It is week 36 of our new reality. With the elections behind us and Thanksgiving just one week away, it is a good time to take stock of where we are, what we have learned and where things go from here.

While much of the post-election discussion in the media has focused on the presidential race, when it comes to education the most important elections are always local. In this edition of the Roundup, we are including a special section from the 50CAN Action Fund to put a spotlight on those local races and what we can all learn from the results.

At the same time, the work to change policies to meet the urgent needs of students continues in states across the country. We take a closer look at these policy debates with a focus on a few issues that are moving forward outside of the spotlight: measuring student progress and removing red tape for safer small group instruction.

All of this work takes place against the backdrop of a resurgent Covid-19, which has put to rest any hope that we might return to normal this school year. Now more than ever, students will need us all to stand up for their needs and find new ways for instruction to continue in a complex, ever-changing educational landscape where the only thing we know for sure is that what we are doing right now isn’t enough.

Learning from local leaders who stood up for kids

If, as Tip O’Neill once said, “All politics is local,” it is perhaps appropriate to go further when speaking about schooling and say, “All education politics is hyperlocal.”

Our highly decentralized education system means that the most important decisions are made across 50 statehouses and 13,500 school districts, each with their own unique challenges. That means that when it comes to putting the needs of kids first in education decisions, having local leaders fighting for kids in their municipal and state elections is crucial.

Last week, the 50CAN Action Fund brought together a diverse group of advocates from across the country to talk about what they have learned from their work in this year’s local elections.

Among the lessons shared: the need to trust data over hunches when it comes to messaging, the importance of engaging both Democrats and Republicans and the power of bringing new technology to the grassroots.

  • The task this week is to learn from local leaders who have succeeded in supporting candidates who stand up for kids and to put those lessons to work in elections to come.

Push hard for progress in the face of a resurgent virus

With Covid-19 infections rising at an alarming rate across the country and several cities scaling back school reopenings, we need to keep pushing for policies at the state and local level that will empower families with data on how their kids are doing and provide them with safe choices for keeping learning going in the months ahead.

This week, on the 50CAN blog, we hear from three of our leaders: Policy Advisor Liz Cohen, TennesseeCAN Executive Director Victor Evans and DelawareCAN Executive Director Daniel Walker on the immediate changes that are required to meet the needs of families.

“Districts, educators and policymakers are all concerned about learning loss. What is missing right now in far too many cases is hard data,” writes Cohen, who proposes using small parts of the state summative assessments that weren’t given in the spring as tools to give parents information about student learning now.

In his piece, TennesseeCAN’s Evans highlights the work of Governor Lee to give state-wide assessments in the spring, while also offering ideas for solving current barriers, including using paper tests and a longer administration window. “Let’s work together to make sure that what we learn–how our children are progressing and how schools are educating–is leveraged to provide the best possible future for Tennessee kids.”

In Delaware, Walker offers thanks to Governor Carney for his $1 million in grants for child care centers, coupled with a push to recognize that there’s a great deal left to accomplish. In particular, he argues that meeting the needs of working families who aren’t finding vacancies at licensed centers will require removing red tape: “Governor Carney can solve this problem with an executive order that creates temporary licenses for Safe Learning Centers.”

  • The task this week is for all advocates to assess the needs of families in the face of a virus that shows no signs of abating and make the case for immediate change.

  • Brookings asks if public education will ever return to normal after the pandemic has passed. Their verdict: “Horses and men couldn’t put Humpty back together, but good, new things can be built from parts.”
  • Bellwether is out with a new report estimating the size of the Covid-19 school attendance crisis. The results: a disconcerting 3 million students.
  • Erika Christakis, writing for The Atlantic, makes the case that we must aim for an educational transformation instead of a return to normal in a new piece, “School Wasn’t So Great Before Covid, Either.”
  • Data Quality Campaign offers a roundup of the education data bills introduced and signed into law through the course of 2020.
  • Transcend Education and the American Association of School Superintendents held a webinar on how schools and districts can equitably respond to and recover from the pandemic.
  • The State Policy Network released a new report, “Protecting Learning Pods: A 50-State Guide to Regulations Threatening the Latest Education Innovation.”
  • Urban Institute analyzes the reasons schools need to embrace flexibility beyond the Covid-19 crisis, arguing the pandemic has created an opening for change.
  • AEI’s Rick Hess and Hayley Sanon, writing for The Dispatch, analyze the behavior of national and local teacher unions during the pandemic.
  • Tim DeRoche, writing for The Grade, asks why there isn’t more rigorous and frequent reporting about educational redlining.
  • Education Next’s Marty West and Fordham’s Chester Finn bid farewell to Senator Lamar Alexander and reflect on his impact on education in a new podcast.

Lucille Bridges, who led her daughter Ruby across a color line in the fight against segregation in our schools, died at the age of 86. What is the message Lucille hoped children would take away from her advocacy? “You have to have that education,” she once remarked. “I would love for them to just listen to my story so they can know how hard it was for my kids to go to school … All those people calling us names, you just have to charge that to their ignorance and just go on. Be yourself, and God will bring you through.”

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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