It is now week 24 of our new education reality.

Over the past five months, we’ve sought to shine a spotlight on the needs of students and families in this new reality and highlight innovative ways in which educators and local leaders are responding to this crisis.

This week, in a special edition of The New Reality Roundup, we present two new policy briefs that chart a path forward with specific recommendations for a nationwide emergency response to meet the needs of our students:

Fund Everything: Emergency Education Investments in a National Crisis

Measure Everything: Emergency Data Collection in a National Crisis

We hope you’ll read the briefs, share them with your networks and raise your voice to demand that our public officials lead with ideas big enough to meet the size of the great challenges we now face.

Fund everything

“We do not know when the pandemic will end, but we do know that when it ends, we will need an education system much stronger and more just than before,” Derrell Bradford and I write in one of 50CAN’s two new policy briefs, Fund Everything: Emergency Education Investments in a National Crisis. 

In the brief, we make the case for a three-part emergency response:

  • Emergency funding for schools of all types to support reopening buildings safely where we can or to run high-quality virtual learning where we must.

  • Direct payments and tax credits to families that can be used to pay for tuition to a microschool or pooled with other families to create learning pods.

  • Direct payments and tax credits to families who chose to homeschool their children this year.

By focusing on student need and a commitment to more equitable access to a wide variety of learning options, we believe we can help ensure not only that we keep learning going for students this year, but provide the foundation for a stronger and more adaptable education system for decades to come.

Read the full brief.

Measure everything

“The global pandemic has disrupted so many aspects of our education system, it would be easy to overlook the implications for measuring student progress. But losing our measurement tools would mean giving up on any understanding of what is working and not working in our response to this crisis,” we write in the second of 50CAN’s new policy briefs, Measure Everything: Emergency Data Collection in a National Crisis.

In the brief, we argue for protecting the most important elements of our existing data collection systems while embracing new ways of measuring what works:

  • Protect the 2020–21 state summative assessments by ensuring that they are administered on-time in the upcoming school year.

  • Provide funding for new online learning tools, apps and platforms and invest in safe and secure portals that can help families monitor their student progress.

  • Fund a new generation of experimental studies on what works in education in partnership with state research universities to dramatically advance our education policy knowledge.

By making emergency investments in data collection, high-quality research and the systems needed to bring all this information together in one place, we believe we will give ourselves the best chance to be flexible, adaptable and innovative as we work to meet the new needs of our students.

Read the full report.

After a tough spring for Connecticut, where the state was not able to provide enough devices to foster innovation or maintain high levels of learning, ConnCAN got the win they were looking for when Governor Lamont announced the Everybody Learns Initiative, a $43.5 million program to provide devices and connectivity to students at district and charter schools.

The digital divide has also been a barrier to learning in Hawaii, motivating HawaiiKidsCAN’s WiFi on Wheels program that we’ve covered previously.  The initiative met with such success that it is now scaling up with public money, including a $400,000 investment from the county government of the Big Island, with the first sites coming on-line this week.

P.S. 305 in Miami also obtained two major wins by activating their parent leaders to put pressure on the district. The school district agreed to put parents on the working groups involved with reopening schools and the school board publicly directed the superintendent to review its curriculum for addressing racism and cultural understanding, one of P.S. 305’s key policy initiatives.

Other campaigns are focused on ensuring that parents and students can understand both their progress and learning loss as a result of the pandemic. In Colorado, Transform Education Now has fought hard to maintain a commitment to learning and high expectations amidst the Covid-19 shutdown. On Thursday of last week, TEN achieved a major win when the school board voted, 6-1, to ensure parents have access to meaningful data for schools.

In New Jersey, JerseyCAN collaborated with State Senator Theresa Ruiz over the past months in developing innovative ideas into legislation to get more diverse, high-quality educators into New Jersey’s classrooms.

50CAN’s campaigns also continue to elevate the voices of parents, providing them with critical information and taking their views to the press, legislators and the public at large. GeorgiaCAN was recently cited as the authoritative source of information on school reopening plans across the state. With parents questioning the options for schooling in the fall, GeorgiaCAN Outreach Director Steven Quinn appeared on the Go Get Mom podcast to talk with parents about their options.

  • The Charles Koch Institute’s Lisa Snell gives her perspective on how the education system will evolve to meet the individual needs of students and families in the wake of Covid-19.
  • Morgan Stanley looks at four potential scenarios for the economy over the coming year, stressing that the extent to which the economy recovers over the next year will have lingering effects over the next three to five.
  • CRPE’s Travis Pillow writes on how learning pods and microschools could be the backbone of a new structure in public education.
  • The American Enterprise Institute published a new report that looks at innovations in teacher staffing models and microschooling as a promising model for the future.
  • AEI also is out with a new report examining how district leaders across the country grappled with creating reopening plans.
  • The Bush Institute’s new issue of its quarterly, The Catalyst, features numerous voices on education, including 50CAN’s own Derrell Bradford writing on equity and opportunity.
  • Teach For All’s student advisory council brought together international students to discuss how they could support their peers across the globe during Covid-19.
  • The Fordham Institute and The Harris Poll have a new study showing a majority of parents of school-age children want school buildings to stay closed this fall.
  • The Center for American Progress makes key policy recommendations designed to help students recover academically, including a massive national tutoring program, in their new report.
  • The National School Choice Week team created a one-stop resource hub for everything you need to know about learning pods.
  • Linda Jacobson, writing for The 74 Million, looks at the continued digital divide and the policy solutions that will be needed to fix it rapidly.

“It’s not the push of information that I’m used to, it’s now a pull of information that parents have to do… we have to pull the information from the DOE and share them with our community,” reflects Marissa Baptista, a Hawaii parent and president of the Red Hill Elementary PTSA in Oahu in HawaiiKidsCAN’s first video in a new series elevating voices from the community.

Marc Porter Magee Ph.D is the CEO and founder of 50CAN: The 50-State Campaign for Achievement Now. He lives in Alexandria, Virginia.


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