Learning setbacks a top concern for parents

The Associated Press

Parents across the U.S. are conflicted about reopening schools. Most are at least somewhat worried that a return to the classroom will lead to more coronavirus cases, but there’s an even deeper fear that their children are falling behind in school while at home. 69% of parents are at least somewhat concerned that their children will face setbacks in school because of the coronavirus pandemic, including 42% who say they’re very or extremely worried about it, according to a new poll from The University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy and The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.


Sheer access to tech a big part of learning loss

THE Journal

A big part of the “learning loss” being identified for K-12 students is due to family income. They can’t afford the technology required for continuous access to classes, teachers and study resources. A recent analysis found that while more than nine in 10 students (92%) in families with household incomes of $200,000 or more always had a computer available for schooling, it was true for only six in 10 students (61%) in families with incomes of less than $25,000. For daily internet access, the gap was bigger.


Access to in-person learning was uneven this winter

District Administration Magazine

More than three quarters of fourth- and eighth graders attended public schools that provided hybrid or in-person instruction during the last few weeks of winter, a new survey reports. Consequently, 24% of students — in 3,300 schools in 42 states — were offered only remote or online instruction, according to the Department of Education’s ongoing Monthly School Survey Dashboard. The data was collected by the department’s Institute of Education Sciences from Feb. 22 through March 12 in efforts to meet President Joe Biden’s call to reopen schools.


From: The National Association of Federal Education Program Administrators’ The NAFEPA Connection

April 8, 2021

Learning Loss
“Learning loss.” This term is important to ESSER II and essential to ESSER III. When ESSER III funds arrive, each district must spend not less than 20 percent of its allocation on learning loss. The statute reads as follows:

A local educational agency that receives funds under this section shall reserve not less than 20 percent of such funds to address learning loss through the implementation of evidence-based interventions, such as summer learning or summer enrichment, extended day, comprehensive afterschool programs, or extended school year programs, and ensure that such interventions respond to students’ academic, social, and emotional needs and address the disproportionate impact of the coronavirus on the student subgroups described in [ESEA].

Biden Infrastructure Plan
Does the $2T infrastructure plan contain anything for schools? In fact, it does:

    • $100 billion for new school construction and upgrades to existing buildings, including ventilation;
    • $100 billion to expand broadband internet access in communities (indirect, but clearly a benefit, for learning at home);
    • $45 billion to replace lead pipes around the country, including in schools and child-care facilities;
    • $25 billion for child care facilities;
    • $12 billion for community colleges.


From: The Council for Exceptional Children’s CEC Public Policy

April 9, 2021

President’s Budget Proposal Puts IDEA on the Glidepath to Full Funding

Today, the White House released the framework for President Biden’s Fiscal Year 2022 budget proposal. Within the proposal is a historic $2.6 billion increase for Part B (pre-K through grade 12) of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), putting the program on the glidepath to full funding. This historic proposal responds to the special education community’s longstanding request to fulfill Congress’s promise to fully fund IDEA—an effort that CEC has been a leader in for decades. The budget proposal also includes a $250 million increase for IDEA Part C (infants and toddlers)………