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In this third entry in a series about how we must prioritize adopting a learning system approach at all levels of the pk-12 education system, we explore how our learning system framework played out in our sector’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. We identify both gaps — missed opportunities to advance a learning system and systemic shortcomings that deepened the challenges our schools faced — and bright spots — existing and new efforts where learning system approaches supported more effective action. Drawing on those lessons, we argue the pandemic has strengthened the case for a learning system approach, adding urgency to our recommendations for early action. This new brief also shares resources and examples to help educators do this hard but essential work.

As districts continue to deal with the repercussions of the lingering coronavirus crisis, they have teacher vacancies to fill, a perennial problem complicated by the pandemic. This report, from FutureEd and EdCounsel, profiles the District of Columbia’s highly successful response to the problem. DCPS uses a multi-step process for vetting candidates, a state-of-the-art web portal, and data analysis to help schools select top applicants as early as possible in the annual hiring cycle, resulting in more effective and more diverse new hires.

This guidance is intended to help districts understand some of the options they have to use federal funds provided under multiple sections of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Investment in early learning as an effective strategy is supported by research from the science of learning and development that shows that early childhood is a critical time for brain development. The quantity and quality of interactions children have with adults at this stage determines the foundation upon which all other educational experiences will build.

On April 28, President Joe Biden unveiled his American Families Plan, which is his third proposal to support recovery from the coronavirus pandemic. The American Families Plan would provide an estimated $1.8 trillion over ten years and builds upon the president’s previously proposed $2.5 trillion American Jobs Plan, which is focused on the nation’s infrastructure, and the already-enacted $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act (ARP). Complementing the American Jobs Plan proposed investments in early childhood, K-12, and higher education facilities, the American Families Plan proposes additional significant investments in child care and early childhood education, educator preparation and support, as well as higher education access and support.

On April 21, the U.S. Department of Education (USED) published the state plan template for State Educational Agencies (SEAs) to complete in order to receive the final tranche of funding from the American Rescue Plan (ARP) Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ARP ESSER).  Previously, on March 24, the Department made available the first two-thirds of ARP ESSER funding (approximately $81 billion) for SEAs based on an array of assurances, including submission of future plans as required by USED. To receive the final third of ARP ESSER funding (approximately $41 billion), SEAs must submit their state plans by June 7, 2021, which provides SEAs slightly more than six weeks to complete their plans.

April, 2021
Dan Gordon, Elise Henson, Lynn Olson, Scott Palmer, LaVerne Srinivasan

In 2019, we made the case for why our education agenda must prioritize adopting a learning systems approach in education at all levels, and we articulated a framework for what such a system should look like and include, in terms of both design and culture. In this follow-up report with Carnegie Corporation of New York, we attempt to answer the question of how we begin to make and accelerate these shifts, drawing on the insights and experiences of those leaders in the field doing the hard work to create a learning systems approach in their own contexts. The paper identifies seven main challenges with the current status of our framework’s learning systems infrastructures and six recommendations that are ripe for action. Some would represent new efforts, while others would accelerate and expand efforts already underway.

On March 31, President Joe Biden unveiled his American Jobs Plan, which is the second part of his two-step economic plan for rescue – as enacted in the American Rescue Plan Act[1] which provided $1.9 trillion in additional coronavirus relief – and now recovery. According to a fact sheet released by the Biden Administration, the proposal would “invest about $2 trillion this decade” in traditional infrastructure, such as school and child care facilities, high-speed broadband, roads, clean energy, research and development, etc. This summary is of the major education-related provisions within the American Jobs Plan, including details on the proposed significant investments in early childhood, elementary and secondary school, and higher education facilities.


TheSecretary'sCorner

Riley_Richard
May 24, 2018

Secretary Riley reflects on successful strategies to transform schools in rural communities. Read more.


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August, 2021
By Scott Palmer and Sean Worley

Earlier this year, President Biden signed into law the American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act, the federal government’s third major COVID-19 relief bill. The law provides nearly $2 trillion to support the nation’s efforts to reopen and recover from the coronavirus pandemic. Included is more than $126 billion for K-12 schools and additional funding for early childhood and higher education.

These are historic levels of K-12 funding, far surpassing the amounts in previous pandemic relief bills, and they go well beyond annual federal K-12 education investments. Moreover, the relief package could have an impact well into the future, as districts and states are allowed to spend their allotments through September 2024—enabling them to identify and develop solutions that meet immediate needs and seed long-term, evidence-based shifts to better promote equity and improved outcomes.

July, 2021
The following was written by Adwoa Obeng, a rising senior at George Washington University.  The EducationCounsel team was fortunate to have Adwoa as our summer intern, during which she supported several core projects and activities.  Adwoa has a deep passion for equity in education, especially for students of color and young girls.  The blog reflects her experience and her recommendations for how to improve the experiences of young girls of color.

Girls are often told they can be anything they want to be, but what is rarely said is that what they look like matters greatly. African American girls are one of the most at-risk student groups in the United States, and often face substantial barriers to reaching their full potential. In Michigan, a 15-year-old African American girl was incarcerated during the COVID-19 pandemic because she violated her probation by not completing her schoolwork. In Sacramento, a 9-year-old African American girl was suspended and kicked out of her virtual classroom because she was asking too many questions via the chat section. This treatment is not isolated or limited to the classroom. In the 2017-2018 school year, African American girls were four times more likely to be expelled, four times more likely to be suspended from school, and five times more likely to be arrested than Caucasian girls.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the child care and early childhood education (CC/ECE) workforce has faced severe instability. Lower enrollment, income loss, higher operating costs, and increased fears of health risks, combined with preexisting challenges, including low pay, inadequate benefits, high turnover rates, and demanding work, have left the field in turmoil. These challenges are acute for Black, Latina, and Native American providers, who make up more than 35 percent of the (PDF) CC/ECE workforce. To prevent permanent job loss and damage to a field dominated by women of color, states must act now to stabilize and support the CC/ECE workforce.

June, 2021
By Scott Palmer and Dan Gordon

In public school districts across the nation we see the familiar June images of high school seniors celebrating, teachers grading projects and final exams, and superintendents…drafting plans to spend billions of new dollars?!?

Yes, strategic planning is ramping up just as the school year is winding down. To help districts meet this critical moment, there are two small but important things state education agencies (SEAs) can do in their soon-to-be-submitted American Rescue Plan Act (ARP) plans. These opportunities arise from recent clarifications by the U.S. Department of Education (USED) about how SEAs and local education agencies (LEAs) can approach figuring out how best to use new federal resources to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, especially the big new pot of ARP funds.

  1. USED has clarified that SEAs have the discretion to establish their own deadlines for LEAs to submit ARP plans, so long as their timeline is “reasonable.” Importantly, a reasonable timeline can be more than 90 days after LEAs’ receipt of ARP funding.
  2. USED also clarified that LEAs may periodically review and revise these plans through a SEA-designed and -managed process.

Together, these clarifications allow SEAs’ plans to include a more reasonable timeline for LEA plans and to establish an expectation and process for periodic review, learning, and continuous improvement of those plans over time. Even with SEA plans due to USED on June 7, there is time to adjust LEA plan timelines. Additionally, many states will likely be submitting some or all of their plans after next week, and a state could submit a revised plan or amendment (before or after receiving USED approval).


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