The Week in COVID & Education Policy: The Sprint to Get Kids Vaccinated, How Remote Learning Put an End to Snow Days and More Key School Updates

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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.

Vaccines for Children:

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May 7, 2021 — The Big Three

60% of School Apps Are Sharing Kids’ Data With Third Parties: A new report from Me2B Alliance found the majority of school utility apps were sharing some amount of student data with third-party marketing companies. Read more from Gizmodo.

  • The report looked at a “random sample of 73 mobile applications used by 38 schools in 14 states across the U.S., covering at least a half a million people (students, their families, educators, etc.) who use those apps”
  • One “disturbing” finding: 18% of apps “sent data to what the Me2B Alliance deems very high-risk third parties – i.e., entities that further share data with possibly hundreds or thousands of networked entities,” according to the report.
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No More Snow Days: NYC Public Schools will have remote learning instead of days off for bad weather next school year, The Washington Post reports

AFT Influence on CDC Regulations: “Powerful teachers union influenced CDC on school reopenings, emails show,” via New York Post:

  • “The close communication between the union and the feds came despite repeated assurances from CDC and Biden officials that the medical guidelines would ‘follow the science’ and be free of political interference.”
  • A CDC spokesperson “said the agency had worked with a number of other non-governmental parties that would be affected by the guidance and provided them draft copies — including the National Education Association, National Association of School Nurses and National Association of State Boards of Education.”
  • American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten tweeted a thread in response.
  • The White House downplayed criticism: “It’s actually longstanding best practice for the CDC to engage with organizations, groups that are going to be impacted by guidance and recommendations issued by the agency,” press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement. “It doesn’t mean they are taking everything they want, or even a percentage of what they want.”
  • Wall Street Journal editorial board: “The Centers for Politics and Unions
  • More from Mike Antonucci via The 74: Has Teachers Union Pressure on CDC Turned the Government’s Best Scientific Guidelines into a Bargaining Chip?

City & State News

California: Students in wealthier schools 3 times likelier to be back in school full time

  • “EdSource found that two-thirds of students in district schools with the largest proportions of low-income families were in distance learning, compared with only 43% of students in schools with the fewest low-income families — a disparity that may partly explain a widening learning gap between wealthy and poor students that researchers and teachers suspect the pandemic has enlarged.”
  • “Only 13% of public school students and 12% of charter school students have resumed a normal five-day-a-week school schedule.”

Connecticut: Some kids never logged on to remote school. Now what? Via Politico

Colorado: Adams 12 Five Star Schools is developing a plan for remote learning during the 2021-21 school year and beyond.

Illinois: Vaccine field trips‘ and school shot events are among ideas for getting more Chicago students and their families inoculated

Tennessee: State department of education selects 176 schools for new trauma-informed schools cohort

Federal Policy

Federal Communications Commission: Announced that eligible households can begin applying for the Emergency Broadband Benefit on May 12.

Closing the Homework Gap via the Emergency Connectivity Fund Program: The FCC released an 80-page proposed order for how it would allocate the $7 billion provided under the American Rescue Plan to close the homework gap. Top takeaways:

  • $400 per device and $250 per hotspot. Waivers can be requested for students with special needs who may need more expensive machines. Smartphones are not eligible.
  • Devices and connectivity are primarily for educational uses, but the FCC acknowledges that they may also support other family needs and uses.
  • The plan prioritizes reimbursing schools that have already purchased devices and connectivity. Only then, if funds are remaining, will the agency open a second application window.
  • July 1 will likely be the starting date for applications.

Tool to Support ESSER Strategy: Chiefs for Change released a tool designed to help systems set goals and strategies, prioritize initiatives, identify partners and plan for spending Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER) and other funds. The tool provides:

  • An overview of ESSER I, II and III funds;
  • A planning framework to help leaders prepare, prioritize, organize and monitor;
  • Input tabs for district-specific information about funding sources and amounts, goals and strategies, partnerships and initiatives; and
  • Self-populating dashboards mapping priorities to funding decisions.

Covid-19 Research

 COVID-19 Infections Among Students and Staff in New York City Public Schools: New study published in Pediatrics.

  • Analyzed data on 234,132 people tested for COVID-19 at 1,594 New York City public schools from Oct. 9 to Dec. 18.
  • Only 0.4% were positive for COVID; prevalence was similar to or lower than that in the surrounding community for all weeks studied.
  • “We found that in-person learning in NYC public schools was not associated with increased prevalence or incidence overall of COVID-19 infection compared with the general community.”

Moderna: Released new data showing its third booster shot increased neutralizing antibody responses against the original virus as well as B.1.351 (South African variant) and P.1. (Brazil variant)

Pfizer: New study shows the vaccine provides almost complete protection against severe disease caused by the coronavirus, including B.1.351 (South African variant) and B.1.1.7 (U.K. variant). Read more from The New York Times.

Vaccine Hesitancy: Video from a great webinar from Echelon Insights on vaccine hesitancy and messages that persuade skeptics.

American Academy of Pediatrics: State-level data as of April 29

  • 3,782,724 total child COVID-19 cases were reported, and children represented 13.8% of all cases
  • Children were 1.2% to 3.1% of total reported hospitalizations, and between 0.1% and 1.9% of all child COVID-19 cases resulted in hospitalization.
  • Children were 0.00% to 0.21% of all COVID-19 deaths.


How Schools Can Spend $130 Billion Responsibly: OpEd in The Hill by Rick Hess and Pedro Noguera

  • Schools “need to figure out just how their students have been affected by the pandemic, in terms of academic progress and social and emotional well-being.”
  • “School districts also need to support high-quality summer options.”
  • “There’s also an opportunity to use the next two years to start rethinking the teaching profession.”

The Education Data That Matter Most to Parents and School Stakeholders: New CAP report explains what parents, teachers and leaders want to know about schools and students.

Social-Emotional Learning: Developing students’ social and emotional skills may be more important now than ever, via Fordham Institute

The Liberals Who Can’t Quit Lockdown: “Even as scientific knowledge of COVID-19 has increased, some progressives have continued to embrace policies and behaviors that aren’t supported by evidence, such as banning access to playgrounds, closing beaches and refusing to reopen schools for in-person learning,” Emma Green writes in The Atlantic

How the Pandemic Could Personalize Education: Via Axios

The Pandemic’s Remote Learning Legacy — A Lot Worth Keeping: Via The 74

…And on a Lighter Note

It’s May: Hope you get to play with a baby elephant too.

ICYMI @The74

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

  • Teacher Appreciation: ‘She Made Me Feel Like I Wasn’t Entirely Alone’: 10 Students and Families Pay Tribute to the Teachers Who Helped Them Endure the Pandemic (Read more)
  • Early Childhood: As Early Ed Teachers Prepare for Fall, New Study Backs Efforts to Support Young Children’s Mental Health (Read more)
  • Research: Schools that Switched to a Four-Day Week Saw Learning Reductions. What Does that Mean for the Pandemic’s Lost Instructional Time? (Read more)
  • Teaching: Four Finalists for Teacher of the Year Answer the Question: What’s it Like to Lead Classes During the ‘Worst Year Ever’? (Read more)
  • Commentary: Petrilli: Biden Wants Free Community College — But Also Better High School-to-Career Pathways. Is He on to Something? (Read more)

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