Covid-19 Policy Update #574
California Delays Releasing Assessment Results: State delays public release of English, math and science test score results to later this year.
"The California Department of Education told EdSource that it is withholding the scores now, so they can be simultaneously released with other data for the California School Dashboard, such as student absentee rates, suspension rates and rates of chronic absenteeism. The dashboard provides a detailed look at school and district metrics, broken down by student demographic groups. The data is used to determine which low-performing districts require state assistance."
"The state has not said when it plans to release the updated dashboard, but if it is released after Nov. 8, the Smarter Balanced results won’t surface as an election year issue – both for local school board races and for State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond, who runs the California Department of Education and is facing re-election this year."
"Thurmond opponent Lance Christensen, when notified by EdSource about the state’s refusal to release the scores, said, “The fact that the department is not willing to publish now suggests that scores will be lower and the current state superintendent does not want to be held accountable for the results.”
"The state refused to release the test score results to EdSource despite an Aug. 5 letter to districts, county offices of education and charter schools telling them the results were “not embargoed” and they “are encouraged to use their results for local planning, including public meetings with their local governing board.”
How Big Were Pandemic Learning Losses, Really?: David Wallace-Wells in the NYT.
"What does the data say? At the highest level, the picture is a pretty complex and nuanced one. Measured by conventional testing, educational learning losses from disrupted school look real but sub-catastrophic, variable by geography, wealth status and other less quantifiable factors; and though they are not just short-term negative blips, they also appear to not be permanent, with students recovering at least some ground already."
"Because of the relatively low risk to children themselves, I would have preferred that “last to close, first to open” had been the guiding principle of school policy from the very beginning and had been broadly applied by the fall of 2020. The pandemic offers countless opportunities for retrospective counterfactuals, but I thought at the time and still do now that it was unfortunate and damaging that so few schools seemed able to prepare over the spring and summer to open safely by that September — embracing rapid or pooled testing for screening, utilizing outdoor space in parts of the country where it was possible and using new ventilation and air-filtration systems where it was not."
"I’m somewhat skeptical about how much test scores reveal, particularly at the individual level, having come of age at an absolutely remarkable elementary school, Central Park East, founded among others by my mother, where testing was a dirty word and teachers often wore T-shirts printed with “High stakes are for tomatoes.” But I also believe that while school closures did a lot more than just affect test results, at the aggregate level, testing does tell us some things."
"In all but two of the 13 states examined by Oster’s Covid-19 School Data Hub, proficiency rates fell by between 5 and 11.5 percentage points. (In Virginia, math declines in particular were much larger.) In some places, according to that analysis, the drops were from relatively high standards of achievement: in one large cohort of Ohio schools, for instance, from 73 percent proficiency in math to 61 percent. In others, distressingly, they were from much lower levels: Across much of Georgia, reading proficiency before the pandemic had been below 40 percent. All told, the impact is significant at the state level: Many thousands of children fell behind where they would have been if they had an uninterrupted experience of schools."
"Second, the setbacks may not be all that big, all things considered. In many of these states, despite significant disruption, declines were relatively modest — a five or ten point drop less like school systems suddenly abandoning half of their students than like states that had been grading out at, say, a “C+” level now grading out at a “C-” level."
"If this outcome had been known with perfect clarity back in the spring of 2020, what would the public response have been? Surely some would have objected to closures, including those who didn’t see the pandemic as much of a threat. But overall I don’t think that parents, teachers and administrators or political leaders would have been horrified at the trade-off."
The ‘End’ of COVID Is Still Far Worse Than We Imagined: Via Sarah Zhang in The Atlantic.
"The coronavirus is still killing three times as many people as the flu."
"I keep returning to the flu because, back in early 2021, with vaccine excitement still fresh in the air, several experts told my colleague Alexis Madrigal that a reasonable threshold for lifting COVID restrictions was 100 deaths a day, roughly on par with flu. We largely tolerate, the thinking went, the risk of flu without major disruptions to our lives."
"Since then, widespread immunity, better treatments, and the less virulent Omicron variant have together pushed the risk of COVID to individuals down to a flu-like level. But across the whole population, COVID is still killing many times more people than influenza is, because it is still sickening so many more people."
"With each major wave, “the virus has only gotten more transmissible,” says Ruth Karron, a vaccine researcher at Johns Hopkins. The coronavirus cannot keep becoming more transmissible forever, but it can keep changing to evade our immunity essentially forever. Its rate of evolution is much higher than that of other common-cold coronaviruses. It’s higher than that of even H3N2 flu—the most troublesome and fastest-evolving of the influenza viruses. Omicron, according to Bedford, is the equivalent of five years of H3N2 evolution, and its subvariants are still outpacing H3N2’s usual rate. We don’t know how often Omicron-like events will happen. COVID’s rate of change may eventually slow down when the virus is no longer novel in humans, or it may surprise us again."
$45.6 billion in Pandemic Unemployment Fraud: The Washington Post on DOL's IG report.
"A federal watchdog on Thursday found that fraudsters may have stolen $45.6 billion from the nation’s unemployment insurance program during the pandemic, using the Social Security numbers of dead people and other tactics to deceive and bilk the U.S. government."
"The new estimate is a dramatic increase from the roughly $16 billion in potential fraud identified a year ago, and it illustrates the immense task still ahead of Washington as it seeks to pinpoint the losses, recover the funds and hold criminals accountable for stealing from a vast array of federal relief programs."
CDC Oversells the ‘Bivalent’ Covid Shot: Paul Offit (who sits on the FDA advisory panel) in the WSJ.
"The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone over 12 receive a “bivalent” Covid-19 vaccine as a booster dose. But only a select group are likely to benefit, and the evidence to date doesn’t support the view that a bivalent vaccine containing omicron or its subvariants is better than the monovalent vaccine. The CDC risks eroding the public’s trust by overselling the new shot."
"The CDC found that both a third and fourth dose reduced hospitalizations. But not everyone benefited. Those who did fell into three groups: the elderly, people with serious health problems and people who were immunocompromised. As the CDC launches its fall booster dose campaign, it would be wise to focus on those at risk rather than the young and healthy."
"How does it compare with the old monovalent one? We don’t know for sure, because the Food and Drug Administration authorized the new shot without clinical trials. (As a member of the FDA Vaccine Advisory Committee, I voted against the authorization.)"
"Most worrisome, Moderna recently published a study on the clinical efficacy of the bivalent vaccine containing BA.1. Sixteen cases of SARS-CoV-2 infections occurred: 11 in the bivalent group and five in the monovalent group. For those who suffered clinical illness, five were in the bivalent group and one in the monovalent group. In other words, although the numbers were small, the monovalent vaccine performed better than the bivalent vaccine."
New Analysis Supports Paxlovid Use: Via Axios:
"Here's one more data point to consider in the back-and-forth about Pfizer's antiviral pill Paxlovid: A new analysis found it can meaningfully reduce COVID hospitalizations and deaths, even in those younger than 65."
"One of the latest studies, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, concluded that while the drug significantly benefited patients 65 and older, there was no evidence of benefit in younger adults."
Lasting Lung Damage Seen in Children and Teens after COVID: Children and adolescents who have either recovered from COVID-19 or have long COVID show persistent lung damage on MRI, according to a study published in Radiology. More via CIDRAP.
"The researchers looked at changes in lung structure and function in 54 children and adolescents (mean age 11 years) with previous SARS-CoV-2 infection. Of the 54 patients, 29 had recovered, and 25 had long COVID. All but one of the patients had been unvaccinated at the time of original infection."
Nebraska: Via Zearn, "New Study Shows Large Gains in Math Learning Among Nebraska Students."
"Researchers found that students who consistently completed three Zearn Math digital lessons weekly had 2.5 times the growth in their Nebraska Student-Centered Assessment System (NSCAS) math scores than students who did not."
"Students at the lowest level of math achievement who consistently used Zearn Math were two times more likely to improve their NSCAS achievement level when compared with students who did not."
(Full disclosure: I'm on Zearn's board)
Parent-teacher conferences in NYC schools remain virtual this year.
Shortage of bus drivers hurts Buffalo Public Schools' academic recovery from COVID-19
North Carolina: The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI) is beginning a process to overhaul school performance grades and is seeking public input through a new survey designed in partnership with Education NC.
UK: UK children under 12 aren’t ‘banned’ from having the Covid-19 vaccine according to a Fact Check.
Powell Signals Recession May Be Price to Pay for Crushing Inflation: Powell refused to rule out a recession as the Federal Reserve implemented a third consecutive 0.75 percentage point rate rise and published a much gloomier set of projections.
Tear The Paper Ceiling Campaign: The Ad Council and Opportunity@Work, alongside nearly 50 national organizations and companies, launched Tear the Paper Ceiling.
"The multiyear campaign aims to change the narrative around the value and potential of workers who are Skilled Through Alternative Routes (STARs), rather than through a bachelor's degree. There are more than 70 million STARs in the U.S. who have developed valuable skills through community college, workforce training, bootcamps, certificate programs, military service or on-the-job learning."
The CEO’s Dilemma: Good deck from BCG: Building Resilience in a Time of Uncertainty.
The U.S. and Its Allies Are Joining Forces on Chips: Via CNBC.
"Leading chipmaking nations including the United States, South Korea and Japan are forming alliances, in part to secure their semiconductor supply chain and to stop China from reaching the cutting edge of the industry, analysts told CNBC."
"The importance of chips were thrust into the spotlight during an ongoing shortage of these components, which was sparked by the Covid pandemic, amid a surge in demand for consumer electronics and supply chain disruptions."
"That alerted governments around the world to the need to secure chip supplies. The United States, under President Joe Biden, has pushed to reshore manufacturing."
US Bank Chiefs Warn of China Exit if Taiwan is Attacked:Leaders of JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America and Citigroup have committed to complying with any US government demand to pull out of China if Beijing were to attack Taiwan.
Is the only K-12 finalist for ED's $1 million XPRIZE. The Digital Learning Challenge incentivizes the use of AI methods, big data, and machine learning to better understand practices that support educators, parents, policymakers, researchers, and the tens of millions of Americans enrolled in formal education every year.
The company also announced a $400,000 NSF grant to design educational research infrastructure to develop new approaches to automatically personalize instruction.
CompSci Classes Get More Popular — Slowly: Axios on a new report. "Only about half — 53% — of U.S. high schools offer even one computer science class"
America’s Education Crisis Is a National Security Threat: Nicholas Eberstadt and Evan Abramsky in Foreign Affairs.
"Today, however, the United States is on the cusp of losing its preeminent status in skilled labor; China will soon overtake it (if it hasn’t already) as India likely will sometime before 2040."
"What should surprise—and dismay—American observers is the remarkably poor educational performance that hastened the United States’ relative deterioration. Growth in the mean years of schooling for Americans in their late 20s is barely a third of what it was in the early postwar era, and growth in the cohort of working-age college graduates has sharply slowed when compared with the early postwar period. Amazingly, college graduation rates for American men in their late 20s flatlined from the mid 1970s to the early years of the twenty-first century—an alarming peacetime performance somehow overlooked by academics and policymakers alike."
"The erosion of the United States’ educational edge will eventually weaken the country’s global reach. With a less highly educated workforce than it could or should have, the United States will have less economic, political, and military heft with which to defend its interests and uphold the economic and security architecture that has defined the postwar order."
"If Americans treated education as if their future depended on it, they would look for far-reaching overhauls, not marginal changes, and they would look beyond teachers’ unions and university administrators for better ideas. Revitalizing the country’s human resources—not just educational attainment, but health, workforce participation, and even family—will increasingly be strategic imperatives for the United States."
A Pandemic Back-to-School Reminder: Friendships Count: Via Bruno Manno.
New Lessons on the Whole Child: Many schools are adopting a new approach to learning that focuses on the totality of a student’s life and allows them to express their emotions to a circle of their peers.
Never Give Up: Just keep trying.