REPORT: April 9 Member Meeting

Learning Loss and Recovery

Dáaiyah Bilal-Threats

Special Assistant to the Executive Director and Senior Advisor for Strategic Initiatives
National Education Association (NEA)

On April 9, the Senate Presidents’ Forum examined the challenges of learning loss related to the pandemic, following up the March session on “Reopening Schools Safely.” The discussion was introduced by Dáaiyah Bilal-Threats, Special Assistant to the Executive Director and Senior Advisor for Strategic Initiatives, National Education Association (NEA).

With $168 billion of federal funds allocated to the states for education in the American Rescue Plan (ARP), senate leaders face tough decisions about how to best use these funds to mitigate the pandemic’s negative impact on student learning and growth.

Introduction

 

Congressional Spending to Stabilize Education Budgets

National Education Association Report

Students

 “Schools are social systems built on relationships, students to students and to educators. Students must feel safe and welcomed or the learning environment is undermined.”— Dáaiyah Bilal-Threats

 “Students cannot learn if they are struggling with social, emotional, cultural, or mental health challenges.”— Dáaiyah Bilal-Threats

Cultural Issues

Percent of students who have returned to in-person classrooms, across the US:50% of White students28% of Black students38% of Hispanic students15% of Asian-American students

Recommendations for the States

Assess Current Needs

Engage Local Insights: Create Long-term Plans

High-Impact Tutoring

 The National Student Support Accelerator provides open-source Accelerator tools and resources to help ensure more equitable access to quality tutoring, available here:Toolkit for Tutoring Programs

Discussion

Moderated by

Tom Finneran

Sen. Larry Taylor (Chair, Senate Education Committee, Texas): Assessments will be done, and parents and teachers will get detailed data on each child’s needs and where to get help. Students will not be graded, but rather the assessment is designed to get a baseline of where they are academically so that interventions can be targeted to these areas.

 

“An innovative strategy in Texas has been to recruit
thousands of retired teachers, find ways to pay them without compromising their pensions, and assign them to one-on-one or small-group tutoring.”
 — Sen. Larry Taylor

Smaller class sizes and more teachers in the classroom will allow for more one-to-one attention, with bonuses for teachers. Funds are being used for broadband access for all students, and every student has a computer. Additionally, funds are being used for facilities upgrades such as ventilation to provide the best environment for learning.

Sen. Ronald Kouchi (President of the Senate, Hawaii): The state’s Superintendent of the Department of Education recently resigned after criticism of her decision not to have assessments. She did not want to weigh down the teachers, but how can we make decisions without data? How can we know what programs are needed? The state is now running the Department of Education for everyone. Changes are required to adjust to the new paradigm; however, “maintenance of effort” requirements present barriers to innovation. There is disparity in broadband access and access to devices, with rural areas left behind. Our teachers need training in how to be effective “distance teachers.” These are some of the concerns we are addressing.

Sen. Karen Fann (President of the Senate, Arizona): Arizona is in good shape. Our finances, economy, and jobs are all in great shape. We have put aside assessments until the students are all back in school and then we will measure to assess learning deficits. The state has many charter schools that did not close during the pandemic and these students have kept up. But public schools lost students to the charter schools, resulting in lost funding and teacher layoffs. So there is a disparity with a large population doing well and a large population falling behind.

Sen. Rodric Bray (Senate President Pro Tempore, Indiana): During the pandemic, 15,000 students never showed up on Zoom or in person for classes. Parents also kept their children back from kindergarten. Now we are getting them back. We will do assessments to determine the scale of the academic problems but we will suspend accountability.

Federal funds will be used for remediation, including summer school, and Boys and Girls Clubs are engaged in the remediation programs. We anticipate that it will take a couple of years of progress to get students back to academic level. Funds are also being used to expand broadband access in rural areas.

Sen. Mimi Stewart (Senate President Pro Tempore, New Mexico): We have focused on extended learning. The state’s K-5 Plus program extends the school year for K–5 by 25 instructional days beginning before school starts. The K–5 Plus program provides funding for additional educational time for students in kindergarten through fifth grade in elementary schools. K–5 Plus must be offered school wide and teachers and cohorts are required to remain together for the remainder of the school year after the K-5 Plus program. Every child qualifies for this program, either by eligibility for the free/reduced cost lunch program or who shows deficits in the assessments. In addition, the state has added 10 days to the school year for everyone.

The state allocated funds for every district to provide the K-5 Plus program for the next 2 years and it was envisioned as a mandatory requirement for this next school year. However, the Teachers’ Union objected to the mandatory requirement. But the funds are available.

Sen. Lee Schoenbeck (Senate President Pro Tempore, South Dakota): The state’s school were remote for only 2 months last year, and classes have been in-person all this year. Many students were home-schooled during the pandemic but now are back in school. However, there is a group of students who fell off the grid completely and we will focus resources on identifying them and getting them back in school.

Melody Schopp, EdD (Director Education Industry Consulting at SAS Institute): Dr. Schopp served as South Dakota’s Secretary of Education and has 24 years of classroom experience. She currently supports education leaders and states by providing solutions-based analytics to improve student outcomes. She shared with the Forum her recommendations for critical next steps.

First, you have to measure where the academic losses are, where are the gaps. Evaluation metrics also need to be defined up-front; then as programs are implemented, their impacts are assessed according to these measures. That way you can measure return on investment, and identify which programs have impacted students’ success and their academic outcomes.

Sen. Jeremy Miller (President of the Senate, Minnesota): Assessments will be done but with more flexibility than the traditional Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment Examination. However, with our legislature split on party lines (Democratic House and Republican Senate), getting through the budget process in the remaining five weeks of session is the main focus. There is $2.6l in federal funds coming into the state, and the Governor has the sole authority to spend this windfall, which has created challenges for the legislature’s budget process.

Sen. Greg Treat (Senate President Pro Tempore, Oklahoma): The state will conduct assessments; however, education in our state is a tale of two cities. Most of our school districts are back in person and functioning as usual. However, the metro areas are a different story, with more virtual learning that is poorly attended and significant mental health challenges.

The state’s framework for reopening schools, Return to Learn Oklahoma, is designed to ensure that stakeholders and school districts understand how to support operations to produce the best outcomes for all, including community health considerations and conditions for learning. However, like Minnesota, Oklahoma’s legislature is struggling to gain some control over the CARES funds, which are now controlled solely by the Governor, with particular concerns about CARES investments in programs that lead to future costs.

Sen. Jake Corman (Senate President Pro Tempore, Pennsylvania): The battle between the executive and legislative branches also is occurring in Pennsylvania. Last year, the Governor shut down the schools for one-fourth of the school year. Students lost an entire year of proficiency in reading and math.

Now, with local control by the school districts, they are trying to catch up, and assessments will be performed in the spring to measure learning loss. All educators and school personnel were prioritized to receive the Johnson & Johnson COVID vaccine. Additionally, scholarship funds have been made available to move students into other schools.

Urban areas and poorer school districts have been hit harder and are not yet back to in-person classes because it is difficult to meet CDC guidelines in these older facilities. In Philadelphia, for example, $1.5 billion will be required to mitigate asbestos and lead paint in older schools.

Sen. Martin Looney (Senate President Pro Tempore, Connecticut): A study in our state revealed a direct correlation between successful virtual learning and family income. Learning loss is the greatest concern and places a disparate burden on poorer students. Fortunately, we were able to take advantage of a public-private partnership and give laptops to students who could not afford them. We need quality documentation of where our students are in order to deliver the needed interventions, and then we need to measure impact to determine what is working.

Unreported AbusesThe lack of in-person classes created an unexpected problem. Formerly, school systems reported instances of neglect or abuse, and engaged required services to address them. Without in-person classes, those reports now come from the police and emergency departments, and may not receive the vigilance and attention they need. — Sen. Martin Looney

Sen. José Dalmau (President of the Senate, Puerto Rico): For the past four years, Puerto Rico has been besieged by fiscal issues, hurricanes, earthquakes, and then COVID-19. This has had a devastating impact on students and on public education in general. As a result of COVID-19, families are at increased risk for falling into poverty and increased food insecurity due to the closure of schools and loss of income. Most students and teachers do not have access to virtual platforms. There has been a rise in child abuse and child labor. We need more social workers and counselors to address the issues our students face.

Unfortunately, our schools opened too early, before people were vaccinated. One hundred schools opened, but COVID rates increased forcing them to close again. Today, only about 1% of schools are in-person and most public and private schools have returned to virtual classes.

Sen. Stuart Adams (President of the Senate, Utah): The state will perform assessments in order to find out what the needs are for tutoring or for additional help. While most of the state’s schools are now in-person, the more urban Salt Lake district is still virtual and in need of tutors.

Teachers and school personnel were prioritized for COVID vaccinations, and COVID fatalities have decreased sharply. The economy is now open. The educational community is getting a 6% increase in funding and teachers are receiving bonuses. The legislature is encouraging districts to adopt a transparent process and criteria for spending federal dollars. We are engaged in forming partnerships and funding grants for needed programs.

Conclusion

Recurring themes throughout the Forum were the need to address students’ and teachers’ emotional and mental health, in addition to the academic losses. Many states report that students have disappeared from the radar and need to be reengaged. State leaders recognized the need to measure the current state of learning gaps, develop metrics to assess how well different programs helped close these gaps, and use these data to guide future investments. Several states have adopted innovative programs such as high-impact tutoring, engaging retired teachers as tutors, and extending the school day and year. State leaders expressed concern about the continued disparity among different populations—with poor, urban students and districts suffering the greatest losses and requiring the greatest assistance.

Speaker Biography

Dáaiyah Bilal-Threats

Special Assistant to the Executive Director and Senior Advisor for Strategic Initiatives
National Education Association (NEA))

Download PDF of article

 

 

 The Forum Welcomes
New Senate Participants
Sen. José Dalmau
President of the Senate
(Puerto Rico)
 Sen. Robert Hertzberg
Senate Majority Leader
(California)
 Sen. Mimi Stewart
Senate President Pro Tempore
(New Mexico)
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Five Key Strategies
for Successful COVID Catch-up
1. Design and deliver high-impact tutoring programs2. Extend the school day and school year; provide summer school terms3. Think big and innovate with the CARES Act and American Rescue Plan (ARP) education funds.4. Provide essential wrap-around supports to meet the basic needs of students, especially underserved populations such as English-language learners, special needs students and early education students in pre-K and kindergarten.5. Retain quality staff by addressing their health and safety and recognizing their stressors. Teachers are leaving at alarming rates. New creative arrangements may be required to meet their needs. Bonuses have been offered in hard-to-staff schools.

 

CONTACT US

Senate Presidents’ Forum

579 Broadway

Hastings-on-Hudson, NY 10706

 

Tel: 914-693-1818

Copyright © 2020 Senate Presidents' Forum. All rights reserved.

REPORT: March 5 Member Meeting

Learning Loss and Recovery

Dáaiyah Bilal-Threats

Special Assistant to the Executive Director and Senior Advisor for Strategic Initiatives
National Education Association (NEA)

On April 9, the Senate Presidents’ Forum examined the challenges of learning loss related to the pandemic, following up the March session on “Reopening Schools Safely.” The discussion was introduced by Dáaiyah Bilal-Threats, Special Assistant to the Executive Director and Senior Advisor for Strategic Initiatives, National Education Association (NEA).

With $168 billion of federal funds allocated to the states for education in the American Rescue Plan (ARP), senate leaders face tough decisions about how to best use these funds to mitigate the pandemic’s negative impact on student learning and growth.

Introduction

 

Congressional Spending to
Stabilize Education Budgets

National Education Association Report

Students

 “Schools are social systems built on relationships, students to students and to educators. Students must feel safe and welcomed or the learning environment is undermined.”— Dáaiyah Bilal-Threats

 “Students cannot learn if they are struggling with social, emotional, cultural, or mental health challenges.”— Dáaiyah Bilal-Threats

Cultural Issues

Percent of students who have returned to in-person classrooms, across the US:50% of White students28% of Black students38% of Hispanic students15% of Asian-American students

Recommendations for the States

Assess Current Needs

Engage Local Insights: Create Long-term Plans

High-Impact Tutoring

 The National Student Support Accelerator provides open-source Accelerator tools and resources to help ensure more equitable access to quality tutoring, available here:Toolkit for Tutoring Programs

Discussion

Moderated by

Tom Finneran

Sen. Larry Taylor (Chair, Senate Education Committee, Texas): Assessments will be done, and parents and teachers will get detailed data on each child’s needs and where to get help. Students will not be graded, but rather the assessment is designed to get a baseline of where they are academically so that interventions can be targeted to these areas.

 

“An innovative strategy in Texas has been to recruit
thousands of retired teachers, find ways to pay them without compromising their pensions, and assign them to one-on-one or small-group tutoring.”
 — Sen. Larry Taylor

Smaller class sizes and more teachers in the classroom will allow for more one-to-one attention, with bonuses for teachers. Funds are being used for broadband access for all students, and every student has a computer. Additionally, funds are being used for facilities upgrades such as ventilation to provide the best environment for learning.

Sen. Ronald Kouchi (President of the Senate, Hawaii): The state’s Superintendent of the Department of Education recently resigned after criticism of her decision not to have assessments. She did not want to weigh down the teachers, but how can we make decisions without data? How can we know what programs are needed? The state is now running the Department of Education for everyone. Changes are required to adjust to the new paradigm; however, “maintenance of effort” requirements present barriers to innovation. There is disparity in broadband access and access to devices, with rural areas left behind. Our teachers need training in how to be effective “distance teachers.” These are some of the concerns we are addressing.

Sen. Karen Fann (President of the Senate, Arizona): Arizona is in good shape. Our finances, economy, and jobs are all in great shape. We have put aside assessments until the students are all back in school and then we will measure to assess learning deficits. The state has many charter schools that did not close during the pandemic and these students have kept up. But public schools lost students to the charter schools, resulting in lost funding and teacher layoffs. So there is a disparity with a large population doing well and a large population falling behind.

Sen. Rodric Bray (Senate President Pro Tempore, Indiana): During the pandemic, 15,000 students never showed up on Zoom or in person for classes. Parents also kept their children back from kindergarten. Now we are getting them back. We will do assessments to determine the scale of the academic problems but we will suspend accountability.

Federal funds will be used for remediation, including summer school, and Boys and Girls Clubs are engaged in the remediation programs. We anticipate that it will take a couple of years of progress to get students back to academic level. Funds are also being used to expand broadband access in rural areas.

Sen. Mimi Stewart (Senate President Pro Tempore, New Mexico): We have focused on extended learning. The state’s K-5 Plus program extends the school year for K–5 by 25 instructional days beginning before school starts. The K–5 Plus program provides funding for additional educational time for students in kindergarten through fifth grade in elementary schools. K–5 Plus must be offered school wide and teachers and cohorts are required to remain together for the remainder of the school year after the K-5 Plus program. Every child qualifies for this program, either by eligibility for the free/reduced cost lunch program or who shows deficits in the assessments. In addition, the state has added 10 days to the school year for everyone.

The state allocated funds for every district to provide the K-5 Plus program for the next 2 years and it was envisioned as a mandatory requirement for this next school year. However, the Teachers’ Union objected to the mandatory requirement. But the funds are available.

Sen. Lee Schoenbeck (Senate President Pro Tempore, South Dakota): The state’s school were remote for only 2 months last year, and classes have been in-person all this year. Many students were home-schooled during the pandemic but now are back in school. However, there is a group of students who fell off the grid completely and we will focus resources on identifying them and getting them back in school.

Melody Schopp, EdD (Director Education Industry Consulting at SAS Institute): Dr. Schopp served as South Dakota’s Secretary of Education and has 24 years of classroom experience. She currently supports education leaders and states by providing solutions-based analytics to improve student outcomes. She shared with the Forum her recommendations for critical next steps.

First, you have to measure where the academic losses are, where are the gaps. Evaluation metrics also need to be defined up-front; then as programs are implemented, their impacts are assessed according to these measures. That way you can measure return on investment, and identify which programs have impacted students’ success and their academic outcomes.

Sen. Jeremy Miller (President of the Senate, Minnesota): Assessments will be done but with more flexibility than the traditional Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment Examination. However, with our legislature split on party lines (Democratic House and Republican Senate), getting through the budget process in the remaining five weeks of session is the main focus. There is $2.6l in federal funds coming into the state, and the Governor has the sole authority to spend this windfall, which has created challenges for the legislature’s budget process.

Sen. Greg Treat (Senate President Pro Tempore, Oklahoma): The state will conduct assessments; however, education in our state is a tale of two cities. Most of our school districts are back in person and functioning as usual. However, the metro areas are a different story, with more virtual learning that is poorly attended and significant mental health challenges.

The state’s framework for reopening schools, Return to Learn Oklahoma, is designed to ensure that stakeholders and school districts understand how to support operations to produce the best outcomes for all, including community health considerations and conditions for learning. However, like Minnesota, Oklahoma’s legislature is struggling to gain some control over the CARES funds, which are now controlled solely by the Governor, with particular concerns about CARES investments in programs that lead to future costs.

Sen. Jake Corman (Senate President Pro Tempore, Pennsylvania): The battle between the executive and legislative branches also is occurring in Pennsylvania. Last year, the Governor shut down the schools for one-fourth of the school year. Students lost an entire year of proficiency in reading and math.

Now, with local control by the school districts, they are trying to catch up, and assessments will be performed in the spring to measure learning loss. All educators and school personnel were prioritized to receive the Johnson & Johnson COVID vaccine. Additionally, scholarship funds have been made available to move students into other schools.

Urban areas and poorer school districts have been hit harder and are not yet back to in-person classes because it is difficult to meet CDC guidelines in these older facilities. In Philadelphia, for example, $1.5 billion will be required to mitigate asbestos and lead paint in older schools.

Sen. Martin Looney (Senate President Pro Tempore, Connecticut): A study in our state revealed a direct correlation between successful virtual learning and family income. Learning loss is the greatest concern and places a disparate burden on poorer students. Fortunately, we were able to take advantage of a public-private partnership and give laptops to students who could not afford them. We need quality documentation of where our students are in order to deliver the needed interventions, and then we need to measure impact to determine what is working.

Unreported AbusesThe lack of in-person classes created an unexpected problem. Formerly, school systems reported instances of neglect or abuse, and engaged required services to address them. Without in-person classes, those reports now come from the police and emergency departments, and may not receive the vigilance and attention they need. — Sen. Martin Looney

Sen. José Dalmau (President of the Senate, Puerto Rico): For the past four years, Puerto Rico has been besieged by fiscal issues, hurricanes, earthquakes, and then COVID-19. This has had a devastating impact on students and on public education in general. As a result of COVID-19, families are at increased risk for falling into poverty and increased food insecurity due to the closure of schools and loss of income. Most students and teachers do not have access to virtual platforms. There has been a rise in child abuse and child labor. We need more social workers and counselors to address the issues our students face.

Unfortunately, our schools opened too early, before people were vaccinated. One hundred schools opened, but COVID rates increased forcing them to close again. Today, only about 1% of schools are in-person and most public and private schools have returned to virtual classes.

Sen. Stuart Adams (President of the Senate, Utah): The state will perform assessments in order to find out what the needs are for tutoring or for additional help. While most of the state’s schools are now in-person, the more urban Salt Lake district is still virtual and in need of tutors.

Teachers and school personnel were prioritized for COVID vaccinations, and COVID fatalities have decreased sharply. The economy is now open. The educational community is getting a 6% increase in funding and teachers are receiving bonuses. The legislature is encouraging districts to adopt a transparent process and criteria for spending federal dollars. We are engaged in forming partnerships and funding grants for needed programs.

Conclusion

Recurring themes throughout the Forum were the need to address students’ and teachers’ emotional and mental health, in addition to the academic losses. Many states report that students have disappeared from the radar and need to be reengaged. State leaders recognized the need to measure the current state of learning gaps, develop metrics to assess how well different programs helped close these gaps, and use these data to guide future investments. Several states have adopted innovative programs such as high-impact tutoring, engaging retired teachers as tutors, and extending the school day and year. State leaders expressed concern about the continued disparity among different populations—with poor, urban students and districts suffering the greatest losses and requiring the greatest assistance.

Speaker Biography

Dáaiyah Bilal-Threats

Special Assistant to the Executive Director and Senior Advisor for Strategic Initiatives
National Education Association (NEA))

Download PDF of article

 

 

 The Forum Welcomes
New Senate Participants
Sen. José Dalmau
President of the Senate
(Puerto Rico)
 Sen. Robert Hertzberg
Senate Majority Leader
(California)
 Sen. Mimi Stewart
Senate President Pro Tempore
(New Mexico)
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Five Key Strategies
for Successful COVID Catch-up
1. Design and deliver high-impact tutoring programs2. Extend the school day and school year; provide summer school terms3. Think big and innovate with the CARES Act and American Rescue Plan (ARP) education funds.4. Provide essential wrap-around supports to meet the basic needs of students, especially underserved populations such as English-language learners, special needs students and early education students in pre-K and kindergarten.5. Retain quality staff by addressing their health and safety and recognizing their stressors. Teachers are leaving at alarming rates. New creative arrangements may be required to meet their needs. Bonuses have been offered in hard-to-staff schools.

 

CONTACT US

Senate Presidents’ Forum

579 Broadway

Hastings-on-Hudson, NY 10706

 

Tel: 914-693-1818

Copyright © 2020 Senate Presidents' Forum. All rights reserved.

REPORT: March 5 Member Meeting

Download PDF of article

Learning Loss and Recovery

Dáaiyah Bilal-Threats

Special Assistant to the Executive Director and Senior Advisor for Strategic Initiatives
National Education Association (NEA)

 The Forum Welcomes New Senate ParticipantsSen. José Dalmau
President of the Senate
(Puerto Rico)
Sen. Robert Hertzberg
Senate Majority Leader
(California)
Sen. Mimi Stewart
Senate President Pro Tempore
(New Mexico)

On April 9, the Senate Presidents’ Forum examined the challenges of learning loss related to the pandemic, following up the March session on “Reopening Schools Safely.” The discussion was introduced by Dáaiyah Bilal-Threats, Special Assistant to the Executive Director and Senior Advisor for Strategic Initiatives, National Education Association (NEA).

With $168 billion of federal funds allocated to the states for education in the American Rescue Plan (ARP), senate leaders face tough decisions about how to best use these funds to mitigate the pandemic’s negative impact on student learning and growth.

Introduction

 

Congressional Spending to
Stabilize Education Budgets

National Education Association Report

Students

 “Schools are social systems built on relationships, students to students and to educators. Students must feel safe and welcomed or the learning environment is undermined.”— Dáaiyah Bilal-Threats

 “Students cannot learn if they are struggling with social, emotional, cultural, or mental health challenges.”— Dáaiyah Bilal-Threats

Cultural Issues

Percent of students who have returned to in-person classrooms, across the US:50% of White students28% of Black students38% of Hispanic students15% of Asian-American students

Recommendations for the States

Assess Current Needs

Engage Local Insights: Create Long-term Plans

High-Impact Tutoring

 The National Student Support Accelerator provides open-source Accelerator tools and resources to help ensure more equitable access to quality tutoring, available here:Toolkit for Tutoring Programs

Discussion

Moderated by

Tom Finneran

Sen. Larry Taylor (Chair, Senate Education Committee, Texas): Assessments will be done, and parents and teachers will get detailed data on each child’s needs and where to get help. Students will not be graded, but rather the assessment is designed to get a baseline of where they are academically so that interventions can be targeted to these areas.

 

“An innovative strategy in Texas has been to recruit thousands of retired teachers, find ways to pay them without compromising their pensions, and assign them to one-on-one or small-group tutoring.” — Sen. Larry Taylor

Smaller class sizes and more teachers in the classroom will allow for more one-to-one attention, with bonuses for teachers. Funds are being used for broadband access for all students, and every student has a computer. Additionally, funds are being used for facilities upgrades such as ventilation to provide the best environment for learning.

Sen. Ronald Kouchi (President of the Senate, Hawaii): The state’s Superintendent of the Department of Education recently resigned after criticism of her decision not to have assessments. She did not want to weigh down the teachers, but how can we make decisions without data? How can we know what programs are needed? The state is now running the Department of Education for everyone. Changes are required to adjust to the new paradigm; however, “maintenance of effort” requirements present barriers to innovation. There is disparity in broadband access and access to devices, with rural areas left behind. Our teachers need training in how to be effective “distance teachers.” These are some of the concerns we are addressing.

Sen. Karen Fann (President of the Senate, Arizona): Arizona is in good shape. Our finances, economy, and jobs are all in great shape. We have put aside assessments until the students are all back in school and then we will measure to assess learning deficits. The state has many charter schools that did not close during the pandemic and these students have kept up. But public schools lost students to the charter schools, resulting in lost funding and teacher layoffs. So there is a disparity with a large population doing well and a large population falling behind.

Sen. Rodric Bray (Senate President Pro Tempore, Indiana): During the pandemic, 15,000 students never showed up on Zoom or in person for classes. Parents also kept their children back from kindergarten. Now we are getting them back. We will do assessments to determine the scale of the academic problems but we will suspend accountability.

Federal funds will be used for remediation, including summer school, and Boys and Girls Clubs are engaged in the remediation programs. We anticipate that it will take a couple of years of progress to get students back to academic level. Funds are also being used to expand broadband access in rural areas.

Sen. Mimi Stewart (Senate President Pro Tempore, New Mexico): We have focused on extended learning. The state’s K-5 Plus program extends the school year for K–5 by 25 instructional days beginning before school starts. The K–5 Plus program provides funding for additional educational time for students in kindergarten through fifth grade in elementary schools. K–5 Plus must be offered school wide and teachers and cohorts are required to remain together for the remainder of the school year after the K-5 Plus program. Every child qualifies for this program, either by eligibility for the free/reduced cost lunch program or who shows deficits in the assessments. In addition, the state has added 10 days to the school year for everyone.

The state allocated funds for every district to provide the K-5 Plus program for the next 2 years and it was envisioned as a mandatory requirement for this next school year. However, the Teachers’ Union objected to the mandatory requirement. But the funds are available.

Sen. Lee Schoenbeck (Senate President Pro Tempore, South Dakota): The state’s school were remote for only 2 months last year, and classes have been in-person all this year. Many students were home-schooled during the pandemic but now are back in school. However, there is a group of students who fell off the grid completely and we will focus resources on identifying them and getting them back in school.

Melody Schopp, EdD (Director Education Industry Consulting at SAS Institute): Dr. Schopp served as South Dakota’s Secretary of Education and has 24 years of classroom experience. She currently supports education leaders and states by providing solutions-based analytics to improve student outcomes. She shared with the Forum her recommendations for critical next steps.

First, you have to measure where the academic losses are, where are the gaps. Evaluation metrics also need to be defined up-front; then as programs are implemented, their impacts are assessed according to these measures. That way you can measure return on investment, and identify which programs have impacted students’ success and their academic outcomes.

Sen. Jeremy Miller (President of the Senate, Minnesota): Assessments will be done but with more flexibility than the traditional Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment Examination. However, with our legislature split on party lines (Democratic House and Republican Senate), getting through the budget process in the remaining five weeks of session is the main focus. There is $2.6l in federal funds coming into the state, and the Governor has the sole authority to spend this windfall, which has created challenges for the legislature’s budget process.

Sen. Greg Treat (Senate President Pro Tempore, Oklahoma): The state will conduct assessments; however, education in our state is a tale of two cities. Most of our school districts are back in person and functioning as usual. However, the metro areas are a different story, with more virtual learning that is poorly attended and significant mental health challenges.

The state’s framework for reopening schools, Return to Learn Oklahoma, is designed to ensure that stakeholders and school districts understand how to support operations to produce the best outcomes for all, including community health considerations and conditions for learning. However, like Minnesota, Oklahoma’s legislature is struggling to gain some control over the CARES funds, which are now controlled solely by the Governor, with particular concerns about CARES investments in programs that lead to future costs.

Sen. Jake Corman (Senate President Pro Tempore, Pennsylvania): The battle between the executive and legislative branches also is occurring in Pennsylvania. Last year, the Governor shut down the schools for one-fourth of the school year. Students lost an entire year of proficiency in reading and math.

Now, with local control by the school districts, they are trying to catch up, and assessments will be performed in the spring to measure learning loss. All educators and school personnel were prioritized to receive the Johnson & Johnson COVID vaccine. Additionally, scholarship funds have been made available to move students into other schools.

Urban areas and poorer school districts have been hit harder and are not yet back to in-person classes because it is difficult to meet CDC guidelines in these older facilities. In Philadelphia, for example, $1.5 billion will be required to mitigate asbestos and lead paint in older schools.

Sen. Martin Looney (Senate President Pro Tempore, Connecticut): A study in our state revealed a direct correlation between successful virtual learning and family income. Learning loss is the greatest concern and places a disparate burden on poorer students. Fortunately, we were able to take advantage of a public-private partnership and give laptops to students who could not afford them. We need quality documentation of where our students are in order to deliver the needed interventions, and then we need to measure impact to determine what is working.

Unreported AbusesThe lack of in-person classes created an unexpected problem. Formerly, school systems reported instances of neglect or abuse, and engaged required services to address them. Without in-person classes, those reports now come from the police and emergency departments, and may not receive the vigilance and attention they need. — Sen. Martin Looney

Sen. José Dalmau (President of the Senate, Puerto Rico): For the past four years, Puerto Rico has been besieged by fiscal issues, hurricanes, earthquakes, and then COVID-19. This has had a devastating impact on students and on public education in general. As a result of COVID-19, families are at increased risk for falling into poverty and increased food insecurity due to the closure of schools and loss of income. Most students and teachers do not have access to virtual platforms. There has been a rise in child abuse and child labor. We need more social workers and counselors to address the issues our students face.

Unfortunately, our schools opened too early, before people were vaccinated. One hundred schools opened, but COVID rates increased forcing them to close again. Today, only about 1% of schools are in-person and most public and private schools have returned to virtual classes.

Sen. Stuart Adams (President of the Senate, Utah): The state will perform assessments in order to find out what the needs are for tutoring or for additional help. While most of the state’s schools are now in-person, the more urban Salt Lake district is still virtual and in need of tutors.

Teachers and school personnel were prioritized for COVID vaccinations, and COVID fatalities have decreased sharply. The economy is now open. The educational community is getting a 6% increase in funding and teachers are receiving bonuses. The legislature is encouraging districts to adopt a transparent process and criteria for spending federal dollars. We are engaged in forming partnerships and funding grants for needed programs.

Conclusion

Recurring themes throughout the Forum were the need to address students’ and teachers’ emotional and mental health, in addition to the academic losses. Many states report that students have disappeared from the radar and need to be reengaged. State leaders recognized the need to measure the current state of learning gaps, develop metrics to assess how well different programs helped close these gaps, and use these data to guide future investments. Several states have adopted innovative programs such as high-impact tutoring, engaging retired teachers as tutors, and extending the school day and year. State leaders expressed concern about the continued disparity among different populations—with poor, urban students and districts suffering the greatest losses and requiring the greatest assistance.

Speaker Biography

Dáaiyah Bilal-Threats

Special Assistant to the Executive Director and
     Senior Advisor for Strategic Initiatives
National Education Association (NEA))

CONTACT US

Senate Presidents’ Forum

579 Broadway

Hastings-on-Hudson, NY 10706

Tel: 914-693-1818

Copyright © 2020 Senate Presidents' Forum. All rights reserved.