News Briefs | FYI

August 24, 2020
FYI
Leadership magazine seeks Equity submissions
Leadership magazine is seeking submissions for its January/February 2021 issue with the theme “Equity —Through the Lens of Data.” Topics include early intervention testing and tactics, California School Dashboard and LCAP, gender strategies, engaging Leaders, using data to close student group and achievement gaps, access to AP courses, data insight, the Digital Divide, English learners, students with disabilities, racial/ethnic groups, and foster youth. Articles should be up to 2,500 words and include practical information written in an informal style. Email your article to editor Naj Alikhan. The submission deadline is Sept. 28, 2020. Looking ahead: Observances in September  Make plans now to observe the following events next month. National Suicide Prevention Week (Sept. 6-12): Find virtual activities, including PowerPoint trivia, instructions for a heart wall, social media graphics and SEL learning boards at www.eachmindmatters.org/spw2020/. National Hispanic Heritage Month (Sept. 15-Oct. 15): Find videos on history, performance art and music, culture and more at https://hispanicheritagemonth.gov. High School Voter Education Weeks (last two full weeks): Find guidance for administrators, pre-registration information and more at https://www.sos.ca.gov/elections/high-school-programs/. Watch new video on computer-based ELPAC
The new video “Overview of the Computer-Based ELPAC” presents information that can be used to provide an overview to staff and parents. View the video at http://elpac.org/training/videos/computer-based-elpac-overview-video-english/.
Tech companies to provide connectivity to 1M students   The California Department of Education is working with Apple and T-Mobile to connect up to 1 million students in need with devices and high-speed internet connections as most schools begin the start of the next school year in distance learning.  At a time when schools have experienced a shortage of available computing devices, the two companies are teaming up with the state to facilitate technological access that currently prevents hundreds of thousands of students from connecting with their teachers, peers, and school communities. Apple and T-Mobile will fulfill orders from districts — which could reach up to 1 million students — with discounted iPads already equipped with high-speed internet connectivity.  The COVID-19 pandemic forced an estimated 97 percent of California’s 6.2 million students to resume their school year in distance learning.   “As schools are working around the clock to prepare students and families for virtual learning, I want to commend Apple and T-Mobile for stepping up in a monumental way to support California’s neediest students,” said state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond, in a news release. “As Californians, we have a shared commitment to ensure every student has access to the basic tools needed to connect to their learning, succeed in today’s world, and pursue their dreams.”  CDE’s commitment to working with Apple and T-Mobile comes at the same time the governor’s office and lawmakers included $5.3 billion in one-time funding in the state budget for schools to strengthen distance learning heading into the same year.  These funds can be used immediately for purchasing needed technology. Under the arrangement, T-Mobile will provide discounted service and Apple is offering special pricing for iPad + cellular, which has been available to schools on top of its education volume pricing, to enable all learners during this time.  The CDE will provide instructions to school districts to submit orders to Apple and T-Mobile. At least 100,000 devices can be ready to arrive through the back to school time frame, according to Apple and T-Mobile.  The companies expect to be able to fulfill school district demand through the end of 2020. 
Report looks at facilities needs on California school campuses  Whenever conditions improve and California’s students return to school campuses, four out of 10 of them will be coming back to schools that lack minimum facilities standards, according to a new report from the Public Policy Institute of California.  Using data gathered before the COVID-19 pandemic, the report provides the first statewide evidence on the conditions at K-12 school facilities.  Among the findings: 
  • Statewide, 38 percent of students go to schools that do not meet the minimum facility standards.
  • Between 2015–16 and 2018–19, 108 schools in 60 districts had to close temporarily due to poor facility conditions.  
  • Facility needs go beyond basic building functionality. Many schools face capacity constraints due to student enrollment growth and lack the technological infrastructure to support digital learning.  
  • COVID-19 has brought additional challenges. Many schools do not have sufficient building space to comply with federal and state reopening guidelines on smaller class sizes.  
California schools are required to report annually on the condition of their buildings using Facility Inspection Tool evaluations, with results made public in the School Accountability Report Card.  According to the report, existing data on facility conditions are limited and likely understate schools’ needs. The PPIC recommends the state begin collecting data to assess building capacity and needs, disaster preparedness, accessibility accommodations, and energy efficiency.   “Comprehensive data would also enable the state to allocate funds for school facilities in a more equitable and efficient manner — for example, by tying funding to districts’ capacity to raise local funds and prioritizing districts with the most urgent needs, as opposed to the current first-come, first-serve system,” the authors write.  The report cites one estimate that K-12 school facilities may need more than $100 billion over the next decade, even as the state is facing its largest budget deficit since the Great Recession and few other avenues for generating funding. In March 2020, voters rejected numerous local bond measures and the statewide Proposition 13, which would have authorized $15 billion in bonds for construction and modernization of public education facilities.   “The unpredictable nature of bond issuances has meant that state and local funding for facilities has been inconsistent over time. As policymakers explore ways to fund and improve school facilities, stable funding streams will be essential to help ensure that California’s schools provide students a safe and effective learning environment.”  Read the full report at https://www.ppic.org/wp-content/uploads/improving-k-12-school-facilities-in-california-august-2020.pdf
Calomese appointed to lead Special Ed Division at CDE State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond has appointed Heather Calomese as the new Director of the Special Education Division at the California Department of Education.   The Special Education Division provides information and resources to serve the unique needs of individuals with disabilities so that each person will meet or exceed high standards of achievement in academic and non-academic skills. As schools continue virtual learning in the weeks ahead, Calomese will support CDE’s efforts to provide assistance to schools and engage families end educators in ways that ensure the unique needs of students with disabilities are met.  Calomese has worked in education for two decades. From 2000-02, she taught English and special education in Iowa City and from 2002-08 she was a special education middle and high school teacher in the Chicago Public School District before transitioning to an administrator role. Prior to joining CDE, Calomese was the Executive Director of Special Education for the Illinois State Board of Education where she focused on the alignment of systems and supports for students receiving Early Childhood, Multilingual, and Special Education services.  Calomese holds a bachelor’s degree in English and a master’s degree in special education from the University of Iowa. She replaces Kristin Wright, who now works at the Sacramento County Office of Education. Calomese started in her new position as Special Education Division Director on Aug. 18. 
Afterschool programs face uncertain future, nonprofit says Afterschool programs are serving vital gaps during school closures due to the coronavirus, but their future may be in jeopardy according to a recent survey by a nonprofit advocacy group.  The Afterschool Alliance recently surveyed 914 afterschool programs from across the country, finding that 70 percent of them have provided critical supports in their communities since the pandemic hit. However, many of them do not yet have the resources or clarity they need to prepare for the new school year, with more than 80 percent of respondents expressing concerns about funding and the health and safety of staff and students.  “In many ways, out-of-school-time programs are uniquely positioned to help during the health and economic crises the pandemic has brought, but this survey shows that many programs are struggling themselves,” said Jodi Grant, executive director of the Afterschool Alliance. “Programs are stretching and scrambling to help students and families who are hurting. ... At the same time, programs have uncertain budgets, unclear mandates for the school year, and resources that are far from adequate if they are to help solve the enormous problems their communities face.”  The survey, which was conducted from May 28 to June 30, also revealed other findings: 
  • 48 percent are serving as a meals site, delivering meals, or distributing other resources to families. 
  • Nearly one in five (18 percent) afterschool programs have been providing care for the children of essential workers in the pandemic. 
  • 45 percent of respondents report that they have laid off or furloughed staff and of that group, two-thirds (67 percent) report that 50 percent or more of their staff have been affected. 
Find more information at www.afterschoolalliance.org

Drive-through book distribution
Staff distribute textbooks at Dillard Elementary School in Wilton in preparation for beginning the school year with distance learning. The state has estimated that more than 90 percent of California’s students will begin the 2020-21 school year in distance learning.


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