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Hirono, Booker Announce Legislation to Improve Distance and Blended Learning for K-12 Schools During COVID-19

The following article features comments by AACTE President and CEO Lynn M. Gangone on behalf of the Association in support of the legislation. 

Distance Learning

Senator Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii), along with her colleague Senator Cory Booker (D-N.J.) announced their plan to introduce the Learning Opportunity and Achievement Act (LOAA), which would improve distance and blended learning in our public schools during the coronavirus pandemic. LOAA combats instructional loss, particularly for at-risk and marginalized students, by providing support for professional development and training programs for teachers, tutoring and academic services, research and best practices, and other initiatives to enhance equity and access for all students. Specifically, the bill provides funding to address instructional loss for at-risk and marginalized students, including low-income students, minority students, children with disabilities, English learners, migratory students, homeless children and youth, and children or youth in foster care.

“Over the past few months, I’ve heard from students, parents, and educators across Hawaii who are doing their best to adjust to distance learning during the coronavirus pandemic. My own education was fundamental to my success, and this generation of students deserves a quality education—regardless of the challenges the pandemic poses. LOAA provides vital resources so educators can support their students, particularly those who are most at risk for instructional loss. I will continue to advocate for robust funding that supports healthy and safe learning environments for students in Hawaii and across the country,” Senator Hirono said.

“Moving to a virtual learning environment to protect the health and safety of our students, teachers, and support staff has presented new challenges for teachers, students, and their families,” said Senator Booker. “Our bill will invest funds in states and communities to ensure that our students, especially the most vulnerable, are getting the attention they need and our teachers are getting the support they deserve.”

The legislation provides funding for current professional development and training programs, and new grant funding for professional development, training resources and student support services, innovation programs, and learning hubs to support at-risk and Native students. LOAA also requires the U.S. Department of Education, through the Institute of Education Sciences, to conduct research and identify and disseminate best practices for addressing instructional loss due to COVID-19—especially for at-risk and marginalized students.

“Our teachers are amazing, but even amazing teachers need support with new online platforms, the various technologies needed, and ways in which to convert in-person instruction to an online form, while ensuring it is impactful and engaging for students at the same time,” said Corey Rosenlee, president of the Hawaii State Teachers Association. “This bill would allow funding for this type of professional development for our teachers who want it. This bill would also provide more funds for the technology needed, such as more hotspots and laptops, so all our students, regardless of their zip code, have access to online learning during this pandemic.”

“Parents for Public Schools of Hawaii supports the Learning Opportunities and Achievement Act (LOAA), which will provide much needed funding to support public education during the pandemic,” said Lois A. Yamauchi, president of Parents for Public Schools of Hawaii. “It is clear that COVID-19 has increased the educational inequities in our communities. LOAA will provide funding to promote educational innovations that address the new limitations of schooling and support the learning and educational engagement of our most vulnerable students.”

“The Learning Opportunity and Achievement Act (LOAA) is an important bill that helps to address the gaping digital divide that has been exposed by the COVID-19 health crisis. This digital divide is directly contributing to educational inequity, and McKinsey & Company estimates COVID-19-related learning losses will directly result in the average K-12 student in the United States losing $61,000 to $82,000 in lifetime earnings, which translates into an estimated impact of $110 billion annual earnings,” said David Miyashiro, founding executive eirector of HawaiiKidsCAN. “By investing in school and system capacity, LOAA will help to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on learning loss, while helping our schools more boldly take a step forward into the future of learning. As an organization committed to promoting equity and innovation in Hawaii’s schools, HawaiiKidsCAN urges the swift passage of this bill to provide critical supports to schools, students, and families.”

“Coronavirus-related school closures last spring caused students across the country to experience significant instructional loss. Students continue to face a range of challenging circumstances early this school year, but through it all teachers remain determined to be effective for their students,” said Peggy Brookins, NBCT, president and CEO of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. “Whether they are just beginning their career or are accomplished National Board Certified Teachers, teachers everywhere are craving professional development so they can meet their students’ evolving needs.”

“Education can succeed only if we invest in the people who do the educating, especially under pandemic conditions that heighten student needs and press the limits of teachers’ ability to deliver virtual and hybrid instruction,” said JoAnn Bartoletti, CEO of the National Association of Secondary School Principals. “The Learning Opportunity and Achievement Act recognizes that reality and directs much-needed funding to the ongoing skills development of teachers, principals, paraprofessionals, and other educators on whom we rely for nothing less than building the future we all share. NASSP is proud to pledge its support for this bill, and we thank Senator Hirono for introducing it.”

“The National Association of Elementary School Principals applauds the introduction of the Learning Opportunity and Achievement Act. When given the right training and support, principals can have an enormous impact on student achievement. Unfortunately, too many of our nation’s principals do not have access to high-quality professional learning opportunities,” said L. Earl Franks, CAE, executive director of the National Association of Elementary School Principals. “To be an effective instructional leader and support effective teaching, principals need sustained, job-embedded professional learning to continuously improve. The Learning Opportunity and Achievement Act would ensure more principals can access these opportunities, helping them to hone their craft and strengthen teaching and learning in their school. We appreciate Senator Hirono for introducing this critical legislation to support the principal profession and we look forward to helping move it forward.”

“The American Federation of School Administrators (AFSA) applauds Senator Hirono’s introduction of the Learning Opportunity and Achievement Act and plans to work hard to help it become law. The forced pivot to online learning last spring demonstrated clearly the urgent need to ensure that all educators, including principals, vice principals and school leaders, become proficient at using and educating through technology,” said Ernest A. Logan, President of the American Federation of School Administrators. “Senator Hirono’s bill invests deeply in this area and, just as importantly, would mandate that states reserve at least 10% of the $2.25 billion appropriated to provide professional learning opportunities in online education geared specifically to school leaders. This is a bold bill that we embrace strongly.”

“As the leading non-profit organization in technology professional development, the International Society for Technology in Education understood well before the COVID-19 pandemic how critical it is that educators be able to equitably provide engaging and substantive instruction online,” said Richard Culatta, CEO of the International Society for Technology in Education. “Now, the whole country knows all too well that the ability to teach online is a core competency that all teachers must possess. We thank Senator Hirono for introducing legislation that recognizes the importance of technology professional development and provides significant funding for it. ISTE enthusiastically endorses this bill and looks forward to working with Senator Hirono to ensure it is enacted.”

“The Learning Opportunity and Achievement Act fills a void that has emerged during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Lynn M. Gangone, president and CEO of the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education. “It provides essential resources for educators—in higher education and K-12—to work together to address the significant learning loss that we are witnessing, particularly among our nation’s most at-risk K-12 students. The American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education supports this bill and looks forward to its enactment.”

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