Texas AG sues school districts over mask mandates
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton announced Friday that his office launched six lawsuits against six school districts that have defied Gov. Greg Abbott's ban on mask mandates. Friday’s lawsuits cover mask mandates issued by the Richardson, Round Rock, Galveston, Elgin, Spring and Sherman ISDs. “Not only are superintendents across Texas openly violating state law, but they are using district resources — that ought to be used for teacher merit raises or other educational benefits — to defend their unlawful political maneuvering,” Paxton said in a statement. He added, “If districts choose to spend their money on legal fees, they must do so knowing that my office is ready and willing to litigate these cases.” Texas has seen one of the largest spikes in coronavirus cases in the nation with the spread of the delta variant. The state neared peak levels of confirmed cases earlier this week with more than 25,000 cases reported Wednesday and over 19,000 new cases confirmed Friday
FDA vaccine chief hopeful younger kids can get shots this year
The Food and Drug Administration’s vaccine chief said Friday the agency will rapidly evaluate COVID-19 vaccinations for younger children as soon as it gets the needed data. Dr. Peter Marks said he is “very, very hopeful” that vaccinations for five- to 11-year-olds will be underway by year’s end, and possibly sooner, with Pfizer expected to release study results at the end of the month. Moderna, which makes a second U.S. vaccine, told investors this week to expect its data on that age group by year’s end. Both companies also are testing their vaccines down to age six months, but those results will come later. Dr. Marks also urged parents and carers not to seek adult vaccines for their children, and to wait for studies recommending correct dosage sizes.
Houston-area school districts close ahead of Tropical Storm Nicholas
Several Houston-area school districts have announced they will be closed today, ahead of Tropical Storm Nicholas, which is expected to bring heavy rainfall and the risk of flooding. Angleton, Brazosport, Clear Creek, Dickinson, Friendswood, Galveston, La Porte, Pasadena, Santa Fe, and Texas City will all be closed, with decisions on Tuesday reopenings to be made later today.
Bryan ISD outlines virtual academy for K-6 students
Bryan ISD is reconsidering opening a virtual academy for elementary and intermediate school students. The district has reached out to elementary and intermediate school parents and guardians to gauge interest in a virtual academy, said Barbara Ybarra, associate superintendent for teaching and learning. The academy could be approved by the board at its September 20th meeting. If it is approved, Ms. Ybarra said, the optimal start date would be September 28th, the start of the second six-week grading period. The virtual academy will utilize the Schoology learning management system, so students will follow a schedule as if they were on campus, she added.
Paris ISD trustees to consider tutor contract
Paris ISD’s Board of Trustees will meet this morning to consider awarding a contract for tutoring. The district is contracting additional tutoring services to meet the requirements of House Bill 4545, which requires school districts to provide 30 hours of intervention tutoring for any student who failed a STAAR test subject. The district plans to use some of its Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief III and American Rescue Plan Act funds - $10.66m over the next three school years - to help fund tutoring.
The Paris News
New $82bn funding proposal for school buildings may not be sufficient
A new report argues that the $82bn in federal grant funding proposed this week by House Democrats to improve the nation's school buildings, along with a requirement for states to provide 10% in matching funds, will not be enough to fully address worsening facilities conditions. The latest plan in Congress to fund school facilities comes as federal Democratic lawmakers are moving forward with a broad package of nationwide infrastructure investments. In a statement Thursday, a collection of K-12 advocates known as the BASIC Coalition praised the plan, calling it “a momentous milestone for equitable advancements in education for our nation’s traditionally underserved communities.” In the meantime, the needs are ever-growing, according to the new “State of Our Schools” report from a coalition of organizations including the National Council on School Facilities, the 21st Century School Fund, and the International Well Building Institute. U.S. schools currently spend roughly $110bn per year on facilities. The report, following up on a similar 2016 study, asserts that schools are collectively investing $85bn less per year in building construction and improvements than would be needed to achieve full modernization. That number reflects a $25m increase, adjusted for inflation, over the dollar gap identified in the 2016 report.
Austin ISD looks to raise property taxes
Homeowners in the Austin school district could see their taxes go up by an average of almost $300 under the district's new proposed tax rate. The proposed tax rate of $1.0617 is four cents lower than last year's rate and the district's lowest in 20 years, but it will translate to an average tax increase of $276.12 for the average home valued at $472,823. Average home values in the district increased by an estimated 10% over the past year, according to the district's Chief Financial Officer Eduardo Ramos. The school board is expected to vote on the tax rate at its September 23rd meeting.
HEALTH & WELLBEING
Glasses lead to school improvement for short-sighted kids
A U.S. study has found that giving glasses to children who need them can result in "half a school year's worth of improvement". Lead author of the three-year Johns Hopkins University study, Dr Amanda Neitzel, said: "For students in the lowest quartile and students participating in special education, wearing glasses equated to four to six months of additional learning". Dr Megan Collins added: "The glasses offered the biggest benefit to the very kids who needed it most." However, academic improvements seen after one year were not sustained over two years, with researchers suggesting this could be due to children wearing their glasses less, or having broken or lost them.
US News and World Report
Schools look to rebound after pandemic drives down test scores
Schools across the country are looking to bounce back from declines in recently released standardized test scores that underscored the challenges of remote learning during the first full school year of the pandemic. The size of the decreases varied across states, but in general included big drops in math compared to language arts. In states like Michigan and Tennessee, some of the sharpest declines were among minorities, students with disabilities and economically disadvantaged students. Experts are also sounding the alarm over plunging participation rates, saying that with many statewide tests canceled in 2020 and fewer students taking the annual exams last spring, educators might not know until around this time next year just how much progress was lost after the coronavirus disrupted in-school learning 18 months ago. “Non-participants tend to be more of the at-risk groups,” said Marianne Perie, an independent consultant who advises states on student assessments. “We're seeing minority, low-income and students with disabilities to be less likely to come into school and take the test, particularly in states where they weren't already in school.” Even as test scores have slipped, advocates and experts say educators’ efforts to adapt to remote learning helped mitigate the declines. “It wasn't a completely lost year,” said Abby Javurek, the vice president of future impact and growth at NWEA, a not-for-profit assessment creator formerly known as the Northwest Evaluation Association. “Our students did grow. They didn't grow as much as we would hope and we would expect in a normal year without all these crazy circumstances, but they did grow, and there is hope in that.” But she added that the scoring disparities underscore longstanding educational inequities among at-risk groups.