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11th June 2021
Majority of fourth graders now back in classrooms
For the first time since the pandemic began, the majority of 4th graders nationwide have finally made it back to classes in person full time, according to the latest federal data. The National Center for Education Statistics says that by April, nearly all K-8 schools offered at least some in-person instruction, with 56% providing full-time instruction on campus. “Today’s data reaffirms what we’ve been seeing and hearing for months—that we’ve met and exceeded President Biden’s goal of reopening the majority of K-8 schools, and that as a nation we continue to make significant progress in reopening as many schools as possible before the summer,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona in a statement on the data. A separate report from Burbio, covering 1,200 districts, including the 200 largest, found that in general, conservative-leaning states reopened schools faster than liberal-leaning ones. There was strong variation among the latter, however; those in the  Northeast and the Midwest reopened a lot faster than the West Coast, which has the highest concentration of remote learners. White students were the least likely of any racial or ethnic group to be learning virtually; Asian American students were the most likely. 
Pennsylvania school pension leaders urged to quit
Several trustees of Pennsylvania’s $64 billion Public School Employees’ Retirement System (PSERS) are demanding the ouster of two top staff members, citing years of poor investment performance, high expenses, and missteps that led to a federal investigation. The trustees made their demands in a letter signed by state Treasurer Stacy Garrity, former Treasurer Joseph Torsella, acting state Education Secretary Noe Ortega, state Banking and Securities Secretary Richard Vague, state Sen. Katie Muth, and Pennsylvania School Board Association Chief Executive Nathan Mains. PSERS, which is the largest public pension in Pennsylvania, is in the midst of a two day meeting at present.
Louisiana to make kindergarten mandatory
The Louisiana Legislature has agreed to make kindergarten mandatory for children statewide. Under Senate Bill 10, homeschooling and private school attendance would qualify under the new mandate, which generally would apply to children who turn five years old on or before September 30 prior to the 2022-2023 school year. Parents would have the option to delay kindergarten by a year if their child is four years old on the first day of school or is enrolled in a prekindergarten program. Estimates of the cost of educating additional kindergarten students have been as high as $12 million, which Gov. John Bel Edwards’ asserts could easily be absorbed within the $3.9 billion education funding formula. Nineteen states and the District of Columbia have mandatory kindergarten.
Florida bans teaching critical race theory in schools
Florida has become the latest state to ban critical race theory, continuing the growing opposition to schools potentially teaching about systemic racism. After hours of debate and public comment Thursday, the Florida State Board of Education unanimously approved the amendment. Gov. Ron DeSantis, who appointed much of the board, spoke ahead of the meeting, saying critical race theory would teach children "the country is rotten and that our institutions are illegitimate." Idaho passed a bill in May banning teaching in any public school that "any sex, race, ethnicity, religion, color, or national origin is inherently superior or inferior," which, according to that bill, was often found in critical race theory. Tennessee has banned teaching it, too.

Montgomery schools to leave state oversight
The Montgomery County public school system will be released from state intervention on December 1, nearly five years after problems with finances, leadership, and student achievement caused the state to take control. Following positive improvements in all areas, the Alabama Board of Education unanimously approved a resolution releasing the district Thursday, following a recommendation from State Superintendent Eric Mackey. The board set conditions for the release however, including that the district maintain a minimum of one and a half months of operating reserves—more than required of other school districts—and to continue to show academic progress.
New study looks into whether AI can prevent school violence
The Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center has been awarded a five-year, $2.8m grant from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development to develop an automated risk assessment system, designed to detect potential school violence and prevent it. The researchers plan to recruit 1,000 children, ages 10 to 17, for their work. The kids, primarily patients from Cincinnati Children’s, will be from the Cincinnati area, other parts of Ohio and neighboring states. The study will be among the first efforts that leverage natural language processing (NLP) and machine learning to analyze interviews, identify risk characteristics from student language and predict violent outcomes, hospital officials said. "Typically with school violence, there are red flags,” co-principal investigator Dr. Drew Barzman explained. “There might be a threat or bullying. The victim may be at risk for becoming a school shooter or the bully (might become a shooter). There might be some other psychiatric concerns as well, so we're looking … to help out before it escalates to the point that it becomes school violence or a school shooting.” The goal is to help establish a nationwide solution for school violence risk assessment, which will benefit healthcare institutions, schools and students
Legislators and students push for K-12 Asian American studies
As students push for more inclusive curriculum, some lawmakers, educators, and students themselves are working to address gaps in instruction and fight harmful stereotypes by pushing for more Asian American history to be included in K-12 lesson plans. Lawmakers have proposed such mandates this year in Connecticut, New York, and Wisconsin, while Illinois would become the first state to require public schools to teach Asian American studies if Gov. J.B. Pritzker signs a bill that cleared the state Legislature. On the federal level, U.S. Rep. Grace Meng, D-N.Y., has reintroduced legislation intended to promote teaching Asian American history. The bill would require Presidential and Congressional Academies, which offer history and civics programming to students and teachers, to include Asian American history in their grant applications. It would also encourage state and national assessment tests to include Asian American history.
Prospective teachers in Colorado to face more rigorous literacy test
The Colorado Board of Education will soon require prospective elementary, early childhood, and special education teachers to take a more in-depth exam on reading instruction to earn their state teaching licenses. The Board voted unanimously to adopt the new exam, called the Praxis 5205, which will take effect September 1 for all teacher candidates who are taking licensure tests for the first time on or after that date. The shift to a test that demands prospective teachers have more knowledge about reading instruction aligns with the state’s ongoing push to boost reading proficiency rates.


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