Weekly NewsBrief 10/11/21 - 10/17/21

News Clip


Test score gaps between America’s high and low achievers widened pre-pandemic. No one’s sure why – By Matt Barnum, Chalkbeat

Test scores of American students are stagnant or sliding, and the gap between the highest and lowest performers is growing, according to new national data.

The new scores are from the long-running National Assessment of Educational Progress, a federally administered test given in early 2020, just before the pandemic upended schooling and derailed student learning. The flat scores and widening gaps between 2012 and 2020 are the latest evidence that the last decade was a period of test-score stagnation nationwide.

This and other tests “tell a remarkably consistent story,” said Marty West, a Harvard professor and member of the board that oversees the design of NAEP. “Our students have made substantial gains in math and reading achievement over the long run, but those gains plateaued around 2010 and since that time we’ve seen signs of a modest decline.”

The results underscore the challenges U.S. schools were facing even before the pandemic, and might bolster calls for schools to not simply return to “normal.”


8 pros and cons of shortening your school week to 4 days – By Matt Zalaznick, District Administration

4-day school weeks may not save much money, reduce absences or attract teachers, research suggests

Students and teachers may love three-day weekends, but there is some evidence that districts may be sacrificing academics in shortening the school week.

An analysis of four-day school weeks in five states—Idaho, Missouri, New Mexico, Oklahoma and South Dakota—found evidence of educational harm, according to the RAND Corporation‘s new “Does Four Equal Five?” report.

“Test scores in four-day-school-week districts improved, but more slowly than they would have if the same schools had maintained a five-day school week,” RAND Corporation says in a news release.

“On the other hand, families and students in such districts—which are primarily in Western rural communities—reported highly valuing the extra time that the four-day schedule allowed the family to spend together.”

District leaders who make the change tend to see the four-day school week, also known as “4dsw,” as a teacher-recruitment tool and a way to save money, particularly on non-instructional services.


Seattle schools may seek statewide vaccine mandate for all Washington students – By Monica Valez, The Seattle Times

The largest school district in the state is considering asking the state Department of Health to require all Washington students to receive the coronavirus vaccine.

The Seattle School Board on Wednesday postponed a vote on a resolution to the DOH to take more time to engage with and educate the community about a vaccine mandate. The resolution, presented by Board President Chandra Hampson, urges the state Board of Health to add the COVID-19 vaccine, once it’s approved by the Food and Drug Administration for children ages 5 and older, to the list of immunizations students are required to have to attend in-person school. 

Having the vaccine requirement for students will allow Seattle schools “to focus on education and not disease mitigation,” Hampson said.

Most board members were supportive of the vaccine mandate but wanted more time to speak with families, educators, elected officials and other school board members in King County. Board members Brandon Hersey and Lisa Rivera-Smith were interested in doing an equity analysis.


This Virtual Classroom Company Made Millions During The Pandemic While Students Languished – By Caroline O’Donovan, Yahoo News

At the start of the first pandemic school year, Angie Richardson sat beside her 13-year-old daughter, Sharon, in their Northport, Alabama, home as she watched lessons and completed assignments on a computer program called Edgenuity, which the Tuscaloosa County School System had purchased to provide a remote learning curriculum for students. When Richardson got COVID-19 later that fall, leaving her too sick to oversee her daughter’s schooling, Sharon had to navigate the virtual courses on her own.

That shouldn’t have been a problem: The software, which cost the district $370,000 during the 2020–2021 school year, provided no live instruction from a teacher but promised “on-demand tutoring” available six days a week.

But Richardson and other parents soon found that Edgenuity tutors were often unresponsive, sometimes for hours at a time. Another Tuscaloosa parent, Terri Burnette, recalled her son waiting for hours after clicking the “Tutoring Help” button when he got stuck on a math question about measuring angles. “But nobody came,” she said.

Calls and emails to district teachers didn’t always bring a prompt reply. By the time Richardson had recovered, she said, her daughter's education had become “a catastrophe.” Sharon ended up falling so far behind that the district required her to return to school in person.

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