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From Kindergarten to K-12, Edtech news, school management and teaching strategies… Education Slice is the only trusted online news source in the US dedicated to covering current headlines, articles, reports and interviews to make sure you’re at the forefront of changes in the education industry.

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Flexibility for schools to spend ESSER funds on outside contracts

The U.S. Department of Education has confirmed that schools can seek more than a year’s worth of time to finish spending some of the $200bn K-12 schools got in three rounds of federal pandemic relief aid on contracts for construction, mental health, tutoring, and other third-party services. Notably, obligation deadlines for all ESSER programs remain the same (ESSER I funds by September 2022, ESSER II funds by September 2023, and ESSER III funds by September 2024), but where there may be flexibility is liquidation deadlines for ESSER I, ESSER II, and ESSER III, not just for ESSER III as a lot of media coverage is suggesting. The original liquidation deadline for ESSER programs is four months after the obligation deadline, so with this flexibility districts may be able to get 18 months after the obligation deadline to liquidate funds instead. The Department is prioritizing considering applications for school construction projects, however in extenuating circumstances other contracts may be considered too. Many schools have signed contracts with third-party providers to spend ESSER funds on tutoring, mental health support, curriculum materials, professional development, technology tools, and even substitute teachers, so, depending on the circumstances of the district when they submit an application with their state, the Department may also apply this flexibility to other outside of construction.

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Education Slice
State computer system frustrates districts during student testing period

A major upgrade last month in the state’s primary student data collection system, CALPADS, has caused disruptions and data errors for many districts at one of their busiest times of the year. Statewide leaders representing districts told the state that some of the districts considered the system “unusable.” The California Department of Education has acknowledged the frustration the rollout has created and says it is working to resolve the problems. But, voicing a common complaint, an administrator at one Southern California district said the severity of the glitches goes beyond time-consuming fixes and inconvenience. Rick Roberts, executive director of educational technology services at Grossmont Union High School District, said the problems are affecting the ability to administer the Smarter Balanced testing to some students and are undermining confidence that CALPADS will process information accurately in coming months. “The end of the year (schedule) is at risk,” he said. “This sure looks like a year where data is suspect, at best.”

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Education Slice
Texas to resume grading public schools on STAAR results

For the first time since the pandemic began, Texas public schools will be rated based on how students score on the STAAR test. However, for this year only, schools will receive an A-C rating. Districts and schools that score D or F will receive a “Not Rated” label instead. Schools which fall in those bottom tiers will also evade possible sanctions from the Texas Education Agency during the 2022-2023 school year. “STAAR results allow parents, teachers and schools to see how individual students are performing so they can better support those students moving forward,” Frank Ward, a TEA spokesperson said. “There is extensive evidence that the process of setting reasonable goals for schools and publicly reporting on progress towards those goals improves the kinds of academic supports our students receive.”

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Education Slice
Florida education officials outline social studies content guidelines

As the Florida Department of Education seeks proposals from textbook companies to provide social-studies materials to schools, it is making clear concepts such as critical race theory and social justice should not be included. The department is accepting bids from companies through June 10 to provide social-studies books for a five-year period starting in 2023. The department posted to its website a 29-page document that lists detailed criteria for what is expected to be included in the books and, revealingly, what’s expected to be left out. The criteria emphasize a requirement that all materials align with Florida's “Benchmarks for Excellent Student Thinking” standards, which were adopted by the state in 2019.

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