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COVID & College: Indiana Enrollment Declines, as Only 53% of HS Grads Continue

Campus declines that began pre-pandemic are continuing, with state officials recently announcing a fifth consecutive year of shrinking enrollment

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Under a third of schools are utilizing federal COVID relief funds to improve school facilities and air quality, says a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

While some schools and districts prioritized investments in portable or low-cost air filters and other technology, experts say they may be missing an opportunity to upgrade air and climate systems that could have a measurable impact on students. “If you look at the research, it shows that a school’s literal climate — the heat, the mold, the humidity — directly affects learning,” said Phyllis Jordan, associate director of FutureEd, a think tank at Georgetown University’s McCourt School of Public Policy. 

Another federal report indicates over 36,000 schools were in need of air system upgrades even before the pandemic, a number experts say likely climbed during the pandemic. 

Looking beyond relief funds, here are seven other updates from across the country about how states and school systems are confronting the challenges posed by COVID-19 and its variants — and working to preserve student progress amid the pandemic:

INDIANA – Rate of Indiana High School Students Headed to College drops to 53%

Enrollment declines that began before the COVID-19 pandemic are continuing in the Hoosier State, with officials recently announcing a fifth consecutive year of shrinking enrollment. As Chalkbeat reports, state education officials say the pandemic exacerbated the trend, with enrollment declining 1.8% or 110,000 students. “One of the questions that we just have to come back to is, just where are those kids?” said Heather J. Hough, executive director of the Policy Analysis for California Education. “We don’t have satisfying data to answer that question.”

MAINE – Gov. Janet Mills Announces $12.3 Million Expansion of Statewide Apprenticeship Programs

Maine schools are expected to more than double the number of apprenticeship programs available for students while also doubling the number of businesses and companies sponsoring the opportunities. The more than 3,000 apprenticeships will span a variety of skills and industries, including health care, construction, plumbing, heating/ventilation/air conditioning, welding, shipbuilding and marine, and engineering, and could increase the number of students graduating school debt-free, credentialed, and employed. “Apprentices in Maine, who completed their program in the last two years increased their wages, on average, by nearly 40%, even during the height of the pandemic,” said Gov. Janet Mills.

MISSOURI — Rural Explosion in Four-Day School Week Aimed at Recruiting Teachers

A quarter of all school districts in Missouri have shifted to a four-day school week since 2010, largely as a result of districts working to recruit and retain teachers amid a growing national teacher shortage. Officials across the state say four-day weeks have made recruitment easier in hard-pressed rural communities, but signal that low teacher salaries and increasingly challenging teacher work conditions continue to ratchet up the challenge of hiring and keeping talent.

NEW JERSEY — State Creates Path for More Prospective Teachers, as Shortages Grow

Earlier this month, New Jersey passed a suite of changes aimed at strengthening its alternative licensure program for educators in hopes of guiding more teaching candidates into the profession and into classrooms. Most notably, the changes would allow candidates who did not score sufficiently on licensure tests or earn sufficient grade points averages to enter a coaching pilot via the alternative licensure program. In response to some concerns that the move could lower standards for incoming teachers, State Board member Nedd James Johnson said the changes will remove barriers that have been preventing qualified applicants to enter the field.

ARKANSAS — Gov. Hutchinson Supports Proposal to Raise Minimum Salaries of Teachers to $46,000

Arkansas lawmakers sent a number of education bills to Governor Asa Hutchinson’s desk alongside a record K-12 budget recently as the state legislature adjourned. The expanded state budget includes significant raises for most public school teachers, while a series of legislation would expand resources for classroom supplies, open new routes to licensure for teacher candidates, and set controversial rules on classroom discussions of gender identity and sexual orientation.

MICHIGAN – Financial Literacy Requirement Becomes Law for Michigan Students

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed a new law that would require all high school students to complete a personal finance course to graduate. The move lends to a trend of schools nationwide increasingly trying to widen access to financial literacy courses for students. “As a mom, I want every kid who graduates in Michigan to enter the world with a diverse set of skills and knowledge, and that must include financial literacy,” Whitmer said in a written statement.

TEXAS — Dallas Sees Positive Results in First Year of Discipline Reform

A transformation of Dallas Independent Schools’ disciplinary policies has already seen encouraging success, say school and district leaders. The opening of 60 “Reset Centers” staffed with trained professionals was aimed at working through issues with students before situations result in suspensions, says Superintendent Michael Hinojosa. The initiative required roughly $4 million in federal recovery funds to implement, but has already resulted in over $2 million in cost savings due to lower amounts of disciplinary actions and in- and out-of-school suspensions.

This update on pandemic recovery in education collects and shares news updates from the district, state, and national levels as all stakeholders continue to work on developing safe, innovative plans to resume schooling and address learning loss. It’s an offshoot of the Collaborative for Student Success’ QuickSheet newsletter, which you can sign up for here.

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