A daily round-up of education news and views for the Carolinas.
11th June 2021

A daily round-up of education news and views for principals, superintendents, teachers and administrators in North and South Carolina.

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Actions to advance equity in education announced
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. 
NC House seeks social studies standards delay
Some lawmakers in North Carolina want to delay the use of new social studies standards that conservative critics say are too negative about the nation’s history. The state House has voted 74-34 to pass a rewritten version of a COVID-19 relief bill that includes a one-year delay in implementing the social studies standards. Advocates say the delay is needed because the State Board of Education and the state Department of Public Instruction are still working on the documents that teachers will use. “Could you imagine if you were in charge of curriculum at the local level and this is still not completed and it may be completed by the end of the month, that you have a month turnaround to turn that into a pacing guide and have some sort of staff development for your history teachers at the high school level,” comments Rep. Jeffrey Elmore of Wilkes County.
Lack of confidence among SC principals, survey reveals
Most principals surveyed by researchers indicated that they themselves are struggling with their confidence amid the pandemic-prompted pivot to online learning. Academics Lee Westberry and Tara Hornor, two Citadel professors in the Zucker Family School of Education, who both have doctorates in education leadership and administration, surveyed 120 principals throughout South Carolina to get a sense of how they were leading in a virtual, or semi-virtual, environment and found much for school leaders to be concerned about. Out of the respondents, 96.1% reported a high or very high confidence level in a traditional learning environment. When asked about virtual learning, just 41% reported high or very high confidence levels. The survey showed that principals with less experience struggled more than those with years behind them. Around 94% of principals in their first four years on the job reported high or very high confidence levels in a traditional environment. In virtual, 36% of those principals reported high confidence. Around one-third of those principals said they felt “virtual instructional leadership” was a top need for professional development.
Cleveland County Schools announces staff moves
Cleveland County Schools has announced who has been hired or moved to lead several schools. Among them, Katie Barbee, principal of Springmore Elementary, accepted the promotion to become the principal of Crest Middle. Brandy Curtis, assistant principal of Township Three Elementary, accepted a promotion to serve at Elizabeth Elementary.
New survey reveals continued existence of digital divide
While the country moves toward connecting more households to the internet than ever before, insufficient bandwidth remains a challenge for school districts and limits what tools students can use at home. The Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) has surveyed 400 districts across the country, finding that basic internet access is less of an issue in distance learning than an inability to use bandwidth-intensive content, such as video conferencing and streaming. Ninety-four percent of districts faced challenges with video conferencing during remote learning. For 66% of those districts, the problems were caused by insufficient bandwidth. Respondents listed slow connections and multiple users as the top technical problems they faced. CoSN chief executive Keith Krueger said that part of the problem is that the federally recommended broadband thresholds for households don’t meet the needs of remote learning. Families may have plenty of bandwidth to stream or download content, he said, but not enough to upload. And most households have two or more students, compounding the problem.
Record number of students set to attend summer school this year
Millions of children this summer will participate in what's expected to be the largest summer-school program in history, powered by more than $1.2bn in targeted federal post-pandemic assistance from the American Rescue Plan. This year's programs face the task of teaching not just about math, history and English, but also addressing widespread mental health challenges among students, and in some cases, dealing with nutrition issues for children who missed out on weeks or months of school meals. Such demands have seen warn these enrichment programs aren't an instant panacea; among the concerns is that students who previously had trouble focusing on classroom work will have lost some of their coping skills. But experts also said this is a rare opportunity to focus on mental health and the underlying causes of disproportionate discipline, by training teachers to even more closely focus on the whole child. Help support quality local journalism like this. Subscribe "All of us, even adults, have fallen out of practice in being in the world with each other," said Matthew Soldner, chief evaluation officer for the federal Department of Education. "I think this would be wrong to think of this as a one-and-done sort of thing." Echoing his comments Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, said: "We need summer school to be really something different than it has been before. It can't just be about remediation. It has to be about helping kids get their mojo back. We have to think about the entire next year for academic recovery, and we have to think about summer school as a shot in the arm."
How unions in America's largest districts are handling school reopenings
The 74 looks at how teacher unions in the United States' four largest school districts have handled school reopenings. Unions in New York and Miami-Dade County reached agreement on reopening last fall, while Chicago’s union didn’t come to terms until March. The Los Angeles union didn’t come to terms until April, and most LA schools won’t reopen until this fall. Some asked for additional staff to address mental health issues and learning loss, while others went further afield, wanting an end to standardized tests. Some demands, however, are universal. Each union wants smaller class sizes, which means more teachers, and more support employees to occupy various new programs.

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