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Pandemic-related school closures, which caused an alarming rate of learning loss among the country’s most vulnerable students, have prompted some administrators, including in New York City and Connecticut, to reconsider the school calendar. An earlier start date, a later end date and numerous, elongated breaks throughout the year could allow more timely remediation for children in need, and enrichment for those who are not. Such thinking has received at least tacit support from U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona. “Why do we go back to the same system that gives kids two months without engagement in the summer?” he asked in November. “We need to rethink that.” A a less-rigid calendar could allow for greater flexibility for COVID-related emergencies, letting districts more easily consider closing for a week or two to quell an outbreak, knowing they could make up the time later. Harris M. Cooper, Hugo L. Blomquist Distinguished Professor Emeritus of psychology and neuroscience at Duke University, said it’s too early to make predictions about whether more schools will switch to balanced or modified calendars. But the chaos of the last two years might make it more attractive to families that have already weathered major shifts in scheduling, he said.Full Issue
The California Board of Education and Department of Education (CDE) settled a lawsuit with parents over an ethnic studies program that included the recital of prayers and chants to Aztec gods. The Californians for Equal Rights Foundation and three San Diego parents sued last September over the new curriculum that included teaching the state's 1.7m high school students to recite the Aztec “In Lak Ech” affirmation and the Yoruban “Ashe” affirmations. The plaintiffs, represented by the Thomas More Society, alleged the State Board of Education violated the California Constitution’s free-exercise and establishment clauses and state law banning government aid to religion by approving a curriculum that instructs students to pray to pagan gods.Full Issue
The Biden administration announced on Tuesday that the U.S. Department of Education has distributed all $122bn in school COVID-19 relief funding from the American Rescue Plan to all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. "We are urging states and school districts to deploy funds now to address the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, including the Omicron variant, on our school communities. We continue to encourage state and local education leaders to utilize funds for testing, personal protective equipment, and staff recruitment and retention," said Education Secretary Miguel Cardona. "In areas where these funds are being deployed quickly, we are already seeing the positive impact that this infusion of federal support is having directly in schools and communities. We know what it takes to keep our schools open safely for in-person learning, and these funds will help us achieve that goal."Full Issue
Gov. Ron DeSantis devoted a sizable portion of his State of the State speech Tuesday to education policy and education-related rhetoric. He spoke about raising teacher salaries, investing more in vocational programs and giving parents more power over their children's education. DeSantis proposed replacing the FSA test with periodic progress monitoring, along with additional increases in teacher pay and the approval of $1,000 bonuses for educators for a second year in a row. In terms of higher education, DeSantis said he would not support any tuition increases at Florida’s colleges and universities or a reduction in Bright Futures scholarships. Among the other proposals DeSantis made were banning critical race theory in schools.Full Issue