From: Education Week’s EdWeek Update

March 3, 2021

Biden Announces Goal to Get Educators the COVID-19 Vaccine This Month
President Joe Biden pushes states to get educators at least one dose by the end of March to help schools resume in-person learning.

The Dr. Seuss Controversy: What Educators Need to Know
The business that manages Dr. Seuss’ work and legacy will cease publishing six books due to racist stereotypes and offensive content.

March 4, 2021

Federal Appeals Court Upholds School’s Removal of 4th Grader’s Essay on LGBTQ Rights
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit backs a principal who said the essay was age-inappropriate for inclusion in a school booklet.

March 8, 2021

Nearly Half of School Finance Officials Report ‘Sufficient’ Federal COVID-19 Aid, For Now
A survey of local K-12 administrators also found “addressing learning loss” and ed-tech to be primary uses of relief dollars.

How Two Years of Pandemic Disruption Could Shake Up the Debate Over Standardized Testing
Moves to opt out of state tests and change how they’re given threaten to reignite fights over high-stakes assessments.

March 9, 2021

Reopening Plans, Private Schools, Special Education: Senate Puts Stamp on COVID-19 Bill
The revised COVID-19 relief bill provides more than $120 billion in direct K-12 public school aid and could reach President Biden quickly.

Biden Orders Review of Trump-Era Rule on Responding to Sexual Assault in Schools
Critics said the Trump-era rule on how schools should respond to reports of sexual assault and harassment weakened protections for accusers.

Supreme Court Backs Suits Challenging School Policies That Seek Only ‘Nominal’ Damages
The high court rules 8-1 that students may pursue suits over government policies even when the agency has dropped the challenged policy.

March 11, 2021

How the New Federal Emergency Aid Could Help Ed Tech and Connectivity
A new federal stimulus legislation includes $7 billion in spending on K-12 broadband, aid that could lead to new district investments in technology and connectivity.

 

March 15, 2021

Major Case on Student Off-Campus Speech to Be Heard by U.S. Supreme Court April 28
The justices will consider a school’s discipline of a cheerleader over a vulgar message on Snapchat, with a decision expected by summer.

From: ASCD’s Smartbrief

March 3, 2021

COVID-19 aid package contains broadband funds
The proposed $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief measure before Congress contains a $7.6 billion Emergency Connectivity Fund for schools and libraries to subsidize broadband equipment purchases and advanced communications services. The measure also earmarks nearly $10 billion for states for “qualified expenses” that can include broadband internet access service as well as $650 million to mitigate cybersecurity risks.
Full Story: Nextgov (3/1), Next TV/Multichannel News (3/1)

 

March 4, 2021

Report considers future of education staffing

In fall 2019, there were 50.6 million students in US public schools, and enrollment is expected to rise by an additional 434,000 by 2029, according to the US Department of Education’s recently released Digest of Education Statistics. Data predicts schools will add an additional 214,000 teachers during that time — roughly one additional teacher for every two additional students.
Full Story: The 74 (3/2)

6 Dr. Seuss titles dropped from publication
Dr. Seuss Enterprises has pulled six Dr. Seuss titles from publication over concerns of offensive portrayals of some groups of people. The National Council of Teachers of English praised the move, with the organization’s president, Alfredo Celedon Lujan, saying the books were “hurtful.”
Full Story: Education Week (3/2)

March 5, 2021

Biden takes stance in student speech case

President Joe Biden’s administration is filing a friend-of-the-court brief with the US Supreme Court to side with a Pennsylvania school district over its ability to discipline students for online speech that takes place away from the school campus. The case, which focuses on a student’s language on Snapchat, could be heard in April, and a decision could be announced in the summer.
Full Story: Education Week (3/4)

Data: School meals are vital to children’s health
School meals factor significantly into children’s health, according to 14 new papers commissioned and funded by the Healthy Eating Research program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Data also shows the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 was successful in improving the nutritional value of school meals.
Full Story: Food Management (3/3)

March 9, 2021

Has quarantine harmed children’s immune development?
Measures taken over the past year to protect children from germs could be weakening their immune development and have an adverse effect on their ability to fight off illness as they age, some experts say. Dr. Donna Farber, an immunology professor at Columbia University, says data showing fewer illnesses among children this past year could signal they are missing an important factor in growing into healthy teens and adults.
Full Story: The 74 (3/7)

March 10, 2021

Funding problematic for students’ internet access
Over the past year, school districts have struck deals to provide free or low-cost internet to families so students could access remote instruction. Now, officials say there is a chance some students could lose that access unless action is taken by the federal government or others.
Full Story: Education Week (3/10)

USDA extends free school meals until Sept. 30
The USDA announced Tuesday that it would extend federal waivers to allow students access to free school meals until Sept. 30. Diane Pratt-Heavner, director of media relations for the School Nutrition Association, said the organization is still concerned about funding for expanded meal services and hopes the expiration of waivers is pushed out even further because remote instruction may continue in the fall, but SNA applauds the move to ensure students and families will maintain access to curbside meals.
Full Story: The Washington Post (tiered subscription model) (3/9)

 

Data: FAFSA completion down amid pandemic
There is a decline in the number of students completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid this year, amid the coronavirus pandemic, with the largest decline seen at high-poverty schools and schools that serve a high percentage of students of color, an analysis by the nonprofit National College Attainment Network shows. Yet, data also shows that once students receive aid and enroll in college, the percentage increases among those renewing applications.
Full Story: Education Week (3/8)

March 11, 2021

Study links college education to longer life span
A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found Americans who have four-year college degrees have longer adult life expectancy than those who do not have a college degree. The findings, based on analysis of federal death certificates and population survey data, showed Black and white people with bachelor’s degrees tended to have 3.6 and 3.5 more expected years of life in 2018, respectively, than their peers without degrees, a gap that has widened in both groups since 1990.
Full Story: HealthDay News (3/8)

From: Smartbrief on Special Education

March 3, 2021

Strep infection may affect pediatric ADHD symptoms
Researchers studied 715 youths with chronic tic disorders, of whom 91% were diagnosed with Tourette syndrome, and found no association between strep bacteria exposure and worsening of tics or obsessive-compulsive disorder symptoms. However, the findings in Neurology showed a link between strep exposure and an approximately 20% rise in attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder symptoms of impulsiveness and hyperactivity.
Full Story: HealthDay News (3/2)

March 5, 2021

Cardona details 5-pronged plan for reopening schools
US Education Secretary Miguel Cardona in this opinion piece outlines a five-part process for getting students back to full-time, in-person education. The plan starts with gathering critical feedback from school leaders, teachers, families and others, followed by a review and compilation of best practices, writes Cardona, who was sworn into office Tuesday.
Full Story: USA Today (3/4)

Study looks at challenges for college students with ADHD
GPA gaps between college students with and without attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder appear as early as freshman year, according to a recent study, and those with ADHD are more likely to leave school before graduation. Lead researcher George DuPaul says that, academics aside, adjusting to the college environment can create an additional challenge for students with ADHD.
Full Story: HealthDay News (3/3)

March 8, 2021

Study finds increasing prevalence of pediatric ASD
Researchers studied 52,550 youths ages 3 to 17, about 2.5% of whom were diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, and found that the percentage of Black youths diagnosed with ASD rose from 2.2% in 2014 to 3.2% in 2019, while the prevalence of ASD in Hispanic youths increased from 1.5% to 2.1% during the same period. The findings in JAMA Network Open also showed that the prevalence of ASD remained stable among white youths at about 2.5% during the same period.
Full Story: United Press International (3/4), Physician’s Briefing/HealthDay News (3/5)

March 12, 2021

Relief funds allocated for people with disabilities
The American Rescue Plan Act, signed into law yesterday by President Joe Biden, provides funding upwards of $3 billion to support students with special needs through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. The plan also allots funds for services such as home health and accessibility modifications, which will benefit those with severe disabilities.
Full Story: Forbes (tiered subscription model) (3/12)

From: Whiteboard Advisors WHITEBOARDNOTES

March 5, 2021
Senate Confirms Miguel Cardona as Education Secretary: The Senate voted 64-33 on Monday to confirm Miguel Cardona as education secretary, following a bipartisan and relatively uneventful hearing. Cardona, 45, formerly served as Connecticut’s education commissioner, following roles as an elementary school teacher, principal and district administrator. Cardona now faces the challenge of safely guiding students back into the classroom while addressing nationwide issues of inequity magnified by the health crisis. [The Washington Post; Education Week, subscription required]

Biden Announces Goal to Get Educators the Vaccine: President Biden announced Tuesday that his administration will use the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program to fast-track vaccines to school staff beginning next week. Through this initiative to “treat in-person learning like an essential service that it is,” Biden said educators – including pre-K-12 workers and child care workers – will be able to sign up for a vaccine at local pharmacies. [Education Week, subscription required]

March 12, 2021
Biden Signs $1.9 Trillion COVID Relief Bill: President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan (ARP) into law Thursday. Key education provisions include $122 billion for elementary and secondary school emergency relief, nearly $40 billion for child care grants and over $39.6 billion to colleges and universities and their students (at least half of which must be spent on emergency financial aid grants to students). Other key features of the plan include up to $1,400-per-person stimulus payments that will send money to about 90% of households, a $300 federal boost to weekly unemployment benefits, an expansion of the child tax credit of up to $3,600 per child and $350 billion in state and local aid. [The Washington Post]

Biden Orders Review of Trump-Era Rule on Responding to Sexual Assault in Schools: President Biden signed an executive order Monday that orders the U.S. Department of Education to review a controversial Trump administration Title IX rule regarding how schools must respond to students’ claims of sexual misconduct. The rule, which bolstered the rights of those accused of sexual misconduct on campus, was introduced by former Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos last May. Biden’s order – which directs current Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona to consider “suspending, revising, or rescinding” agency actions that are not consistent with the policy of the Biden administration – was part of a set of actions to mark International Women’s Day. [Education Week, subscription required]

USDA Extends Free Universal School Meal Service for Children Through the Summer: The U.S. Department of Agriculture extended waivers of some school meal rules through Sept. 30, granting schools greater flexibility in how and when meals may be served. The waivers, which were set to expire in June, will allow schools to serve free meals during the summer, allow families to utilize “grab and go” options to take home, and allow parents to pick up meals for their children if the children are not present. [Education Week, subscription required]

From: The National Superintendents Roundtable Roundtable News

 

March 5, 2021

Senate confirms Cardona; sworn in by Vice President Harris

The US Senate confirmed Connecticut Education Commissioner Miguel Cardona as U.S. Secretary of Education on Monday.

Cardona was chosen in part based on his pushing to open his state’s schools, report Laura Meckler and Danielle Douglas-Gabriel for The Washington Post, and is expected to continue that push in his new position. Cardona has also promised to tackle inequity in the nation’s schools, and to focus on improving public universities and the student college debt problem.

The oath of office for Secretary Cardona was administered on Tuesday, March 2 by Vice President Kamala Harris.

 

President Biden: have all teachers vaccinated by end of this month

President Joe Biden said the United States will have enough doses to vaccinate every American adult by the end of May, bumping up the timeline from the end of July after his administration invoked the Defense Production Act to boost production of the recently approved COVID-19 vaccine from Johnson & Johnson.

In remarks, he also said he was directing states to move pre-K through 12th-grade teachers and school staff up the vaccine distribution list as part of a push to reopen schools. His goal is to have every teacher vaccinated by the end of March. Read more here.

 

March 12, 2021

Is teaching still an appealing profession?

Teaching shortages have been a constant theme of the pandemic, but the last year may only have accelerated a troubling ongoing trend as enrollment in teacher prep programs has declined by more than a third in the last decade, reports Stephen Noonoo for EdSurge.

Emma Garcia, an education economist at the Economic Policy Institute, talking to Noonoo, who attributed the decline in prospective teachers to starting salaries of 20% less than other professions and a perceived lack of support for the profession.

 

The stimulus bill: Revolution in aid for children

Jason DeParle of The New York Times breaks down the groundbreaking child allowance enacted in the $1.9 trillion stimulus bill signed into law on March 11 by President Joe Biden.

The legislation will provide up to $300 per child per month for a year and is estimated to cut child poverty by up to 50%. Obscured by other parts of the stimulus package, “The child benefit has the makings of a policy revolution,” writes DeParle. “Though framed in technocratic terms as an expansion of an existing tax credit, it is essentially a guaranteed income for families with children.” It transforms an existing tax credit (available at the end of the year) into monthly checks to provide a more stable cash flow for poor families.

 

Everything you need to know about the $1.9 trillion stimulus bill

Writing in the New York Times, Ron Lieber and Tara Siegel Bernard report that when President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan on Thursday, his 50th day in office, he signed into law a $1.9 trillion pandemic relief package, the benefits included “another round of stimulus payments, an extension of unemployment benefits, and generous tax breaks to low- and moderate-income people.” Robert Neubecker’s graphic for the Times shows a family afloat on stimulus checks surviving a flood of pandemic disasters.

Whether you share the view of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that the legislation is, “a remarkable, historic, transformative piece of legislation” or that of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell that it is, “one of the worst pieces of legislation I’ve seen pass here in the time I’ve been in the Senate,” there is no denying the scale and scope of this enactment. It’s hard to get your arms around it, but here, from a variety of sources, are some of the key features of an ambitious enactment aimed at putting vaccines in the arms of the Americans, money into their pockets, students safely back in school, and employers able to safely get their employees back to work:

  • Stimulus payments. Payments of $1,400 for most single recipients with adjusted gross incomes of $75,000 or less; for married couples, with incomes of $150,000 or below.
  • Payments for dependents. For those eligible, identical payments will be made for each of their dependent children, including dependent college students and dependent older relatives. Payments will go to the qualifying taxpayer.
  • Unemployment benefits. For those receiving unemployment benefits, those benefits will be extended through September 6. The weekly supplemental benefit of $300 enacted in an earlier stimulus bill will run through September 6.
  • Health insurance. The federal government will pay COBRA health premiums through September 30 for those who have lost a job. (COBRA permits people who lose a job to buy their previous insurance, while paying 100% of the costs.)
  • Support for children. For one year, the child and dependent care tax credit will increase from $2,000 per eligible child to $3,000 ($3,600 for younger children). Details remain to be worked out, but the intent is for families to receive half the calculated benefit monthly starting in July, with the second half claimed when 2021 tax returns are filed.
  • Housing. $22 billion will be allocated for emergency rental assistance to help those in danger of eviction. Nearly $10 billion is set aside to help homeowners struggling to meet mortgage payments. $5 billion will be used for emergency housing for the homeless.
  • Sick leave. ARP extends through September tax breaks for employers who voluntarily provide their employees with paid sick leave if they need to take time off because of the virus.
  • School staff. $130 billion to help K-12 schools hire additional staff to reduce class size, modify spaces ,and purchase resources to help meet students’ academic and mental health needs.
  • Vaccinating school staff. Meanwhile, President Biden aims to have all school staff vaccinated by the end of March, and all adults by May 1, and hopes we will be able to have typical family Independence Day celebrations on July 4.
  • Vaccine Distribution. $20 billion to create a national vaccine distribution program.
  • State and local government assistance. $350 billion in assistance for state, local, and territorial governments (some of which might be applied to schools).
  • Childcare centers. $40 billion aimed at helping childcare centers and supporting essential workers in meeting childcare costs.
  • Voucher tax credits. Sasha Pudelski, AASA’s advocacy director, reports that tucked into ARP is a provision punishing states that want to enact or expand new voucher tax credits by requiring them to repay to the federal government an amount equivalent to the tax credits they issue.

 

From: ASCD’s Educator Advocates Capitol Connections

March 5, 2021

Department Invites States to Seek Accountability Waiver, Reaffirms State Testing Requirement

  • Issued days before Secretary Cardona was confirmed, the U.S. Department of Education sent new guidance to states about state testing and accountability this school year.
  • The Department is inviting states to request a waiver from ESSA accountability requirements this school year.
  • But federal officials doubled down on maintaining statewide testing.
  • This position is consistent with what Secretary DeVos’ told states last fall about testing this school year.
  • The guidance does, however, offer “solutions” to administering statewide assessments amid a pandemic–moving the tests to the summer or fall, shortening the tests, or giving them remotely.
  • Read more about what this waiver/guidance means for educators, including what “shift, shorten, or switch” means

$130 Billion for K-12 Schools Progressing Through Congress

  • The House has passed the $1.9 trillion Biden Covid relief plan which includes $130 billion for K-12 schools.
  • The Senate is currently debating the bill and no major changes are expected to the education funding in it.
  • Democrats are using a parliamentary process called “reconciliation” that allows them to circumvent the usual 60 vote filibuster threshold and pass the bill with a simple majority. (With 50 Senate Democrats, Vice President Harris would break the tie.)
  • The Biden administration would like to sign the bill into law by March 14.
  • Learn more here about using your CARES and Covid funding for professional development to support teachers.

 

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

March 4,2021

Assessments are On!
Assessments are on but with flexibility, accountability will be put on hold through waivers, data reporting remains critical, and the role for interim assessments is TBD. This and more in the Feb. 22nd letter from ED to Chief State School Officers regarding accountability and assessment for the 2021-22 school year. The letter offers flexibility and raises many questions about how states will respond. For example, how will states shorten assessment, deliver assessment virtually, and accommodate in-person testing? In conversations with state leaders and assessment experts, it seems there are a group of states that will be seeking “maximum flexibility” for the summative assessments, including, potentially, the use of other assessment data in place of the actual summative assessment. There also does not seem to be any states looking to test in the fall, and not many states seem ready or able to test virtually. It seems likely the most used flexibilities will be to extend testing windows at the end of this school year, shortening tests, and potentially using alternative data sources in addition to—or even in lieu of—summative assessment. Oh, and most states will not have a prayer of meeting the required 95% participation rate, so they will need waivers on that. Newly minted Secretary of Education Cardona will have his hands full coping with the can of worms this letter opened.

 

The American Rescue Plan
Last Friday, the House of Representatives passed their version of President Biden’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan to address the ongoing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The vote in the House was strictly party-line; no Republicans voted for it. This isn’t totally surprising, as that is the likely outcome in the Senate, as well. Democrats decided to go big and go it alone, and are on pace to jam through the package in time for the President to sign the bill before benefits expire on March 14. So, what’s in the House package for education?

 

  • No GEER Fund
  • Nearly $130 Billion for the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER III) — same uses of funds as previous ESSER funds
  • 90/10 LEA/SEA split; based on Title I formula
  • Addressing learning loss prioritized
    • SEAs must reserve 5% to address learning loss
    • LEAs must reserve 20% to address learning loss
  • Supplant not supplant and MOE provisions
  • Title I, section 1117 equitable services for private schools for ONLY the 20% LEA reservation for learning loss
  • $40 Billion for the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEER III)
  • $39 Billion in supplemental funding for childcare
  • $1 Billion in emergency funding for Head Start
  • $350 Billion for state and local governments

How much might your state receive under the various education and childcare provisions? The House Education and Labor Committee has helpfully provided some estimates. From here, the bill will be considered by the Senate. There are already changes being made to the bill (i.e., no minimum wage, changes to what income level individuals must have to receive stimulus payments), but there is no current discussion that the education provisions will change. Given the changes in the bill’s other parts, it will have to go back to the House before it gets to the President to sign. However, again, there does not seem to be a real roadblock in getting this done by March 14. And in case you are counting, when this bill is enacted, the Federal government will have provided almost $200 Billion in funding for K-12 education in the course of one year (!).