Posted in Mission, Thoughts About Children

Our Schools…The Aftermath of the Pandemic…

Finally …

With our New President, Joe Biden and New Secretary of Education, Dr.Miguel Cardona allocating the much needed funds for schools through the American Rescue Plan providing resources and programs to help our children… Especially now living through this Pandemic…

We just may see the much needed change to our public schools…”a redesign”…A renaissance…

We will now have the monetary resources available;

To provide mental health support;

Better training for all educators, including bus drivers, cafeteria staff, everyone that engage with students, to understand the social and emotional needs of students…

Education Secretary Miguel Cardona Says Schools Have to Be ‘Redesigned’ Post-Pandemic

BY KATHERINE FUNG ON 4/14

Watch “Education Secretary Miguel Cardona Says Schools Have to Be ‘Redesigned'” on YouTube

The nation’s new education secretary is calling for schools to be “redesigned” after the coronavirus pandemic.

“We shouldn’t go back to the schools of March 2020—that’s a low bar,” Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said in a discussion with the founders of A Starting Point, a civic engagement organization.

“We have to make sure that our schools have stronger mental health supports, have better training for all educators, including bus drivers, cafeteria staff, everyone that engages with students, to understand the social and emotional needs of students,” he continued. “That has to be a prerequisite to getting our schools open quickly and safely.”

Cardona said the coronavirus relief plan signed into law by President Joe Biden last month will focus on redesigning schools so that students feel supported amid the ongoing public health crisis.

“The American Rescue Plan prioritizes funds and, really, prioritizes redesigning our schools,” he told Starting Point founders Chris Evans and Mark Kassen.

“We are in the middle of a pandemic, and our school systems have to be prepared to welcome our students back, not only with the academic learning needs that they might have missed but really to receive them and our staff after having experienced a traumatic experience like COVID-19,” Cardona said.

Biden’s relief package provided the U.S. Education Department with $122 billion to help reopen the majority of K-8 schools within the president’s first 100 days in office.

Miguel Cardona speaks after President-elect Joe Biden announced his nomination for education secretary on December 23, 2020. Cardona, who was confirmed by the Senate last month, said schools need to be “redesigned” to better help students return to in-person learning. Joshua Roberts/Stringer
Most of the nation’s schools shuttered at the beginning of the pandemic last year, moving instead to virtual learning, which presented its own challenges, especially among lower-income students who did not have broadband connection to the internet.

As schools began reopening in the fall, safety measures, such as face masks and social distancing, were implemented, but some districts faced pushback from educators who felt unsafe returning to work. In response, federal health officials stressed the importance of in-person learning by highlighting the toll online classes had taken on students and recommended that states prioritize teachers in their vaccination rollouts.

“We know there is no substitute for in-person learning. The biggest equity lever we have is providing safe, in-person learning options for students,” Cardona said. “We know, as much as we’ve worked really hard to get the laptops to connect and make sure there’s internet access, the relationship that students have with their peers and their teachers—there’s no substitute for that.”

Despite the return to in-person classes, the education secretary, who was confirmed on March 1, said the digital divide that was seen as schools scrambled to provide virtual lessons needs to be addressed by his department.

“The laptop is like the new pencil. It’s no longer a privilege. It’s no longer something that’s cool. It’s a necessity to be functional in today’s society and in today’s schools,” he said. “We need to close that digital divide across the country once and for all. It’s a finite problem to have, and that’s something that we need to make sure we’re focusing on as we reopen [schools].”

Cardona emphasized the importance of building up that infrastructure, pointing to Biden’s proposed American Jobs Plans, which includes $100 billion to expand broadband access across the country over the next eight years…

This will be a new beginning for our children…

Posted in Thoughts About Children

Will A Distance of Three Feet be Safe for Our Children?

I do have my concerns with this newest change in lowering the distance among children to three feet…

In order for children, teachers and essential staff to be able to adhere, and rely on all levels of safety protocols… the extra funding from President Biden’s Covid Relief Bill, and vaccination will definitely help…

However, now allowing a three feet distance among our children… How safe will the classroom be? Is this a change do to the fact, it would be easier to implement in a smaller, older classrooms, which many older schools still have?

From my own experience in that small, older classroom….Children do get ill…And teachers do too!!!

We were so close…Germs everywhere..It was extremely difficult to separate, and sanitize…Our custodial staff…on call…and understaffed…

Now with a pandemic!

And in fact, presently it is reported because children have been isolated for so long, there is an uptick of colds among children when they have returned to social situations, and they can carry the coronavirus and other viruses as well…

The data reflects

Children and COVID-19:
State Data Report

A joint report from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association
Summary of publicly reported data from 49 states, NYC, DC, PR, and GU… Version: 3/11/21

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1MYF8uxFho-u3cPisOKGau08F8HwZUrI2/view?usp=drivesdk

As of March 11, over 3.28 million children have tested positive for COVID-19 since the onset of the pandemic. Nearly 53,000 new child COVID-19 cases were reported last week. This marks the 8th consecutive week with a decline in new cases.

The age distribution of reported COVID-19 cases was provided on the health department websites of 49 states, New York City, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and Guam. Children represented 13.2% of total cumulated cases in states reporting cases by age.

A smaller subset of states reported on hospitalizations and mortality by age; the available data indicated that COVID-19-associated hospitalization and death is uncommon in children.

At this time, it appears that severe illness due to COVID-19 is rare among children. However, there is an urgent need to collect more data on longer-term impacts of the pandemic on children, including ways the virus may harm the long-term physical health of infected children, as well as its emotional and mental health effects.

Schools can allow social distancing of three feet, rather than six currently, between students in classrooms, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Friday in what is expected to be a boost to reopening of schools nationwide…

The CDC’s long-awaited guidance on how schools can safely reopen comes after lawmakers and parents have become increasingly concerned about returning to in-person education to help with children’s learning and social development after some students have had virtual classes for a year or more…

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said in a statement that the agency is committed to leading with science and updating guidance as new evidence emerges.

“Safe in-person instruction gives our kids access to critical social and mental health services that prepare them for the future, in addition to the education they need to succeed,” Walensky said. “These updated recommendations provide the evidence-based road map to help schools reopen safely, and remain open, for in-person instruction…

Elementary school children can be at least three feet apart in classrooms, the CDC said. The same guidance applies to middle and high school students unless they’re in areas of high community transmission. Levels of community transmission are defined as the total new Covid cases per 100,000 persons in the past 7 days — low being up to nine, and high being 100 cases or more. Schools are encouraged to adjust classroom layouts to maximize distance between students, and desks should face the same direction when possible.

However, the CDC continues to recommend at least six feet of distance for other situations. For example, children must keep six feet apart in circumstances when wearing a mask is not possible, such as when eating. Activities that involve increased exhalation, such as singing, band, or sports should also adhere to the six-foot rule, and take place outdoors when possible.

Teachers and staff are expected to maintain six feet between one other and between students, as research shows that adult-to-adult transmission is most common in schools than transmission between students or between students and teachers… The recommendations on testing allow for safe participation in sports. Schools may consider testing student-athletes, coaches, parents, or other adults who support extracurricular activities.

During a press briefing Friday Walensky responded to a question on why the CDC’s new research on schools did not address underfunded urban schools.

There is growing evidence from many different school settings that did not control for ventilation to demonstrate that it’s safe in classrooms where masks are worn and students are at least three feet apart, Walensky said. “We are following the science and we’ve done the science, and we’ve seen the science to ensure that this is safe for those schools,” she said.

Teacher unions across the country have opposed reopening schools out of safety concerns. Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, told the New York Times this week she was concerned about the possibility of new guidelines, and suggested the CDC might have been pressured to shift its guidance.

In response to a question, Walensky said she had spoken to representatives of the unions.

“They know that we need to follow the science and to make our guidance based on that science, and they were very respectful of that,” Walensky said.

The Biden administration Wednesday said it would provide states billion of dollars for Covid-19 testing to help reopen schools safely. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is allocating $10 billion to help schools screen teachers, staff and students.

Another $2.25 billion will support scaled-up testing in underserved populations and the development of new guidance on screening in schools, workplaces and congregate settings.Three studies, published in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report on Friday, said evidence shows that physical distancing of at least three feet between students can safely be adopted in classroom settings.

I do hope these changes do not affect a positive outcome…

Our children, teachers and essential staff, deserve to be safe…

Posted in Mission, Thoughts About Children

States Still Must Give Standardized Tests This Year, Biden Administration Announces

This decision to leave it up to states is not a strong message for our children…Our children have been living through this Pandemic for a year…Their physical, educational, emotional lives have been disrupted…

Having the additional stressor of a standardized test…I question what would such a test measure???

Give our children time to get back to a stable routine before .. measuring their educational growth…

States Still Must Give Standardized Tests This Year, Biden Administration Announces….

By Andrew Ujifusa

Updated

States will not be allowed to cancel federally mandated standardized exams this school year despite the pandemic, though they will be offered significant flexibility in how they give those tests and how they’re used, the U.S. Department of Education informed state education leaders Monday.

In a letter to states, the department said that it will not invite state requests for “blanket waivers of assessments” required by the Every Student Succeeds Act; states received such waivers last spring. However, the department said it would allow states to administer shorter versions of state exams in English/language arts, math, and science, or let states administer exams this summer or even into the next school year.

The Education Department also told states that it will allow them to seek waivers from federal requirements for school accountability, including the mandate to identify certain low-performing schools, for the 2020-21 school year. Such flexibility would include a waiver from the requirement that states test 95 percent of eligible students…

“It is urgent to understand the impact of COVID-19 on learning,” Ian Rosenblum, acting assistant secretary in the office of elementary and secondary education, wrote to states. “We know, however, that some schools and school districts may face circumstances in which they are not able to safely administer statewide summative assessments this spring using their standard practices.”

Rosenblum said states would still have to publicly report data by student subgroups, as required. He also specifically encouraged states to extend the testing window for English-language proficiency tests.

Rosenblum did not give a deadline for when states would have to seek flexibility from accountability or other requirements. However he also said the department recognized that “individual states may need additional assessment flexibility based on the specific circumstances.” He added that in such cases, the department “will work with states to address their individual needs and conditions while ensuring the maximum available statewide data to inform the targeting of resources and supports.”

Whether to let states cancel these exams has been a major question looming over the Biden administration. Leading Democrats for K-12 policy in Congress and others have said the tests are crucial to informing educators about how students have been affected by the pandemic. Yet teachers’ unions and some Republicans are among those who have pushed for students and schools to be let off the hook when it comes to these exams. States like Michigan and New York have sought testing waivers from the department for this spring.

https://www.cbsnews.com/video/biden-introduces-miguel-cardona-education-secretary/

During his confirmation hearing, Miguel Cardona, President Joe Biden’s nominee for education secretary, said that assessments are crucial to learning where students stand but did not take a firm position one way or the other on letting states cancel them. Before his nomination, Cardona, Connecticut’s education commissioner, told his state last year that he planned to press forward with annual state exams. Cardona has not been confirmed by the Senate.

Last year, former U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos said her department would not grant blanket testing waivers for this year, although that position no longer mattered after President Joe Biden won the November election.

In response to Monday’s news, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten called the decision not to grant waivers a “frustrating turn” of events.

“It misses a huge opportunity to really help our students by allowing the waiver of assessments and the substitution, instead, of locally developed, authentic assessments that could be used by educators and parents as a baseline for work this summer and next year,” Weingarten said.

Becky Pringle, the president of the National Education Association, encouraged states to apply for the waivers being made available, but also disparaged the value of the state exams during the pandemic: “Standardized tests have never been valid or reliable measures of what students know and are able to do, and they are especially unreliable now.”

Meanwhile, Carissa Moffat Miller, the CEO of the Council of Chief State School Officers, indicated support for the department’s approach to assessments this year.

“We appreciate that the Department will provide flexibility on how to administer statewide assessments and modify accountability systems as state leaders manage the continuing effects of the global pandemic,” she said. “In addition, we are pleased that the Department has committed to working with states that may need additional flexibilities.”

Posted in Mission, Reflections

First Week…Back to School…

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I have always enjoyed the Friday before the beginning of the school year to meet my new students and their parents…I rely on just that brief meeting to begin making an assessment, when parent and child come in to meet me…
One important piece of pertinent information gained from this meeting is that I can begin to assess those children that may be outgoing or those that may be quite reserved….

The first week of school is the crucial time when I focus on establishing… “Our Relationship”, one that lets my children know I will love them unconditionally; providing a classroom for structure to inspire learning, and moreover, feel safe to accept and appreciate our differences…No matter what is presented…The foundation for a successful year ahead…