A daily round-up of education news and views for the Prairie state. To add a recipient please click here
10th June 2021

A daily round-up of education news and views for the Prairie State.

To add a recipient please click

Illinois expands COVID testing to elementary schools
The Illinois Department of Public Health said it will expand access to COVID-19 testing at elementary schools statewide at either little or no cost. Schools can choose to utilize the saliva-based covidSHIELD test developed by the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC). The covidSHIELD test can quickly detect the virus that causes COVID-19, and its variants, including among people who do not have symptoms. Schools and IDPH will receive test results within 24 hours of specimens reaching a SHIELD Illinois lab. IDPH is utilizing federal funds from the CARES Act and American Rescue Plan to offer the rapid results testing.  The effort is part of the $225m agreement between the University of Illinois System and the state aimed at proactively identifying asymptomatic individuals to prevent spread of COVID-19.
Ed Dept announces actions to advance equity in education
The Department of Education has announced a series of actions it is taking to advance equity in education and ensure schools across the nation are serving all students. The actions include an Equity Summit Series, launching virtually on June 22nd, that will initially explore how schools and communities can reimagine our school systems so that every student has a voice in their school and classroom, particularly students from underserved communities. In advance of this, there is a new report from the Department's Office for Civil Rights exploring how the impacts of the pandemic have fallen disproportionately on students who went into it with the fewest educational opportunities, many of whom are from marginalized and underserved communities. Also of note are new Maintenance of Equity provisions, central to ensuring that essential resources are meeting the needs of students who have been subject to longstanding opportunity gaps in our education system. These student groups have also experienced the greatest impact from the pandemic. In addition to the historic resources the American Rescue Plan is providing states to address inequities made worse by the pandemic, President Biden’s fiscal year 2022 budget proposes $36.5 billion in formula grants for Title I schools, a $20 billion increase from the 2021 enacted level. The investment will provide meaningful incentives for states to examine and address inequities in school funding systems, as well as ensure teachers at Title I schools are paid competitively, provide equitable access to rigorous coursework, and increase access to high-quality preschool. States would be required to collect and report data analyzing gaps in these key foundational areas, and work with their districts to make plans to address them. 
CTU announces deal with Urban Prep Charter Schools
A two-day teachers strike at Urban Prep Academies has ended after officials at the charter high school network and the Chicago Teachers Union negotiated a tentative agreement. The deal sets out additional supports for special education students, a high priority of the CTU, and would allow the educators at Urban Prep’s Bronzeville, Englewood and West campuses to reopen the contract for renegotiation shortly after the next school year. It also includes class size limits, updates to teacher evaluations and a provisional period for newly hired educators to improve retention, CTU said. all teachers have now returned to the classroom at the high school’s campuses. Neither side has provided details on what the tentative contract provides in pay and benefits.
Five new administrators appointed in West Aurora
Five new administrators have been appointed in West Aurora School District 129: Katie Wood as grades 9-12 English curriculum coordinator, Sara Turner as grades 6-12 social studies curriculum coordinator, Susan Gonzales as second-grade curriculum coordinator, Jaclyn Waldvogel as dean of students at Jefferson Middle School and James Gottberg as director of technology support services. The district decided to create a new administrator position as well. The English curriculum coordinator previously served grades 6-12 which meant supporting a large group of teachers. Two educators now have the responsibilities with a grades 6-8 English curriculum coordinator and an English curriculum coordinator for grades 9-12, West Aurora School District Director of Community Affairs Anna Gonzales said.
Assistant principal hire announced for Thompson Junior High
A new assistant principal has been appointed at Thompson Junior High School, Dr. LaTonya C. Davis. Approved by the Oswego Community Unit School District 308 Board of Education, she received her doctorate in educational leadership from Aurora University. Most recently, Dr. Davis worked as dean of students at Larkin High School in Elgin. 
How 'Grow-Your-Own' programs are helping recruit teachers of color
School districts are increasingly making use of "Grow-Your-Own" programs designed to encourage students of color to become teachers in their home communities. Some identify potential teaching candidates as early as high school; others recruit existing paraprofessionals and career changers to become certified teachers. Many aim broadly to increase a state or district’s local pipeline of future teachers, while others work specifically to enhance the diversity of the next generation of educators. Grow-your-own program leaders say that recruiting community members to become teachers is both a practical and effective long-term solution to increasing educator diversity. “Whether it’s students or bus drivers who want to become teachers, it’s OK. You want to look at who’s right in front of you,” said Joshua Starr, CEO of PDK International, a professional association for educators that oversees Educators Rising, a community-based model for recruiting teachers that has a presence in every state plus Washington, D.C., and official agreements with departments of education in 31 states. Among the program’s participants, 52% are people of color.
State takeovers have limited effect on struggling schools, study claims
A new national study, written by Beth E. Schueler of the University of Virginia and Joshua Bleiburg of Brown University, casts doubt on the notion that states are better positioned to run schools than locally-elected officials, finding little evidence that districts see test scores rise as a result of being taken over. The new study focuses on the 35 school districts from across the country that were taken over by states between 2011 and 2016. These takeovers often happened in small cities and the vast majority of affected students were Black or Hispanic and from low-income families. Schueler and Leiburg used national test score data to compare districts that were taken over to seemingly similar districts in the same state that retained local control. In the first few years of the takeover, the schools generally saw dips in English test scores. By year four, there was no effect one way or the other. In math, there were no clear effects at all. Some places, including Camden, New Jersey and Lawrence, Massachusetts, did see improvements in the wake of takeover; others, such as East St. Louis, Illinois and Chester Upland, Pennsylvania, saw their academic records get worse, relative to other schools in the states. One reason results might have diverged so much is that there’s no single playbook for what happens after a state takes control from an elected school board. It’s also possible that state takeovers don’t typically improve student achievement simply because they often don’t lead to meaningful changes in  per-student spending, class sizes, or the number of charter schools.
CTE directors share tips for strong school-business partnerships
A report released in March by the Association for Career and Technical Education noted "significant enrollment declines" in Career and Technology Education (CTE) courses this school year, along with concerns about possible funding declines and instructor shortages in the years ahead. One major struggle during the pandemic has been providing work-based learning experiences, the report said. K-12 Dive speaks to CTE leaders to garner advice for keeping school-business connections strong by cultivating relationships and working through challenges. Insights include casting a far net to draw businesses and organizations of all sizes into partnerships, thus ensuring better matches for student and employer needs, and to create a full-time workforce development coordinator role, to both promote CTE programs and work on curriculum updates; 

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