Biden Issues National Strategy for the COVID-19 Response and Pandemic Preparedness

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Biden Issues National Strategy for the COVID-19 Response and Pandemic Preparedness

On January 21, President Biden released a roadmap an actionable plan across the federal government to address the COVID-19 pandemic, including twelve initial executive actions that will be issued by President Biden during his first two days in office. To execute on the National Strategy, the White House will establish a COVID-19 Response Office responsible for coordinating the pandemic response across all federal departments and agencies

AASA applauds the clear, strong and decisive direction being demonstrated on Day One of the Biden Administration. This is a much-needed step forward in a coordinated response to the ongoing pandemic, and will help to alleviate some of the downward pressure and decision making that was placed upon local leaders to date.

Specific to the plan’s education-related elements, we are pleased to see many of the items AASA had recommended and mentioned in our communications with the transition team, including:

  • a focus on K-12 education funding;
  • restoring the FEMA reimbursement for schools;
  • a national testing strategy that supports school screening testing programs and provides clear, unified approach and TA for testing in schools;
  • updated public health guidance on containment and mitigation measures that provides metrics for schools to measure and monitor the incidence and prevalence of COVID-19 as well as updated guidance on physical distancing protocols, and contact tracing in schools;
  • a national strategy for safely reopening schools, including requiring ED & HHS to provide guidance on safe reopening and operating, and to develop a Safer Schools and Campuses Best Practices Clearinghouse to share lessons learned and best practices from across the country;
  • pushing the FCC to support student connectivity in their homes.
This direct responsiveness to practitioner feedback is critical and demonstrates that the Biden Administration, serious in its priority of opening schools in its first 100 days, recognizes that the ultimate work and responsibility of opening schools lies with local school system leaders and that as such, their voice, insights and recommendations should be reflected in any nation-wide plan. We look forward to working with the Biden administration, welcome the confirmation of Education Secretary nominee Miguel Cardona, and stand ready to support the important work of safely opening the nation’s schools.

ED Releases New Guidance on ELP Assessments

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ED Releases New Guidance on ELP Assessments

On January 18th, the U.S. Department of Education released an addendum fact sheet titled “Providing Services to English Learners During  the COVID-19 Outbreak” to better explain SEA and LEAs’ responsibilities for assessing English learners during the pandemic. The document reiterates that while ESEA requires an annual statewide ELP assessment there are no prescribed Federal timelines for that annual assessment. Thus, an SEA may adjust its dates for administering the ELP assessment to address challenges due to the pandemic, e.g., by changing its testing window. However, the ELP assessment should be conducted as soon as safely possible in order to provide useful information for districts, teachers, and parents. Furthermore, an SEA has the discretion under the ESEA to administer the ELP assessment remotely or in person. 

 

The Department is also extending the flexibility related to the standardized entrance procedures, so that an LEA may continue to identify and provide ELs support as soon as possible. That is, an SEA may continue to implement its adjusted standardized statewide entrance procedures until its LEAs are able to administer their regular screener assessment. This does not change the obligation of districts to assess students for EL status within 30 days of enrollment in a school in the State. However, the LEA can wait until schools are physically reopen to complete the full identification procedures to promptly ensure proper identification and placement for new ELs. Like an SEA, an LEA must treat a student identified as an EL through modified entrance procedures as an EL for all purposes (e.g., by including such students in its count of ELs for purposes of Title III subgrants to LEAs, providing appropriate language instruction services to such students, and administering the annual ELP assessment to such students).

 

Lastly, the Department is also extending the flexibility regarding statewide exit procedures. The extended flexibility permits such an LEA, for the 2020-2021 school year, to base exit decisions solely on the ELP assessment. All LEAs must continue to meet the requirement that a score of proficient on the statewide ELP assessment be used in order to exit a student from EL status.