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New & Noteworthy: March 2022

This month we are reading thoughts from a state education commissioner on the teacher shortage, a report arguing for incorporating the latest research on how people learn into teacher and leader preparation, a commentary about school improvement efforts in Australia with implications for education systems around the globe, how California is scaling community schools, advice for school system leaders around managing ongoing learning disruptions, and an analysis of how districts are spending pandemic relief funds.

Jason Glass, commissioner of the Kentucky Department of Education, writes in “Seeing Teachers Thrive” for Kentucky Teacher, that the current teacher shortage is a result of years of underpaying and underappreciating the teacher workforce. He asks “what might it look like if Kentucky advanced education policies that were aimed at making sure all our teachers were thriving?” This includes paying teachers a living wage, providing access to health care and mental health supports, and providing a work environment where teachers are given the resources they need to do their jobs effectively.

LPI’s Educator Learning to Enact the Science of Learning and Development summarizes the research advances in neuroscience and the developmental and learning sciences that provide important insights about how people learn and develop and have implications for the teaching field. The report argues that teacher and leader preparation should center around a coherent vision of whole child development, learning, and teaching that includes an aligned pedagogical approach, well-designed clinical experiences, and methods for helping teachers and leaders to build deep understanding, useful skills, and the capacity to reflect, learn, and continue to improve.

Pasi Salberg, a member of NCEE’s International Advisory Board, argues in “The Australian school system has a serious design flaw. Can it change before it’s too late?” for The Guardian that the current approach to improving schools in Australia is not likely to ever amount in substantive improvements in educational excellence and equity. Education reform, he notes, often focuses on the individual parts of the system–teaching, curriculum, and assessments–rather than acknowledging that the system itself is broken.

According to California EdSource, California is converting several thousand schools into community schools that take a comprehensive approach to meeting students’ academic, health, and social-emotional needs by connecting the school with a range of government services and community supports and creating partnerships with families. The California Department of Education is issuing planning grants of $200,000 for up to 1,437 districts, charter schools, and county offices of education without community schools and implementation grants up to $500,000 annually for five years for new and existing community schools to continue and expand their work.

How to Prepare for a Future of Education Where Disruption is the Norm from The Hechinger Report argues that the pandemic is likely to result in continued disruptions in student learning and that school districts need to have plans and systems in place that acknowledge that reality. Experts predict that districts may need to invest in staff who can help them think strategically, conduct risk analyses, and design contingency plans. Having a structured, proactive and advanced planning process, much like many businesses do, can help district leaders make logical and careful decisions well in advance of disruptions due to a virus, natural disaster, or budget shortfall. 

An analysis published by The 74 Million in partnership with FutureEd, What Will $50B in COVID School Relief Funding Buy? How 3,000 Districts and Charters Nationwide Plan to Spend the Money, examines spending plans from a nationwide sample of school districts and charters. The top category was academic recovery, representing 28 percent of planned spending. This was followed by facilities and operations; staffing; technology; and mental and physical health.