Education Update – February 02, 2021

From: Education Week’s EdWeek Update

February 2, 2021

FCC Takes One Step Closer to Offering E-Rate Funds for Remote Learning Technology

Advocates have urged the FCC to loosen its rules on E-Rate funds so schools can pay for technology that helps students learn remotely.

Biden Eliminated the 1776 Commission But Not the Need for ‘Patriotic’ Education

Rick Hess hopes President Biden will urge educators to acknowledge and explore the unifying, “patriotic” themes in the American story.

School Sports a Fresh Front in State Battles Over Transgender Students’ Rights

Lawmakers in at least 10 states are pushing legislation that would prohibit transgender students from playing on single-sex sports teams.


February 8, 2021

Details of Biden’s Education Relief Pitch Prioritize Smaller Classes, Avoiding Layoffs

The administration’s breakdown of COVID-19 needs also includes $50 billion for social distancing and $29 billion for learning recovery.


February 9, 2021

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene Barred From Spot on the Education Committee

Democrats condemned the Georgia congresswoman for supporting false claims that school shootings in Parkland, Fla., were faked or staged.


February 10, 2021

Catholic Schools in the U.S. Hit by Unprecedented Enrollment Drop

Roman Catholic schools in the United States have seen the largest single-year decline in at least five decades, officials noted.


Judge: District Had No Duty to Flag Danger From Student in Parkland Shootings

A Florida judge said the Broward County school district cannot be held liable for failing to predict actions that were beyond its control.


February 12, 2021

Fauci Says Young Kids Could Start Getting Vaccinated by September

A COVID-19 vaccine for children as young as 1st grade may be approved by next school year, said Fauci. But some public health experts aren’t so sure.


Congress Eyes Major Expansion of Apprenticeship Programs

The National Apprenticeship Act passed the House last week. The bill proposes a plus-up in funding for apprenticeship and youth apprenticeship programs, including for areas like computer science and cybersecurity.

From: ASCD’s Smartbrief

February 2, 2021

FCC considers applying E-rate to at-home internet

The Federal Communications Commission will accept public comments through Feb. 16 on whether to expand the E-rate program to help close the digital divide by allowing funds to be used on at-home internet access. The effort signals a possible shift for the FCC and follows an executive order by President Joe Biden to encourage the FCC to help expand internet access to more students.
Full Story: T.H.E. Journal (2/1), Education Week (2/1)


February 3, 2021

Study examines prescription drug misuse among youths

Researchers studied 110,556 US teens and young adults ages 12 to 25 and found that 35% reported taking a prescribed psychoactive drug in the past year and 31% said they had misused that drug. The findings in Family Medicine & Community Health also showed that among teens who used psychoactive prescription drugs, 19% used opioids, while 7%, 4% and 2% used stimulants, tranquilizers and sedatives, respectively.
Full Story: United Press International (2/2)


February 5, 2021

Cardona talks reopening schools in confirmation hearing

Miguel Cardona, President Joe Biden’s nominee for US education secretary, during his confirmation hearing Wednesday said he was committed to working with the CDC to safely reopen US schools. Cardona also said he supported Biden’s proposed relief funds, which include $130 billion for schools.
Full Story: Education Week (2/3), The 74 (2/3), Chalkbeat (2/3), National Public Radio (2/3)

Senate bill would help schools upgrade HVAC systems

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., has announced legislation that would provide funding for schools to safely reopen while observing CDC guidelines. The Reopen and Rebuild America’s Schools Act of 2021 would help schools update HVAC systems and prevent the spread of COVID-19, Gillibrand says.
Full Story: WTEN-TV/WXXA-TV (Albany, N.Y.) (2/3)

February 5, 2021

College Board predicts return to in-person testing

The College Board is offering unprecedented flexibility in how students take Advanced Placement exams amid the coronavirus pandemic. Trevor Packer, a senior vice president who leads the AP program, says these options, such as allowing students to take digital exams from home, are not expected to be available long term.
Full Story: EdSurge (2/4)


February 8, 2021

US schools to be surveyed about instruction

The US Department of Education will begin questioning schools and collecting data about how instruction is taking place — in person, online or both — how much live instruction is offered and other key information about teaching and learning during the coronavirus pandemic. Schools will be surveyed through at least June.
Full Story: National Public Radio (2/5)


February 10, 2021

Biden administration clarifies in-person learning goal

President Joe Biden’s administration offered additional details Tuesday about his goal to reopen schools, clarifying that a school is considered open if in-person instruction takes place at least one day per week. The administration is aiming to have a majority of US schools open by the 100th day of Biden’s presidency.
Full Story: U.S. News & World Report (2/9)

Survey finds disparities in teacher vaccinations

About 1 in 5 kindergarten through grade 12 and higher-education teachers have received a coronavirus vaccine — with white teachers being vaccinated at nearly two times the rate of their Black colleagues — according to a survey of its members by the National Education Association. Slightly more than half of states in the US are vaccinating teachers.
Full Story: Education Week (2/9)


Pandemic worsens staffing challenges in early education

Child care facilities have long struggled with high turnover rates, but the problem has been exacerbated because of the coronavirus pandemic. A recent survey by the National Association for the Education of Young Children found that 69% of early-childhood professionals say that recruiting and retaining qualified staff is tougher now than it was pre-pandemic.
Full Story: EdSurge (2/9)

February 12, 2021

How can schools support students’ media literacy

A spike in online misinformation and studies showing that more K-12 students are unable to discern reliable information have some schools pushing to include media literacy lessons in their curricula. Peter Adams, senior vice president of education at the News Literacy Project, says such lessons should be integrated throughout the year.
Full Story: The Hechinger Report (2/11)


Cost of pandemic adds up for schools

As schools face diminished state funding they also are considering the substantial cost to reopen to in-person learning and help students recover from the disruptions of the past year. The nonprofit Education Resource Strategies estimates it could cost some school districts $12,000 to $13,500 per student over the next five years to recover from learning loss and support students’ social and emotional needs.
Full Story: The Hechinger Report (2/12)

3 reasons for low reading, math scores among 12th-graders

Math and reading proficiency among high-school seniors was low, even before the coronavirus pandemic, according to a report from the National Assessment of Educational Progress. In this commentary, three scholars weigh in on the issue, including University of Virginia professor Emily Solari, who attributes the low reading performance to teachers using a cueing approach rather than scientifically proven reading methods.
Full Story: The Conversation (2/10)

February 2, 2021
From: The Boston Globe

Less excited, less prepared, less challenged: Mass. high school students report big disparities in learning online vs. in person

Massachusetts high school students learning from home during the pandemic report feeling less excited about learning, less prepared for college, and less challenged in class than those learning fully in person, a survey released Tuesday shows.

The survey seemed to largely reflect the state’s patchwork of community-based decisions over school reopening, in which most large, urban districts remain remote. Affluent students and white students are more likely to be in “hybrid” arrangements, which mix online classes with some in-person learning, while low-income students and students of color are more likely to be learning remotely full time.

From: ASCD’s Educator Advocates Capitol Connections

February 2, 2021

Biden Proposes New $1.9 Trillion Covid Relief Package

    • With January deaths due to Covid surging to a staggering 95,000 and the overall death toll passing 440,000 Americans, President Biden has unveiled a new $1.9 trillion Covid relief package.
    • It includes $130 billion for K-12 schools and $45 billion for higher education.
    • The K-12 aid can be used for things like making smaller, more socially-distanced classes, hiring nurses and counselors, PPE, improved ventilation, technology equipment and access, and summer school and other learning loss mitigation efforts.
    • A group of 10 GOP senators have offered a $600 billion counter-proposal that includes only $20 billion for K-12 schools.
    • In December, Congress provided schools with $54 billion to help address Covid challenges. Money will be apportioned to local districts based on their Title I allocations.
    • See how much of the $54 billion your state is receiving.

NAEP Cancelled for 2021

    • The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) won’t be administered this year.
    • The 4th and 8th grade reading and math assessments were supposed to start in January. They have been rescheduled for January 2022.
    • “The spread of COVID across our communities is getting worse–not better. Unfortunately, it is now clear that we cannot fulfill the mandate to assess reading and mathematics, given NAEP’s unique design and methodology,” said NAGB Chair Haley Barbour. Read the full statement here.


From: Special Education Smartbrief

February 5, 2021

Connectivity still an issue for students, survey finds

About a year since the start of the coronavirus pandemic in the US — and stretches of remote instruction — school districts still report a digital divide among students. In a USA Today survey, at least 11 of the country’s largest districts were still working to provide access to technology or internet for students or were unable to determine how many students still lacked access.
Full Story: USA Today (2/4)


Education Dept. extends testing waiver request deadline

The US Education Department alerted states it is extending the deadline beyond Feb. 1 for waiver requests on assessments mandated by the Every Student Succeeds Act, though it did not set a new date, Valerie Strauss writes in this blog post. Michigan and New York, along with other states, the two national teachers’ unions and other groups, are advocating for waivers, while Miguel Cardona, the Biden administration’s nominee for education secretary, has said he’s in favor of the exams as long as they’re not used for teacher and school evaluations.
Full Story: The Washington Post (tiered subscription model) (1/29)


February 10, 2021

Guidance issued on COVID-19 vaccines for children

The American Academy of Pediatrics issued interim guidance regarding the COVID-19 vaccine, emphasizing that both available vaccines are safe and were built on existing science. Among other recommendations, the AAP said that everyone ages 16 years or above who meets the criteria for a vaccination group should receive the COVID-19 vaccine and that the vaccine should be administered in the child’s medical home if possible.
Full Story: Contemporary Pediatrics (2/4)

From: The NAFEPA Connection

February 4, 2021

Cardona Confirmation Hearing
Unlike Betsy DeVos’s confirmation hearing four years ago, Miguel Cardona’s hearing to become the next Secretary of Education was smooth and calm. Cardona navigated a number of issues adroitly, neither committing himself to a definite course of action on specific issues nor giving offense when disagreeing. While short of a love-fest, it does seem Cardona will face smooth sailing in his confirmation process; Sen. Burr, the new Ranking Member of the Senate HELP Committee, indicated he was likely to support Cardona’s confirmation.

As to specific issues, Cardona was pressed about school reopening, more stimulus funding, waivers for assessments and accountability, transgender issues, choice, special education, mental health, career and technical education, and much more. Cardona described his experience with reopening schools in Connecticut but also emphasized the need to do so safely. He addressed the fact that the $67 billion in federal stimulus funding for K-12 (ESSER I and II) is not enough and called for the $130+ billion in President Biden’s COVID-19 stimulus/relief proposal (more on that below). Cardona also walked a fine line between the need for having summative assessments to know where kids are at and to direct funding appropriately but also said we shouldn’t test just for testing’s sake. So, it is a little hard to gauge where Cardona and ED will land on the increasing number of states asking for waivers from testing (more below). However, Cardona seemed to be signaling a willingness to waive accountability requirements, even if end-of-year testing takes place. He was pushed on the rights of transgender students and stated unequivocally that gender discrimination is illegal and transgender students have equal rights to participate in all school functions/activities. Certain Republican committee members like Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) were not pleased with his answers on this issue and are unlikely to support Cardona’s confirmation. There were a lot of other topics discussed, but Cardona generally toed the Biden Administration line in a non-confrontational and professional way. All-in-all it was a strong performance, and he is likely to be confirmed quickly and with bipartisan support.

House Democrats Introduce Notable Legislation
Last Thursday, House Democrats, led by Education and Labor Committee Chairman Bobby Scott (D-VA), introduced three bills providing over $450 billion in funding for K-12 schools to address learning loss, infrastructure upgrades, and education job preservation. The three bills are:

    • The Learning Recovery Act of 2021, which would provide $75 billion over two years through Title I, Part A for summer school, extended school days, or other programs to address learning loss.
    • The Reopen and Rebuild America’s Schools Act, which would provide $130 billion in grants and bond authority for high-poverty schools to fix safety issues with their buildings, as well as upgrade heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems to safely reopen.
    • The Save Education Jobs Act, which would provide up to $261 billion to states and school districts over 10 years to “save up to 3.9 million education jobs, including 2.6 million teacher jobs.”

Most notable about these bills are the signals they are sending about immediate Democratic priorities for education. Some of these concepts and associated funding may wind up in the eventual stimulus bill. Some may move separately, where they will likely grind to a halt in the Senate. However, they may also appear in future appropriations bills.

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

February 5, 2021

What Biden’s early executive orders mean for K-12


President Joe Biden signed more than a dozen executive orders shortly after his inauguration and additional orders the next day, including a handful with implications for K-12. Education organizations including the National Education Association and American Federation of Teachers have welcomed Biden’s directives. While executive orders can sometimes have the effect of federal law, they can also be overturned by laws passed in Congress, which are then subject to presidential veto.

Measuring the impact of the coronavirus on teachers, students and schools

U.S. News & World Report

The Biden administration is set to give educators and school leaders the very thing that the previous administration refused them: a centralized data collection to help them understand the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on students and teachers alongside the status of in-person learning for schools and districts across the country.

Study: Children who use touchscreens more easily distracted than peers


Young children who use touchscreens extensively are more easily distracted than peers who engage less with the technology, a study published Tuesday by Scientific Reports found. Children aged 12 months, 18 months and 42 months whose parents reported high touchscreen use at home were more quick to look at new objects in their field of vision while engaged in computer tasks than their peers who used touchscreens less or not at all, the researchers said.

February 12, 2021

From: Whiteboard Advisors’ WHITEBOARDNOTES

February 5, 2021

Burr to Be Senate’s Top Republican on Education: A press release from Senator Patty Murray – the Democratic chair of the education committee – on Friday referred to North Carolina Senator Richard Burr as the incoming ranking member, hinting that Burr will succeed Lamar Alexander as the Senate’s top Republican on the education committee. [Inside Higher Ed]

CDC Director Says Teacher Vaccinations Are Not a Prerequisite for Reopening Schools: CDC Director Rochelle Walensky told reporters Wednesday that the safe reopening of schools does not require all teachers to be vaccinated. Meanwhile, many states have followed recommendations from a federal vaccine advisory board suggesting that educators and school employees be targeted for early doses. The White House later clarified that Walensky was speaking in a personal capacity. [Education Week, subscription required]


February 11, 2021

Miguel Cardona Takes Key Step Forward in Senate Committee Vote: The Senate education committee reported Miguel Cardona’s nomination favorably to the full Senate Thursday. The committee voted 17-5 in Cardona’s favor – with Sen. Patty Murray, the committee chairwoman, and Sen. Richard Burr, the committee’s ranking Republican, voting for Cardona and citing his qualifications. Next, Cardona faces a final Senate confirmation vote. [Education Week, subscription required]

House Committee Moves Ahead With Additional Aid: After debating past 4 a.m., the U.S. House of Representatives’ education committee approved a coronavirus relief package early Wednesday that would include another $40 billion in aid to colleges and universities – falling short of the $97 billion in aid requested by higher education associations. [Inside Higher Ed]

From: The National Superintendents Roundtable’s Roundtable News

February 5, 2021

What classroom teachers see as critical needs to get back in classroom
Intriguing. A national survey of 800 teachers conducted by Educators for Excellence reveals that teachers judge efforts such as regular school sanitation, availability of personal protective equipment, and 6-foot social distancing requirements as more critical than the availability of COVID-19 vaccines in encouraging teachers to return to the classroom.


While Biden pushes to reopen schools, Europe moves in other direction

While much of the discussion in the United States centers around when and how schools should reopen, several European countries that had made great efforts to keep schools open are reversing course as infection case numbers surge, reports Michael Birnbaum for The Washington Post.

Part of the calculus seems to be the new, more infectious, coronavirus variant. Although social distancing measures are still effective, and students don’t seem to be the source of super spreader events, infection rates at school mirror those of the communities in which they’re located, and—as the new variant causes cases to surge—students and educators are being told to stay home for their own safety.


From: The Washington Post

February 12, 2021

CDC unveils guidelines for how schools can safely reopen for in-person learning, says teacher vaccines are not a prerequisite

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that schools can safely open as long as a range of precautions are in place, offering a road map for a return to classrooms that in parts of the country have been shuttered for nearly a year. The guidelines also outline when a shift to hybrid, or fully remote learning, is recommended to minimize the potential spread of the virus.