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New & Noteworthy May 2022

This month we are reading about future-focused schooling, the role of “navigators” in helping meet individual student needs, the impact of the pandemic on pre-school enrollment nationwide, how school districts are prioritizing summer school to catch students up, and new evidence that teacher salaries are not keeping up with inflation.   

A new paper from NCEE and Australia’s Centre for Strategic Education, “What schools for tomorrow? Futures thinking and leading for uncertainty” argues that anticipation and preparation for the future need to be essential elements of strategic thinking in education. Noting that the pandemic has reminded us of the costs of being unprepared for shocks and surprises, the paper builds on four fictional future school scenarios outlined in a 2020 OECD book co-authored by Tracey Burns, NCEE’s Senior Advisor and Distinguished Research Fellow. It suggests that education policymakers and practitioners need to be ready to respond to a wide range of potential challenges and argues for informed dialogue on educational futures and systems thinking. NCEE CEO Anthony Mackay discusses this new paper in an interview with Burns. 

The Time Has Come for Truly Personalized Learning — With a Navigator to Make Sure Each Child Succeeds, an opinion piece in the The74, argues that every student should have a success plan and a “navigator,” a caring adult to act as their advocate. This level of personalization is not in place in most schools and for all students, but is key to meeting both the in-school and out-of-school needs of students. The authors are Paul Reville, former Massachusetts secretary of education and currently professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and the founding director of the Education Redesign Lab and Geoffrey Canada, the founder and president of the Harlem Children’s Zone and founder of the William Julius Wilson Institute. The two experts contend that this period of pandemic recovery provides an option to establish a personalized approach to schooling as “the new normal.”

The National Institute for Early Education Research’s latest annual State of Preschool Yearbook report finds that enrollment in state PreK programs fell in the 2020-21 school year, a year that was impacted by the pandemic. Across the 44 states, DC, and Guam that funded a preschool program, 29 percent of 4-year-olds and 5 percent of 3-year-olds were enrolled, a substantial decrease from pre-pandemic levels, erasing a decade of growth in preschool enrollment. The report cautions that even if states recuperate from losses due to the pandemic and return to prior enrollment growth rates, states are likely to enroll just 40 percent of 4-year-olds and 8 percent of 3-year-olds ten years from now. It highlights for each state the enrollment gaps they need to close to reach full enrollment for  low-income 3- and 4-year-olds and the estimated additional funding needed to do that.

Schools Plan to Spend $3 Billion on Summer Programs to Fight Learning Loss. What That Will Look Like in 4,100 Districts, a new analysis by FutureEd highlighted in The74, finds that nearly 60 percent of the nation’s school districts and charter organizations expect to spend a portion of their federal American Rescue Plan funding on summer learning or on a combination of summer and afterschool programs. Based on a nationally representative sample of districts, FutureEd, a think tank at Georgetown University’s McCourt School of Public Policy, estimates that spending on summer learning or summer learning and afterschool programming combined could reach $5.8 billion nationwide. The analysis indicates that many districts plan to provide enrichment activities, arts and social-emotional support for students in addition to traditional, academic-oriented offerings. And while most districts will focus their summer programming on students most at risk of having to repeat a grade, some of the largest districts plan to open their summer programs to all students.

The National Education Association’s (NEA) latest annual report, Rankings & Estimates, that analyzes teacher salaries and educational spending by states, estimates that the national average teacher salary for the 2021-22 school year is $66,397—a 1.7 percent increase from the previous year. But when adjusted for inflation, the average teacher salary actually decreased by an estimated 3.9 percent over the last decade. The NEA also reported a decline in starting teacher salaries when adjusted for inflation, which may deter new talent from entering the profession. While there has been increased attention on low teacher salaries in recent years – and many states took action and raised teacher pay – progress has appeared to have stalled as states grapple with economic fallout from the pandemic. However, as noted in Education Week’s article on the new NEA report, Teacher Salaries Aren’t Keeping Up With Inflation. See How Your State Compares, Mississippi, Alabama, and New Mexico have passed legislation with significant teacher pay raises this year, which are not reflected in the report’s data.