New Federal Initiatives Address Pandemic Learning Loss
This weekly Washington Update is intended to keep members informed on Capitol Hill activities impacting the educator preparation community. The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect the views of AACTE.
This week, the 87th biennial American Federation of Teachers (AFT) convention is taking place in Boston, where the city will welcome more than 3,000 members and leaders of the labor group. Today, First Lady Dr. Jill Biden will address the AFT with Labor Secretary Marty Walsh and Massachusetts Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey scheduled to take the stage as well. The AFT convention comes as districts across the nation are beginning to prepare for a return to school in the fall while in the midst of a critical shortage of educators and specialized instructional support personnel. An all-hands-on-deck approach will be needed, which includes comprehensive, full preparation coupled with support from federal, state, and local governments in order to address this crisis.
Department of Education Announces Engage Every Student Initiative
On Thursday, Secretary of Education Dr. Miguel Cardona announced a new initiative aimed at connecting elementary and high school students with summer and after school learning opportunities. The Engage Every Student Initiative is a public-private partnership with five nonprofit and advocacy organizations that the department said will “encourage and support” schools, governments and community groups to use federal pandemic relief funds and other resources on out-of-school activities.
“Quality out-of-school time programs have always supported students’ academic, social, and emotional growth, but as we recover from the pandemic, these opportunities have never mattered more… We need bold action, especially for low-income students and students of color who have historically struggled to access quality afterschool programs and rich summer learning experiences.”
The Afterschool Alliance, National Comprehensive Center, National League of Cities, National Summer Learning Association and AASA, the School Superintendents Association, will organize and distribute information on particular interventions and programs, and work with upwards of 20 other organizations on the effort.
White House Announces Effort to Recruit 250,000 Tutors to Address Pandemic Learning Loss
Last week, The White House announced that the Department of Education and AmeriCorps will lead a new effort to recruit 250,000 tutors to help address pandemic learning loss. In a statement, Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said:
“Now — more than ever — students need to feel supported, seen, heard, and understood by adults in their schools and communities … Today’s announcements and the launch of the National Partnership for Student Success will mean more students have a trusted adult in their corner, and more adults are prepared to address students’ academic, emotional, social, and mental health needs.”
AmeriCorps will prioritize $20 million in pandemic relief funds to help nonprofit organizations recruit and manage the school volunteers.
In the States: Arizona Passes Legislation to Decrease Standard for Becoming Educator
In the same week that Arizona Governor Doug Ducey signed into law one of the nation’s most expansive school choice laws, he also approved a measure that would no longer require teacher candidates entering alternative certification programs to hold a bachelor’s degree. The legislation, SB 1159 allows individuals without a bachelor’s degree to begin a teacher training program while enrolled in a bachelor’s degree program. The “teacher candidates” cannot teach unless under the supervision of a certified teacher until they earn their bachelor’s degree- with a few exceptions. If a candidate has an emergency substitute or emergency teacher certification they can teach without supervision.
Education advocates across the nation have expressed their concern, including AACTE Vice President of Research, Policy, and Advocacy Jacqueline Rodriguez. As reported in K-12 Dive, Dr. Rodriguez said she worries other states will follow in Arizona’s footsteps. “It’s not only degrading the profession and the value of what it means to be a profession-ready educator — this is a double-edged sword,” she said.
“We have now allowed K-12 students to be placed in harm’s way with an unprepared person at the helm of the classroom by putting them in a position where they’re not only set up for failure, but it is very unlikely that they are retained in that same position, because they were not set up with the skills, knowledge, and dispositions to be successful,” Rodriguez said.
We will be closely monitoring state responses to the critical shortage of educators — knowing that full, comprehensive preparation matters.
New Resources for Educators
- The Government Accountability Office issued a new report that finds growing racial segregation in the nation’s schools.
- The American Federation of Teachers released a new report; Under Siege: The Outlook of AFT Members. The report notes that nearly 80 percent of surveyed AFT teachers said they were somewhat or very dissatisfied with their overall job conditions.
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