Education Update – November 20, 2020

From: The National Superintendents’ Roundtable Roundtable News

November 20, 2020

What school leaders want from the Biden-Harris administration

With the departure of Trump Education Secretary Betsy DeVos imminent, national superintendent organizations are compiling wish lists for the incoming Biden administration, reports Stephen Sawchuk for Education Week.

The AASA and Chiefs for Change have three primary areas they want addressed by the new administration: 1) More funding for schools, including relief from pandemic hardships; 2) Revision or reversal of regulations imposed by the Department of Education under DeVos; and 3) Support for closing the digital divide by providing broadband access to students lacking adequate internet connections.

Betsy DeVos is on the way out. What will her legacy be?

“[The] power to polarize may be the most lasting piece of Devos’s legacy,” write Kalyn Belsha and Matt Barnum for Chalkbeat. “What DeVos has done . . . is nudge education further into red camps and blue camps. . . . She made it more difficult for Democrats to back charter schools, helping unravel a school reform consensus that embraced school choice and testing.”

Belsha and Barnum note that while DeVos failed to advance her goals of new legislation or cutting education spending, she did accelerate an already-existing shift away from school reform programs that relied on charter schools and performance testing. Her unpopularity is almost certainly going to result in President-Elect Biden selecting a more public-school-friendly leader as the face of the U.S. Department of Education

December 3, 2020

IDEA turns 45: Will Congress fully fund it?

Will this be the administration that finally provides full funding for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act? Kara Arundel, writing in K-12 Dive, reports that enthusiasm is up among policymakers and education and disability advocates that the federal government is getting closer to providing adequate funds for the law’s mandates.

President-elect Joe Biden’s campaign information expresses support for a 10-year plan for full funding, and two congressmen intend to re-introduce full-funding legislation in the next session.

States push to ditch standardized tests

Given the disruptions caused by the coronavirus, states are beginning to take the lead in limiting the role standardized tests play in evaluation of students and institutions, reports Andrew Ujifusa for Education Week. Officials in Georgia voted to almost completely eliminate standardized tests’ role in students’ grades. South Carolina, Virginia, California, and Texas have all moved to sideline the tests.

Some people, like Joshua Starr,of PDK International, want to take this opportunity to rethink the entire system of standardized testing. “This is the time to actually challenge the assumption that the state testing regimes will give us what we want,” Starr told Ujifusa. “I don’t know that they’ve ever done that, and they certainly won’t do it this year.”

Meanwhile, the National Center for Education Statistics has already decided to postpone the next testing cycle of NAEP as a result of pandemic restrictions, K-12 Dive reports. The Center had hoped to administer the 2021 NAEP to a smaller sample of students, but any results were deemed likely to be too unreliable.

67% of schools lack recommended connectivity speed

K-12 Dive reports that, despite efforts to increase digital access in schools, 67% of schools still lack the recommended in-classroom connectivity speed of 1 megabit per second per student, though connectivity rates have increased in recent years, according to a report from Connected Nation, a group that advocates for internet connectivity.

In addition to inadequate in-class connectivity, the pandemic has, of course, highlighted students’ lack of digital access from home, as well, with 36% of rural students lacking connectivity. Native American students make up 34% of those students, followed by Black and Latino students at 31% and 21%, respectively.

Is this a problem that schools in rural areas, which cover perhaps 90% of the nation’s geographic footprint, can fix? Or is access to high speed internet dependent on cable and fiber lines that broadband providers must install? A question worth exploring.

From: The Washington Post

November 26, 2020

DeVos calls on Congress to postpone federal standardized exams until 2022

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has proposed pushing back the 2021 National Assessment of Educational Progress exams. (Matt York/AP)
Perry Stein

The national standardized test regarded as a crucial barometer of student achievement could be postponed until 2022 due to the coronavirus, the Education Department announced Wednesday.
Federal officials said that too many students are participating in virtual learning or are attending schools that prohibit outside visitors, making it impossible to effectively administer the exam.
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos called on the National Center for Education Statistics — a branch of the Education Department responsible for the federal tests — to stop any further spending in preparation for the January exam. She also wrote in a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) that removing the mandate to take the test should be an act of Congress and called on legislators to postpone it.
The National Assessment of Educational Progress, also known as the NAEP, often referred to as the “nation’s report card,” is a closely watched exam because it assesses the performance of children from all racial and socioeconomic backgrounds in urban, suburban and rural communities……..

From: ASCD’s Smartbrief

November 30, 2020

NAEP assessments postponed until 2022

The US Department of Education announced Wednesday that it would delay administering the National Assessment of Educational Progress. The annual assessments in reading and math were scheduled to begin in January, but now are slated to be administered in 2022 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Full Story: The Washington Post (tiered subscription model) (11/25), U.S. News & World Report (11/25)

December 3, 2020

Teachers feel strain of teaching during a pandemic

Despite safety precautions schools have in place to protect against the spread of the coronavirus, teachers nationwide report that in-person instruction this year is causing them physical and mental strain. Some teachers say they are considering leaving the profession and taking other measures, as officials seek to balance the safety of students and staff with students’ long-term learning outcomes.
Full Story: EdSurge (12/2)

How testing data shortchanges some schools

Recent research has exposed disparities in funding for educational support across elementary, middle and high schools for students with disabilities. Data indicates that middle schools more often met the minimum required number of students with special needs participating in testing, leading to less funding for older and younger students.
Full Story: T.H.E. Journal (12/1)

Parents concerned about long-term effects of pandemic

A survey released by Nationwide Children’s Hospital found that 66% of parents reported they fear the effects that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the mental health of their children will be more difficult to reverse the longer it goes on. The findings, based on data involving over 1,000 parents with children under age 18, also showed that 57% said they are running out of ways to help their children remain positive during the crisis.
Full Story: United Press International (12/2)

December 4, 2020

Survey: Teaching geography deepens student learning

Sixty-two percent of US K-12 educators say they consider geography to be “extremely important,” saying it deepens student learning across subjects, according to a recent National Geographic Society survey. In the poll, 74% of teachers say they use geography to teach other subjects, with one educator explaining how geography relates to all subjects because everything is “connected to a place,” such as the creation of celadon porcelain glaze in ancient Korea.
Full Story: Forbes (tiered subscription model) (12/1)

December 9, 2020

The link between music education and achievement

Results from a recent study indicate a correlation between musical skills and higher grades in math and reading. Researcher Martin Bergee says that these results aren’t conclusive, but they do point to unexpected benefits of music education.
Full Story: Forbes (tiered subscription model) (12/7), Psychology Today (12/2)

USDA seeks nutrition flexibility for school meals

The USDA is pursuing enacting more “flexible” nutrition guidelines for public schools. Officials say the potential changes — including a 50% whole-grain requirement and eliminating sodium-reduction goals — if enacted, could be reversed by the incoming administration, but it would likely be in place for the remainder of the school year, said Geri Henchy, director of nutrition policy for the Food Research & Action Center.
Full Story: The Philadelphia Inquirer (tiered subscription model) (12/9)

December 11, 2020

CDC: More white parents support opening schools

Among parents of K-12 students, 57% agree that schools should reopen to students, according to a report issued Thursday by the CDC. Yet, data shows 62% of white parents support in-person learning, compared with 46% of Black families and 50% of Hispanic parents.
Full Story: U.S. News & World Report (12/10)

CDC finds decline in child-abuse-related ED visits

CDC researchers found that the number of emergency department visits related to child abuse and neglect dropped in 2020, but the proportion of such visits rose, compared with 2019. The findings in the agency’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report were based on reporting from over 3,300 hospitals.
Full Story: United Press International (12/10)

From: Special Education Smartbrief

November 30, 2020

More students enroll in virtual charters
Enrollment in fully virtual K-12 charter schools has increased during the coronavirus pandemic, with one provider reporting a 57% increase. The rise comes amid concerns about the quality of instruction and investigations over mismanaged funds.
Full Story: National Public Radio (11/30)

December 7, 2020

Pandemic raises questions about special ed

The pandemic has shone a spotlight on challenges in special education, including inadequate funding and understaffed departments. Many hope that state- and national-level efforts in the coming year will address these shortcomings and provide more equitable education for all students, both during and after the pandemic.
Full Story: The Hechinger Report (12/7)

Unions: Vaccines key to schools reopening

Education unions and organizations are asking the CDC to prioritize teachers and school staff members for the coronavirus vaccines — after health care workers. The effort is backed by the American Federation of Teachers; National Education Association; AASA, The School Superintendents Association; and groups that represent school counselors, principals and parents.
Full Story: U.S. News & World Report (12/4)

December 11, 2020

Pediatric depression symptoms increased during lockdown
Researchers studied 168 youths ages 7 to 11 in the UK and found a significant increase in depression symptoms during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown, but no significant changes were seen for anxiety or emotional problems. The findings in the Archives of Disease in Childhood, “emphasize the need to incorporate the potential impact of lockdown on child mental health in planning the ongoing response to the global pandemic and the recovery from it,” the researchers wrote.
Full Story: Physician’s Briefing/HealthDay News (12/9)

From: Education Week’s EdWeek Update

November 20, 2020

It’s Official: National Test Is Postponed Due to COVID-19 ConcernsIt’s Official: National Test Is Postponed Due to COVID-19 Concerns

The postponement of the National Assessment of Educational Progress tests scheduled for 2021 means the nation loses an opportunity for a state-by-state measure of students’ pandemic-related learning losses.

More Than 1 in 4 Homeless Students Dropped Off Schools’ Radar During the Pandemic
More than 423,000 homeless children have fallen off schools’ radars amid the pandemic’s school closures, shrinking capacity at homeless shelters, and ever-higher family mobility.

December 1, 2020

Half of Districts Lack Connectivity Needed for Widespread Videoconferencing, Device Usage

Two-thirds of America’s public school students attend schools that may not provide enough bandwidth for life after COVID-19.

December 2, 2020

Children Account for More New COVID-19 Cases as the Pandemic Rolls On

More than a half million children have been diagnosed with COVID-19 so far in the pandemic, a new study finds.

Could Biden Find a Middle Path on Student Testing During the Pandemic?
Waiving some portions of federal law could help the Biden administration craft a compromise on tests, but pressing questions would remain.

December 3, 2020

CDC Shortens COVID-19 Quarantine Periods. Here’s What That Means for Schools
Shorter quarantines after COVID-19 exposure may increase compliance and reduce time out of classrooms.

From: Whiteboard Advisors WHITEBOARDNOTES

December 3, 2020

Senators’ Proposal Offers $82 Billion for Education:

While talks over a new coronavirus aid bill have stalled in Congress, a bipartisan group of moderate senators offered a new proposal on Tuesday. The new proposal was introduced by Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME), Joe Manchin (D-WV), and Mitt Romney (R-UT), and totals $908 billion, devoting $4 billion to student loan relief. While the proposal includes $82 billion for education, it is unclear how much it would devote to higher education institutions. Since President Trump signed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act in March, Congress has been unable to pass additional relief packages. The American Council on Education told lawmakers that postsecondary education needs at least $120 billion to address the pandemic’s financial fallout. [Education Dive]

CDC Shortens COVID-19 Quarantine Periods: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new guidance for people who have been in close contact with those diagnosed with the virus. The guidance suggests that those exposed can resume normal activity after ten days if they don’t show symptoms or as little as seven days if they test negative. Federal health officials said the ideal quarantine period is still 14 days but suggested that the shorter options may encourage people to cooperate with the guidance by reducing the burden of being away from work and school for extended periods. [Education Week, subscription required]

GAO Report: Schools Have Struggled to Fulfill IEPs During Pandemic: In accordance with the CARES Act, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) published a report outlining the challenges schools faced when providing distance learning to some of the country’s most vulnerable students: English Language Learners (ELL), and students with disabilities. GAO researchers reviewed distance learning plans from 15 school districts with high proportions of either students with disabilities or ELL students, and interviewed advocates, researchers, and national organizations. The researchers found that the most significant challenges facing ELL students and students with disabilities include a lack of necessary technology, language barriers, and providing for basic family needs. [Disability Scoop; GAO]

December 10, 2020

Biden Pledges to Reopen Schools During First 100 Days: President-elect Joe Biden pledged to reopen the majority of American schools during his first 100 days and said educators would be near the front of the line for a COVID-19 vaccine. He called on Congress to devote the funding needed to make it safe for students and teachers to return to classrooms. [Washington Post]

Survey: During the Pandemic, Teachers Are Working More and Enjoying it Less: According to a recent survey of 1,240 teachers by Horace Mann Educators Corporation, 77% of respondents said that they spent more time at work this year than last, and 60% said that they enjoyed it less this year than last. In contrast, only 4.3% reported working less, and 9.7% reported enjoying pandemic schooling more. Despite finding work more time consuming and less rewarding, while also dealing with financial insecurity (only about 50% felt they could handle an unexpected $1,000 expense), most teachers do not plan on leaving the profession: only 27% of respondents reported wanting to leave teaching. This is an important positive at a time when districts are finding it increasingly difficult to fill teaching positions. [Forbes]


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

December 11, 2020

Thanks to teachers, learning loss this year was not as bad as projected, NWEA finds


When it comes to learning loss during COVID-19, the question is not whether it has happened, but how much. A new report out from NWEA, a non-profit assessment organization, offers insight into just how steep the so-called COVID slide has been so far. The good news is that students learned a lot more doing remote learning than education groups projected they would. The bad news is students still learned notably less than they would have in a typical year.

Did students fall behind this spring? Yes, but not as much as feared, new data shows


How much learning did students really lose this spring? This summer, education organizations offered fairly dire predictions: Thanks to widespread school closures, students would be starting the school year dramatically behind. But newer data indicates those projections were overstated. Most students did begin this school year behind where they would have been in math, test results show.

Study shows strong links between music and math, reading achievement

University of Kansas via Science Daily

A music educator thought that if he could just control his study for the myriad factors that might have influenced previous ones — race, income, education, etc. — he could disprove the notion of a link between students’ musical and mathematical achievement. Nope. His new study showed statistically significant associations between the two at both the individual and the school-district levels.