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California education news: What’s the latest?

Tuesday, September 21, 2021, 9:36 am

Link copied.Toolkit posted explaining much anticipated growth model for measuring test scores

Parents and teachers who have picked up references over the past five years to the development of a “growth model” to measure student progress on standardized test scores in California now have a Student Growth Toolkit to explain what it is, why it’s important and when it will be put into actual use (hint: no time soon).

On Monday, the California Department of Education posted the information, which includes Frequently Asked Questions, flyers and a video explainer. Later this week, the department will release data files later with student growth scores for the three years of Smarter Balanced math and English language arts tests preceding the suspension of testing in the spring of 2020 due to Covid-19. These scores, by district, school and student groups, helped the department and the State Board of Education develop California’s student growth model.

A growth measure tracks individual students’ rate of progress on standardized tests over time. Advocates say it provides more insights on student achievement than the method California has been using to measure change: comparing the current year’s test results with the previous year’s students in the same grade and school. Kansas is the only other state that hasn’t adopted a student growth model, according to the Data Quality Campaign. The U.S. Department of Education has encouraged California to speed up its long-promised development.

The particular growth model variation that the State Board of Education chose, after extensive evaluation, is called residual gain. It calculates differences between students’ predicted test scores and actual scores, using students’ previous English language arts and math scores and the scores of all other students in the same grade.

The state will resume Smarter Balanced testing for grades 3-8 and 11 in the spring of 2022. Because it will take three years to produce accurate growth scores the state won’t be producing the first results until the fall of 2024. The state board hasn’t decided whether to incorporate the growth model into the state school accountability system, including the California School Dashboard.

John Fensterwald

Monday, September 20, 2021, 3:14 pm

Link copied.School district brings back campus police after student fatally stabbed

After a high school student was stabbed to death on campus, a Santa Cruz County school board voted to reinstate its school security officers and pair them with mental health clinicians, Lookout Santa Cruz reported Sunday.

The Pajaro Valley Unified School District board voted 6-1 last week to bring back school resource officers to two of the district’s high schools, Watsonville High and Aptos High, in response to safety concerns following the Aug. 31 fatal stabbing of a senior at Aptos High. Two other students were arrested in connection with the killing.

District Superintedent Michelle Rodriguez said that pairing mental health clinicians with school resource officers will be an effective way to keep students safe while addressing the roots of student misbehavior, Lookout Santa Cruz, a local news website, reported.

“Each one has specific strengths and training that the other one does not,” Rodriguez said. “We feel that that combination can be a win-win to the situation which we’re in, which is wanting to have resource officers on campus to see if that can help support human safety, while at the same time, recognizing that context matters.”

Like many school districts in California, Pajaro Valley Unified eliminated its campus security officers in 2020 following the murder of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, by a white Minneapolis police officer. Pajaro Valley’s reinstatement of its security officers is a pilot program that, combined with other security measures, will cost about $2 million.

Carolyn Jones

Monday, September 20, 2021, 1:08 pm

Link copied.Pfizer reports vaccine works for children 5 to 11, ready to seek FDA approval

Pfizer reported Monday that company data show its Covid-19 vaccine to be safe and effective in children ages 5 to 11. It and the German company BioNTech, the co-developer, plan to apply to the Food and Drug Administration by the end of the month for approval to administer to that age group. If the authorization goes as smoothly as it did for adults and teenagers, elementary school students could begin to be vaccinated by the end of October, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Although children are at lower risk of severe illness or death than adults, more than 5 million children in the U.S. have tested positive for Covid-19 since the pandemic began and at least 460 have died, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Children’s cases have risen sharply since the return to school this fall amid the more contagious delta variant. Delta has sent more children into hospitals and intensive care units in the past month than at any other time in the pandemic, the New York Times reported.

In Pfizer’s limited trial of 2,268 children, two-thirds of the children ages 5 to 11 received a vaccine that was a third of the amount given to teenagers and adults, yet they developed coronavirus antibodies that were just as strong after a second dose, Dr. Bill Gruber, a Pfizer senior vice president, told the Associated Press. The other one-third were injected with two doses of saltwater placebo.

The FDA’s full approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine last month did not apply to children ages 12 to 15. They continue to receive the vaccine under an emergency use authorization.

About 54% of vaccinated Americans have received the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, with the rest receiving Moderna’s vaccine, which uses similar technology. Moderna is also studying extending the use of its vaccine to elementary-school-age children.

John Fensterwald

Monday, September 20, 2021, 9:48 am

Link copied.A record number of efforts to recall school board candidates in California

Fifty members of school boards in California can identify with the ordeal that ended on Sept. 14 for Gov. Gavin Newsom. They too have been subjects of recall campaigns in 2021.

Nationwide, 66 recall efforts involving 171 school board members have been launched this year, according to Ballotpedia, which tracks recalls of public officials. A third of those recall efforts — 22, with many targeting two to four board members — have been in California.

Both are records. Between 2006 and 2020, when Ballotpedia first started tracking, the nationwide yearly average was 23 campaigns. For California, the average was five per year, although there was a dozen in 2010. That was the height of the recession, when school boards were cutting budgets and closing schools — a source of contention. There were 10 recall efforts in 2015 and 2018.  Twenty-three states allow recalls of school boards.

This year, parents angry over the slow reopening of schools last spring were behind most of the signature drives, including those in the Sunnyvale, Chico, Mt. Diablo, and San Juan districts. A surprise vote to fire a popular superintendent, Michelle Rodriguez, who was quickly reinstated, led to signature-gathering to recall the board president of Pajaro Valley Unified in Watsonville. A plan to consolidate two high schools prompted a recall effort in the West Sonoma County High School District.

Troy Flint, senior director of communications for the California School Boards Association, said that the switch to conducting board meetings online during the pandemic created opportunities for previously involved parents to see how decisions are made. “That’s the silver lining of the pandemic,” he said. However, the rise in bitterly partisan divisions over Covid and ethnic studies have fed into some of the recall campaigns, he said.

Earlier this month, organizers of the campaign to recall three board members of San Francisco Unified submitted more than the 51,325 signatures required to qualify for a ballot vote for each board member. But most recall efforts will die for lack of enough signatures. Nationwide, Ballotpedia reports that only 29% of recall efforts have reached the ballot since 2006, and 18% of targeted school board members were removed from office through a recall process — about 1 in 6.

A  similarly small proportion of recall campaigns eventually goes before California voters. Of the 12 recall efforts in 2010, eight never qualified for a vote, voters defeated one initiative, and board members in three elections — in Stockton, Capistrano and four members in St. Helena Unified in  Napa County — were replaced. Of the five recall efforts in 2020, four never made it to a vote; the one that did led to the removal of two board members in the El Rancho School District.

Most of the recall efforts this year are still gathering signatures. The size of a district determines minimum signatures and time limits, ranging from 30% of registered voters for districts with 1,000 or fewer registered voters, to 160 days to collect 10 percent in districts with more than 100,000 voters.

That could change, however. Assemblyman Marc Berman, D-Menlo Park, who chairs the Assembly Committee on Elections, and his state Senate counterpart, Steve Glazer, D-Orinda, plan bipartisan hearings on the recall statute, including raising the minimum number of signatures required for a gubernatorial recall and possibly for other public offices as well.

John Fensterwald

Friday, September 17, 2021, 5:19 pm

Link copied.Sacramento City Unified to consider Covid-19 vaccine mandate

Sacramento City Unified board members on Thursday were presented with three options regarding Covid-related mandates for students:

  • Continue testing students with symptoms or who have been in close contact with people who tested positive for Covid-19; no vaccine requirement
  • Require that students 12 and older either get the vaccination for Covid-19 or be tested regularly for Covid-19
  • Require that all students 12 and older be vaccinated for Covid-19; some exemptions allowed

The options were presented by the county health officer, the district student support and health services director and others. While no vote was expected, four out of the seven board members support the third option, according to the Sacramento Bee.

The board could vote on a vaccine mandate by the end of September.

Betty Márquez Rosales

Friday, September 17, 2021, 3:43 pm

Link copied.New Academy offers dual enrollment teaching track

Teach! Academy, a new early college high school program in Stockton, launched last week to give students a career path to earn an associate degree in education from San Joaquin Delta College.

The academy, which is on the Teachers College of San Joaquin campus, launched with 26 students. The school will add a new grade each year, with room to bring in more students at each level. Students who earn their associate degree will also have an affordable pathway to complete their bachelor’s degree at Humphreys University, a non-profit Catholic institution in Stockton.

“Teachers have made a difference in my life and I want to make a difference in the lives of my students one day too,” said Rudy Serrano, a ninth-grader in the academy. “Being a student at TEACH! Academy will help me do this. It also means I have the opportunity to be able to earn college credit while I’m still in high school.”


Ashley A. Smith

Friday, September 17, 2021, 2:09 pm

Link copied.West Contra Costa Unified cancels special board meeting on vaccine mandate

West Contra Costa Unified cancelled a special board meeting scheduled for Tuesday in which school board members would decide whether or not to require eligible students to be vaccinated against Covid-19.

West Contra Costa Unified was poised to be the first district in Northern California to impose a vaccine mandate for students as well as staff, but now nearby Oakland Unified will likely be the first. Oakland Unified’s school board is voting on a vaccine mandate at its school board meeting Wednesday.

West Contra Costa Unified’s potential mandate garnered attention across Bay Area media. Los Angeles Unified and Culver City Unified in Southern California had already announced vaccine mandates.

West Contra Costa Unified school board member Demetrio Gonzalez-Hoy, who co-authored the resolution, said he plans to request it at Wednesday’s regular school board meeting. That means it will come for a vote at a later date.

Ali Tadayon

Thursday, September 16, 2021, 3:46 pm

Link copied.Social-emotional programs have long-term benefits, report finds

High-quality after-school programs, community schools and on-campus health clinics can have long-lasting benefits for students and communities, according to a report released Tuesday by Council for a Strong America’s California division.

The report, “Investing in Student Wellness in California,” underscores the importance of school-based programs that benefit students’ social and emotional needs. Researchers analyzed hundreds and found that such programs can boost students’ academic performance and help them recover more quickly from trauma. At the community level, strong social-emotional programs in schools are linked to improved public safety and economic vitality, according to the report.

Investments in these programs are especially important during the pandemic, when millions of students have suffered from isolation, depression and other mental health challenges, according to the report. California’s budget includes more than $12 billion for after-school programs, on-campus health clinics and community schools, which offer services like English classes and medical care for families as well as students.

“While student wellness is in the spotlight, now is the time to make a lasting investment in student mental health, physical health, and lifelong success,” the report concludes. “Our safety, military readiness, and economic strength depend on it.”

Council for a Strong America is a nonpartisan nonprofit focused on preparing young people for success.

Carolyn Jones

Thursday, September 16, 2021, 10:30 am

Link copied.Support for and against recall paralleled vaccination rates

Pick any county in California, and it turns out that the percentages of fully vaccinated residents and voters who voted against the recall of Gov. Gavin Newsom were similar. San Mateo County: 72% fully vaccinated, 79% no to the recall; Santa Clara County: 74% vaccinated, 76% against the recall; Contra Costa County, 70% vaccinated, 73% against the recall. The correlation underscores that vaccinated voters tended to support Newsom’s Covid policies and aggressive safety protocols.

The Los Angeles Times did the math and created a graphic that shows the straight line correlation.

And at the opposite end, rural and Republican counties that have fought Newsom’s mandates were equally consistent: in Lassen County, 21 percent fully vaccinated, 17% voted no on the recall and Kings County, 34% vaccinated, 37% against the recall. Those counties, in Northern California and the Central Valley, are also where the delta variant has hit the hardest and filled up hospital intensive care wards.

For those in the middle, like Fresno County, 48% are vaccinated, 50% voted against the recall. In San Bernardino County, with 46% vaccinated, 52% voted no

The numbers didn’t match as closely in some counties, but generally the vaccination rate and the no vote were within 10 percentage points.


John Fensterwald

Wednesday, September 15, 2021, 11:18 am

Link copied.James Kvaal confirmed to top higher ed position in U.S. Department of Education

James Kvaal, the former president of the Institute for College Access and Success, was confirmed Tuesday as under secretary for the U.S. Department of Education. The Senate approved his nomination by a 58-37 vote.

Kvaal, who also previously served in the Obama administration, will become the top official overseeing higher education.

Kvaal’s nomination had previously been held up by Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., because she wanted to know more about his plans for managing federal student loans, according to Politico. In a statement to Politico last month, Warren said she has “had productive conversations with Mr. Kvaal, the Department of Education, and the White House, and I am glad they have committed to making substantial reforms to the administration of the student loan program. I look forward to continuing to work with them as these changes are implemented.”

In a statement Tuesday following Kvaal’s confirmation vote, U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said Kvaal “has a deep understanding of the strengths, needs, and challenges” in higher education.

“This is critical at a time when increasing college access, affordability, and completion is key to helping America build back better,” Cardona added.

Michael Burke

Tuesday, September 14, 2021, 5:14 pm

Link copied.Mills College finalizes merger with Northeastern University

Mills College in Oakland has finalized its merger with Northeastern University in Boston, the two colleges announced Tuesday. The merger was approved by the governing boards for both colleges.

Under the merger, which was initially announced in June, Mills College will be a campus of Northeastern and will become inclusive of all genders. In the past, the college was a women-only campus. The campus added in a statement that “its commitment to cultivating women’s leadership will endure” following the merger.

Before the merger was announced, the college had previously planned to close by 2023.

The merger is expected to go into effect around July 1 of next year. In a statement, Mills President Elizabeth L. Hillman called the merger “a big leap” for the college.

“An alliance with Northeastern empowers Mills to continue doing what it has done since its founding in 1852—offer exceptional educational opportunities to students who want to make a difference,” Hillman added. “It also means that the Mills campus will remain a vibrant center of learning with deep and meaningful connections with the broader Oakland community.”

The next step in the merger will be for faculty and staff at Mills and Northeastern to work together to create the undergraduate and graduate programs that will be offered at the campus, according to the statement from Mills.

Michael Burke

Tuesday, September 14, 2021, 4:03 pm

Link copied.UC San Diego enrollment could increase to 50,000 in next decade

Enrollment at UC San Diego could increase by 10,000 students over the next decade, bringing the total number of students at the campus to 50,000, Chancellor Pradeep Khosla told The San Diego Union-Tribune in an interview.

“There is a number, right? I just don’t know what the number is. So I think 42 (thousand) to 45, maybe 50 at most, at some point over the next decade or plus,” Khosla told the newspaper when asked whether he had a number in mind for where the school’s enrollment will reach.

The Union-Tribune noted that the increasing enrollment comes as the campus is already struggling to house students as its enrollment has steadily increased. Currently, the campus enrolls about 40,000 students. More than 1,100 students are on a waiting list for campus housing this fall. The campus is one of several across the UC experiencing housing shortages this fall.

Michael Burke

Tuesday, September 14, 2021, 4:02 pm

Link copied.Fresno State considers moving classes online after Thanksgiving

Fresno State is considering transitioning all in-person classes to virtual instruction after the Thanksgiving holiday later this fall, though some students are calling on the campus to make the switch sooner than that, the Fresno Bee reported.

“The University is considering a number of options, if necessary, including the transition of all in-person classes to virtual after the Thanksgiving holiday,” Fresno State spokesperson Lisa Boyles Bell told the Bee. “A final decision has not been made. Any such decision will take into consideration guidance from local public health officials and from the CSU Office of the Chancellor.”

Last year, many colleges and universities across the United States opted to move fall classes online after Thanksgiving and encouraged students to stay home after the holiday rather than return to their campuses and risk spreading Covid-19.

But some students at Fresno State want campus leadership to halt in-person classes much sooner, saying they feel unsafe at the campus, according to the Bee.

“They aren’t social distancing, they aren’t providing masks nor sanitizer, they aren’t enforcing that students actually wear the masks correctly, and they aren’t contact tracing anywhere near as accurately as they should,” student Nicholas Ctibor told the Bee, referring to the behavior of on-campus students and employees.

Michael Burke

Monday, September 13, 2021, 6:46 pm

Link copied.A ramen noodles diet for teachers after buying a house in San Jose

A teacher in San Jose buying a median-priced house with a median teaching salary would have about $7.50 per day to live on after the paying the mortgage, the lowest on a home affordability scale for teachers anywhere in the United States. That adds up to  $2,750 in spending money annually after spending $87,612 on housing, according to a study by the online broker Redfin.

Of course, that’s really theoretical, since a single teacher earning the $90,300 median salary in San Jose wouldn’t be able to get a mortgage on a median $1.2 million home – at least not without having another source of income, family help or personal savings. Instead, new teachers are doing long commutes, renting rooms in a house or sharing apartments with other teachers for a few years, then migrating to more affordable districts.

Like Merced, about two hours to the east. It’s the most affordable of the 157 metropolitan areas that Redfin studied. In 2020, the median salary for a teacher in Merced was $99,637, and the median annual homeownership cost was $35,051, leaving teachers with a median disposable income of $64,586. Fresno was ranked #2.  Riverside, Modesto and Bakersfield were also designated among the most affordable areas.

The high cost of living has been the main factor driving teachers out of San Jose, San Jose Teachers Association President Patrick Bernhardt, a math teacher, told the Mercury News. He said that San Jose Unified and the city of San Jose have been exploring subsidized housing programs, such as building on school-owned properties, but it will be years before a development would be built.

San Francisco and the East Bay are the second least affordable areas, according to Redfin, with $14,900 per year left after paying the mortgage.

The typical U.S. teacher could buy a home and have more than 10 times the disposable income as a home-owning teacher in San Jose, Redfin calculated.

John Fensterwald

Monday, September 13, 2021, 3:57 pm

Link copied.West Contra Costa Unified drops “modified quarantine” for close contacts

West Contra Costa Unified is dropping the state-recommended “modified quarantine” protocol and requiring that all close contacts with Covid-positive students or staff go home for 10 days.

With a “modified quarantine,” students who came into close contact with someone who tested positive for Covid could continue coming to school as long as they didn’t have symptoms and tested negative at least twice during the 10-day window. The California Department of Public Health defines a close contact as being within six feet of a person who has Covid for 15 minutes or more in a 24-hour period.

Under the new policy, which district officials announced Saturday, all close contacts must go home to quarantine for 10 days. If close contacts cannot be identified, all students in the class will quarantine for 10 days.

Ali Tadayon

Monday, September 13, 2021, 10:20 am

Link copied.Anger over slow school reopening faded as a top recall issue, poll finds

With the vote on recalling Gov. Gavin Newsom one day away, the furor over the slow reopening of schools that fueled the recall campaign last spring with 1.7 million signatures has apparently receded, and some Democrats appear to be having second thoughts about ousting the governor.

When asked to name the most important issue facing people in California today, only 1% of 1,080 likely voters cited schools, teachers and education in general in a voter survey released last week by the Public Policy Institute of California.

Schools were at the bottom of the list, behind Covid-19 (17% of voters), homelessness (13%), jobs and the economy (12%), housing affordability (8%), problems with politicians and government in general (8%), the state budget and taxes (7%), pollution and global warming (6%) wildfires (5%), drought (5%) and health care (2%).

In that poll, 58% of voters said they opposed the recall while 39% said they favor it, a wider margin than in earlier polls.

One reason is that schools have fully reopened. Newsom and the Legislature forced the issue when they let the one-year law permitting distance learning expire at the end of June and ruled that independent study, with rules and complexities that discouraged many parents from signing up, would be the only alternative to in-person instruction. Another reason is that all of the major Republican candidates to replace Newsom have said they’d rescind school masking mandates, which most Democrats support.

Shannon Huffaker  from Albany in the Bay Area may have expressed the view of many other Democrats when she thought about Larry Elder, who leads all recall candidates in the polls, as Newsom’s successor.

“I would very much like to vote for someone else,” Huffaker told the San Francisco Chronicle. “But I’m not going to vote for someone else and risk having a crazy, conservative talk show host become the governor.”

John Fensterwald

Monday, September 13, 2021, 12:01 am

Link copied.Many California schools get a failing grade on teaching reading, report finds

Many California school districts get a failing grade on how well they teach reading, according to a new report from the California Reading Coalition, a literacy advocacy group.

In this statewide ranking of 287 districts, the Bay Area is home to nearly half of the lowest performers, including San Francisco Unified, Oakland Unified, and West Contra Costa Unified. Southern California, meanwhile, has 80% of the high performers, including Los Angeles County. Fresno County also stands out, with four of the top 30 districts. Overall, half of California students do not read at grade level, according to the report, which threatens to widen the achievement gap. 

“The reading results in California are alarming,” said Todd Collins, one of the organizers of the California Reading Coalition. “We need communities and school districts to wake up to this problem and make it a top priority. Few school boards or superintendents spend time and energy on early literacy — that’s got to change. When you see how badly your schools are doing, it should move you to action.”

The Bay Area did not get great grades. Four districts in the bottom ten of the ranking are located in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties, the core of Silicon Valley, based on third-grade reading performance. Meanwhile, half of the districts in the top ten are located in Los Angeles County. The 287 districts surveyed, which serve 72% of all students in California, were chosen to include a diverse population of students in terms of race and income. 

“The very low performance of Bay Area districts is striking. We far underperform the state in general, and Los Angeles County in particular,” Collins said. “We need to figure out why and change how we do things. As a school board member in Santa Clara County (whose own district is in the bottom 10% of the rankings), I feel a real urgency around this.”

Reading is often considered a gateway skill that leads the way to more complex academic pursuits. By third grade, students are expected to pivot from learning to read to reading to learn. If they fall behind in making that transition, it can be hard to catch up. 

“If kids can’t read effectively by third grade, they will almost certainly struggle for the rest of school, we’ve failed them,” Collins said. “Literacy is the foundation of any program for social justice or economic growth and we’re not building the foundation we need. We ignore this problem at our peril.”

Karen D'Souza

Friday, September 10, 2021, 2:49 pm

Link copied.California legislators pass another law to make it easier to substitute teach

The K-12 Education Trailer Bill approved by legislators Thursday allows substitute teachers to teach for up to 60 days in one assignment, instead of the 30 days previously allowed. The change comes as some California school districts are struggling with substitute shortages that are threatening to close classrooms.

Substitutes who have credentials to teach in general, special or career technical education are eligible.

The trailer bill, which details aspects of the state budget, will go into effect immediately after it is signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom. The governor has until Oct. 10 to sign or veto bills approved by legislators.

Two other recent changes to credentialing requirements are expected to help increase the pool of substitutes for school districts. In July state lawmakers approved a bill that allows teacher candidates to use eligible coursework to prove they have the basic skills required to teach, instead of taking the California Basic Education Skills Test. Newsom also issued an executive order last month allowing retired school staff to return to campuses to help fill staffing shortages without waiting 180 days after their retirement, as has previously been required.

Diana Lambert

Friday, September 10, 2021, 1:18 pm

Link copied.FDA vaccine chief ‘very, very hopeful’ that young kids can get Covid vaccine by end of this year

The vaccine chief for the Food and Drug Administration, Dr. Peter Marks, said Friday that he is “very, very hopeful” that a Covid-19 vaccine will be available by end of year for children ages 5 to 11, according to the Associated Press.

Once companies finalize their vaccine study results, Dr. Marks expects the federal agency to expedite their evaluation and analysis of the vaccine. Pfizer and BioNTech have previously said they expect to share their study results with the Food and Drug Administration in coming weeks.

Covid-19 vaccines are currently available and authorized for emergency use for children as young as 12 years old. The federal agency recently provided full authorization for the Covid-19 vaccine in people as young as 16.

Betty Márquez Rosales

Friday, September 10, 2021, 1:17 pm

Link copied.Contra Costa Community College District approved vaccine mandate

Beginning Nov. 1, all Contra Costa Community College District employees and students who attend at least one class in person or visit campus must be vaccinated against the coronavirus. The college district, located in the San Francisco Bay Area, is comprised of three campuses: Contra Costa College, Diablo Valley College and Los Medanos College.

Vaccinations will not be required for other visitors but will be strongly encouraged. They will be required to complete a health assessment prior to entering a campus.

“In making this decision, 4CD reached out to its students, faculty, classified professionals, and managers and received overwhelming support to take this action,” Chancellor Bryan Reece said in a statement after the board’s approval of the vaccine mandate on Wednesday.

Betty Márquez Rosales

Friday, September 10, 2021, 1:03 pm

Link copied.New federal grant program to help schools penalized for mask mandates

Schools that have been financially penalized for implementing Covid safety measures can restore those funds through a new federal grant program, the U.S. Department of Education announced Thursday.

The grants, called Project SAFE, will allow schools to recoup the funds lost when their states withheld money as punishment for requiring masks indoors, vaccines or other measures intended to stop the spread of Covid. Florida, Texas, Arizona, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah, Montana, Tennessee, Arkansas and Iowa are among the states that have banned school mask mandates. Florida has withheld money from two school districts that require masks, and other states have threatened to do so.

California requires students and school staff to wear masks indoors, although it’s up to districts to enforce the order. Parents in some districts are fighting the mandate.

The money for Project SAFE will come from school safety funds in the Every Student Succeeds Act.

“Every student across the country deserves the opportunity to return to school in-person safely this fall, and every family should be confident that their school is implementing policies that keep their children safe,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. “We should be thanking districts for using proven strategies that will keep schools open and safe, not punishing them.”

Carolyn Jones

Thursday, September 9, 2021, 4:30 pm

Link copied.New academy turns high school students into teacher candidates

Teach Academy, which opened this school year to San Joaquin County high school freshmen, allows students to earn an associate degree in elementary education by the time they graduate from high school.

The academy is a joint project of the Teachers College of San Joaquin, the San Joaquin County Office of Education, San Joaquin Delta College and Venture Academy of Family Schools.

This year 26 freshman enrolled in the academy, which is located on the campus of the Teachers College of San Joaquin in Stockton. A grade level will be added each year.

After earning their associate degrees at Delta College, students can complete their degrees through Humphreys University and earn a teaching credential through the Teachers College of San Joaquin, according to a press release from San Joaquin County Office of Education.

“The innovative partnership not only provides San Joaquin County students with a clear and affordable path to get their college degree, but will help grow the profession locally with a new generation of students who reflect the diversity and cultural perspectives of the students in the San Joaquin County region they hope to serve,” said the release.

Diana Lambert

Thursday, September 9, 2021, 2:57 pm

Link copied.CSU Northridge to become innovation hub in effort to improve success of Latinx students

California State University, Northridge will soon have a Global Hispanic Serving Institution Equity Innovation Hub on its campus to increase the success of underserved students in science, technology, engineering and math.

“The CSU, the nation’s largest four-year higher education system, has long been a leader in serving Latinx students with 21 of our 23 campuses receiving HSI designation,” said CSU Chancellor Joseph I. Castro. “The CSU takes great pride in the work we have undertaken to provide pathways to STEM education that result in the careers that power the world’s fifth-largest economy.”

The Hispanic Serving Institution designation is given to a university that can count at least 25 percent of its undergraduates as Latinx and at least half of their enrollment as low-income.

Faculty and staff at the hub will work with other Hispanic Serving Institutions to capture proven strategies that help accelerate educational equity, said Erika Beck, president of Cal State Northridge.

“We aim to shift the conversation away from what students must do to be successful to what our institutions must do to successfully serve our Latinx and other diverse students,” she said.

The hub was funded with $25 million allocated in the state budget and a donation from Apple.

Diana Lambert

Thursday, September 9, 2021, 11:50 am

Link copied.Mary Nicely confirmed as second in command at California Department of Education

The State Board of Education on Thursday swore in two board members and confirmed the appointment of a new chief deputy superintendent of the California Department of Education. It is the second-highest position next to State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond and entails overseeing the daily operation of the department.

Mary Nicely becomes the third chief deputy superintendent under Thurmond. Nicely was Thumond’s chief of staff during his last term in the state Assembly. More recently she was deputy superintendent of technology at the Department of Education and a senior adviser to Thurmond, focusing on the recruitment and retention of teachers of color and public/private partnerships.

Before that she was president and CEO of Nicely Done Solutions, Inc., a custom database development company headquartered in Berkeley that she founded in 1994. She also worked for Apple for 13 years, where she was the Western U.S. K-12 service and support manager.

Thurmond described Nicely as a “compassionate leader who is detail-oriented” in introducing her to the state board.

The newest state board member is Francisco Escobedo, whom Gov. Gavin Newsom appointed last week to replace Matt Navo, who resigned from the board to become the new executive director of the California Collaborative for Educational Reform, the state agency that oversees school improvement. Escobedo retired after the last school year from his position as superintendent of the Chula Vista Elementary School District, the largest K-6 district in the state. He became executive director of the National Center of Urban School Transformation at San Diego State University, where Escobedo is an adjunct professor of educational administration.  The center was founded in 2005 to play a constructive leadership role around urban education.

Rana Banankhah

Thursday was also start of the one-year term of the student board member, Rana Banankhah, a senior at Modesto High School in the International Baccalaureate program. Banankhah, who is a voting member of the state board, also serves as the student board member to Modesto City Schools, made up of the elementary and high school districts serving Modesto. Banankhah also serves on the board of directors of GENup, a California-based, nationwide social activism organization, and writes about issues relevant to young people for the Modesto Bee.

Newsom appointed her from nominees recommended by the state board.

Thurmond’s predecessor, Tom Torlakson, also appointed Richard Zeiger, his chief of staff during his last term in the Assembly, as his chief deputy superintendent. Zeiger had been a journalist.

John Fensterwald

Thursday, September 9, 2021, 10:24 am

Link copied.West Contra Costa Unified to cut ties with Covid tester due to slow responses

West Contra Costa Unified is terminating its relationship with Hayward-based Covid tester Predicine Labs after multiple reports of delayed responses.

Starting Monday, the district will partner with LSA Labs to conduct weekly testing at each of its schools, disaster preparedness and safety consultant Michael Booker announced at Wednesday night’s school board meeting. LSA will do antigen testing, which will yield results in 15 minutes, Booker said.

Though Predicine conducted the testing at all of the district’s schools, the district and a different company handled the contact tracing.

School board members commended the district’s decision. At school board meetings, parents and teachers had complained that contact tracing was taking too long. One teacher didn’t find out she had been exposed to someone who tested positive for Covid until that person texted her five days later, said Marissa Glidden, president of the district’s teachers union.

Ali Tadayon

Wednesday, September 8, 2021, 2:29 pm

Link copied.Bill passes requiring virtually lead-free faucets in schools, homes

The California Legislature passed a bill today that will require all faucets and plumbing fixtures, including those installed in schools, to be nearly lead free. It is the first legislation of its kind in the nation, according to Environmental Working Group, which co-sponsored the bill.

Assembly Bill 100 would go into effect in 2023 if signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom. It would require all faucets and plumbing fixtures sold in the state to leach less than 1 microgram of lead.

“After years of working to protect children from the harmful effects of lead, I am thrilled to see AB 100 pass the Legislature,” said Assemblyman Chris Holden, D-Pasadena, the author of the bill. “AB 100 will protect children and all Californians from the damaging effects of lead.”

In 2019 California began testing lead levels in the water at schools and day care centers, but Holden said many of the replacement faucets still leach lead into the water.

Lead is a neurotoxin that damages the brains and central nervous systems of young children, according to speakers. Low levels of lead in children cause IQ loss, learning disabilities, behavioral problems, and impaired hearing.

“In order to protect children’s health, we need to get lead out of our drinking water,” said Susan Little, senior advocate for California government affairs at the Environmental Working Group. “Enactment of AB 100 will ensure that California schools and child care centers can purchase faucets and plumbing fixtures that leach as little lead as possible — as soon as possible.”

Diana Lambert

Wednesday, September 8, 2021, 12:44 pm

Link copied.High school ethnic studies bill approved by California Legislature

High schoolers in California will be required to take an ethnic studies course in order to graduate, beginning in 2029-30.

Assembly Bill 101, authored by Assemblyman Jose Medina, D-Riverside, passed both houses of the state Legislature Wednesday and is now headed to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk.

The bill requires all school districts and charter schools to offer an ethnic studies course beginning in the 2025-26 school year. Students would be required to take at least one semester of ethnic studies in order to graduate, beginning in 2029-30.

Research released Monday found that students who took an ethnic studies course in ninth grade in San Francisco Unified had higher attendance and graduation rates and increased enrollment in college.

Zaidee Stavely

Wednesday, September 8, 2021, 12:39 pm

Link copied.Los Angeles Board of Education leaning toward vaccine mandate

Five of seven members of the Los Angeles Board of Education are leaning toward requiring students 12 and older to be vaccinated against Covid-19, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Less than half of 12- to 15-year-olds in L.A. County and only 57% of 16- and 17-year-olds were vaccinated against Covid-19 as of Aug. 29. Hospitalization rates are 10 times higher among the unvaccinated than among the fully vaccinated in this age group, according to research highlighted this month by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Zaidee Stavely

Wednesday, September 8, 2021, 12:09 pm

Link copied.Complaint against Sacramento City Unified alleges unsafe work conditions at school

A complaint filed by Sacramento City Unified teachers Tuesday alleges that the school district didn’t adequately respond to a recent Covid outbreak at New Joseph Bonnheim Community Charter School, making work conditions unsafe.

The teachers filed the complaint with the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health.

The Sacramento County Public Health Department mandated testing on the campus on Sept. 2 after the district-run charter school identified 23 cases of Covid, according to the district. No new cases were found by the county’s rapid response team, but the county is requiring weekly testing for all students and staff at the school for three weeks.

The complaint from the teachers union alleges that the district didn’t conduct adequate contact tracing, did not notify all employees of possible exposure to Covid, encouraged staff at the school to report to work with Covid symptoms and did not require social distancing between students and staff after the outbreak.

“I have four young children all under age 12, two of whom are medically fragile, and I tested positive for Covid even though I was vaccinated,” said Becky Van Nest, a fourth-grade teacher in a statement provided by the union. “I was exposed to a student and a staff member who were positive, but did not receive the proper notice. The physical distancing, the contact tracing, the notice to staff, the notice to families — the entire system broke down. We’ve been totally let down.”

New Joseph Bonnheim Community Charter School serves 270 students in kindergarten through sixth grade and has 25 people on its staff, including 13 teachers.

Diana Lambert

Tuesday, September 7, 2021, 5:50 pm

Link copied.54 students, 11 staff test positive for Covid-19 at West Contra Costa Unified

Fifety-four students and 11 staff tested positive for Covid-19 at West Contra Costa Unified during its third week of fall instruction, according to the district. That’s down from a total of 72 cases the previous week — 65 of whom were students, and seven of were staff. The 30,000-student district also had to close one classroom at King Elementary in Richmond during the last week.

At the start of the year, West Contra Costa Unified officials pledged to announce how many Covid cases it has each week on its 21-22 Covid Dashboard. In a message to families Friday, district officials said they will begin updating the dashboard by 5 p.m. daily.

The district’s Covid-19 testing company, Predicine, Inc, has also pledged to deliver test results quicker after parents and teachers complained that the district was taking too long to notify them of potential exposures. Predicine Infectious Diseases CEO Winston Patrick Kuo, in Friday’s message, said the company “accepts full responsibility” for parents’ and teachers’ frustrations, and is changing its own protocols in order to provide West Contra Costa Unified leadership notification of positive cases within 48 hours.


Ali Tadayon

Tuesday, September 7, 2021, 12:19 pm

Link copied.San Diego professor to lead equal employment opportunity initiatives at California Community Colleges

An assistant professor at San Diego City College is being tapped to serve as visiting executive of educational excellence and equal employment opportunity programs for the statewide California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office, that office announced Tuesday.

Abdimalik Buul, who is also director of the transfer and career center at San Diego City College, will help with equal employment opportunity professional development for the colleges and give input on planning for the program across California’s community college districts, among other responsibilities with the chancellor’s office.

“The California Community Colleges is excited to have an advocate as talented and committed as Dr. Buul to lead its EEO initiatives, which are critical to fully realizing the goals set forth in the Vision for Success. His expertise will help our system connect EEO to the classroom and successfully redefine educational excellence for the largest system public higher education,” acting Chancellor Daisy Gonzales said in a statement.

Michael Burke

Tuesday, September 7, 2021, 12:16 pm

Link copied.Long Beach Community College District searching for superintendent

The board of trustees for the Long Beach Community College District has begun a national search for a new superintendent, the district announced Tuesday.

Long Beach City College is the district’s sole college.

“The Board of Trustees and I are confident that we will find a strong leader who will not only provide guidance to our employees, but someone who will build on LBCC’s legacy of academic excellence, who will lead the college through our accreditation process, update our strategic plan and advance our award-winning racial equity efforts,” said Uduak-Joe Ntuk, the president of the district’s board.

Applications are due to the district by Oct. 20, and the board expects to select a new superintendent by Dec. 15. The superintendent would begin their role Jan. 1.

Currently, Mike Muñoz is the district’s interim superintendent.

Michael Burke

Friday, September 3, 2021, 3:11 pm

Link copied.Gunmaker sued in Sandy Hook massacre wants school records of slain children

Remington, the gunmaker being sued by families of slain children in the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, has issued a subpoena to get the academic, attendance and discipline records of five students, CBS reports. The gunmaker also subpoenaed the employment files of four teachers who were killed.

The subpoena for the five first-graders requested “application and admission paperwork, attendance records, transcripts, report cards [and] disciplinary records,” according to court documents. 

“The records cannot possibly excuse Remington’s egregious marketing conduct, or be of any assistance in estimating the catastrophic damages in this case,” the plaintiffs’ attorney Joshua Koskoff said in a statement, as cited by CBS News. “The only relevant part of their attendance records is that they were at their desks on December 14, 2012.”

The gunmaker also requested records of the educators’ earnings, attendance, insurance, resume, job performance evaluations and confidentiality agreements, among several other items in subpoenas dated July 12. 

A motion filed by the plaintiffs on Thursday said “there is no conceivable way” these items could help Remington in its defense. 

“In addition to being extremely personally sensitive to the families of the deceased, this information is legally classified as confidential,” the motion states. “We have never seen subpoenas directed to first-graders’ educational records, let alone children’s ‘attendance records,’ or ‘disciplinary records,’ and we do not understand Remington’s purpose in obtaining these records.”

Adam Lanza killed 26 people — 20 children and six adults — at the school before killing himself. Earlier, he had killed his mother at their home. The massacre ranks among the worst school shootings in the nation’s history.

Remington, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2018 and again last year, manufactured the Bushmaster assault-style AR-15 rifle that was used in the shooting. The families sued the company for wrongful death, accusing it of having recklessly marketed the military-grade weapon to civilians, in a landmark lawsuit. Remington has argued that the Bushmaster is a legal firearm and that the sale of the gun used in the school shooting was legal. Attorneys for the gunmaker did not respond to requests for comment. 

Karen D'Souza

Friday, September 3, 2021, 10:33 am

Link copied.Stanford University resident assistants on indefinite strike

Resident assistants at Stanford University went on an indefinite strike on Thursday after the university failed to meet their demands, according to the Stanford Daily.

The student staff members live in 28 residence halls and called on Stanford to meet four main demands: provide a virtual option for in-person trainings (a demand that surfaced after a staff member tested positive for Covid-19 after attending a training in person), increase pay, involvement in decision-making, and revise the university’s alcohol and drug policy.

Out of over 500 RAs that the university hires annually, only about 150 attended a training on Thursday morning, the first day of the strike. They have gone on strike about one week before students are scheduled to begin moving into their dorms.

Betty Márquez Rosales

Thursday, September 2, 2021, 2:46 pm

Link copied.Wildfire evacuations delay start of Lake Tahoe Unified school year again

Lake Tahoe Unified School District has further postponed the start of the school year to at least Sept. 13.

The district, which originally was scheduled to begin the school year Aug. 30, first postponed the start of school until Sept. 7 because of the Caldor Fire burning through El Dorado County.

Since that announcement the fire has continued to burn toward South Lake Tahoe, causing the evacuation of the area on Monday. District officials said they will monitor the wildfire and provide an update to families no later than Sept. 6.

“This is a serious situation with many variables and the safety of our staff and families is at the forefront of all decision-making,” Superintendent Todd Cutler said in a letter to families on Monday. “As long as the majority of our district boundary is under any kind of evacuation alert, school operations will be suspended.”

The district serves 3,725 students in four elementary schools, one middle and one high school in South Lake Tahoe.

The Caldor fire has burned more than 210,000 acres in El Dorado and Amador counties. The fire, which is 25% contained, started near the community of Grizzly Flats almost three weeks ago.

Donations to the CDE Emergency Response Fund can be made on its GoFundMe page. The funds will support schools impacted by the wildfires. A fund has also been set up by the El Dorado Community Foundation to help residents who have been impacted by the Caldor Fire.

Diana Lambert

Thursday, September 2, 2021, 12:35 pm

Link copied.13 more LA County school districts may mandate student Covid vaccines

More than a dozen Los Angeles County school districts may join Culver City Unified and mandate Covid vaccines for students, according to the Los Angeles Daily News.

During a press conference Wednesday, Los Angeles County Office of Education Superintendent Debra Duardo said that Alhambra, Baldwin Park, Beverly Hills, El Rancho, El Monte Union High, Lawndale, Los Angeles, Los Nietos, Mountain View, Norwalk, Paramount, South Whittier and Walnut Valley school districts may require the vaccine for eligible students, according to the article.

Currently, anyone 12 and older is eligible to be vaccinated against the virus, and children 5 to 11 could be eligible for the vaccination by the end of the year, according to federal health officials.

Culver City Unified in west Los Angeles County was the first school district in California to require that all eligible students be vaccinated against Covid-19, along with teachers and staff. Students and teachers also must be tested for the virus once a week.

Diana Lambert

Wednesday, September 1, 2021, 11:54 am

Link copied.More than 65,000 fake students applied for aid at California community colleges

More than 65,000 fake students applied for financial aid at California’s community colleges in an apparent scam attempt, the Los Angeles Times reported Wednesday.

Patrick Perry, director of policy, research and data with the California Student Aid Commission, noticed a few weeks ago that 60,000 more aid applications had been submitted from a specific group of students over the last year, according to the Times. They were first-time applicants to a California community college, older than 30, earning less than $40,000 annually and were seeking a two-year degree.

“We were kind of scratching our heads going, ‘Did or didn’t 60,000 extra older adult students really attempt to apply to community colleges here in the last few months?’” Perry told the Times.

Officials eventually determined that the applications were likely coming from fake bot accounts and not real students, the Times reported. According to the Times, the applications were spread across the state at 105 of California’s 116 community colleges.

Perry told the Times that the number of fake students attempting to get financial aid has surpassed 65,000. Perry also said officials likely caught the scam before aid was distributed to those fake students.

“I can’t tell you whether any money has gone out or not, but my guess is probably not,” he said. “I think we’ve caught it.”

Michael Burke

Wednesday, September 1, 2021, 11:07 am

Link copied.Summer school, counselors and tutoring among top school Covid spending

Superintendents are prioritizing summer school, more counselors, tutoring, and technology for the extra funding from Congress for Covid-19 relief.

A new survey of about 400 superintendents looked at how school districts are using new federal funding, in addition to Covid-19 mitigation efforts like air filtration and testing. The survey was conducted by the national School Superintendents Association (AASA).

As reported by NPR, these are some of the top areas of spending identified by superintendents:

  • Summer school (75% of respondents);
  • Additional counselors, social workers, and reading specialists (66% of respondents);
  • New computers or internet devices (62% of respondents);
  • Renovating buildings (57% of respondents);
  • Social-emotional learning (52% of respondents);
  • Tutoring (44% of respondents);
  • Paying staff for longer school days or years (42% of respondents).
Zaidee Stavely

Wednesday, September 1, 2021, 9:26 am

Link copied.Suburban districts call for changes to the independent study law during quarantines

An organization representing suburban school districts is calling on the Legislature to make several fixes to the law regulating independent study. Superintendents are complaining that the law, Assembly Bill 130 (sections 66 to 74) is handcuffing their ability to continue serving students placed in a Covid quarantine.

In an Aug. 30 letter, lobbyists for the California Association of Suburban School Districts asked for the authority to return to distance learning short-term, via Zoom, to serve groups of students and full classes while they are in quarantine. This is a vital issue for districts, since the current law does not permit funding students as the state authorized last year through hybrid and distance learning. Districts can only be funded for in-person instruction and through independent study, which requires individual families to sign contracts, and requires a minimum of daily live instruction and contact, and extensive paperwork showing students’ progress.

The letter calls limited-term distance learning a “reasonable solution” to the problem of massive numbers of quarantined students that the Legislature didn’t anticipate when it passed the law on independent study in early July.

Other proposed changes include:

  • Extending the time permitted for short-term independent study, which entails fewer accountability requirements and documentation than long-term independent study, to more than the current 15-day limit. Some students may be placed on multiple quarantines that together will exceed 15 days;
  • Allowing any certified teacher in the district, not just those supervising independent study, to teach independent study courses during quarantines Because of staff shortages, districts are having difficulty filling independent study positions amid fluctuating numbers of students moving in and out of quarantine. Districts are seeking flexibility so that teachers teaching in person can switch to teaching online to quarantined students, explained Andrea Ball, who represents the suburban districts and co-wrote the letter with Jeffrey Frost .
John Fensterwald

Tuesday, August 31, 2021, 6:25 pm

Link copied.California Community Colleges investigate whether fake students are enrolling

The chancellor’s office for California’s community college system is investigating whether fake student bot accounts are enrolling in courses in an attempt to obtain financial aid, the Los Angeles Times first reported.

Valerie Lundy-Wagner, interim vice chancellor of digital innovation and infrastructure for the system, wrote in a memo this week that the system has installed technology to detect bot and fraud activity on its main online application portal. Lundy-Wagner added that about 20% of traffic on that portal has been identified as “malicious and bot-related.”

In a separate statement to EdSource, the chancellor’s office said it is “investigating suspicious activity related to potential college application and financial aid fraud,” adding that some colleges have reported that there may be “bot students” enrolled in active courses.

“We have contacted the Department of Education’s Office of Inspector General. Any financial aid fraud is unacceptable and diverts resources away from deserving students who are seeking to improve their lives through a college education,” the chancellor’s office added.

The memo doesn’t specify which financial aid awards are being targeted, but one possibility is Covid-19 relief money that the colleges are awarding to students. In total, California’s community colleges have about $1.6 billion in federal Covid-19 relief aid that is available to be awarded to students in the form of emergency grants. Some of the funds have already been distributed.

In the memo, Lundy-Wagner also said the system has created a new policy that requires local colleges to confirm whether an application that has been deemed likely to be fraud is from a real student or not within two weeks. If the college doesn’t take action, the application is automatically confirmed as fraud and the account is suspended.

“With this change, it is vital that false positives (i.e., applications marked fraudulent by the SPAM filter that are not fraudulent) are reported promptly … to avoid legitimate student accounts becoming suspended,” Lundy-Wagner said in the memo.

California Community Colleges Chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley, who is currently on leave from that role, told the Times that at least six colleges have reported an unusual spike in enrollment applications involving students that could be fake.

“I’m certainly alarmed,” Oakley said. “There’s lots of unscrupulous players right now trying to access and exploit benefits, not unlike what’s happened with unemployment insurance and any number of other benefits that have been made available recently because of the pandemic.”

Michael Burke

Tuesday, August 31, 2021, 1:08 pm

Link copied.LA Unified issues mandate for quarantined students

Los Angeles Unified has issued a new requirement for students in quarantine: classroom teachers will either live-stream lessons via Zoom from the classroom or from home if they too must be quarantined. Classrooms with a quarantined teacher will be assigned an in-person substitute teacher for any students who do not have to quarantine. The mandate was shared with all district principals on Sunday and directs administrators to implement it by Sept. 8.

In the two weeks since the state’s largest school district began the fall semester, thousands of students have either tested positive for the coronavirus or come into close contact with someone who has contracted it. Until now, teachers have lacked clarity on how to continue instructing students who must stay home for several days.

A recently-passed state law requires that students not attending in-person classes be directed toward independent study, but school districts have struggled to implement short-term independent study programs for students in quarantine. The new L.A. Unified mandate aims to provide clarity, but it has been met with pushback by the teachers’ union who has not yet voted on it.

Betty Márquez Rosales

Tuesday, August 31, 2021, 12:43 pm

Link copied.L.A. teachers union calls for vaccine mandate for eligible students

The union representing teachers in Los Angeles Unified is calling for a Covid-19 vaccine requirement for all eligible students, the Los Angeles Times reported.

United Teachers Los Angeles proposed to the district that students should “achieve full vaccination no later than 12 weeks following the birthday in which they become eligible” while allowing for religious and medical exceptions, according to the Times. The proposal, obtained by the Times, was dated Aug. 26.

According to the Times, there is no indication yet that district leaders have agreed to that proposal.

Earlier this month, Culver City Unified in west Los Angeles announced a vaccine requirement for students, becoming possibly the first district in the state to do so.

Michael Burke

Tuesday, August 31, 2021, 11:21 am

Link copied.CSU Northridge partners with Apple and state on equity-focused STEM hub

California State University Northridge announced Tuesday that it is launching a new Global Hispanice-serving Equity Innovation Hub thanks to a partnership with Apple and the State of California.

Gov.  Gavin Newsom and the state Legislature allocated $25 million in this year’s budget for the campus to build a technology and equity center to help underrepresented Black and Latino students to pursue science, technology, engineering and math, EdSource reported.

Apple is also donating $25 million to the new hub the campus announced Tuesday.  The tech company will also provide technology, design support and programming to the hub.

“We are focused on advancing enduring change, and our newest grant commitments will further that effort by supporting problem solvers and solution seekers in communities of color nationwide,” said Lisa Jackson, Apple’s vice president of Environment, Policy and Social Initiatives. “Education, economic opportunity and environmental justice are fundamental pillars to ensuring racial equity, and everyone has a role to play in this critical mission.”

Twenty-one of the CSU’s 23 campuses, including CSUN, is defined as Hispanic-serving institutions — a federal designation where at least 25% of full-time undergraduate students identify as Latino and at least half of a campus’ degree-seeking students are low-income.

The Northridge campus has been recognized nationally for its research and mentoring programs that help women and Latino students excel in STEM programs.

“I’m proud to see this public-private partnership launch in California, home to more Hispanic Serving Institutions than any state in the nation,” U.S. Senator Alex Padilla. “And there’s no better location than CSUN—at the center of Southern California’s creative and tech economy. As the first Latino to represent California in the U.S. Senate and one of the few Senators with an engineering degree, I know firsthand the importance of increasing diversity in the institutions that shape our society. The Global HSI Equity Innovation Hub is a smart investment that will increase student success and equip Latinx and other diverse student groups with the skills necessary for high-demand careers in STEM.”

Ashley A. Smith

Tuesday, August 31, 2021, 10:22 am

Link copied.Biden administration investigates five states that ban mask mandates in schools

The federal government announced Monday it is investigating five states’ bans on mandates requiring all students to wear masks in school. The Office of Civil Rights of the Department of Education is exploring whether states’ actions discriminate against students with disabilities by keeping those with a high risk of getting Covid infections from attending schools in person.

“The Department will fight to protect every student’s right to access in-person learning safely and the rights of local educators to put in place policies that allow all students to return to the classroom full-time in-person safely this fall,”  U.S.Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said in a statement.

The five states under investigation are Iowa, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and Utah. The department said it is not investigating other states with bans on universal indoor masking where court rulings and other issues have stopped states from enforcing their bans. These include Arizona, Florida, Texas and Arkansas.

The department said it will explore whether states are violating federal laws that prevent discrimination against students with disabilities and which guarantee students with disabilities the right to a free and appropriate education with other students.

President Joe Biden had promised to intercede in states whose governors and legislators had prevented mask mandates in public schools. Investigating potential violations of federal protections for students with disabilities provided a strategy to do that.

The New York Times reported that education superintendents in Oklahoma and South Carolina, who have opposed their states’ bans on universal masking, issued statements supporting the federal investigations.

Becky Pringle, president of the National Education Association, also praised the federal inquiries. “Schools need to be able to help ensure the safety of all students, educators, and their families. Prohibiting mask mandates flies in the face of science, public health, and common sense,” she said in a statement.

John Fensterwald

Tuesday, August 31, 2021, 9:57 am

Link copied.65 students, 7 staff test positive for Covid-19 at West Contra Costa Unified last week

Sixty-five students and seven staff tested positive for Covid-19 at West Contra Costa Unified during its second week of fall instruction, according to the district. That’s up from 18 cases the previous week — 14 of which were students, and four of which were staff. Though the 30,000-student district didn’t have to close any classrooms the first week, it had to close one classroom at Collins Elementary in Pinole during the second week.

West Contra Costa Unified officials pledged to announce how many Covid cases it has each week on its 21-22 Covid Dashboard.

Ali Tadayon

Monday, August 30, 2021, 9:29 am

Link copied.Unvaccinated teacher in Marin County infects half the class after reading aloud maskless

A classroom Covid outbreak in a Marin County classroom, published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday,  underscores the perils of even a brief lapse from safety measures and offers further evidence for mandatory staff vaccinations.

Half of the 24 students in a K-8 elementary school tested positive for the virus after an unnamed unvaccinated teacher removed a mask, contrary to policy, to read a story from the front of the class. That was on May 21. Two days earlier, the teacher had felt fatigue and nasal congestion but attributed the symptoms to allergies. On May 23, the test proved to be Covid.

All five students seated in the front row of desks subsequently tested positive, along with three students in the second row (one student in the row wasn’t tested) and four more students in the remaining three rows. The teacher was one of only two at the school who were not vaccinated.

After an analysis of the virus tests, the report concluded the outbreak consisted of 27 cases of the delta variant, including the  teacher. Ten other students at the school also later tested positive for the coronavirus, beside the 12 in the teacher’s class. Four of them had siblings in the infected teacher’s class and were likely exposed to the virus at home, the report said.

“The outbreak’s attack rate highlights the delta variant’s increased transmissibility and potential for rapid spread, especially in unvaccinated populations such as schoolchildren too young for vaccination,” the report concluded. It also highlights the importance of vaccinating staff who work with the same age group of students, it said.

County health officials and experts with UC Berkeley, UC Davis and UC Santa Cruz wrote the report.

John Fensterwald

Monday, August 30, 2021, 9:25 am

Link copied.Most online charter schools’ test scores among lowest in San Diego County

The majority of online and other non-classroom-based charter schools were among the lowest-performing schools operating in San Diego County, according an analysis by Voice of San Diego and the Center for Research and Evaluation at UC San Diego Extension.

Five of the 14 schools, in which students work at home either online or with paper packets and meet periodically with teachers, scored among the 20 lowest-performing schools, while nine scored among the bottom 15 percent of 632 in San Diego County, Voice of San Diego reported. The study examined standardized test scores from 2017 to 2019 and compared the results to schools with similar poverty levels.

Non-classroom-based charter schools have drawn the attention of the Legislature, most recently as a result of the now-defunct A3 charter schools; two of its leaders pleaded guilty to defrauding the state of tens of millions of dollars in funding. This year, the Legislature extended a moratorium  on new online charter schools until 2025 while it considers reforms. However, existing non-classroom-based charter schools have grown significantly during the pandemic as parents dissatisfied with their district’s distance learning offering last year and independent study this year have sought alternatives.

Non-classroom-based charter schools can enroll students from anywhere in the county in which it’s based plus adjoining counties. Among the lowest-performing in the analysis is Cabrillo Point Academy, with 4,415 students. It is chartered by the tiny Dehesa Elementary School District, with 120 students,  which is entitled to charge millions of dollars in oversight fees.

The Voice of San Diego reported that traditional charter schools collectively performed on par with the average scores of other public schools. They included the high-performing Preuss School, a partnership with UC San Diego, and the low-performing Bella Mente Montessori Academy, whose principal said the study failed to consider that many of its students enrolled because of harmful experiences in traditional public schools.

John Fensterwald

Friday, August 27, 2021, 3:04 pm

Link copied.LA Unified mobile Covid-19 vaccination teams to launch on Monday

Los Angeles Unified on Monday will launch mobile Covid-19 vaccination clinics that will visit all middle and high schools in the district. Vaccines will be available to all district employees, who have been mandated to be fully vaccinated by Oct. 15, and students ages 12 and older.

The mobile teams will visit each middle and high school campus at least twice to administer both the first and second doses of the vaccine. Any students ages 12 to 15 must have an adult present when receiving the vaccine, and students 16 and older may either have an adult present or have a signed consent form.

At least 6,500 students and about 1,000 employees have missed one or more days of class after testing positive for Covid-19 or being in close contact with someone who tested positive.

Betty Márquez Rosales

Friday, August 27, 2021, 3:03 pm

Link copied.A northern California high school is in quarantine after five days of in-person classes

East Nicolaus High School in northern California’s Sutter County is currently in quarantine after five days of in-person classes, according to the Sacramento Bee. 

The school has resumed remote learning for the duration of its 10-day quarantine, and students will be able to return to their classrooms on Sept. 7. During that time, students are to meet with their teachers for about four total hours of daily synchronous learning.

It is unclear how many students and staff members tested positive. In a letter posted on the school’s website, Superintendent Neil Stinson wrote that he “will be personally available to provide a Covid rapid test to any ENHS student who would like to be tested.”

Betty Márquez Rosales