NewsCOVID Policy Briefing  Pandemic  

The Week in COVID & Education Policy: Surge of Suicide Attempts By Teen Girls, Parents Not Thrilled About Learning Recovery Solutions & 13 Key Updates on Students and Schools

By John Bailey | June 18, 2021

This is our weekly briefing on how the pandemic is shaping schools and education policy, vetted, as always, by AEI Visiting Fellow John Bailey. Click here to see the full archive. Get this weekly roundup, as well as rolling daily updates, delivered straight to your inbox — sign up for The 74 Newsletter.

Survey Finds Parents Aren’t So Thrilled About Most K-12 COVID Recovery Solutions on the Table: Via USC’s Understanding America Study and The 74

  • “Roughly a quarter of parents say their school offers in-person tutoring (27 percent both during and after), and of that quarter of parents, 34 percent of their children participate during school, 29 percent after. Among those who don’t currently have the opportunity, 30 percent of parents say they would enroll their child for during-school tutoring, 25 percent after-school.”
  • “In-person pod use is also low, with 17 percent of parents reporting their child’s school offers pods. Of those, 38 percent of students are participating. If offered, 25 percent of parents say they would enroll their child in a pod.”
  • “Though most parents do not favor tutoring overall, remote tutoring scored high in the survey, with 82 percent of parents supporting or strongly supporting. This is consistent across subgroups.”
  • Read more at The 74.

June 18, 2021 — The Big Three

Teen Suicides: The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says suicide attempts among adolescent girls surged by more than 50 percent during the pandemic.

  • “Visits to emergency rooms for suspected suicide attempts rose about 51 percent on average for girls aged 12 to 17 in the four weeks ending March 20, [2020,] compared with the same period in 2019.”
  • Numbers for adults and adolescent boys were stable over that period.
  • According to the study: “Importantly, although this report found increases in [emergency department] visits for suspected suicide attempts among adolescent females during 2020 and early 2021, this does not mean that suicide deaths have increased.” (Read at The New York Times)

State ESSER Plans: The U.S. Education Department posted 28 plans describing how states plan to use American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funds. Read the press release. Some highlights:

  • Nine states detailed plans to prioritize vaccinations for educators and students.
  • Tennessee released a template for school districts to develop health and safety plans as they work to bring more students back to in-person instruction and developed a data dashboard on school operating status that it plans to continue to share publicly in the fall.
  • Kansas will reserve a portion of funds for an initiative that will offset the cost of admission for students to visit museums, zoos, historical sites, state parks and the Kansas state fair.
  • Oklahoma is using approximately $35 million for districts to hire school counselors, licensed mental health professionals and licensed recreational therapists to lower the student-to-counselor ratio.
  • 23 states haven’t submitted plans yet.

FDA and CDC Meet to Discuss Rare Heart Issues With Adolescents and COVID Vaccines: The Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee met last week to weigh in on how many kids might need to be enrolled in clinical trials and how much safety data companies might need to provide.

  • They also discussed rare but higher-than-expected cases of a heart issue called myocarditis among adolescents and young adults who received their second shot of one of the mRNA COVID-19 vaccines.
  • “Overall, among all age groups, there were 573 cases of myocarditis and pericarditis reported after people received their second dose of either mRNA vaccine, compared to 216 after the first dose, according to data presented by Tom Shimabukuro, an immunization safety expert at the CDC.”
  • “Among 16- to 17-year-olds, who had received 2.3 million doses, there had been 79 cases of myocarditis or pericarditis reported. … Based on baseline frequency of the myocarditis and pericarditis, there would have been an expected two to 19 cases in that group.”
  • “For 18- to 24-year-olds, who had received 9.8 million doses, there were 196 cases of myocarditis and pericarditis reported, compared to an expected eight to 83 cases.”
  • The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices will hold a meeting June 18 to further discuss this emerging issue.

Federal

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: The Administration for Children and Families released guidance related to the $39 billion Child Care Development Block Grant funding included in the American Rescue Plan.

National Telecommunications and Information Administration:

City & State News

California: Los Angeles Unified School District and the teachers union reached a tentative agreement to fully reopen classrooms this fall.

  • Protocols include increased testing, daily symptom screening, cleaning and paid leave for those required to quarantine.
  • High-risk staff can request reasonable accommodations in the online program.
  • Students and staff will wear masks.

Connecticut: New Attendance Works report links remote learning to chronic absenteeism.

  • 30 percent of ninth-graders missed at least a tenth of last school year.
  • “For Black/African-American students across all learning modes, chronic absenteeism rates were highest for in-person 11th-graders and lowest for in-person sixth-graders. In contrast, for Hispanic/Latino students, rates were highest for ninth-grade remote students and lowest for sixth-grade in-person students.”

New York: How a pandemic school year changed six New York families — and how it didn’t. Some great before-and-after photos.

Ohio:

Arizona: “Good Morning America” profiled a mom who beats odds, graduates from high school with 2-year-old with the help of ASU Prep Digital.

Pennsylvania: Survey by Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials reveals district spending priorities for stimulus funds:

  • Purchasing educational technology for students to aid in regular classroom instruction: 87 percent
  • Addressing learning loss among students: 87 percent
  • Planning and implementing activities related to summer learning and supplemental after-school programs: 85 percent
  • See the full breakdown.

COVID-19 Research

Using Smart Thermometers to Predict the Next COVID-19 Wave: New York City will harness data from thousands of internet-connected smart thermometers to identify future outbreaks days or even weeks before case numbers start rising.

  • “Kinsa will distribute for free up to 100,000 of its internet-connected thermometers through New York City’s elementary schools.”

Novavax Vaccine: “The two-shot regimen was 90 percent effective at preventing people from falling ill in a 30,000-person trial conducted when variants had begun to complicate the pandemic in the United States and Mexico.”

Delta Variant: Doubles the risk of hospitalization compared with the previously dominant variant in Britain.

Study on UK Secondary School Reopenings: Just like in primary schools, UK researchers found limited infection or transmission when secondary schools reopened fully from September to December.

  • One of the study authors: “This is yet another study showing that schools are not filled with asymptomatic kids spreading #SARSCoV2 to others. If that was the case, antibody positivity rates would be much higher (especially in kids), as seen in care homes, hospitals, prisons, etc. (30 to 60 percent).”

Catchup Needed on Routine Vaccinations: Children behind on their shots for preventable diseases like measles and whooping cough could pose a “serious public health threat” during the return to in-person schooling this fall.

Viewpoints

CDC Foundation: Intentions and Views around COVID-19 Vaccination Among K-12 Populations

  • 20 percent of parents are vaccine-hesitant, and 19 percent are undecided about getting vaccinated themselves.
  • Almost 50 percent of parents reported that they would be more comfortable with their child attending in-person school once teachers and staff are vaccinated.
  • Among parents of school-age children, the following characteristics were independently associated with being vaccine-hesitant: non-Hispanic Black or African American, under age 40, household income under $50,000.
  • Parents unwilling to have their child tested regularly for COVID-19 at school for in-person learning were eight times more likely to be vaccine-hesitant than those in favor of testing.

Knowing What Schools Did in the Pandemic is Crucial. So Is Preserving That Data, Via EdWeek:

Connecting the Heartland to Bridge the Digital Divide: Blog post from Heartland Forward — “We’re working with a wide range of partners — from state agencies to community organizations — to help us reach and connect with eligible families, including providing information to be distributed at schools, libraries, health care facilities, employment service centers and more.”

Virtual Learning Fault Lines: Via Washington Post:

  • “’But in New Jersey, learning remotely will no longer be an option.“All we want is the choice,’ said … a New Jersey mother of three who has joined with other parents to protest the state action.”
  • “The crosscurrents have created a new education fault line: School by computer is on the way out in some places and on the rise in others — driven by sharply differing views on the long-term value of virtual instruction and the best way to help the most vulnerable children and families in a moment when the stakes are high.”

Long Shadows: The Black-White Gap in Multigenerational Poverty: Important new report from Brookings and AEI.

  • Three-generation poverty occurs among one in 100 whites but describes the experience of one in five Black adults. Black adults in their 30s are over 16 times more likely than whites are to have had both a parent and grandparent in poverty (defined as the bottom fifth of the income distribution).
  • Blacks are 41 percent more likely to be in third-generation poverty than whites are to be poor.
  • Read more here.

Virtual School Is an Appealing Option for Many Black, Latino and Asian Families: Via WGBH

More Than 8 in 10 Parents Plan to Send Their Children to In-Person School in the Fall: A national survey of more than 2,000 parents, conducted by RAND Corporation and commissioned by The Rockefeller Foundation. Read the full report.

Darnella Frazier: Received an honorary Pulitzer

…And On a Lighter Note

Backyard Squirrel Maze 2.0: The Walnut Heist: Former NASA and Apple engineer Mark Rober is back, facing off against his greatest frenemies.

  • “The contraption Rober designed and built alongside his friends took two months of meticulous planning, but the real fun comes in watching the squirrels completely dissect and destroy their best-laid plans”

ICYMI @The74

Weekend Reads: In case you missed them, our top five stories of the week:

  • Juneteenth: A Year After Nationwide Protests, District Promises for Racial Equity — Juneteenth Gains Legal Popularity, but Misses Classroom Recognition (Read more)
  • Teacher Diversity: El-Mekki — Pandemic Learning Loss Is Rooted in the Racial Chasm Between Educators and Students of Color. Only Teacher Diversity and a Strong Black Teacher Pipeline Can Fix It (Read more)
  • COVID Recovery: States Submit Plans for Using Relief Funds for Recovery, But 23 States Still Working on Drafts (Read more)
  • Analysis: Tutoring, Summer School, Pods — Survey Finds Parents Aren’t So Thrilled About Most K-12 COVID Recovery Solutions on the Table (Read more)
  • Federal Policy: A School Discipline Double-Take: How Catherine Lhamon Could Turn Back the Clock With a Renewed Focus on Persistent Racial Disparities — and Ignite New Feuds (Read more)

Disclosure: John Bailey is an adviser to the Walton Family Foundation, which provides financial support to The 74.

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