Teachers Don’t Just Use Research — Some Are Designing It Themselves

When Carlo Diy throws out a question to his high school entrepreneurship and marketing students, he steels himself for an uncomfortable few moments ahead. “It’s just crickets,” says Diy, a second-year teacher at Durham Public Schools in North Carolina. “That’s been really challenging for me and, I know, for pretty much all other teachers during … Read more

Educator Voice Is Essential to Meeting Today’s Challenges. Here’s How We’re Highlighting It.

Earlier this month, two education researchers revealed an unsettling (though perhaps unsurprising) truth about today’s educators in an article here on EdSurge. During a professional-development project designed to address complex trauma in students, every participating educator said they’ve experienced secondary traumatic stress as a result of the pandemic. Months later, the same educators continue to … Read more

Contract Tracing? Sports? Experts Explain School Reopening Research and Recommendations

It’s been a busy few months for schools reopening—and perhaps an even busier time for the agencies releasing guidance on how to do those reopenings safely. In February, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released its operational strategy guide for K-12 schools, a collection of prevention strategies and implementation tips for safe in-person learning. … Read more

Is Teaching Still an Appealing Profession? A Growing Teacher Shortage Worries Experts

Long Beach Unified, one of the largest school districts in California, is facing a worrying but all-too-familiar problem: Finding enough qualified teachers, or even substitutes, to fill what some experts see as a growing shortage in the midst of an unpredictable pandemic. This year, leaves of absences in Long Beach increased by 35 percent, and … Read more

What Teachers Pay Teachers Is Learning From Bad Lessons and Upset Teachers

The popular lesson-sharing site Teachers Pay Teachers first landed on Jenny Kay Dupuis’ radar a little over a year ago. Friends and social media users began alerting her that images and material from one of her children’s books, “I Am Not a Number,” about a young Indigenous girl sent to a residential school in Canada … Read more

Can You Provide a Quality Preschool Education Over Zoom?

Before the pandemic snarled daily routines around the world, Aria Jones’ 3- and 4-year-old students had a reliable schedule down pat in their Washington, D.C., preschool. They’d have breakfast at 8 a.m., come together for a morning meeting and then spend an hour in the library or doing dramatic play before nap time and a … Read more

EdSurge’s 2020 Year in Review: The Top 10 K-12 Stories, as Chosen by You

At the end of every year, EdSurge rounds up a collection of its top stories based on clicks, shares and website traffic—and no year in our short history has been quite as dramatic as this one. The pandemic that 10 months ago transformed daily life left educators with a slate of questions that would have … Read more

Connecticut Gives Every Student a Computer and Home Internet to Close the Digital Divide

Even before the pandemic, more than 25 million Americans lacked access to broadband internet. But even when they can get online, students of color and low-income families were more likely to share a single device. Today, when strong internet connectivity is all but required for learning, such gaps can serve as insurmountable barriers to learning. The state of Connecticut thinks it may have found a straightforward solution to the problem: Give every student in grades K-12 a laptop and pay for their internet. And for the past few months, the state has quietly been rolling it out. Recently, the state announced that it had achieved near universal access for both device distribution and connectivity—a significant achievement in a state where 40 percent of households in some cities lack home access, according to census data. “Once COVID broke out, it was very clear how much the achievement gap is exacerbated by inequitable access to good learning at home,” says Nick Simmons, the director of strategic initiatives for Gov. Ned Lamont, a former telecom mogul who founded Campus Televideo, a company that provided cable to college campuses. “The impetus was really to close that achievement gap and that digital divide.”The program, known as the Everybody Learns Initiative, was funded primarily by about $43 million in CARES Act stimulus funding, diverted both to school districts to pay for devices and to local internet service providers. In March, a local nonprofit, Partnership for Connecticut, spent $24 million to buy laptops. In some areas, local philanthropy groups stepped up to pay for internet connectivity as well. In all, the state has distributed about 140,000 devices—many of them Chromebooks—and 44,000 home internet connections, negotiating discounts with five ISPs, with most connections costing the state between $10 to $20 a month.But even that wasn’t enough to completely close the divide, says Doug Casey, the executive director at the Connecticut Commission for Educational Technology, who heads the home broadband part of the program. The state also helped districts purchase nearly 13,000 internet hotspots from the company Kajeet, which plug into laptops and provide on-the-go internet access, specifically for students who may be between housing, live at multiple addresses in a given week or have long commutes between school and home.“The broadband needs to follow the kid,” Casey says. “We really directed districts to provide those cellular hotspots to kids who had a lot of mobility needs.”The state, of course, did not work alone. To identify students in need, districts surveyed their communities and asked teachers which of their students lacked computers or stable internet. The state worked with districts to ship out devices and offered vouchers for internet service that districts could distribute directly to students. “From the state side, that promise has been fulfilled,” Simmons says.Completing the Last MileNow the real work begins. Since the home broadband offer requires families to sign up and make appointments, not all vouchers have been redeemed—and many households on the margins or those with undocumented family members may not feel comfortable signing up for a government program. Some may not even know that this offer exists.“There is this last mile question of, now that family has the voucher or the Kajeet, are they turning them on?” Simmons says. “Our data’s a bit mixed. We don’t track it perfectly.”Teachers are a natural link between families and districts, but even there the state’s effort surfaced some illuminating insights. “We would get districts saying, here are my 50 addresses” without internet, Casey says. “And then 20 of them would come back from the carrier saying they’re already customers. So what appeared to be a kid who didn’t have internet access was actually a kid who’s not engaged in remote learning.”To improve communication, districts have mobilized social services teams that contact and even visit with families directly. The state, for its part, has leaned on community organizations, including the Boys & Girls Clubs, libraries and local municipalities. In Norwalk, Conn., a city of about 88,000, a survey earlier this year revealed between 7 and 8 percent of families did not have home internet. The city’s library already had a program—now operating remotely—to teach technology skills to adults, such as how to complete job applications online and use the school district’s learning management system. Helping families connect at home is a new focus area. “We did find that people just didn’t have access,” says Sherelle Harris, the interim director of the Norwalk Public Library System. “We have people standing outside of our libraries to use our Wi-Fi, which goes through the walls to the parking lot.”With support from local nonprofits, including Dalio Education, the city created the Family Navigators program, which helps families access social services and is working to connect 1,000 local families to the internet as part of the broader statewide initiative. (The foundations, not the state, actually provided the money for the connections in this case.) Schools might refer a family to the program, and a local social worker, called a family navigator, will follow up to offer assistance.But Lamond Daniels, the chief of community services for the city of Norwalk, who runs the program, said that during a pandemic technology is only one focus, and not always the most important. “If we look at Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, we know in order to get to the technology piece, we’re going to have to address families’ basic needs,” Daniels says. “We have families who are struggling to find food, and so to try to say, ‘Get that student online, make sure you’re online on time,’ that’s not a priority.”For now, the state is focused on tying up loose ends and completing last mile connections to families most in need. It’s also looking at how to fund the program indefinitely—still a work in progress. “It’s not enough with just this one investment,” says Simmons. “Maintenance is important. There is a life cycle on these devices. The governor’s priority is to make sure that this isn’t just closing the achievement gap for this pandemic, but permanently.”

What Educators Need to Know About the COVID-19 Vaccine

The news of a safe, effective vaccine has been a rare bright spot during the yearlong fight against the coronavirus. Two pharmaceutical companies, Pfizer and Moderna, are racing toward emergency authorization for their vaccines, both of which boast an efficacy rate of more than 94 percent. That authorization could come as soon as a few days from now, and the first vaccinations could begin later this month.A line for the vaccine is already forming, but plenty of questions remain. Recently, the nonprofit Math for America, a New York-based organization for math and science teachers, hosted an information-rich webinar about the coronavirus and the mechanics of developing effective vaccines with Dr. Florian Krammer, a professor of vaccinology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York, who has amassed a large Twitter following in recent months for his discussions on the science of vaccines. Following the talk, Krammer answered educators’ questions. Here is a lightly edited sampling of those remarks. (For those interested in the science behind the vaccines, which use mRNA technology, the New York Times has an illustrated breakdown.)Where do educators fall in the priority list for vaccines?Krammer points to the four-phase vaccine allocation proposal by the National Academy of Sciences, designed to provide an equitable framework for vaccine distribution. According to the framework, teachers and school staff fall in the second category, behind high-risk health care workers and older adults in nursing homes and those with comorbidities to COVID-19, but ahead of kids, young adults and those in critical jobs who are only at moderate risk for contracting COVID-19. Older teachers and those with preexisting conditions may be closer to the front of the line.“I think that makes sense. You have a lot of exposure to kids,” Krammer says of teachers’ place in line for the vaccine. “There are assumptions that kids are less infectious, but kids have transmitted the virus plenty. So I think you should get the vaccine as soon as possible if you want to get it.”When will kids be able to receive vaccines?Right now it’s an open question, and pharmaceutical companies are just beginning to test the vaccine in kids aged 12 to 18. Pfizer’s trials have already begun. As for Moderna, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, suggested expedited trials could begin in January, but that it could be months until kids can receive a vaccine. “The window is closing on any chance of getting an approved vaccine for children before next school year, and it realistically may have already closed,” Dr. Evan Anderson, a pediatrician at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, told the Washington Post.How will the vaccination process work?According to the Wall Street Journal, the federal government is working with national pharmacy chains to make the vaccine widely available. The vaccines from Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca (the latter of which is a bit further from authorization) require two separate doses, given three or four weeks apart. The vaccine is expected to be free of charge. Should those who have had COVID-19 earlier this year still get the vaccine?“It’s probably a good idea, specifically if you’re in a more high-risk group, to still get to the vaccine,” Krammer says. “And the other question that I usually get in that direction is: Is it going to be safe to get the vaccine if I already have antibodies? A proportion of the people in those clinical trials were actually positive already, because they didn’t screen whether somebody already had antibodies or not. It doesn’t seem that there is an additional risk. If you’re in a high-risk group, I would probably recommend it, but I don’t think for those people who had an infection it’s the most urgent thing to do.”Many people in the trials wore masks and practiced social distancing. Will the efficacy of the vaccine be lower when people stop wearing masks and start gathering?“There’s a wide variety” of people who participated in the trials, Krammer says. “There’s probably health care workers wearing N95 masks, and then there’s probably people in the trials who didn’t care. If you would take away the masks, the result would have been that they would have known about the frequency earlier, because there would have been more cases. But I don’t think the efficacy would have changed. “I think the question about wearing masks and social distancing in public is less determined by how many people are vaccinated than by how much virus is around in the population. Of course if many people are vaccinated, there is much less virus around. If a lot of the high-risk groups are vaccinated there will be way fewer issues in terms of severe disease and death spread. But in the end it’s really the question of how much virus is around. I think that will determine when we stop with social distancing and wearing masks. “What I assume is that there’s two things that will come together in spring. One is temperatures getting warmer. And the other one is that more and more people will be vaccinated. And that could give us a synergistic effect that helps us to get back to normal. By going back to normal I do not mean we eliminate the virus. I do not think that that virus will get eliminated at all.”What would you say to someone who is on the fence about whether or not to take the vaccine?“If you look at the data with the vaccine and the data with the virus infection, what are the risks?” Krammer says. “What are the risks with the vaccine—even if we assume that maybe some rare severe side effects occur that we didn’t see in 40,000 people—and what are the risks with the infection? “The second thing that I always mention is control. I want to have control over my body and over my life. I can take the vaccine and I can take that little risk that’s associated with the vaccine, and get the control over my life back. Or I can not take the vaccine, and at any moment in time I can get infected. And I have no control over what the virus does. We know that younger people have severe disease less often. But even if you’re 20 or 25, the virus might do something that you don’t expect.”