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California education news: What’s the latest?

Friday, October 15, 2021, 2:56 pm

Link copied.National teen test scores fall for the first time in 50 years, study shows

The nation’s 13-year-olds are less proficient in math and reading than they were almost a decade ago, according to newly released data collected just before the start of the pandemic.

It’s the first time these scores — collected as part of the National Assessment of Educational Progress’ long-term trend study — have dropped in either subject in the 50-year history of the test, as Politico reported. To make matters worse, the report also revealed that the students, ages 9 and 13, who struggle the most with the exam, often referred to as the nation’s report card, have fallen even further behind. Some experts say this suggests that the learning loss triggered by the pandemic may well be dire. 

The bottom line is that math scores fell furthest among students whose performance ranked in the 10th and 25th percentiles, meaning that test takers with the lowest math scores in 2020 did worse than the students who struggled the most when the test was last administered in 2012. The data also reveals that the achievement gap between white and Black test-takers widened.

“It’s really a matter for national concern, this high percentage of students who are not reaching even what I think we’d consider the lowest levels of proficiency,” said George Bohrnstedt, a senior vice president and institute fellow at the American Institutes for Research, as the LA School Report noted. 

In another grim takeaway, a lower percentage of 13-year-olds reported regularly reading for fun almost every day than the share of students who said they did so a decade ago. Students who said they read, researchers noted, generally got higher scores.

Pedro Noguera, dean of the Rossier School of Education at the University of Southern California, said the results reflect the opportunity gap between low-income Black and Latino students and their more privileged peers. The disadvantaged students’ districts are still too often focused on standardized test prep, he suggested, which can actually lead to poorer performance.

“We need to make learning more compelling and more interesting to kids. We need to get them more deeply engaged,” Noguera said, as Politico reported. “That’s how we create self-motivated learners. That’s how we lift these scores.”

Karen D'Souza

Friday, October 15, 2021, 2:53 pm

Link copied.Supporters of Sacramento teacher who discussed Antifa with his class want him reinstated

Supporters of a Sacramento teacher, who Natomas Unified leaders say will be fired for discussing Antifa with his class, are asking him to be reinstated, according to the Sacramento Bee.

Antifa is an anti-racist and anti-racist political movement.

The conservative group, Project Veritas, filmed the Inderkum High School teacher, Gabriel Gipe, talking to his students about becoming revolutionaries. Gipe also had political signs in the classroom and was stamping his students’ work with images of Joseph Stalin, Fidel Castro and Kim Jung Un, according to the Sacramento Bee article.

A statement from the district said that Gipe had violated the Education Code and was teaching pro-communism ideology in class.

Civil rights attorney Mark Mervin said the district made this decision without due process.

EdSource staff

Friday, October 15, 2021, 11:02 am

Link copied.California Teachers of the Year named

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond has named the 2022 California Teachers of the Year.

Alondra Diaz will represent the state in the National Teacher of the Year competition in the spring. Diaz is a third-grade teacher at Ralph A. Gates Elementary School, a dual immersion school in the Saddleback Valley Unified District.

The other four Teachers of the Year are Nichi Avina, a middle school science teacher at Cielo Vista Charter School in the Palm Springs Unified School District in Riverside County; Sovantevy Long-Latteri, a special education teacher at La Sierra High School in the Fullerton Joint Union High School District in Orange County; Tiffany Jokerst, a high school math and engineering teacher at West Hills High School in the Grossmont Union High School District in San Diego County; and Virginia Vasquez, an AP language and composition teacher at San Gabriel High School in the Alhambra Unified School District in Los Angeles County.

“In what may be the toughest ever time for California families, students and educators, these five innovative and caring teachers have made profound differences in the lives of their students and communities,” Thurmond said in a statement. “I’m proud that these educators are receiving this prestigious honor for their continued effort to connect with students even during unimaginable circumstances, to address their needs, and support them in any way they can.”

The five teachers were selected by Thurmond after a California Department of Education selection committee reviewed applications, interviewed teachers and evaluated their teaching abilities. The teachers were nominated by their county offices of education.

The program began in 1972 to honor outstanding teachers and encourage and inspire new teachers to enter the profession, according to the Department of Education.

Diana Lambert

Thursday, October 14, 2021, 2:24 pm

Link copied.Sacramento City Unified joins districts requiring vaccinations for students, staff

Sacramento City Unified became the latest California school district to mandate Covid-19 vaccinations for its staff and students Tuesday night.

The district of nearly 48,000 students joins Culver City Unified, West Contra Costa Unified, Oakland Unified, Piedmont Unified, San Diego Unified and Los Angeles Unified in requiring vaccines for eligible students and staff ahead of the state mandate that begins next summer.

The district will require all students age 12 and older to receive the vaccination as a condition of being on campus. Those who aren’t willing to be vaccinated will have to enroll in the district’s independent study program.

Currently, only the Pfizer vaccine is fully approved for those 16 and older. The Pfizer vaccine also has emergency authorization for use in children between the ages of 12 and 16.

“A vaccine requirement is the path forward to keeping our schools open and increasing immunity,” said Superintendent Jorge Aguilar. “As superintendent of Sac City Unified, I wake up every morning feeling the anxieties caused by this unprecedented pandemic and its threat to meeting the academic, social, emotional, nutritional and other needs of our students. For so many of our students, schools are their safe haven, and I thank the board for their approval of this resolution based on our commitment to meeting those student needs.”

The school board voted to require all eligible students and staff to show proof of vaccination, either first or second dose, by Nov. 30.

Diana Lambert

Thursday, October 14, 2021, 12:21 pm

Link copied.Educators, researchers to lead state task force to improve Black student achievement

California State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond announced the co-chairs who will lead a new task force to improve Black student achievement.

The task force, which will eventually include parents and community groups, will produce a report that is expected to be used to shape legislation to fund professional development for teachers and resources for Black students.

The task force will look at issues like diversifying the teacher workforce, reducing chronic absenteeism, addressing segregation in school districts and reducing suspensions and expulsions, Thurmond said.

The co-chairs of the task force include Pedro Noguera, dean of the Rossier School of Education at the University of Southern California; Tyrone Howard, director of the UCLA Center for Transformation of Schools; Desiree Carver-Thomas, a researcher at the Learning Policy Institute; Kelly Lytle Hernandez, a professor at the University of California, Los Angeles; and Joseph Johnson, executive director of the National Center for Urban School Transformation at the San Diego State University Research Foundation.

The state has millions of dollars available for diversifying the teacher workforce, community schools and anti-racism grants, Thurmond said.

“Now is the moment for us to do this work to close learning gaps for Black students,” he said.

Diana Lambert

Thursday, October 14, 2021, 9:39 am

Link copied.African American Policy Forum calls for educator ‘Day of Action’ for George Floyd’s birthday

To commemorate George Floyd on what would have been his birthday Thursday, the African American Policy Forum is holding a national “Day of Action” for educators to teach about structural racism and oppression.

The national social justice think tank issued a toolkit with suggestions for educators, as well as parents, students and organizers for the day of action. The group suggests educators choose lessons from the Black Lives Matter at School curriculum guide, the Zinn’s Education Project’s #TeachTruth Syllabus, or the National Education Association’s Racial Justice Resources. Educators can also plan a “virtual field trip” to the Legacy Museum, the Smithsonian Institute’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, or other sites.

Educators are also invited to publicly declare their intent to teach antiracist lessons and wear a Black Lives Matter at School shirt or all-black shirt.

Students are encouraged to speak to their local school board to express support for antiracist lessons on history and current events, work with their teachers to prepare a lesson that “decolonizes the curriculum,” post a video on TikTok or Instagram saying what learning “authentic history” means to them and wear a Black Lives Matter at School shirt or all-black shirt.

Ali Tadayon

Wednesday, October 13, 2021, 11:15 am

Link copied.Anti-mask group sues San Diego Unified

A group that has lobbied against mask mandates is now suing the San Diego Unified School District over its requirement that all students 16 and older be vaccinated against Covid-19 by Dec. 20.

According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, the lawsuit was filed by Let Them Choose, a project of the anti-mask group Let Them Breathe.

“Keeping healthy children out of the classroom is contrary to California law, is not necessary to reduce cases of Covid-19 in schools, and is not in the best interest of students, parents, or school districts,” the lawsuit says.

For the time being, the district is only requiring students 16 and older to be vaccinated. Younger students will be required to get vaccinated after the vaccine is fully approved by the Food and Drug Administration for their age groups, as also required now by a state mandate.

Zaidee Stavely

Wednesday, October 13, 2021, 11:14 am

Link copied.SAT and ACT no longer required at many colleges in California

About 130 colleges and universities in California no longer require SAT or ACT tests for admission in fall 2022, according to the Los Angeles Times.

After the University of California removed the requirement for test scores for admission in 2020, many other colleges and universities followed.

Some of the universities made this decision temporarily, in part because of the pandemic. However, some groups are hoping that some institutions will stop requiring the tests permanently, arguing that the admissions process is fairer without them.

The number of colleges and universities that do not require standardized test scores has grown in recent years. In 2005, just eight institutions nationwide did not require students to release their standardized test scores. In 2021, there are about 1,780.

Zaidee Stavely

Tuesday, October 12, 2021, 12:40 pm

Link copied.Los Angeles Unified extends vaccination deadline for teachers and staff

With thousands of teachers and other staff still unvaccinated, the Los Angeles Unified School District has extended its deadline for all workers to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19 by one month.

The district, by far the largest in the state, changed the deadline from Oct. 15 to Nov. 15, according to the Los Angeles Times.

“We don’t want people to be out of jobs,” Megan Reilly, the district’s interim superintendent, told the Times. “Our employees are one of the strongest assets that we have.”

Reilly added, though, that the district is “absolutely adamant about keeping our schools the safest possible environment — and vaccinations are clearly the pathway to keeping them safe.”

Michael Burke

Tuesday, October 12, 2021, 12:39 pm

Link copied.Enrollment at San Francisco schools declines by 3,500 students

Enrollment at San Francisco Unified has declined by 3,500 in the past two years, which could translate to a $35 million decline in state funding, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

In a report to the school board that will be presented Tuesday, district officials wrote that “enrollment declines have been a widespread phenomenon, and demographic trends in SF do not point to a large, near-term increase in children. We need to establish program capacities based on current reality by looking holistically. Capacities determine staffing needs and student seats, and should reflect our new normal of enrollment levels.”

The Chronicle noted that trends in San Francisco don’t suggest that the enrollment trends will reverse. During the pandemic, the city saw a 17% drop in the number of babies born compared with the previous year, the newspaper reported.

Michael Burke

Monday, October 11, 2021, 2:25 pm

Link copied.Ed100 program for student leaders goes year-round, invites new members and adult allies

Ed100, the nonprofit organization that educates California parents and students on state education policies, is turning a successful annual summer institute into a year-round program for high school students. And it’s inviting adult allies to help recruit students from every high school in California to participate in the program and become advocates for students.

For the past two summers, Ed100 has held a week-long leadership institute for hundreds of student leaders on issues that are on their minds, with presentations by some of the state’s top education leaders, including sessions from peers on how to effect change and make a difference. Next year’s conference will be June 20-22. Aspiring school leaders can network and pick up leadership skills. EdSource is one of the sponsors.

The free, year-long Ed100 Leadership Academy will include monthly online discussions on topics of interest, and participation in an Ed100 Academy platform on Discord, a student-moderated platform that helps students share views and exchange information about opportunities and projects.

Students can learn more and apply here. Students 13 and over from private, charter and district schools are eligible. Students who participate will receive a certificate that shows proof of civic involvement, which may be required for a civics couse.

Adults are needed to encourage students – at least one from every high school grade – to apply to the Leadership Academy. Adult allies of the academy can be anyone who works with high school students or high school communities — an administrator, teacher, counselor or school volunteer. Those nominated by a student member will be invited to attend the summer institute. Adults can learn more and sign up here.

John Fensterwald

Friday, October 8, 2021, 1:13 pm

Link copied.Two parents convicted in Varsity Blues college admissions scandal trial

Two parents were convicted Friday on bribery and fraud charges in connection with a scheme in which they paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to have their children fraudulently admitted as athletic recruits to U.S. universities.

A federal jury in Boston found former casino executive Gamal Aziz and private equity firm founder John Wilson guilty, according to The New York Times. Abdelaziz was accused of paying $300,000 to get his daughter admitted to the University of Southern California in 2018 as a basketball recruit and Wilson was accused of paying $220,000 for his to be admitted to the same university as a water polo recruit in 2014.

The two men were the first to stand trial in the scandal, which extended to dozens of other parents, coaches and administrators who worked to get students admitted to a number of universities. Rather than going to trial, many of those other parents have pleaded guilty.

Michael Burke

Friday, October 8, 2021, 12:41 pm

Link copied.San Jose State president to resign in wake of sex misconduct scandal

San Jose State President Mary Papazian announced Thursday that she would resign at the end of the fall term on Dec. 21. Her resignation comes days after the university reached a settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice over a sexual harassment case involving an athletic trainer, Scott Shaw. Student-athletes said Shaw abused them for years.

“The best interest of the campus continues to be at the forefront of every decision I make,” Papazian said, in a statement. “After thoughtful consideration, I have made the decision to step away as president. I truly love this university and believe this choice will allow the focus to be positively and solely on our talented, diverse, and outstanding campus. It has been my great honor and privilege to work with the exceptional SJSU students, faculty, staff, alumni and community partners.”

The DOJ report found that the university failed to investigate Shaw’s actions and retaliated against employees that tried to protect students.

Papazian, in her statement, said that the health and safety of the campus remains a priority and that she would continue to cooperate with the ongoing federal investigation surrounding Shaw.

“This transition does not impact our intention and obligation to understand what occurred and how the university responded at the time,” Papazian said. “I made a promise to our community and to the affected student-athletes and their families, and I plan to honor it. My heart, apologies and prayers continue to be with those student-athletes who suffered a breach of trust during their time at the university.”

Ashley A. Smith

Thursday, October 7, 2021, 11:52 am

Link copied.Pfizer wants U.S. to approve Covid vaccine for 5- to 11-year olds

Pfizer and BioNTech have officially requested that the U.S. Government allow children ages 5 to 11 to be given its Covid-19 vaccine, Pizer announced in a Tweet this morning.

If the Federal Drug Administration approves its application children could begin getting immunized within the month, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Pfizer reported last month that company data showed its Covid-19 vaccine to be safe and effective in children ages 5 to 11. The FDA will convene a panel of experts to debate the evidence on Oct. 26.

Younger children given two doses — each a third the strength of adult doses — develop the same virus-fighting antibody levels as older people who were given full doses of the vaccine, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Although children are at lower risk of severe illness or death than adults, children’s cases have risen sharply since the return to school this fall amid the more contagious delta variant.

Diana Lambert

Thursday, October 7, 2021, 11:40 am

Link copied.Governor’s council to focus on teaching California students about Holocaust

California Gov. Gavin Newsom has launched the Governor’s Council on Holocaust and Genocide Education.

The council will host seminars, develop a speakers bureau and identify resources to teach California students about the Holocaust and other acts of genocide, as wells as how to respond to anti-Semitism and bigotry, according to a press release from the governor’s office.

The governor made the announcement during a visit to the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles.

“We find ourselves in a moment of history where hate pervades the public discourse,” Newsom said. “National surveys have indicated a shocking decline in awareness among young people about the Holocaust and other acts of genocide. But in California, we are offering an antidote to the cynicism that this is how things are, and responding to that hate the best way we know how — with education and empathy.”

The council, led by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond, Attorney General Rob Bonta and Sen. Henry Stern, is made up of state officials and legislators. Academics, advocates and community organizations are expected to be added to the council in the future.

Diana Lambert

Thursday, October 7, 2021, 9:58 am

Link copied.Anti-vaccine protesters step on to Pinole Valley High School campus, harass students

In a scenario that has occurred increasingly throughout the country, anti-vaccine protesters harassed students Wednesday at Pinole Valley High School in Pinole before security asked them to leave, according to school officials.

The high school was holding its first all-day student vaccine drive on the campus Wednesday, while a group of fewer than a dozen protesters rallied across the street, said principal Kibby Kleiman. They were shouting at students to not get vaccinated. At around 10:30 a.m., one or two of the protesters went onto the campus. Security quickly told them to leave and the protesters complied, Kleiman said.

Last Tuesday, West Contra Costa Unified approved a vaccine mandate for eligible students, requiring them to get vaccinated by November 15 or else enroll in independent study in order to stay in the district. Around a dozen parents objected to the decision, mostly citing reasons that Contra Costa County Health Officer Dr. Chris Farnitano debunked. The next day, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced all eligible California students and staff will be required to get vaccinated against Covid-19 as early as January 2022.

Kleiman said the incident Wednesday was minor and didn’t slow down the vaccine drive.

“If they want to stand out there and yell and we can get more people vaccinated I would do it every day,” Kleiman said.

At a school board meeting later that day, board president Mister Phillips issued a stern warning to the protesters:

“If you come on to campuses and harass our children, you will go to jail.”

 

Ali Tadayon

Wednesday, October 6, 2021, 3:40 pm

Link copied.As students with disabilities return to classrooms, Education Department updates guidance

Schools must continue providing high-quality services to students with disabilities, regardless of whether those students are learning at school, at home or a combination of both, according to new guidelines issued by the U.S. Department of Education.

The detailed, 41-page guidance covers everything from mask requirements to parent meetings for individualized education programs, which set academic and developmental goals for students enrolled in special education.

“No matter what primary instructional delivery approach is used, (districts) remain responsible for ensuring that a free, appropriate public education is available to all children with disabilities,” according to the guidance. “Therefore, before, during, and after the COVID-19 pandemic, the (district) must ensure that each child with a disability has access to educational opportunities, including all special education and related services.”

The guidance also covers services provided during school breaks, technology that helps students learn, mental health and other topics.

Carolyn Jones

Wednesday, October 6, 2021, 1:36 pm

Link copied.Biden administration overhauls Public Service Loan Forgiveness program

The U.S. Department of Education announced Wednesday that it would overhaul the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program to include more eligible workers. The changes over the next year would put more than 550,000 public service workers closer to loan forgiveness.

“Borrowers who devote a decade of their lives to public service should be able to rely on the promise of Public Service Loan Forgiveness,” U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said, in a news release. “Teachers, nurses, first responders, servicemembers, and so many public service workers have had our back especially amid the challenges of the pandemic. Today, the Biden Administration is showing that we have their backs, too.”

The department will temporarily allow all payments borrowers made on federal student loans to count toward Public Service Loan Forgiveness, regardless of the loan program or payment.

To qualify, borrowers must make 120 on-time monthly payments for 10 years to have the remaining balance canceled. They must also work for the government or qualifying nonprofit organizations, and be enrolled in specific repayment plans.

Although the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program has been around since 2007, it has been criticized for allowing too few borrowers to receive forgiveness. And too many do not receive credit for years of payments they made because of complicated eligibility rules.

Ashley A. Smith

Wednesday, October 6, 2021, 10:27 am

Link copied.State senator considering bill to remove personal exemptions for Covid-19 vaccine

California’s new mandate for all eligible students to be vaccinated against Covid-19 once the FDA gives full approval has a big loophole — it allows students to be exempted based on “personal belief.”

Sen. Richard Pan of Sacramento, a Democrat and pediatrician who chairs the Senate Health Committee, is considering legislation to remove that exemption, according to CalMatters.

Pan has championed legislation in the past that removed personal belief exemptions from all other required vaccines for school.

“The problem with the personal belief exemption is that if there are too many people who use it, we’ll have schools that are unsafe,” Pan said. “We need to be sure kids can stay in school and learn and not have to be sent home for two weeks.”

Zaidee Stavely

Wednesday, October 6, 2021, 10:22 am

Link copied.U.S. attorney general looks into threats against school boards, teachers

U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland is directing the FBI and U.S. Attorney’s offices to meet with local law enforcement agencies to discuss strategies to address an increase in violence and harassment of school officials, teachers and staff, according to NPR.

The National School Boards Association wrote a six-page letter to President Biden last week, showing an increase in threats and acts of violence at school board meetings in several states, including California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey, Wisconsin, Wyoming, Texas and Virginia. Most of the violence was related to school mask mandates.

Garland is also calling for a task force to determine how federal law enforcement can prosecute such crimes, and training and guidance for school boards and administrators on how to identify threats and report to law enforcement.

Zaidee Stavely

Tuesday, October 5, 2021, 1:38 pm

Link copied.New law will identify preschoolers’ home languages

A new law signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom Tuesday requires all state-subsidized preschool programs to identify the languages children speak at home and the language spoken by program staff.

The bill, AB 1363, authored by Assemblymember Luz Rivas, D-North Hollywood, requires preschool programs that receive state funds to serve low-income children to identify the language spoken at home of every child enrolled, as well as the languages used in the classroom and spoken by the preschool teachers.

In addition, the bill requires programs to show they support children in developing both their home language and English in order to be considered a “quality” program by the state.

“Over 60 percent of California’s students come from a home where English is not the primary language, and today we are taking decisive action to strengthen our bilingual students’ early learning opportunities,” Rivas said. “With the governor’s signing of AB 1363, California leads the nation in education policy once more by becoming the first state to create a standardized process that identifies and supports K-12 dual language learners at an early age.”

The identification of preschoolers’ home languages and how well their preschool programs are meeting their language needs was one of the priorities set forth in California’s Master Plan for Early Learning and Care.

Zaidee Stavely

Tuesday, October 5, 2021, 1:15 pm

Link copied.Gov. Newsom signs bill improving access to child care for migrant workers

Gov. Gavin Newsom signed legislation today improving access to child care for migrant farmworkers at a press conference held at an elementary school in Fresno.

Long a champion of early childhood education, Newsom also touted the transformative nature of the state’s new universal transitional kindergarten program, which will be fully rolled out by 2025, the state’s plan to seed college savings accounts of up to $1,500 for low-income students, English learners and foster and homeless youth and plans to reach out to dual language learners.

“In California, we are committed to transforming our public schools to promote equity, inclusivity and opportunity for every student,” Newsom said. “Building upon this year’s historic budget investments in universal pre-K and college savings accounts, these bills will improve access to a good education for children across California so that every child can thrive, regardless of their race, language spoken at home or zip code.”

SB 393, introduced by Sen. Melissa Hurtado, D-Sanger, aligns the Migrant Child Care Alternative Payment program with other voucher programs, a move which will streamline access to child care subsidies for migrant farmworkers. 

“Governor Newsom’s historic policies advancing early learning for our youngest Californians are a game changer,” said Patricia Lozano, executive director of Early Edge California. “They bring California closer than ever to providing equity for all in education.” 

Most of these programs represent an attempt to remedy the state’s ever-widening achievement gap, which has only grown during the pandemic as existing economic disparities deepen. 

“This is a determination to address not the achievement gap, but the real gap that persists, that’s the readiness gap,” Newsom said. “People are not left behind. They start behind.” 

Karen D'Souza

Tuesday, October 5, 2021, 12:06 pm

Link copied.State intervening to help San Francisco school district address financial woes

California’s state superintendent is intervening in San Francisco Unified to help the district address a budget shortfall, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

The state plans to bring in a fiscal consultant to help the district cut 13% of its annual budget, and the district will have to submit labor agreements to Tony Thurmond, the state’s superintendent of public instruction, according to the Chronicle.

The state will also require San Francisco Unified to withhold pay from Superintendent Vince Matthews and school board members over a “failure to provide requested financial information,” the newspaper reported.

“We acknowledge that the district is working to identify strategic solutions for resolving the projected budget shortfalls,” Thurmond wrote in a Sept. 15 letter to Matthews. “However, reductions have yet to be identified after a year of discussion.”

Michael Burke

Tuesday, October 5, 2021, 12:05 pm

Link copied.Nearly all students at Sacramento State in compliance with vaccination policy

Nearly all students at Sacramento State University are following California State University’s Covid-19 vaccination policy, the campus announced, according to the Sacramento Bee.

Of the roughly 31,000 students enrolled, all but 80 have either been vaccinated, received an exemption or chosen not to return to campus at all, the Bee reported. According to the Bee, 85% of students have been vaccinated, 3.6% received an exemption and 11% did not physically return to campus.

The vaccination policy, which applies to CSU’s 23 campuses, requires students and staff who are on campus to be vaccinated, unless they have a religious or medical exemption.

Michael Burke

Monday, October 4, 2021, 11:56 am

Link copied.Thurmond names Literacy Task Force co-chairs

Linda Darling-Hammond, president of the California Board of Education, and E. Toby Boyd, president of the California Teachers Association, are among the newly named co-chairs of the state’s Literacy Task Force, announced State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond last week.

Other co-chairs include Barbara Nemko, superintendent of the Napa County Office of Education; Francisco Escobedo, executive director of the National Center for Urban School Transformation; Barbara Flores, president of the California Association of Bilingual Education; Camille Maben, executive director of First 5 California; and Dianna MacDonald, past president of the California State PTA.

Members of the task force will meet with experts and community partners to design a strategy to help student reach literacy by the third grade, an important benchmark in predicting student success, Thurmond said.

“We also know that when students don’t learn to read by third grade, they are at greater risk to drop out of school, and they are at greater risk to end up in the criminal justice system — and we have to give them the resources to put them on a path for lifelong learning as opposed to a path that increases the likelihood that they will drop out of school or end up in the criminal justice system,” Thurmond said.

Diana Lambert

Monday, October 4, 2021, 8:23 am

Link copied.Dirk Tillotson, education activist, shot to death in Oakland

A well-known education blogger, attorney and activist, Dirk Tillotson, died in a home invasion robbery Friday night in his Oakland home.

Tillston was cofounder of Great School Voices, a nonprofit that advocates for educational equity for Black, Latino and low-income students. His death was confirmed by friends and on the Great School Voices website, although the Alameda County Coroner has not yet confirmed his death.

Dirk Tillotson 

“He was brilliant. He scrutinized data, but it wasn’t just about numbers. It was, how do we solve this problem?” said Tillotson’s friend and colleague, former Oakland school board member Jumoke Hinton. “He was driven by what people need and what they want, and he fought for them.”

Tillotson worked for schools and on education issues in New York, India, Qatar, New Orleans and Oakland. Although he had been involved in the charter school movement since the mid-1990s, he noted in his blog that he’s not exclusively a charter advocate.
“Am I pro-charter? Kind of, kind of not,” he wrote. “I am pro-good school, good meaning quality programs and equity.”

Tillotson helped found one of Oakland’s first charter schools, West Oakland Community School, in the 1990s, and with Hinton cofounded an organization called the State of Black Education in Oakland, which pushes for policies that benefit Black students and recognize their accomplishments. But he also fought for education issues beyond California, including a push in 2020 for free Internet access for all families while school campuses were closed. Based partly on his efforts, Comcast agreed to offer free Internet service to low-income families who needed it.

“For over thirty years, Dirk has been an educator, movement builder, and voice for making our school systems better, especially for Black students and other students of color,” Iris Crawford, a colleague of Tillotson’s, wrote. “He believed and fought for our kids because academically, high-quality education is an inherent right, not a luxury.”

Tillotson, 52, was killed during a robbery at his East Oakland home late Friday night, the East Bay Times reported. His wife was also wounded. Oakland Police have not made any arrests, and the investigation is ongoing.

Colleagues have set up an online fundraiser for Tillotson’s family.

Carolyn Jones

Friday, October 1, 2021, 6:20 am

Link copied.UC Regents approve housing project at People’s Park in Berkeley

The University of California’s Board of Regents approved a plan Thursday to build new student housing at People’s Park in Berkeley.

The project will include about 1,100 additional beds for students and another 125 beds for unhoused and low-income people in the Berkeley community. The approval of the project comes after about 5,000 students who applied for housing at UC Berkeley this fall could not be accommodated.

Not everyone was happy with the plan to build housing in the historic park.

“While student housing in Berkeley is a critical need, UC Berkeley has other sites that do not destroy the cultural and historical legacy of the city,” said two groups that are suing UC over the project, People’s Park Historic District Advocacy and Make UC a Good Neighbor, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

In a statement, UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ called the project a “win-win-win benefitting our students, unhoused people in our community, and our neighbors across the city.”

But she added, “While I am appreciative of the support we have gained, I know we have work to do to build awareness, understanding and support among those who remain skeptical. I look forward to continued, meaningful engagement with every part of our community, supporters and opponents alike.”

Michael Burke

Thursday, September 30, 2021, 11:25 pm

Link copied.West Contra Costa Unified approves vaccine mandate for eligible students, staff and consultants

West Contra Costa Unified, on Thursday, became the latest California district to require eligible students to get vaccinated against Covid-19 in order to attend school in-person, following in the footsteps of Los Angeles Unified, Oakland Unified, and Culver City Unified.

The district’s school board voted 4-1 at a special school board meeting Thursday to approve the mandate, following a contentious round of comments from the public. School board member Jamela Smith-Folds cast the only dissenting vote, saying she had too many unanswered questions and instead proposing that students who refuse to get vaccinated get tested weekly while remaining in in-person classes. That motion failed. 

“When history judges this board, history will say that we were right and history will say that we had the courage to stand,” Board president Mister Phillips said at the meeting. “…I’m not doing or voting for anything I wouldn’t have my own children do or that I would not do myself. Not afraid.”

Under the mandate, students will have until Nov. 15 to get their first shot and Dec. 15 to get their second shot. Students who turn 12 during the school year must receive their first shot no later than 30 days after their birthday and their second shot no later than 60 days after their birthday. The timeline is sooner than that the state’s student vaccine mandate, which Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Friday.  It goes into effect in the first semester, either Jan. 1 or July 1, following the Federal Drug Administration’s full approval of the Covid vaccine for each age group. Currently, the Pfizer vaccine is fully approved for people 16 and older, and the other vaccines have emergency approval for people 12 and over.

Families in West Contra Costa county who refuse to comply will have to enroll their children in independent study in order to remain in the district. 

The district also approved separate mandates requiring all volunteers, staff members, vendors and contractors to get vaccinated in order to be on campuses.

As more students get vaccinated at West Contra Costa Unified, the district will begin to “reduce” its prevention measures “in some capacity,” said safety consultant Michael Booker. He did not say which measures would be reduced.

More than a dozen speakers at Thursday’s school board meeting urged the district not to pass the mandate, citing false information that Contra Costa County Health Officer Dr. Chris Farnitano debunked. Some had urged the school board to postpone the decision until the vaccine garnered full approval by the Food and Drug Administration for children ages 12-15 — it currently has full approval for people ages 16 and older and emergency use authorization for ages 12-15. School board members, however, said bold action needed to be taken now in order to reduce the spread of Covid in the community. 

“Postponing these resolutions equals giving into anti-science misinformation,” said Joseph Glatzer, who teaches history at Hercules Middle School. “Trust the science, listen to the public health experts, not the minority from anti-vaccine pressure groups.”

Though West Contra Costa Unified’s meeting went uninterrupted Thursday, anti-vaccine and anti-mask groups have disrupted school board meetings in other parts of the state. The California School Board Association director Vernon Billy wrote a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom this week calling for local police to uphold public health and safety orders, and help maintain order at local school board meetings when requested.

 

Ali Tadayon

Thursday, September 30, 2021, 1:58 pm

Link copied.School board members want governor to require police to protect them from protesters

California school board meetings are being disrupted, trustees threatened and safety measures ignored, and law enforcement officers often decline to help when called, said Vernon M. Billy, executive director of the California School Boards Association, in a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom sent Wednesday.

Billy asked the governor and Attorney General Rob Bonta to tell law enforcement agencies to enforce safety measures and restore order at school board meetings when requested.

“The hostile climate at local board meetings and the reluctance of select law enforcement agencies to fulfill their duties have placed school trustees in unprecedented danger,” Billy stated.

The public has more access to school board trustees than any other elected public officials and are accustomed to criticism and controversy, he said.

“Yet nothing in recent memory could have prepared trustees for the onslaught they face today as citizens lash out on a variety of topics, most notably opposition to state mandates and local COVID mitigation measures,” wrote Billy. “I’ve watched in horror as school board members have been accosted, verbally abused, physically assaulted, and subjected to death threats against themselves and their family members.”

Billy said that in the last month several school boards had to prematurely adjourn meetings because of disruptive audience members. A Sacramento-area school board had to leave the boardroom through a back door because the actions of protestors made the meeting unsafe. In San Diego, protestors forced their way into the board room and would not leave. The meeting was ended but the protestors stayed long enough to post a statement on social media saying they had elected themselves as the new school board.

Diana Lambert

Thursday, September 30, 2021, 12:22 pm

Link copied.Community activists want Elk Grove district to work on lowering Black suspension rates

Community activists are demanding change at Elk Grove Unified, which had the highest suspension rates of Black students in California in 2019, according to a survey released by the Black Minds Matter Coalition.

Loreen Pryor, CEO of the Black Youth Leadership Project, has three binders full of complaints from families who say their children have been unfairly disciplined, according to the Sacramento Bee. Many of the families are from Elk Grove.

The school district has addressed the high rate of suspensions of Black students by making changes to the dress code, the district’s zero-tolerance policy and evaluating the role of police on campuses, said Xanthi Soriano, district spokeswoman in the article.

In a recent case a Black girl and three female students, who are not Black, were in a physical altercation. The black student was the only one who faced expulsion, according to the Sacramento Bee. In the end, the district decided there wasn’t enough evidence to warrant her expulsion and suspended the girl for five days. The other girls were suspended for two days.

Diana Lambert

Thursday, September 30, 2021, 11:09 am

Link copied.Gov. Newsom writes children’s book based on his childhood dyslexia diagnosis

Gov. Gavin Newsom hasn’t shied away from talking about his childhood dyslexia diagnosis and how it impacted his education. Now he has written a children’s book based on his experience.

Ben and Emma’s Big Hit, set to be released Dec. 7, centers around a boy who loves baseball and struggles with reading. When he starts thinking of reading and baseball in the same way, he realizes he can overcome any obstacle if he keeps trying, according to the Amazon summary.

Newsom’s dyslexia diagnosis came up several times during the 2022 fiscal year budget process. His administration bolstered special education funding by $1.5 billion between 2019 and 2021, including extra money for direct services as well as recruiting and training teachers.

Ali Tadayon

Thursday, September 30, 2021, 8:46 am

Link copied.West Contra Costa school board to vote on vaccine mandate

West Contra Costa Unified’s school board is holding a special meeting Thursday night to vote on a vaccine mandate for eligible students.

The district’s administration is proposing that the mandate go into effect Jan. 3 and apply to all students older than 12, employees and volunteers. Students who don’t comply can enroll in independent study.

The district was slated to consider the recommendation earlier in the month but called off the meeting. Meanwhile, nearby Oakland Unified approved a vaccine mandate for eligible students.

 

Ali Tadayon

Wednesday, September 29, 2021, 4:44 pm

Link copied.Fourth graders and their families can attend 19 state parks with free pass

California State Parks officials and First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom on Wednesday announced a new yearlong program allowing fourth graders and their families to attend 19 state parks for free.

Families can apply for a California State Park Adventure Pass online at parks.ca.gov/AdventurePass. Families can also apply for a pass at a State Parks Pass Sales Office or by calling 800-444-7275.

The program focuses on families of fourth graders because research indicates that children ages 9-11 are at a stage in learning where they are more receptive to engaging with nature and the environment, said Siebel Newsom’s spokeswoman Daisy Vieyra. The federal Every Kid Outdoors program offers free access to federal parks for fourth graders and their families for the same reason.

The 19 parks covered by the pass include beaches, hiking trails and museums such as Morro Bay State Park Museum of Natural History, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Calaveras Big Trees State Park and Hollister Hills State Vehicular Recreation Area. A complete list can be found here.

The pass program is part of Siebel Newsom’s California for All Kids initiative to support children’s physical, mental and social-emotional well-being, according to a Parks and Recreation Department news release.

 

Ali Tadayon

Wednesday, September 29, 2021, 3:54 pm

Link copied.California still lags in computer science classes at high schools

Despite recent gains, California still lags behind 34 other states in the percentage of high schools that offer computer science classes, according to a new report released this week.

The California Computer Science Access Report,” by the Kapor Center and Computer Science for California, examined the computer science landscape in the state’s public high schools. It found that 42% of California high schools offer computer science classes, a 3 percentage point gain from 2016. Only 13% offered an advanced placement computer science class.

Schools that serve low-income and rural communities, and those with a high percentage of Black, Latino, Pacific Islander or Native American students were less likely to offer computer science classes.

“Findings indicate that, while some progress has been made in expanding access to computer science education, much work remains to increase equity in access and enrollment,” the authors wrote.

The report suggests that the state offer incentives to recruit more computer science teachers, especially those who are Black or Latino; make computer science a bigger priority in K-12 learning; and integrate computer skills into other subjects, so students learn the basics of computing regardless of whether they’re enrolled in a computer science class.

Carolyn Jones

Wednesday, September 29, 2021, 3:52 pm

Link copied.A district in Fresno County will not require Covid-19 testing of teachers

Sierra Unified School District, in Fresno County, decided not to discipline employees who choose not to take a Covid-19 test, despite a policy requiring testing or vaccination.

According to the Fresno Bee, the district faced major opposition to its policy to require everyone on school campuses to wear masks and teachers to either show proof of a vaccine by Oct. 15 or take a weekly Covid-19 test. In the end, the school board voted 4-3 to follow these health directives, but also voted to suspend disciplinary action for those who choose not to test, “until a ‘non-invasive’ method is available to the district, such as saliva testing.”

Some employees said the test was painful, and others said they thought the questions on the form to sign up, which included asking if the employee identifies as male, female, or non-binary gender, were suspicious.

Zaidee Stavely

Wednesday, September 29, 2021, 3:28 pm

Link copied.About 1/5 of LA Unified employees have not been vaccinated

About 1 in 5 Los Angeles Unified School District employees have not yet gotten their first vaccine against Covid-19, according to the Los Angeles Times.

If employees are not fully vaccinated by Oct. 15, or show proof of religious or medical exemption, they could lose their jobs. The district is already struggling to fill more than 2,000 vacancies. There are currently 12,000 employees who are estimated to have not yet started their vaccination process.

Students 12 and older have until Oct. 3 to receive their first dose of vaccination or be forced into online classes.

Zaidee Stavely

Wednesday, September 29, 2021, 12:16 pm

Link copied.Oakland resident teacher housing program celebrates second year

Oakland government and education officials on Wednesday touted the second year of a pilot program to provide subsidized housing to teacher-residents.

Teachers Rooted in Oakland, or TRIO, kicked off last year with 12 participants. This year, it is offering subsidized housing to nine teacher residents and provided housing stipends to another nine teacher residents. Seven of the program’s participants live at a new apartment complex on the city’s west side, and pay $375 a month for rent; the rest of the $1800 rent is covered by philanthropic organizations.

Teacher-residents in Oakland complete a yearlong residency in which they shadow current teachers before becoming credentialed teachers themselves. They receive a yearly stipend of $15,000.

The program was launched in an effort to attract and retain more Black and Latino teachers. Mayor Libby Schaaf, at a news conference outside of the apartment complex Wednesday, said teachers in specialized subjects such as STEM and special education were recently surveyed; 78% reported that they may have to leave teaching because of the cost of housing in Oakland. Studies also show that teachers of color are “heavily rent-burdened,” Schaaf said. In Oakland, 61% of teachers of color pay more than 30% of their income on rent.

“We know that in cities like Oakland, we need to bridge the gap between the unacceptably low pay that teachers receive and the unexpectedly high cost of housing in the Bay Area,” Schaaf said.

Ali Tadayon

Tuesday, September 28, 2021, 3:34 pm

Link copied.LA Unified sees steep decline in enrollment

The number of students enrolled at Los Angeles Unified schools has dropped by nearly 6% since last year — that’s over 27,000 students. The state’s largest school district had a total enrollment of 466,299 students last year in preschool through 12th grade. This year, the total enrollment for the same grade levels is 439,013.

The steep decline was three times what the district predicted, according to reporting by the Los Angeles Times.

A large part of the decline was seen among students in younger grades, a pattern that began last year and continued into the current school year.

In a presentation prepared for the school board, the district’s chief strategy officer, Veronica Arreguin, outlined strategies for increasing enrollment. Among them are expanded outreach to families, data analysis, and supporting enrollment counselors.

Betty Márquez Rosales

Tuesday, September 28, 2021, 12:18 pm

Link copied.New analysis: California would need to invest less than other states in federal free community college plan

President Biden’s tuition-free community college plan, or America’s College Promise, would create a five-year federal-state partnership to allow millions of students to attain an associate degree.

On average, states would have to increase their investment by 12% or $387 per full-time student in the first year, according to a new analysis from the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association, a membership group of higher education leaders. But for some states, like California, the investment is lower because they already have low tuition and fees. California would only need to invest 8% more in the first year of the program to keep up with projected inflation and enrollment increases.

California’s 116 two-year institutions have the lowest in-state community college tuition and fees in the country at $1,250.

The analysis examined how much more investment states would need to make under that partnership. Federal investment in the plan would decline steadily starting at 100% in year one and dropping each consecutive year by 5%. So that by 2027, the federal contribution will reach 80%.

As for states, their contribution in 2023-24, would be 0%. But grow by 5% each year starting in 2024 and reach 20% by 2027. The states must eliminate tuition and required fees to participate.

For the 29 states, including California, that already have below-median tuition prices, they can use the remaining funds from America’s College Promise program to give need-based aid to students, reduce unmet need at four-year colleges and universities, expand dual enrollment programs, or invest in other higher education reforms to improve student outcomes.

Ashley A. Smith

Tuesday, September 28, 2021, 11:52 am

Link copied.San Francisco State suspends in-person classes, citing anonymous threat

San Francisco University has suspended all in-person classes and other in-person activities because of “an anonymous, non-specific threat,” the campus said Tuesday.

“SF State Police are continuing their investigation of an anonymous, non-specific threat. All in-person instruction and services for Tuesday, Sept. 28 should move to remote modalities if possible. Remote instruction and work should continue as planned,” the campus said in a statement posted to Facebook.

The campus added that all university buildings, including its library, would be closed and urged students living on campus to remain in their residences “until notified otherwise.”

Michael Burke

Tuesday, September 28, 2021, 11:52 am

Link copied.San Diego Unified could require vaccines for staff, eligible students

San Diego Unified, the state’s second largest school district, is expected to vote Tuesday on a plan to require Covid-19 vaccinations by Dec. 20 for staff as well as students aged 16 and older, according to The San Diego Union-Tribune.

The board is scheduled to meet at 5 p.m. Tuesday. The proposal in front of the board would make Covid-19 vaccinations required of staff and of students when a vaccine is fully approved by the Food and Drug Administration for their age group, the Union-Tribune reported. The FDA so far has fully approved the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for people aged 16 and older.

For students in an age group that a vaccine hasn’t been received full approval for, they would be required to be tested weekly for the virus.

Students who don’t get vaccinated would need to attend classes remotely via independent study, according to the Union-Tribune. The proposal would allow for medical exemptions.

Michael Burke

Tuesday, September 28, 2021, 9:41 am

Link copied.Hoover Institution’s Eric Hanushek wins prestigious research prize

Eric Hanushek, a senior fellow with the Hoover Institution at Stanford University whose writings on education economics have held more sway in Texas and abroad than in his own California backyard, is this year’s winner of the Yidan Prize, the most prestigious award for education research.

Courtesy of Eric Hanushek

Eric Hanushek

The Hong Kong-based Yidan Prize Foundation, created to inspire progress and change in education worldwide, announced the $4 million award on Tuesday. Half of the money will go toward scaling up and supporting local projects in Africa tied to Hanushek’s research; the other half is a cash prize honoring his work. Charles Chen Yidan, a co-founder of China’s internet holding company, Tencent, created the prize in 2016.

Hanushek’s research showing that how much students learn – and not how many years they spend in school – impacts the economic growth of a nation has influenced national policies in Africa and Asia. In his best-known book, Knowledge Capital of Nations, published in 2015, he and co-author Ludger Woessmann use data from international assessments, including PISA and TIMMS, to demonstrate that a nation’s prosperity and long-term development are determined by the cognitive skills of its people.

“Like no one else, Eric has been able to link the fields of economics and education. From designing better and fairer systems for evaluating teacher performance to linking better learning outcomes to long-run economic and social progress, he has made an amazing range of education policy areas amenable to rigorous economic analysis,” Andreas Schleicher, head of the Yidan Prize for Education Research judging panel, and director for the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s Directorate of Education and Skills, said in an announcement of the prize.

Hanushek served on Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Committee on Education Excellence. But otherwise, he has done little work in California. The thrust of his research, on reforming how teachers are evaluated and paid, gained little traction in the Legislature or among local school boards, amid opposition from the California Teachers Association. But the Dallas Independent School District has successfully implemented his proposals to hire and place teachers in the most struggling schools based on comprehensive evaluations of teachers’ past performance, and the state of Texas is funding that approach for other low-performing schools.

“I’ve had a lot more influence on Texas than California,” Hanushek said. “Education is a funny business. You don’t see the results for a number of years, so you have to convince people that changes will be in the long-run interest of the state.”

John Fensterwald

Monday, September 27, 2021, 10:59 am

Link copied.Vouchers for religious schools on the Supreme Court’s docket this fall

Californians looking ahead to the November 2022 election may want to pay attention to an education case on the fall docket of the U.S. Supreme Court, which resumes work, as tradition holds, on the first Monday of October.

The case, Carson v. Makin, out of Maine, will test how far the conservative majority on the Supreme Court will go in requiring states that offer voucher programs to give parents the option of attending private religious schools as well as public schools. As reported by The 74, the case involves a family in a small town without a high school that gives vouchers to families.  The Carsons wanted their daughter to attend a religious high school, but their town restricted the voucher to public schools.

California doesn’t have a voucher program, or education savings accounts, as they’re often called. But Californians for School Choice has submitted its initiative to the California attorney general’s office, and, once the wording is approved, will begin gathering signatures. Its Education Freedom Act would give every family tuition — $14,000 initially — to put in an education savings account that can be used to attend a participating district, charter or accredited private or religious school.

As The 74 noted, last year the Supreme Court indicated its support for greater religious freedom in its ruling in Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue. It said states can’t ban religious schools from choice programs simply because they’re religious, but didn’t decide whether states could exclude them because they might spend the money on religious instruction.

California has one other obstacle that the Maine ruling will not affect. It’s one of three dozen states that in the late 19th century passed the “Blaine Amendment,” prohibiting the use of public money for religious schools. Maine didn’t adopt the Blaine Amendment, but a ruling in the current case, which the Supreme Court will hear on Dec. 8, could signal whether it’s open to striking down the Blaine Amendment, too.

John Fensterwald

Monday, September 27, 2021, 9:30 am

Link copied.High school students have a few more days to change last year’s grades to pass or no pass

High school students who were still unaware of the option will now have until Oct. 1 to change the grades of courses they took in 2020-21 to “pass” or “no pass” on their transcripts. Gov. Gavin Newsom signed legislation last week extending the deadline of a bill, sponsored by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzales, D-San Diego, that the Legislature passed in June.

Assembly Bill 104 acknowledges that distance learnng adversely impacted many students’ achievement. Enabling students who struggled to switch to pass or no pass prevents their grade point average from being negatively affected so that they aren’t at a disadvantage for college admissions while retaining eligibility for financial aid, Gonzales said in a statement.

“Given how many students could really benefit from this, we worked quickly to extend the deadline to ensure parents and high school students have more time to make use of the ‘pass/no pass’ option and update their transcripts,” she said.

Districts can also allow students to submit grade change requests beyond the new Oct 1 deadline. Districts must update a student’s transcript and notify the family of the change within 15 days.

California State University and University of California campuses will accept transcripts with pass/no pass grades to determine admission for any students enrolled in high school during the 2020-2021 school year. A list of private universities that have agreed to accept transcripts with pass/no pass grades for admissions is also available on the California Department of Education’s website.

John Fensterwald

Friday, September 24, 2021, 5:00 pm

Link copied.Lumina Foundation launches initiative to support non-degree credentials at community colleges

The Lumina Foundation is launching a new initiative to help community colleges address the needs of adult students of color earning high-quality, non-degree credentials.

The Racial Equity for Adult Credentials in Higher Education (REACH) Collaborative, is an $8 million initiative that will create better pathways to careers. The foundation selected colleges in California, Colorado, New York, North Carolina, Texas and Virginia.

The collaborative will ensure that academic, financial and wraparound supports are available to students for their entire enrollment. And that the resources used are specific to the needs of adult students of color.

Ashley A. Smith

Friday, September 24, 2021, 12:59 pm

Link copied.Teachers should be eligible for Covid booster shots, CDC head says

Overturning the recommendations of an advisory panel, the head of the Centers for Disease Control said Friday that teachers and other frontline workers should be eligible for Covid vaccine booster shots, according to the New York Times.

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the CDC, rejected the agency’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommendation that booster shots be made available only to older people and those at high risk of suffering serious health impacts from Covid. Walensky added teachers, healthcare workers and others who are likely to be exposed to the virus at work, in line with the recommendation of the Food and Drug Administration.

Offering booster shots to teachers, healthcare workers and other frontline workers will “best serve the nation’s public health needs,” Walensky said, according to the New York Times.

President Joe Biden is expected to release a plan for booster shots in the next few days.

Carolyn Jones

Thursday, September 23, 2021, 10:06 am

Link copied.Oakland Unified approves vaccine mandate for eligible students

Oakland Unified on Wednesday became the first district in Northern California to require students 12 and older be vaccinated in order to attend school in-person.

The school board voted 5-1 to approve the mandate, with school board members Mike Hutchinson dissenting and Shanthi Gonzalez abstaining, KTVU reported. The resolution authorizes Superintendent Kyla Johnson-Trammell to develop recommendations to enforce the mandate and establish a vaccination campaign.

The district hasn’t yet set a deadline as to when eligible students need to be vaccinated. In a news release sent Thursday morning, district offciials said the requirement would go into effect no earlier than Jan. 1. All exemptions required by law — such as for medical or religious reasons — and a “personal belief exemption” will be included in the requirement, the news release said.

Oakland Unified follows in the footsteps of Los Angeles Unified and Culver City Unified, which announced vaccine mandates earlier in the school year and are giving families several months to get into compliance.

Ali Tadayon

Wednesday, September 22, 2021, 10:34 am

Link copied.California announces charges in student debt relief scam

State Attorney General Rob Bonta announced charges Tuesday in a scam in which defendants allegedly promised to reduce or eliminate federal student loan debt but instead stole from victims.

Prosecutors claim the defendants stole $6,130,000 from more than 19,000 people, including 3,000 in California, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The defendants were based in Orange County. They allegedly called people with student debt and claimed to be from the U.S. Department of Education.

“Our students worked hard to achieve their college dreams, but for some their dreams have become horrific nightmares,” Bonta said. “They were swindled; they were scammed.”

Zaidee Stavely

Wednesday, September 22, 2021, 10:33 am

Link copied.San Jose State to pay $1.6 million to athletes after mishandling sex abuse allegations

San Jose State University will pay female athletes $1.6 million, after the Department of Justice found that the university failed to respond adequately to students’ allegations of sex abuse by an athletic trainer.

Twenty-three women allege they were inappropriately touched by Scott Shaw, the former director of sports medicine. The Justice Department found that San Jose State did not take adequate action and retaliated against employees who raised concerns, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Thirteen of the 23 women have accepted $125,000 each to be paid by the university.

An FBI criminal investigation is pending.

 

Zaidee Stavely

Tuesday, September 21, 2021, 11:30 am

Link copied.Long Beach Unified approves pay increase for substitute teachers

Facing a shortage of substitute teachers, Long Beach Unified is increasing pay for those teachers.

The district’s Board of Education approved a pay hike that will see the daily rate increase from $165 to $190, according to the Long Beach Post.

“We’re increasing our daily rate to be more competitive,” David Zaid, the district’s assistant superintendent, told the board, according to the Post.

The substitute teachers shortage is not unique to Long Beach Unified. Districts across the state are also increasing their daily rates. Some are facing a shortage so dire that some schools are facing possible temporary closures.

Michael Burke