Weekly NewsBrief 8/9/21 - 8/15/21
Cook County announces Project Rainbow to address pandemic learning losses – By Nichole Shaw, Chicago Sun Times
Cook County has created an education program aimed at helping fill a three-month learning gap brought on by the pandemic.
Project Rainbow is an early education initiative that plans to roll out free and accessible video content and repurposed learning materials via the county television channel and a new county app. The content was created and mostly paid for by 24 partner organizations.
“Project Rainbow speaks to the county’s efforts to bridge the digital divide in advanced digital equity, with nearly a quarter of the households in Cook County lacking access to broadband,” Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said Wednesday. “We’ve been through a storm with the pandemic upending life as we knew it. But after a storm, always comes the rainbow.”
The program is expected to provide a long-term approach to supplement in-person instruction and overcome the educational barriers experienced by children 3 to 6.
California mandates vaccines or regular testing for teachers and school staff – By Kyung Lah, CNN
California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Wednesday that teachers and other school employees must either be vaccinated against Covid-19 or submit to regular testing.
California will become the first state in the nation to implement such a requirement.
"To give parents confidence that their children are safe as schools return to full, in-person learning, we are urging all school staff to get vaccinated," Newsom said in a statement. "Vaccinations are how we will end this pandemic."
Two unions representing more than 550,000 California teachers and school employees expressed support for the requirement on Wednesday.
The order from the California Department of Public Health will take effect Thursday and schools must be in full compliance by October 15, according to the statement. All school staff must either show proof of full vaccination or be tested at least once a week.
Report: Kindergarten entry assessments key to knowing instructional needs – By Kara Arundel, K-12 Dive
Kindergarten entry assessments can inform decisions in curriculum and instruction that best fit individual students’ learning needs, but if structured poorly, the assessments can cause frustrations for early learners and their teachers and can lead to inappropriate teaching strategies, a report from the Learning Policy Institute said.
The 82-page report highlights best-practice approaches for kindergarten entry assessments from several states and school districts. For example, the Georgia Readiness Check assessment is integrated with other statewide assessments and allows teachers flexibility to obtain detailed student learning information while minimizing the time it takes to administer the testing.
Early education administrators who are feeling pressure to accelerate student learning due to pandemic-era school closures should consider using high-quality kindergarten entry assessments so they can begin the school year knowing what learning deficiencies need to be addressed.
As schools hire teachers and counselors, a funding cliff looms – By Matt Barnum, Chalkbeat
The schools of Greeley, Colorado are in the midst of a hiring spree.
The 27-school district, about an hour north of Denver, plans to hire 12 social workers, eight counselors, seven attendance monitors, another seven credit recovery specialists, five health aides, three nurses — plus 46 teachers.
The spending, and similar hires in school districts across the country, are being made possible by unprecedented sums of federal coronavirus relief money. But those dollars can only be used for the next few years. Unless lawmakers increase funding over the long term, districts will face a steep “funding cliff.”
That has experts and school officials debating how to balance what students need now with their balance sheets down the line — and whether it’s responsible to use relief money to add large numbers of staff.
“When we ask CFOs what they’re worried about, they immediately go to: the money isn’t reoccurring,” said Marguerite Roza, who runs Edunomics Lab, an education finance think tank. Hiring counselors and teachers now, she said, means districts could be “stuck going through very painful layoffs in two years.”
On the other hand, many educators and families are clamoring for additional academic and mental health support after more than a year of disrupted school, and research suggests that these investments could help. If this isn’t the time to hire people, they’re asking, when is?