New Survey Indicates Social and Emotional Learning is Key in Post-Pandemic Education
We surveyed educators, administrators, and parents to better understand their opinions about the importance of social and emotional learning (SEL), the effects of COVID-19 on children’s wellbeing, and how schools can support kids as they return for the 2021-22 school year. Here’s what we learned.
Read the report.
California could lose millions in federal K-12 funding
California might have to forfeit tens of millions of dollars in pandemic relief money meant for schools if the department in charge of distributing funds does not strengthen its oversight of spending, a state auditor says. The audit, released Tuesday, found that California might have to return up to $160 million in federal aid if the state’s Department of Education, referred to as “Education” by the auditor, continues to disburse and monitor federal funds used by K-12 schools the way it is doing it now. About one in five local school districts that received coronavirus relief money through two federal funds had spent 20% or less of their initial money by the end of June, the auditor found. “Education has not ensured that (school districts) consistently submit required quarterly reports that include the amounts they have spent on various allowable categories. Without these reports, Education lacks the data it needs to administer the funds and to adequately oversee how (school districts) are using the funds to mitigate the effects of the pandemic,” Elaine Howle, California’s state auditor, wrote in a letter attached to the findings. Some school districts told auditors that they were using money from other sources with earlier deadlines and that delays in returning to in-person learning also prevented the use of these funds, the auditor wrote in the report released Tuesday. The state auditor said that California’s education department needed more supervision over how school districts report spending and that the department is not monitoring enough of the recipients.
California accounts for 12% of U.S. students - but just 1% of COVID school closures
Of the 2,321 nationwide school closures since August because of COVID-19, about 1% have been in California, even though the state accounts for 12% of the nation’s K-12 students, according to data from Burbio, a technology company that monitors outbreaks. California has mandated that all schoolchildren must eventually get COVID-19 vaccines, the first and only state to do so. Linda Darling-Hammond, the president of California’s Board of Education, said she saw vaccines as the next stage of the state’s pandemic response.
San Francisco Examiner
Biden signs order to improve education for Black U.S. students
President Joe Biden has signed an executive order establishing two commissions within the Department of Education to improve education for Black students. One of the panels has been assigned to raise awareness around challenges for Black students and increase Black children's access to high-quality early childhood programs, among other projects, while the other will make recommendations to the president about educational equity and economic opportunity for the Black community. School districts with high concentrations of Black students are much more likely to be underfunded than districts where a majority of students are white, and face much wider funding gaps, with an average deficit of more than $5,000 per student, the White House said. It added that 26% of Black Americans aged 25 and above have attained a bachelor's degree, while the national average is 36%.
Desert Hot Springs OKs school resource officer contract
The Desert Hot Springs City Council approved the city’s 2021-22 school resource officer contract in a 5-0 vote Tuesday night, paving the way for a police officer to again be assigned to Desert Hot Springs High School. School resource officers - who are sworn police officers - have not been present at high schools across Palm Springs USD since the start of the school year. The contract calls for the school district to pay up to $112,234.20 for the services of a Desert Hot Springs police officer.
Palm Springs Desert Sun
States ask Biden, Garland to stop 'criminalizing' speech at school board meetings
Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita, along with 16 other state attorneys general, penned a letter to President Joe Biden and U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland asking them to cease what they describe as efforts to intimidate parents into silence at school board meetings. A memorandum issued by Garland, which was released shortly after the National School Boards Association (NSBA) sent a letter to Biden claiming some clashes between school boards and parents may amount to "domestic terrorism," calls for the FBI to take the lead on a task force to address threats against school officials, including creating a centralized way to report such threats. The 17 chief law enforcement officers from each state argued that it is "based upon a flawed premise" and violates "First Amendment rights of parents to address school administrators, board members, teachers, and staff on educational matters by seeking to criminalize lawful dissent and intimidate parents into silence."
Judge sides with Cajon Valley superintendent, board in trustee lawsuit
A San Diego County judge has ruled in favor of Cajon Valley USD Superintendent David Miyashiro and four of the district's board members, in a lawsuit filed by a fifth board trustee who had claimed they treated her unfairly. Jill Barto alleged in a 2019 lawsuit that they prevented her from directly contacting district employees, visiting district schools and events, attending conferences, setting the board agenda and serving on a board committee, and that the unfair treatment came after she questioned Mr. Miyashiro's travel spending and a district construction contract that the board awarded to Board President Tamara Otero’s son.
San Diego Union-Tribune
Schools have 'once-in-a-generation' chance to improve infrastructure
In an opinion piece for The Hill on school infrastructure, Joseph Allen, DSc, MPH, is associate professor and director of the healthy buildings program at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and Céline R. Gounder, MD, ScM, is an internist, infectious disease specialist and epidemiologist at the N.Y.U. Grossman School of Medicine and Bellevue Hospital, suggest that Congress should have included specific guidance and standards for school districts to follow when upgrading buildings and facilities. They also cite a report from the American Society of Civil Engineers that found 53% of public schools need to update or replace building systems; 41% report problems with their HVAC; and 13,000 schools haven’t even assessed their facilities in the past 10 years.
HEALTH & WELLBEING
White House details plan to address students' mental health
The Biden administration has released a plan to address rising mental health concerns among students in schools across the country. The announcement came as the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and the Children’s Hospital Association put out a statement warning of a "mental health state of emergency" for children and adolescents. Between March and October 2020, mental health emergency visits increased 24% for children aged 5-11, and 31% for kids aged 12-17. There was also a more than 50% spike in visits for suspected suicide attempts among girls ages 12 to 17 in early 2021, compared to the same period in 2019. The U.S. Department of Education's new proposals, titled Supporting Child and Student Social, Emotional, Behavioral and Mental Health, sets out seven critical areas of difficulty educators and care providers may experience when it comes to addressing the mental health of young people and includes a corresponding seven-point list of recommendations aimed at helping schools' and providers improve the emotional well-being of students and children. It points to school districts and programs across the country -- in states such as New Jersey, California, Oregon and Vermont -- that have already implemented successful techniques for improving students mental health. Examples include a peer based initiative for college students in California, youth advisory councils funded by the state legislature in Oregon and a program to support students of military families started by the Military Child Education Coalition.
U.S. Department of Education
Report offers pathways to building culturally-affirming schools
Recruiting a diverse staff and building a “family-like” school culture are among the key action steps more than 100 Black educators recommend school leaders follow in a recent report released by Teach Plus and the Center for Black Educator Development. The paper presented the findings of focus groups conducted during the spring and summer of 2020, compiling the perspectives of 105 Black teachers from across 12 states. It recommends that leaders provide opportunities for teachers of color to participate in mentorship programs and focus groups to debrief their experiences, especially in schools with majority-white faculty, where Black, Indigenous, Hispanic or Asian educators may be one of just a few colleagues who share their racial identity. The study comes at the same time as new analysis from Michigan State University, which found that Michigan's Black teacher workforce declined 48% between 2005 and 2015, far outpacing overall declines in the size of the state’s educator corps. Many students moved to suburban districts with largely white teaching workforces, but those districts didn’t pick up the slack by hiring more Black teachers, the study says. During the same period, the number of African Americans entering traditional teacher training programs also fell. Michigan’s urban school districts haven been hobbled by a lack of funding, said Pamela Pugh, an elected member of the Michigan Board of Education. Indeed, the study notes that increased student-teacher ratios in city districts — likely a result of underfunding — also helped shrink the state’s Black educator corps.
Study finds correlation between SROs and higher disciplinary actions
Research detailed in a working paper from researchers at the University of Albany and RAND Corporation, published by the Annenberg Institute at Brown University, suggests school police don't prevent school shootings or gun violence in schools, and worsen rates of suspension, expulsion, arrests and police referrals for Black students, as well as chronic absenteeism rates for students with disabilities. While SROs seem to help with general safety by decreasing unarmed violent offenses like fights, researchers found they may instead marginally increase the chances of firearm-related incidents on school grounds. The study used national school-level data between 2014-2018 from the U.S. Department of Education.