Education Update – December 22

From; The Washington Post’s Breaking News

December 22, 2020

Biden set to tap Miguel Cardona, top Connecticut schools official, as education secretary, two people familiar with the matter say

With the expected pick, President-elect Joe Biden is settling on a low-profile candidate who has pushed to reopen schools and is not aligned with either side in education policy battles of recent years. A former school teacher, Cardona was named Connecticut’s commissioner of public schools last year.

From; The Boston Globe

December 24, 2020

Biden: Cardona right pick to lead education through pandemic
President-elect Joe Biden introduced Miguel Cardona as his pick for education secretary on Wednesday, saying Connecticut’s education chief and life-long champion of public schools is the right pick to lead the department as the nation struggles to educate students safely during the pandemic.

From: ASCD’s Smartbrief

December 14, 2020

$22B price tag to safely reopen schools, CDC finds

Schools in the US need $442 per student — or about $22 billion — to safely reopen schools during the coronavirus pandemic, according to estimates from the CDC. The report finds that the investment would allow schools to adopt and maintain mitigation practices.
Full Story: U.S. News & World Report (12/11)

FBI: K-12 schools No. 1 target for ransomware
FBI: K-12 schools No. 1 target for ransomware

K-12 schools now make up the majority of all ransomware attacks, according to a report from the FBI and other federal security agencies. The five most common attacks, the report found, were Ryuk, Maze, Nefilim, AKO and Sodinokibi/REvil.
Full Story: T.H.E. Journal (12/11)

December 15, 2020

Analysis: Schools trending back toward remote learning

At the beginning of November, 22% of school districts offered remote instruction only — compared with 38% at the end of the month — according to an analysis by EdSurge/Social Context Labs. The shift comes amid a widespread spike in the number of coronavirus cases that culminated in mid-November with more districts adopting remote-only instruction instead of in-person learning.
Full Story: EdSurge (12/14)

Analysis: Comparing several learning-loss studies
Digital education analyst Frank Catalano compares and contrasts recent reports and analyses on learning losses related to the coronavirus schooling changes. Most agree that students have ended up further behind in math than reading and that older students fared better at virtual learning than younger ones, Catalano writes.
Full Story: EdSurge (12/14)

December 16, 2020

Data: Pandemic drives student mobility

Teachers are reporting an uptick in student mobility during the school year, which could be tied to economic factors and other disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Teachers Pay Teachers survey data shows 70% of teachers report having a new student in class in the past two months, — 14% had 11 or more new students — and 40% say they’ve had students leave.
Full Story: The 74 (12/14)

Aid bill provides $3B for remote learning under E-rate
A provision in a COVID-19 aid package before the Senate would enable remote locations and devices used outside physical buildings such as schools and libraries to become eligible for $3 billion in broadband grants under E-rate funding. The Federal Communications Commission has barred home-based and other distance-learning services from receiving E-rate funds.
Full Story: Next TV/Multichannel News (12/15)

Survey examines vaping rates among US teens
The percentage of US teens who reported vaping nicotine in the past year rose to 16.5% from 7.5% among eighth-graders, to 30.7% from 15.8% among 10th-graders and to 35.3% from 18.8% among 12th-graders from 2017 to 2019, while the rates held steady at 16.6%, 30.7% and 34.5%, respectively, in 2020, according to the annual Monitoring the Future survey. The findings also showed that daily or almost daily nicotine vaping dropped to 3.6% from 6.8% among 10th-graders and to 5.3% from 11.6% among 12th-graders between 2019 and 2020.
Full Story: HealthDay News (12/15)

December 17, 2020

Study: Pandemic takes toll on reading skills
Students’ early-literacy skills, particularly phonics, have declined during the coronavirus pandemic, according to a study from researchers from Amplify. Data shows that fewer kindergarten through fifth-grade students scored at grade level in the fall, compared with the same period one year ago, but the gap was greatest among Black and Hispanic students.
Full Story: Education Week (tiered subscription model) (12/15)

Fauci: Resources needed to open schools

The “default position” is that students should be in school, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in an interview at the Milken Institute’s Future of Health Summit. Fauci said resources will be needed to ensure schools can safely open and that he hoped teachers would receive vaccines soon.
Full Story: SmartBrief/Education (12/17)

December 19, 2020

Schools invest in students’ digital access

Thirty-nine states say they plan to use federal coronavirus relief funds to help bridge the digital divide for the approximately 16 million US students — 30% of K-12 students — who lack either at-home internet or devices to help facilitate remote instruction. One California school district found distributing hot spots was inadequate and instead opted for a private network that supports broadband for all of its 6,000 students.
Full Story: The Wall Street Journal (tiered subscription model) (12/15)

December 21, 2020

Data: Decline in rural college enrollment

Fewer rural students are planning to attend college, according to the National College Attainment Network. Colleges in rural communities also are reporting enrollment declines — reversing what appeared to be a trend, until this year, of college enrollment increasing among rural students.
Full Story: The Hechinger Report (12/18)

Teachers could be among next in line for vaccine

Essential workers, including police, firefighters and teachers, should be included in the next phase of the coronavirus vaccine distribution, according to a vote Sunday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. That phase also would include adults who are 75 and older.
Full Story: USA Today (12/20), National Public Radio (12/20)

December 22, 2020

Schools poised to receive $54B in US relief package

The federal coronavirus relief package includes $54 billion for US schools. Yet, missing from the final version of the bill was dedicated funding to support internet access for the estimated 12 million children with little to no access during this period of remote instruction.
Full Story: U.S. News & World Report (12/21), Chalkbeat (12/21)

December 23, 2020

School budgets see effects of pandemic
Even as Congress prepares to earmark $54 billion for schools in the new coronavirus relief package, school leaders say it may not be enough to cover higher costs related to the pandemic coupled with decreased enrollment and a dip in state and local funds. Pew Charitable Trusts data shows education employment has declined 8.8% in the past year.
Full Story: The New York Times (tiered subscription model) (12/22)

Biden selects Miguel Cardona as education secretary
President-elect Joe Biden will nominate Miguel Cardona, Connecticut’s first Latino commissioner of education, to be secretary of education. Biden and Cardona appear to be aligned in their desire to reopen schools to in-person learning — a goal Biden has pledged to meet within his first 100 days.
Full Story: EdSurge (12/22)

From: Education Week’s EdWeek Update

December 16, 2020

High Court Declines Challenge to District Policy Protecting Transgender Students
The case was brought by those objecting to letting transgender students use restrooms and other facilities matching their gender identity.

December 17, 2020

Survey: Students Want More Opportunities to Connect With Teachers During the Pandemic
Middle and high school students say that they’re not doing as well in school as they were before the pandemic, according to a new survey.

December 22, 2020

K-12 Schools Get $57 Billion in COVID-19 Deal; No Relief for State and Local Governments
Schools get a big increase in aid beyond the last COVID-19 relief deal, but less than what subsequent coronavirus relief bills proposed.

Education Dept. Gets $73.5 Billion in Funding Deal That Ends Ban on Federal Aid for Busing
The fiscal 2021 deal increases K-12 aid for disadvantaged students, special education, and other federal programs.

From: Whiteboard Advisors’ WHITEBOARDNOTES

December 17, 2020

Former NEA President Seen as Leading Candidate for Education Secretary, Other Contenders Emerge: Two sources familiar with the Biden transition team’s plans told The Hill that former National Education Association (NEA) President Lily Eskelsen García is the leading candidate to serve as President-elect Joe Biden’s education secretary. Earlier this month, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and several advocacy groups endorsed Eskelsen García for the job. This week, The Washington Post reported that Howard University Dean Emeritus and Professor Dr. Leslie T. Fenwick and Connecticut Commissioner of Education Dr. Miguel A. Cardona have emerged as contenders to serve as Secretary of Education, according to people familiar with the process. Three sources said that the transition committee is currently focusing its attention on these two candidates. However, another source maintained that other candidates remain in consideration. President-elect Joe Biden is expected to announce his selection early next week. [The Hill; The Washington Post, subscription required]

The Incredible Shrinking COVID-19 Relief Package for Schools: The stimulus bill proposal released by lawmakers on Monday showed a decrease in aid for schools compared to previous proposals released by both Democrat and Republican members of Congress. The current proposal includes $54 billion for K-12 schools, as well as $7.5 billion for governors to spend on K-12 and higher education. Notably, $2.5 billion of the $7.5 billion governor’s fund is relief specifically for private schools. While the proposal includes less school aid than previously proposed bills and no state and local government aid, it still would provide nearly three times the funding provided for both K-12 and higher education in the CARES Act. [Education Week, subscription required]

Secretary DeVos Asks ED Career Staff to ‘Resist’: In a recording obtained by POLITICO, Secretary DeVos is heard asking her staff to be the resistance as the Biden administration gears up their transition. This comes after Secretary DeVos and political appointees notoriously tried to have career employees investigated for possibly leaking information to the press. [POLITICO]

Survey: Students Feel They Are Doing Worse In School, Want More Interaction With Teachers: According to a new survey of 800 public school students aged 13-18, students self-report that they are not doing as well as they were before the pandemic, and wish they could have more opportunities to connect with their teachers. Among respondents, these results were most pronounced among the younger 13-15-year-old cohort, as well as students whose parents or guardians do not have college degrees. The four most common wishes that the students expressed are: More interaction between teachers and students, additional tutoring to help them catch up and stay on track, faster grading and feedback from teachers, and more one-on-one time with teachers. [Education Week, subscription required]

CDC Predicts School Reopening May Cost As Much As $442 Per Student: A CDC report published this week attempts to estimate the total cost of Covid mitigation in schools. According to the report, school reopenings would cost $55 per student in materials and consumables, but this cost rises to $442 per student when factoring in janitorial and transportation costs. Nationwide, funding the reopening effort for 51 million students is estimated to cost $22 billion. [K-12 Dive]

From: The Alliance for Excellent Education’s Straight A’s

December 16, 2020

When Equity Is Optional
The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) gave states significant flexibility in designing school accountability systems. Unfortunately, new data from the Alliance for Excellent Education (All4Ed) on ESSA implementation shows that flexibility and equity often conflict. According to All4Ed’s When Equity Is Optional series, Black and Latino students are much more likely to receive a poorly rated education, and students of color are overrepresented in low-rated schools and underrepresented in high-rated ones.

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

December 18, 2020

Two-thirds of parents worry about long-term impact of pandemic on kids


Two-thirds of parents of children under 18 are worried about the long-term impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on their child’s mental health, according to the findings of a survey released Wednesday by Nationwide Children’s Hospital. More than half of parents surveyed said they are running out of ways to help their children stay positive during the pandemic and the life changes that have come with it, including school closings and restrictions on social gatherings, the survey also found.

Schools confront ‘off the rails’ numbers of failing grades

The Associated Press

The first report cards of the school year are arriving with many more Fs than usual in a dismal sign of the struggles students are experiencing with distance learning. School districts from coast to coast have reported the number of students failing classes has risen by as many as two or three times — with English language learners and disabled and disadvantaged students suffering the most.

‘A lost generation’: Surge of research reveals students sliding backward, most vulnerable worst affected

The Washington Post

After the U.S. education system fractured into Zoom screens last spring, experts feared millions of children would fall behind. Hard evidence now shows they were right. A flood of new data — on the national, state and district levels — finds students began this academic year behind. Most of the research concludes students of color and those in high-poverty communities fell further behind their peers, exacerbating long-standing gaps in American education.

Lost learning, lost students: COVID slide not as steep as predicted, NWEA study finds — But 1 in 4 kids was missing from fall exams

The 74

Almost a fourth of students who took a leading assessment of academic growth in the fall of 2019 were missing from schools when the baseline exam was given at the start of the current school year. And the missing students are disproportionately children thought to be most at risk of falling behind in school shutdowns, say researchers with the nonprofit assessment group NWEA.

Study: Children with ADHD more likely to bully — And to be bullied

Additude Magazine

School-aged children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder demonstrated a significant risk (3 to 17 times greater than that of their neurotypical peers) for being a bully, being a victim of bullying, or both, according to a study from the Journal of Attention Disorders. The link between increased rates of bullying and neurodevelopmental disorders has been previously observed among children with autism spectrum disorder and learning disabilities.

From: Special Education Smartbrief

December 21, 2020

Survey: Students report academic declines
Survey: Students report academic declines

Thirty-two percent of students say they have good grades now — compared to 58% before the coronavirus pandemic, according to a survey by the National Education Association and the National Parent Teacher Association. The survey found support and praise from middle- and high-school students for their teachers as schools have adjusted in response to the pandemic.
Full Story: K-12 Dive (12/17)

From: Education Week’s EdWeek Update

December 16, 2020

An Exit Interview With Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos
Conducted by Rick Hess

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos speaks at the Phoenix International Academy in Phoenix. Betsy DeVos’ tenure as the nation’s 11th secretary of education will come to an end in January. Her time in office has been turbulent, from a contentious Senate confirmation through the extraordinary challenges posed by a once-a-century pandemic. As she approaches the end of her tenure, Secretary DeVos agreed to share some thoughts on her experiences, what she learned in office, and what advice she’d offer her successor. Here’s what she had to say.

Rick: Back in 2017, your confirmation process was remarkably contentious. Looking back, what did you take from that and how did it affect your approach to the role?
Secretary DeVos: It confirmed my belief that entrenched interests were going to do their best to protect the status quo, their power, and their jobs no matter what. It gave me a clear-eyed look at the uphill battle I knew we would face as we pivoted the federal focus away from adults’ interests to what’s best for kids.
Rick: You came to your position as an outsider—how has that mattered?
DeVos: Like I’ve said before, I didn’t know all the things you “can’t do.” So I came in with fresh eyes and a laser focus on rethinking the way we approach all aspects of work at the department.
Rick: What surprised you most about the job?
DeVos: A couple of things. First, that the bureaucracy is even more bureaucratic than any of us could have ever imagined, and it takes longer to get anything done than I could have ever imagined. Second, seeing firsthand just how difficult it is for people in Washington to see beyond what is and imagine what could be. Third, and importantly, I am consistently inspired by what parents will do for their kids’ educations. I’ve met single mothers driving Uber in addition to holding two other jobs just so their children can learn in schools that work for them. I’ve met parents who didn’t wait for permission to home school their children nor did they wait for their schools to open this past spring, establishing their own learning pods and microschools so their children could continue learning. I suppose I’m not surprised by the ingenuity of America’s parents, but I am inspired by them and their students.
Rick: For you, what’s one anecdote that really captures what it’s like to be secretary of education?

DeVos: I remember talking with a group of young African American students in a school where they were benefiting from the Milwaukee voucher program and looking outside at a sea of middle-aged white protestors who apparently thought those students didn’t deserve that opportunity. I think that’s a pretty good microcosm of what my experience in office was like.
Rick: What was the most useful preparation you had to be secretary?
DeVos: I’ve dedicated more than 30 years of my life to fighting for students, starting in my community, then throughout Michigan and in states across the country. I know what parents want and need for their children’s educations because I am one and because I’ve fought alongside them to have the same choices and opportunities for their kids that I had for mine. People also forget this is ultimately a management job, not a teaching job. Among other things, you run one of the nation’s largest banks. Having actually led large organizations was very important preparation.
Rick: If you had to point to just one, what’s the single data point that really illuminates your thinking about American education?
DeVos: Half of lower-income 4th graders are below-basic readers, according to the most recent Nation’s Report Card. If the system is failing to teach the most basic of skills to the most vulnerable of students, how can anyone defend it? Worse yet, for the past quarter century, there has been no meaningful change in test scores, yet as taxpayers, we spend more and more for education each year. And by too many measures, these gaps are even widening. Perhaps the largest gap is between American students and their international peers. We’re not in the top 10—in anything. That’s not because our students aren’t capable; it’s because “the system” is culpable for failing them. And, if I could point to a couple more data points, there are currently millions of kids on charter school wait lists, and 3 out of 4 parents who say, if given the opportunity, they would choose a different school than their assigned one for their child. Parents are making clear what they think the solution is to the system’s failures.
Rick: What’s one thing that advocates and reformers should understand about federal education policy which they may not already?
DeVos: It needs your voices. Reformers rightly focus on the states, which are in control of education, but ignoring Washington comes with peril. Remember, a different president and secretary most certainly would have implemented the Every Student Succeeds Act in significantly more controlling ways.

Rick: What would you regard as your most significant accomplishment in office?
DeVos: Hands down, it’s changing the national conversation around what K-12 education can and should be. The concept of school choice is more popular across racial, ethnic, and political lines than ever before. I’m also proud of the team’s work on the historic Title IX rule which codified into law protections for all students.
Rick: And what would you say is your biggest regret?
DeVos: In four years, we set out to change the course set by the past 40 years of the department’s history. Though we’ve made remarkable progress, as long as there are students stuck in schools that do not meet their needs, the work is not yet done. I believe that all children have unlimited potential and promise, and so every single one of them deserves the opportunity to find their educational fit. I regret that we didn’t push harder and earlier in the term.
Rick: Throughout your tenure, your emphasis has been on expanding educational choice for students and families. How would you evaluate your record on this score?
DeVos: My team and I have worked very hard to advance education freedom—or school choice, as most know it. This idea, which President Trump rightly calls “the civil rights issue of our time,” is on the march across the country. Students in more states have more opportunities to pursue the education that’s right for them today than when I first took office. Consider the bold expansions in North Carolina, Florida, West Virginia, Tennessee, and even in Illinois. Right here in D.C., participation in the school choice program is now 50 percent higher than it was four years ago, and there is still massive unmet demand. We’ve changed the conversation at the federal level, too. Our proposal for Education Freedom Scholarships is the most ambitious in the nation’s history, and now there are more than 120 co-sponsors in Congress and more than 50 Senators who voted for Sen. McConnell’s COVID relief package who are helping us champion the idea.
Rick: You’ve been a vocal champion of state and local control. What has struck you about the response to that call?

DeVos: I can’t say I’m surprised, but I am sorely disappointed that there wasn’t more support for state and local control. The very core of the Every Student Succeeds Act was about empowering states and fixing federal overreach. So many teachers just want control of their classrooms—on curriculum, on discipline, on helping students. And educators should remember that control was taken away from them by Washington when the Department of Education was created and even more drastically over the last two decades through programs like NCLB and Race to the Top. I restored as much local control as I can, but I suspect that’s going to be an uphill fight moving forward. There’s a regrettable tendency to want to federalize everything. I am optimistic, however, based on how Congress handled the CARES Act. We’ve shown block grants to states make sense, and I hope that’s something people continue to look at and advance.
Rick: When it comes to COVID-19 and the pandemic that’s upended the nation and the world of education this year, what do you think schools have gotten right? What do you think they’ve gotten wrong?
DeVos: The answer to that question depends on where the schools are located and on school leadership. I’ve toured public, private, and parochial schools across the country that have safely reopened for in-person learning. Their leaders have can-do, get-it-done attitudes, and they put doing what’s best for students ahead of any other interests. At the same time, we’ve seen some of America’s largest districts refuse to open, not based on the recommendation of scientists, but because of political interests.
Rick: What would you advise the new Congress and the next secretary of education to do next when it comes to COVID-19 and education?
DeVos: Where Congress is concerned, keep taking excuses off the table that are preventing kids from learning. The learning loss that is happening right now is a national tragedy that will have long-lasting and far-reaching consequences. We’ve sent PPE, test kits, masks, and billions of dollars to schools already. I’d also remind Congress that students are who matter, and which building they go to school in shouldn’t matter when it comes to supporting them through the pandemic. As for my successor, I’d emphasize that parents today are more aware of what their children are—or are not—learning. And they’re more aware of who’s standing in the way. More than ever before, they are raising their voices for more options, for more choices, for freedom. The need for education freedom is especially acute for kids whose government-assigned schools are refusing to open—and those families should be able to take their education dollars to schools that will.
Rick: More broadly, what’s the most important piece of advice you’d give your successor?
DeVos: There’s one simple guiding principle I’d urge not just the next education secretary to embrace, but any educator and education leader: Put students first. When doing what’s right for individual students is your number-one priority, everything else becomes much clearer.

Rick: Last question. Looking ahead, what’s next for you?
DeVos: I haven’t focused much on that yet, but it’s safe to say I’ll be very much in the fight for students. For so many families, the pandemic has laid bare the flaws in the education system, and so many students have been harmed as a result. The timing and need for big reforms have never been greater.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.