During school shutdown, law-makers and advocates remain focused on student needs

As the Faith and Education Coalition, followers of Jesus who serve in the ministry of advancing Hispanic student achievement, our primary value centers on the God-given dignity and value of every child. Our work flows from this. Every child is a gift from God to parents, and so we advocate for mom and dad’s right to lead and guide their children’s education. Every child is wonderfully made, and so we support high educational standards and equitable education opportunities for all American children. 

In education, advocates do not contend with the need for adequate support for teacher in the classroom or for parents at home, but the support for parents and teachers remains predicated on the goal of student learning. For K-12 students, the goal of helping the student learn the knowledge and skills necessary for college or a career out of high-school.

Despite the fact that educators, and all Americans, have had to respond to the immediate needs brought on by COVID-19, teachers, administrators, and policy-makers remain focused on helping students become college and career ready. Today’s blog provides you with a snapshot of current movements and discussions in the education world and how they address student needs. 

  • Assessments – A new report, “The Big Test,” from researchers at Georgetown University reinforces the value that teachers, advocacy groups, and the public in general place on statewide assessments. In a nutshell, when states fail to administer tests, the absence of the data and insight that we get from these tests continues to leave traditionally underserved students vulnerable. According to the Collaborative for Student Success, “assessments provide critical information to educators and help ensure that equity and fairness go hand in hand with academic achievement.” In order for equity and support to reach students, we need to know in which areas and subjects to better support student learning. 
  • Emergency Aid – This week Secretary DeVos announced that more than $13.2 billion in emergency relief funds under the CARES Act are now available to state and local education agencies to support continued learning for K-12 students whose educations have been disrupted by the coronavirus. Under Sec. DeVos’ guidance, education leaders have the “flexibility” to use the funds for immediate needs, such as tools and resources for distance education, ensuring student health and safety, and developing and implementing plans for the next school year. The Department of Education reminds states that the funds have important safeguards in place to ensure that this funding goes to help students continue learning. Two weeks ago we sent a letter to Sec. DeVos, along with other advocates, asking for transparency on the use of these funds. 
  • Remote Learning – In response to school shutdowns, many states and districts have adopted home-learning and remote-learning options for students. Yet, according to one analysis, “although states have indeed made efforts to offer guidance and resources to districts, too many have yet to set clear expectations for what remote learning should look like or to begin monitoring district progress.” In other words, there are major gaps in learning opportunities available to students not only across the nation, but across individual states as well. For example, they discovered that “roughly a third of states (15) have offered no official directives to require remote learning or offered a plan for instruction, instead leaving decisions up to local leaders,” and “half of states do not require districts to submit a remote learning plan, missing a critical opportunity to ensure that districts are pursuing effective approaches.” We recently considered the idea of remote learning becoming a “new normal” instructional method. If this is the case in the upcoming school year, remote learning expectations and guidance will need to become much clearer for students and teachers.

I hope this post has been informative to how on you might think about what is going on and being discussed in K-12 education during this season. As a reminder, the FE Coalition has created a home-learning resources page that we update on a weekly basis. I pray the resources serve as a blessing to you. 

Forward and higher in Christ, 

Rev. Girien R. Salazar
Executive Director, FE Coalition