Weekly NewsBrief 1/11/21 - 1/17/21
Biden Proposes $175 Billion to Reopen Schools – By Lauren Camera, US News
PRESIDENT-ELECT JOE Biden is pitching a $175 billion plan to get children back into K-12 classrooms and bolster the finances of colleges and universities nearly a year after the coronavirus pandemic throttled public education systems in the U.S.
The plan, part of a larger economic stimulus Biden announced Thursday, includes $130 billion for public elementary, middle and high schools and approximately $35 billion for institutions of higher education.
"The COVID-19 pandemic created unprecedented challenges for K-12 schools and institutions of higher education, and the students and parents they serve," he said in a statement. "School closures have disproportionately impacted the learning of Black and Hispanic students, as well as students with disabilities and English language learners."
On the K-12 front, school administrators would be able to use the funding for a host of things, including to reduce class sizes and reconfigure classrooms to be able to adhere to social distancing; improve ventilation; hire more nurses, counselors, teacher aides and janitors; provide personal protective equipment; increase transportation capacity so students can social distance on buses; provide students with computers and other digital devices and internet access; and provide summer school and tutoring programs to make up lost learning time this year.
California school officials push for standardized testing waiver amid Covid-19 spike – By Sydney Johnson, EdSource
A s Covid-19 cases continue to soar in California, a majority of the State Board of Education is now in favor of pursuing a waiver from the federal government that would remove the obligation to carry out standardized testing for the second year in a row.
The board is grappling with what to do about standardized tests like the Smarter Balanced assessments in math and English language arts that students in certain grades are required to take each spring. The U.S. Department of Education waived federal testing requirements following abrupt school closures for in-person instruction in March 2020 due to the pandemic, but this school year, the department intends to resume requiring testing. Now, as California faces the largest daily number of cases it’s experienced yet, State Board of Education members say they want a testing waiver to be made available for states.
“It would be educational malpractice to require LEAs (local education agencies) to provide results of assessments that really are seriously in jeopardy of being valid going forward,” said State Board of Education member Sue Burr, during a public meeting on Wednesday. “It’s important to make a strong statement about how we feel about that.”
The state board did not vote on the issue of waivers at the meeting on Wednesday, but it was discussed at length and nine out of 11 members said they would support a waiver if it became an option. Board President Linda Darling-Hammond did not publicly share a specific stance on Wednesday. However, a report she authored in October expressed the need for schools during the pandemic to avoid “overtesting” and emphasize shorter, more frequent assessments that teachers can quickly use to inform instruction, known as formative assessments, over high-level end-of-the-year exams that are primarily used for holding districts accountable for learning, known as summative assessments.
Tennessee governor unveils summer school and tutoring proposals, promises teacher pay hike – By Marta Aldrich, Chalkbeat
Gov. Bill Lee on Thursday proposed new summer school and tutoring programs to catch students up from learning disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
He promised a pay hike for teachers, but did not specify an amount.
The governor also wants state testing to happen this spring — but only to determine how much students know after a year of uneven teaching and learning, not to hold teachers and schools accountable for the results. And he is asking for a new statewide emphasis on phonics-based reading instruction.
“Educators across the state are working tirelessly to turn the tide for their students and help them regain critical math and reading skills,” Lee said in a statement. “We believe they should be compensated for their efforts and look forward to working with the General Assembly to provide funding for our teachers.”