Education Update – April 27, 2021

From: Education Week’s EdWeek Update

April 27, 2021

Supreme Court to Weigh When School Board Censure of a Member Violates the First Amendment
The justices will decide an issue that has become more salient as a few board members rant inappropriately on social media.

Federal Judge Dismisses Challenge to Transgender-Inclusive Athletics Policy in Connecticut
A federal district court judge said the lawsuit by cisgender female athletes was moot because two transgender track athletes had graduated.


April 28, 2021

Struggling Readers Score Lower on Foundational Skills, Analysis of National Test Finds
The results paint a more detailed picture of students who are designated below basic on the National Assessment of Educational Progress.


April 29, 2021

U.S. Supreme Court Wary About Extending School Authority Over Student Internet Speech
In arguments, the justices looked for a narrow way to decide a case about the discipline of a cheerleader over a profane Snapchat message.

Biden Pitches Plan to Expand Universal Pre-K, Free School Meal Programs, Teacher Training
The president’s $1.8 trillion American Families Plan faces strong headwinds as Congress considers other costly administration proposals.

Biden Taps Ex-Obama Aide Roberto Rodriguez for Key Education Department Job
Rodriguez served as a top education staffer to President Barack Obama and currently leads a teacher-advocacy organization.


April 30, 2021

How New Common Core Research Connects to Biden’s Plans for Children and Families
A study of national test scores indicate the early phase of the Common Core State Standards did not help disadvantaged students.


May 4, 2021

FDA Set to Approve Pfizer Vaccine for 12- to 15-Year-Olds
The Food and Drug Administration is expected to sign off as early as next week on the use of Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine in kids as young as 12.


May 5, 2021

FDA to Weigh Emergency Use of Pfizer Vaccine for Children Ages 2 to 11
President Biden says the U.S. is ready to “move immediately” to make vaccines available to children as soon as FDA extends approval of the Pfizer vaccine.

May 7, 2021

Has COVID-19 Led to a Mass Exodus of Superintendents?
This year has been exhausting for superintendents. Some experts say they’re seeing an unusually high number of resignations this spring.


From: The Washington Post

April 28, 2021

White House proposes $1.8 trillion package that would dramatically expand education, safety-net programs
The White House says the proposal would provide every American with two years of tuition-free community college; prekindergarten for 3- and 4-year-olds; and paid family and medical leave for all American workers. The changes would be funded by higher tax revenue, something many Republicans oppose.


From: Whiteboard Advisors’ WHITEBOARDNOTES

April 30, 2021

President Biden’s American Families Plan: Yesterday, President Biden announced the American Families Plan, a $1.8 trillion plan to expand access to education, implement universal preschool, reduce the cost of child care, and support women in the workforce. Features of the plan including universal preschool for 3- and 4-year olds, a $15 minimum wage for Pre-K workers, extended child tax benefits, two years of free community college to all Americans, and an increase in the Pell Grant award. The package would be funded by increasing the marginal income tax rate for the top one percent of American income earners to 39.6% from 37% and increasing capital gains and dividend tax rates for those earning more than $1 million per year. [Whiteboard Advisors]

Biden Taps Ex-Obama Aide Roberto Rodriguez for Key Education Department Job: President Biden announced Wednesday that he plans to nominate Roberto Rodriguez to lead the office of planning, evaluation and policy development. Rodriguez formerly served as special assistant to Obama on education policy and is currently the president and CEO of Teach Plus, a teacher-advocacy organization. [Education Week, subscription required]

U.S. Department of Education Launches National Summer Learning & Enrichment Collaborative: The Department of Education launched the Summer Learning & Enrichment Collaborative this week to use $1.2 billion in American Rescue Plan funding in order to support educational summer programming in addressing lost instructional and extracurricular time as a result of the pandemic. The collaborative will also provide support to districts, which must use at least 20 percent of their funding from the relief package to address learning recovery for students, especially those who have been most affected by the pandemic. [U.S. Department of Education; Education Week, subscription required]

Schools and States Must Detail In-Person Learning Plans To Get Remaining COVID-19 Aid: The American Rescue Plan provided $122 billion in aid to K-12 schools to help them offer safe in-person instruction. The Education Department released two-thirds of that funding last month, but states must present plans to the department on a variety of issues before they receive the remaining $41 billion, the U.S. Department of Education said Wednesday. School districts must publish detailed, regularly updated plans for how they intend to operate and use the new funding, including how plans will address universal mask-wearing in schools (which several states have rejected) and address inequities heightened by the pandemic. [Education Week, subscription required]


May 6, 2021

Vaccination Opening Up to Younger Students: According to officials familiar with the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA’s) vaccination plans, the agency is likely to approve use of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine in 12 to 15 year-olds as early as next week. Pfizer has also announced that it expects to apply for approval for use of the vaccine on children aged 2-11 starting in September. These announcements have started a national conversation on the return to school. Questions include: “should schools with high levels of staff and student vaccination end requirements for masks and social distancing?” “what level of vaccination rate should be considered safe?” “can schools require that students and staff be vaccinated against the coronavirus?” and “should schools eliminate the option to study from home?” [New York Times, subscription required; K-12 Dive]


Cardona’s First Budget Hearing: Secretary Cardona testified on President Biden’s fiscal year 2022 budget request before a House Appropriations subcommittee and answered questions regarding the 1619 Project, learning loss during the pandemic, mental health care for students, and federally-funded grants for higher education. Cardona said he expects students to be in-person five days a week in the fall, and he cited the nearly 40 percent proposed increase in the overall Education Department FY 2022 budget request as a “meaningful down payment” to address education inequities. Watch the hearing here. [Education Week, subscription required; District Administration; C-SPAN]


New Website Showcases Strategies for Safe Reopening: The U.S. Department of Education launched the “Safer Schools and Campuses Best Practices Clearinghouse” to highlight reopening efforts across the nation in K-12, early childhood centers, and postsecondary institutions. The website was created to share innovative, evidence-based, and solution-oriented strategies that relate to safe and healthy school environments, student supports, and teacher and faculty well-being. The Department plans to share examples of efforts to reach students from groups most impacted by the pandemic and efforts to address equity gaps. In addition to the Clearinghouse website, the Department launched a webinar series “Lessons from the Field” as a way to highlight methods that schools have used for safe reopening that follow CDC guidelines. To make a submission for consideration as part of the Clearinghouse website, email [email protected]. [U.S. Department of Education]


From: ASCD’s Smartbrief

April 27, 2021

Education Dept. responds to requests for testing waivers

The US Education Department cited Washington, D.C.’s high number of remote students and concerns about safe spaces for test administration in its decision issued last week to grant a broad waiver from the annual assessments required by the Every Student Succeeds Act. The department also said Oregon may reduce the number of tests it gives but did not permit Michigan and Montana to use local tests instead of state assessments, and did not grant New York’s request to cancel testing.
Full Story: Education Week (4/7)


Survey looks at status of remote, in-person learning
Results from a national survey released by the US Education Department show that 43% of fourth-graders and 48% of eighth-graders were still learning in a fully remote format as of January. The data also reveals disparities by race and where students live, with Asian, Black and Hispanic students learning fully remotely at higher percentages than white students, and with students in rural areas more likely to be back in the classroom full time than students in urban and suburban areas.
Full Story: The Associated Press (3/24), Education Week (3/24), National Public Radio (3/24)


Cardona offers guidance on relief spending
The most recent round of federal relief funding included $800 million for students who are experiencing homelessness. On Friday, US Education Secretary Miguel Cardona wrote a letter to state education officials, saying $200 million would be distributed this spring.
Full Story: Chalkbeat (4/26)


April 28, 2021

CDC releases new guidance on wearing masks
The CDC guidance released Tuesday states that people who have been fully vaccinated do not need to wear masks outdoors to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. This article examines what this means for schools and summer camps, with CDC Director Rochelle Walensky saying that those who are unvaccinated, including children and youths under 16, should continue to wear masks outdoors.
Full Story: District Administration (4/27)


April 29, 2021

Prototype app screens children for autism
A study funded by the NIH’s National Institute of Mental Health and National Institute of Child Health and Human Development found that a prototype app could help accurately screen children for autism spectrum disorder by tracking their eye movements while they view social stimuli. “We hope that this technology will eventually provide greater access to autism screening, which is an essential first step to intervention,” said Geraldine Dawson, director of the Duke Center for Autism and Brain Development and co-author of the study.
Full Story: FierceBiotech (4/27)


Racial disparities in youth marijuana vaping examined
A study in JAMA Pediatrics found differences among racial and ethnic groups in marijuana vaping during adolescence, with Hispanic youths having the highest rates at almost 26%, compared with Black youths at just over 19% and white youths at just over 18%. The findings, based on data involving almost 14,000 students in sixth through 12th grades, roughly 18% of whom reported using e-cigarettes to smoke marijuana, also showed that the number of youths who used e-cigarettes to smoke marijuana rose from just over 11% in 2017 to just under 20% in 2020.
Full Story: United Press International (4/26)


Biden proposes $1.8T plan for families, education
The centerpiece of President Joe Biden’s address to a joint session of Congress Wednesday was his proposed $1.8 trillion American Families Plan, which includes investments in families and education. The proposal includes greater access to universal prekindergarten, expanded school nutrition programs and investments to “train, equip and diversify American teachers.”
Full Story: Education Week (4/28), U.S. News & World Report (4/28), Chalkbeat (4/28), The Associated Press (4/28)


Supreme Court to rule on students’ online speech
The US Supreme Court heard arguments Wednesday in a case that will determine if and when schools can discipline students for their speech online. It is unclear how the court will rule in the case, which focuses on a high-school cheerleader’s profanity-laced Snapchat.
Full Story: National Public Radio (4/28)

April 30. 2021

Report considers inequities among babies, toddlers
There were stark inequities among babies and toddlers even before the coronavirus pandemic began, states a new report from the nonprofit Zero To Three. The coronavirus pandemic has worsened some indicators of good health and development, including regular pediatrician visits, maternal mental health and food insecurity.
Full Story: The Hechinger Report (4/29)


May 5, 2021

Cardona: Students need in-person learning this fall
Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said he expects all US students to have the ability to attend school in person in the fall. Speaking Monday at an Education Writers Association event, Cardona expressed concern that “underserved” students will opt for remote learning because in-person school is viewed as not “welcoming or safe for them.”
Full Story: Chalkbeat (5/3), U.S. News & World Report (5/3)


May 6, 2021

54% of elementary, middle schools open full time
Most elementary and middle schools are offering full-time, in-person learning — a goal President Joe Biden set for his first 100 days in office — according to survey results released by the US Department of Education today. Data shows 54% of elementary and middle schools are open full time to students — up from 46% in January — yet 4 in 10 students continue to do all of their learning remotely.
Full Story: Politico (5/6), The Associated Press (5/6)


May 7, 2021

Almost 25% of adolescents say they had a concussion
Nearly 25% of US adolescents said they had experienced a concussion, with 7% having had two or more, according to a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Data was obtained from survey responses from almost 3,300 students in eighth, 10th and 12th grades, and showed an increase from a similar survey in 2016.
Full Story: United Press International (5/4)


From: The National Superintendents Roundtable’s Roundtable Notes

April 30, 2021

Poll shows serious impact of pandemic on women

A new poll shows that almost half of American women surveyed suffered from depression, anxiety, or other mental health issues during the pandemic, Maureen Groppe reports for USA Today. One quarter have seen wage or hour cuts and have needed help procuring food, and a third have faced serious stress in their marriage or relationship.

The poll finds that 68% of women support a child care initiative proposed by the new administration that would have states help child-care providers offer non-traditional hours.


May 7, 2021

Reaching “herd immunity” unlikely in U.S., say experts

Apoorva Mandavilli of The New York Times reports that many public health experts believe that, because of slipping vaccination rates, herd immunity from the coronavirus in the United States may not be possible. Widely circulating coronavirus variants and persistent hesitancy about vaccines will keep the goal out of reach.

The virus is here to stay, says Mandavilli, but vaccinating the most vulnerable may be enough to restore normalcy.


From: Special Education Smartbrief

April 30, 2021

Premature birth tied to neurodevelopmental disabilities
Researchers studied over 3,000 children who were born at 24 to 26, 27 to 31 and 32 to 34 weeks of gestation and 600 children born full term in France and found that those who were born earlier had higher rates of neurodevelopmental disabilities such as lower brain function, blindness and deafness and cerebral palsy. The findings in the BMJ also showed that about 50% of those born at 24 to 26 weeks of gestation received at least one developmental intervention, compared with 26% of those born at 32 to 34 weeks of gestation.
Full Story: HealthDay News (4/29)

Child pollution exposure tied to later mental illness risk
Researchers studied more than 2,000 twins in the UK and found that childhood exposure to traffic-related air pollution, particularly nitrogen oxides, was associated with the development of psychopathology in early adulthood. The findings were published in JAMA Network Open.
Full Story: HealthDay News (4/29)


From: The Alliance for Excellent Education and the Future Ready Schools’ Federal Flash

April 30, 2021

Biden’s American Families Plan: Four Additional Years of Free Public Education

Before a joint address to Congress, President Biden announced the American Families Plan, an ambitious plan to build an education system for the 21st century, with a foundation of 16, rather than just 12, years of free public education. The plan includes $200 billion for high-quality universal pre-K for all three-and four-year-olds and $109 billion for free community college for all Americans, including DREAMers. The plan also provides new funding to increase college access and affordability and invests in preparing and diversifying the teacher workforce, as well as expanding school nutrition programs. Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Education published a state plan template for the remaining emergency funds for school districts under the American Rescue Plan (ARP), released millions in ARP funds to states to support students experiencing homelessness, and published guidance on ARP’s maintenance of effort requirement, as well as instructions for the 2020–21 Civil Rights Data Collection.

May 7, 2021

FY22 Education Budget Hearing

        • Secretary Cardona testified about the administration’s FY22 budget request at the first congressional committee hearing of the year. Key points he made:
          • “The total Federal investment in elementary and secondary education grew at the same rate–just 1 percent annually over the past 10 years–not even keeping up with inflation.”
          • “Calls on Congress to invest nearly $103 billion in Department of Education programs, an increase of almost $30 billion, or 41 percent, over the fiscal year 2021 enacted level.”
          • “The centerpiece of that request is a $20 billion increase to more than double funding for the Title I Grants to Local Educational Agencies program.”
          • Includes a $1 billion investment “to support the mental health needs of our students, including by increasing the number of counselors, nurses, and mental health professionals in our schools, and building the pipeline for these critical staff, with an emphasis on underserved schools.”


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

April 30, 2021

Gifted programs provide little to no academic boost, new study says

The Hechinger Report

Gifted education is often a flash point in school desegregation debates; in large cities, these programs often operate as an essentially separate school system, dominated by white and Asian children. Though gifted programs touch only 3.3 million school children, about 7% of the U.S. student population, it’s disturbing that Black and Hispanic children are rarely chosen for them.


Exams show 3 key impacts in students’ COVID rebound

District Administration Magazine

The achievement impact of COVID is shrinking in many grades, according to one company’s assessments of 3.8 million students. Reading and math growth during the first half of the 2020–2021 school year came closer to expected levels in Renaissance’s comparison of fall and winter results. Students in grades 1–8 who took the Star Early Literacy, Star Reading or Star Math exams scored about 2 points behind pre-COVID expectations in reading and 6 points behind in math.


To get remaining COVID-19 aid, schools and states must detail in-person learning plans

Education Week

To receive remaining COVID-19 aid provided through the American Rescue Plan, states and school districts must detail how they plan to meet federal recommendations for safe in-person learning, the U.S. Department of Education said.


May 7, 2021

Study: Later school start time gave small boost to grades but big boost to sleep

The Hechinger Report

The physical and mental health benefits of getting a good night’s sleep are indisputable. What’s less clear is whether starting school later in the morning will prompt kids to sleep more and consequently learn more during the school day. Fewer studies have looked at academic achievement after a later morning bell. Some have found improved student performance. Some haven’t.


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

May 6, 2021

The American Families Plan

On April 28, President Biden unveiled a $1.8 trillion American Families Plan, which follows the President’s $2 trillion infrastructure proposal that would provide $100 billion for school facilities, and more. The American Families Plan would provide:

        • $225 billion to subsidize the cost of childcare, especially for the lowest-income families, and a $200 billion program to expand state pre-K programs, with certain minimum compensation requirements for workers in such programs.
        • $109 billion for two years of free community college for any Americans, including immigrant Dreamers.
        • Expansion of the maximum Pell Grant for low-income college students by $1,400.
        • $9 billion to “train, equip, and diversify” the teaching force, “grow-your-own” programs to assist paraprofessionals to become full-time teachers, and more.
        • $45 billion to expand school nutrition programs, including allowing more schools to participate in the existing Community Eligibility Program.

That’s a lot of funding for key aspects of the education system surrounding the core elementary and secondary system, but will it actually become law and get funded? First of all, it is highly unlikely that any Republicans will get on board with the plan as is. Might they support a trimmed-down package? Maybe, but it also depends on what happens with the infrastructure plan. Of course, the Democrats also appear to have a path to pass both the American Jobs Plan (infrastructure) and the American Families Plan via budget reconciliation, which is what was used to pass the American Rescue Plan and only requires Democratic votes. We will watch these packages take shape and start to move — they promise massive additional injections of federal funds and could have a significant impact on our educational system for decades.


President Biden’s Fiscal Year 2022 Budget Request
Should we be excited about the overview of the president’s budget released last Friday? In a word: maybe. The famous Washington phrase that “the President proposes and Congress disposes” still holds true, even with all levers of power in Democratic hands. The president’s FY 2022 budget overview is the first salvo in the appropriations process; Congress has yet to receive the full Biden-Harris Administration budget request, with detailed programmatic recommendations and justifications. Members of Congress will certainly have different priorities and goals, but one thing is certain — education spending will be up, significantly for some programs, over FY 2021. Let’s get into the details we do have: the President’s proposal includes $102.8 billion in discretionary funding for the U.S. Department of Education (ED), an increase of nearly $30 billion (41%) over last year’s level of approximately $73 billion. And, in keeping with campaign promises, the FY22 budget asks for a huge increase for Title I, but other programs would also do well:

        • $36.5 billion for Title I, +$20 billion over the current funding level;
        • $15.5 billion in Individuals with Disabilities Education Act grants to states, +$2.6 billion;
        • $11.9 billion for Head Start early-education program at the Department of Health and Human Services, +$1.2 billion;
        • $1 billion for K-12 schools to hire more counselors, nurses, and mental health professionals;
        • $100 million in a new grant program to foster increased diversity in schools.