March 1st, 2021

February 2021 Policy News Round-Up

A new Secretary of Education (almost), Congress forges ahead with a COVID-19 relief bill, the Department of Education provides guidance on state assessments and reopening schools, and NCLD is out with a new report on instructional loss. See how NCLD worked on behalf of people with disabilities this month. 

Vote on the Nomination of Miguel Cardona for Secretary of Education Is Set

The vote to confirm President Biden’s nominee to be the next Secretary of Education, Miguel Cardona, is expected to occur next week. Previous votes in the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee and to invoke “cloture” suggest he is likely to be confirmed with bipartisan support. NCLD has joined with other organizations in supporting the nomination of Dr. Cardona.

NCLD was particularly pleased during the confirmation hearing when Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) a lead sponsor of the RISE Act, asked Dr. Cardona whether he would support the needs of students with disabilities and use his power at the U.S. Department of Education to address the barriers they face after high school when entering college and community college programs. You can watch the question and Dr. Cardona’s answer in this 4 minute clip

Congress Moves Forward with Additional COVID-19 Relief Package 

The U.S. House of Representatives will soon approve a $1.9 trillion relief package that would provide individuals with a $1,400 relief check, more assistance to those who are unemployed, support for small businesses, and funds for state and local governments. In relation to education, the proposal allocates $170 billion to K-12 schools, colleges and universities to help them reopen, operate safely, and address instructional loss.

The bill will head to the Senate next, where it just needs support from 51 Senators to move forward. Lawmakers are hoping to pass the bill prior to March 14th when many of the previous COVID-19 relief benefits are set to expire. 

Department of Education Releases Guidance on Statewide Assessments

In a letter to state education leaders, Acting Assistant Acting Assistant Secretary of the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education Ian Rosenblum provided an update on assessment, accountability, and reporting requirements for the 2020-2021 school year. The letter informs states that they can apply for waivers on administering state-assessments and do not have to identify struggling schools for support again this year. States must continue to provide assistance for previously identified schools. Further, Acting Assistant Secretary Rosenblum emphasizes that states can shorten tests, administer tests remotely or extend testing windows. 

In a statement, NCLD urged states to prioritize equity and: 

  1. Administer statewide assessments to the greatest extent possible this school year;
  2. Identify additional sources of available data that can inform parents, advocates, and policymakers about student engagement, access to resources, and academic achievement of student subgroups under ESSA; and 
  3. Engage families and stakeholders in the planning process and account for the needs of our most systemically marginalized students.

Read the full statement here

New NCLD Report Highlights Promising Practices to Support Instructional Loss

NCLD released a new resource that outlines the issue of instructional loss and provides recommendations on how to accelerate learning and create an inclusive and equitable learning environment for all students. In the report, NCLD highlights that Congress can play a key role in increasing the effectiveness of accelerated learning. NCLD is asking federal lawmakers to focus their efforts on three critical issues:

  • Increase resources to implement accelerated learning approaches with fidelity
  • Invest in research to better understand the effectiveness of accelerated learning approaches
  • Maintain guardrails to ensure that all students are held to and perform at high levels

To view the full report, visit NCLD’s website

CDC and ED Release Guidance on Reopening Schools

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Department of Education (ED) provided recommendations to help support districts, schools and educators as they work to safely reopen schools. The first volume of ED’s handbook supplements the CDC’s Operational Strategy for K-12 Schools and provides applicable strategies to promote universal and correct use of masks in schools by utilizing signage and school announcements to remind students and staff how to use masks. The handbook guides educators through working with students with disabilities who cannot wear a mask or safely wear a mask, consistent with CDC guidelines. 

A second volume of the ED COVID-19 Handbook, which will be released in the coming weeks, will provide specific strategies to address the disruption created by COVID-19 for students, educators, and parents — especially for historically underserved students.

The Latest From NCLD

See what NCLD has been advocating for and get the most recent news on learning and attention issues.

Join the NCLD movement