Weekly NewsBrief 12/28/20 - 1/3/21

News Clip


Secretary DeVos Releases Statement on Signing of COVID Relief Package – US Department of Education

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos released the following statement on the signing of the COVID relief package:

"It was long past time for Congress to have reached a compromise that provides continued relief to students and keeps the government funded through the next fiscal year. While there are historic wins in this package, there are also some important issues left unresolved.

"The emergency taxpayer funding set aside for the Education Stabilization Fund will continue to help keep learning going and will hopefully take excuses off the table for schools that remain closed. I am pleased to see that Congress has finally acknowledged what this Administration has said all along: All students and all educators at all schools — private, parochial, and public — are affected by this pandemic, and they all need and deserve support for PPE, cleaning supplies, learning materials, and more. And, through the GEER fund, governors remain empowered to do what's best for their students.

"At the same time, Congress failed to extend the freedom and the resources individual students need in order to access the K-12 education option that is the right fit for them. In the end, Congress focused on systems instead of on students. It took the same tired approach when students desperately need something new and different. School Choice Now is what students and parents need. Without that provision, students whose parents can no longer afford tuition at their private school, whose private school was forced to close, or who remain at the mercy of their closed government school are left behind once again. Education leaders at the state level should think creatively about how to use their Education Stabilization Fund allocations to support their most vulnerable students. In states that have already adopted these practices, tools like scholarships, transportation to schools other than those assigned by the government, and homeschooling resources are already making a difference in the lives of students.”


Governor Lee Calls for Special Legislative Session on Education – By TN Department of Education

Tennessee Governor Bill Lee today announced a call for the Tennessee General Assembly to convene for a special legislative session on January 19, 2021 to address urgent issues facing Tennessee students and schools in the 2021-22 school year.

Preliminary data projects an estimated 50% decrease in proficiency rates in 3rd grade reading and a projected 65% decrease in proficiency in math. This loss only exacerbates issues that existed prior to the pandemic, where only one third of Tennessee third graders were reading on grade level.

“We know that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused immense disruption for Tennessee’s students, educators, and districts, and the challenges they face must be addressed urgently,” said Gov. Lee. “Even before the virus hit, and despite years of improvement, too many of our state’s students were still unable to read on grade level. I’m calling on the legislature to join us in addressing these serious issues so we can equip our hardworking educators and districts with the resources and supports they need to set our students on the path to success.”

“As we have heard from districts since March, students need their teachers and schools like never before,” said Department of Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn. “No child’s future should suffer academically because of COVID-19. Not only as commissioner, but as a mother of two school-aged children, I am grateful for the bold solutions that our governor and legislature will provide for our students and schools across the state and the department stands ready to work together to accomplish this mission-critical work.”


More Parents Say Vaccine is ‘Absolutely Necessary’ for Safe Schools Than Any Other Measure – by Laura Camera, US News and World Report

The finding is included in a sweeping new poll from the National Parents Union, which surveyed more than 1,000 parents over the course of a week in mid-December, and comes as the U.S. is in the beginning phases of administering millions of doses of vaccines, albeit much more slowly than anticipated.

The question about what is "absolutely necessary" in order to feel safe sending their children back to school gave parents a list of 11 options, and they could choose more than one. Close seconds included 46% of parents who chose that schools require students and staff who may have been exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 stay home for 14 days before returning to school, and 44% of parents who chose that schools limit the number of students who are in common areas to maintain social distancing, and 41% of parents who chose that no new cases of COVID-19 are reported in their local area.

As it stands, health care workers have administered a little more than 2 million doses of the coronavirus vaccine, far short of the 20 million people the Trump administration predicted would be immunized by the end of the year.

The wide scale vaccination of children is still months away. The Pfizer vaccine approved by the Food and Drug Administration under emergency use authorization can be administered to people 16 years old and up, while the Moderna vaccine can be administered to people over 18. Pfizer has enrolled children as young as 12 in its studies, and pediatricians and public health officials are urging drug companies to begin enrolling younger children in their ongoing trials in order to make the immunizations available to them.


Disadvantaged Students More Likely to Be Learning Remotely, Study Finds – By Jason DeParle, New York Times

Disadvantaged students are much more likely than others to be engaged in remote schooling during the coronavirus pandemic, increasing the risk that less effective instruction will widen the achievement gap, according to the first comprehensive analysis of attendance patterns.

Using cellphone data to track movement to more than 100,000 schools, researchers at Columbia University found that closed classrooms were disproportionately composed of nonwhite students, as well as students with low math scores or limited English proficiency or who are poor enough to qualify for free meals.

About 58 percent of nonwhite students attend schools that rely heavily on remote learning, compared to 36 percent of white students. Remote learning is widely considered less successful than traditional classrooms, especially for younger children.

“Given the sheer magnitude of the students affected, this does not bode well,” said Zachary Parolin, the study’s lead author. “Inequality in learning outcomes is only more likely to grow.”