Week 154
March 5, 2023

“When this school year began, Issac Moreno just couldn’t get himself to go,” writes Jonaki Mehta in a new article for NPR. “The last fully normal school year Issac remembers is third grade. Now, he’s in seventh …Issac’s mother, Jessica Moreno, says it’s been a struggle to get Issac back into the routine of going to school.”

Issac isn’t alone. The decision to close school buildings and keep them closed created ripples of dislocation and broken norms that continue to disrupt the lives of millions of students and their families.

“Before the pandemic, about 8 million U.S. students were considered chronically absent, according to the research group Attendance Works. That’s when a student misses 10% or more of the school year. By spring 2022, that number had doubled to around 16 million,” Mehta writes. “Students who are chronically absent are at higher risk of falling behind, scoring lower on standardized tests and even dropping out. And as often happens in education, students who struggle with attendance are also more likely to live in poverty, be children of color or have disabilities.”

It is an important reminder of the urgency of reaching every child with more than just an invitation to return to normal but the better services, support and opportunities needed for a real recovery.


Last time in the New Reality Roundup, we looked at a new series of essays on a future of education that truly centers families and stated the need to put a focus on kids rather than the conflicts of our political system. This week, we look at a successful summer proof point and the need to replicate it widely and share promising work in supporting English language learners in Connecticut.


Expand proof points of a reimagined summer for kids

A year ago, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg launched Summer Boost NYC, a program that provided New York’s charter students with rigorous summer instruction opportunities to help them recover from learning loss incurred during the Covid-19 pandemic. In a recent op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg reported on the incredible results of the program and plans for Bloomberg Philanthropies to expand it nationwide:

“The response from students and schools was resoundingly positive. More than 16,000 students from 224 schools participated. At the end of the summer, we tested students to assess their progress, and the results were encouraging. The percentage of students who met grade-level standards in math nearly doubled—and in English, it more than doubled. The share of students scoring below the most basic levels of proficiency fell by nearly half.”

Based on these results, Bloomberg Philanthropies is renewing the program for New York City and expanding it to seven new cities this summer: Baltimore, Birmingham, Indianapolis, Memphis, Nashville, San Antonio and Washington DC.

Bloomberg sees a dual benefit for the program: helping tens of thousands of kids right now recover from the pandemic and creating proof points that can encourage elected officials to champion the cause for millions more. “We need education leaders across the country to support expanded summer instruction and demand that elected officials fund it, putting the needs of students–not the demands of teacher unions or other special interests–first,” Bloomberg states.

Charter schools operating in any of the eight cities can apply right now to give their students access to Summer Boost. The deadline for school applications is March 22, 2023.

As we shared in our 2022 CANnual report, partnering with educational entrepreneurs who build new proof points of what’s possible in an education system where kids truly can learn anywhere is a key way we’re working to make change from the bottom up. We were humbled to partner with the Bloomberg Philanthropies’ team to help bring Summer Boost to life last year as its fiscal sponsor and we are excited to be able to play the same role as it expands this summer.

As a critical part of our “Build” initiative, which provides robust backend support to educational entrepreneurs, we believe that Summer Boost is a proof point for the education system of the future, one where students have year-long access to experiences that both remediate and extend learning.

To share the opportunity to join Summer Boost with charter school leaders in these eight communities and advocate for public funding to replicate this proof point in every community in the country.

Meet the needs of English Language Learners

“Governor Ned Lamont wants to make it easier for Connecticut students to learn English as a secondary language,” reports WSHU Public Radio in Bridgeport. “He has proposed the English Learners’ Bill of Rights, which would establish better communication between school and home and allow students to transfer if their district does not have proper classes.”

The bill, which ConnCAN and their local partners have been championing for the past two years, establishes the following rights for students and families, among others:

  • The right to bilingual education programs when there are 20 or more eligible students in a school.
  • The right-to-know for families about how their children are progressing in English language acquisition, including annual language proficiency tests.
  • The right of every ELL student to receive support services aligned to an intervention plan.
  • The right to a translator at meetings with teachers and administrators, including parent-teacher conferences.

The bill applies not only to native Spanish speakers but all English learners. “We’ve learned a lot through this process about what it means to codify rights for students,” ConnCAN Policy and Research Director Hamish MacPhail shared.

From the beginning, State Representative Antonio Felipe partnered with the ConnCAN team as the sponsor of the bill, and with the support of Governor Lamont the bill now moves to the forefront of a busy legislative session. In this effort, the Constitution State is providing an example on students’ and families’ rights that should be picked up by states across the country.

To ensure that students working to master the English language are provided with the specialized supports they need to thrive and their families are given the translation services they need to be equal partners in their educational journey.


TennesseeCAN applauded Governor Bill Lee for his support of a bill that would expand ESAs to an additional county and thousands of students, including any district that has at least five schools in the bottom 10% of the state. That bill passed the state senate and is now before the House administration full committee.

HawaiiKidsCAN launched their Hawaii Tutoring initiative, a program that pairs K-12 students with virtual tutors to recover from learning loss and secure greater opportunities. “This is so huge,” State Senator Lynn DeCoite said of the program. “My area is probably one of the most remote, most isolated areas without connection. I cannot tell you how grateful we are with the partnerships involved in making sure kids have those opportunities for the resources.” We’re grateful as well to Spectrum, who stepped up with a gift to expand the program to even more students.

NewMexicoKidsCAN’s literacy bill, which supports districts in adopting the science of reading, passed out of the House Education Committee with a 9-1 vote. Unfortunately, a bill requiring transparency and public reporting on how ESSER funding has been spent was tabled on a party line vote after passing the Senate with only one dissenting vote.

Key Resources

FutureEd, in collaboration with The 74 Million, synthesized the common themes on education from governors’ State of the State addresses. Top themes included teacher pay, ESAs and the science of reading.

ExcelinEd released their K-8 Math Policy and Fundamental Principles, designed to ensure that all students are prepared to succeed in algebra with an aim toward fixing the country’s lagging math scores.

“Levers of Change: How State Policies Support District Innovation” is the title of a new report from Bellwether, which studies the school systems of seven states that are supporting and catalyzing innovation.

Brookings Institution cautions that with ESSER funds triggering a flood of new vendors into the market, education leaders need to have their eye on quality.

Checker Finn, writing for Education Next, adds nuance to the debate over teacher salaries, noting that if we had held classroom size constant over the past several decades, teacher salaries would be “69 percent higher than they actually are.”

The 74 Million investigates school district spending, finding that in the time since the launch of the “Sold a Story” podcast, 225 school districts purchased materials grounded in “three-cueing” and other discredited approaches to reading instruction.

Urban Institute is hosting a webinar this Thursday on achieving greater racial equity in career and technical programs. The webinar brings together policy minds as well as leaders at 12 community and technical colleges.

Moment of Resilience

ConnCAN Executive Director Subira Gordon, Policy Director Hamish MacPhail, State Grassroots Manager Luis Ortiz and Ramon Garcia, a parent fellow working with ConnCAN, meet with Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont following the Governor’s public comments in support of the English Language Learners Bill of Rights. The ConnCAN team was motivated to champion the bill as a result of conversations with countless parents, students and community leaders who said they felt locked out of educational opportunities because of a lack of support in Connecticut schools.

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