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CT Addresses Math Through Tutoring, Dem Vision for School Choice, USEd on Affirmative Action

CT to Address Math Learning Losses Through Tutoring

This week, the Connecticut State Department of Education’s (CSDE) launched its high dosage tutoring (HDT) program to support students in math and make up for pandemic-era learning losses.

Over the years, our national affiliate, ERN, has been a big proponent of HDT—a recognized intervention for boosting achievement. HDT is most effective when embedded in daily, small-group instruction. In a video interview with NBC CT, Ajit Gopalakrishnan, the state's Chief Performance Officer, explained that the aim is to limit the time that students are pulled out of their regular instructional programming, so that these targeted resources provide extra learning time.

The CSDE originally announced plans for the program this past March, and it will be funded by a $10 million allocation of COVID relief funds. (See our coverage from back then here.) Districts should apply for a portion of those funds now - the deadline is September 1.

A Democratic Vision for School Choice

Yesterday, DFER National CEO Jorge Elorza published an opinion piece in USA Today, arguing that Democrats are missing the mark on public school choice. Although 73% of Democrats have a favorable opinion of public charters, school choice is not on the party platform. Jorge observes that, in the absence of a consistent Democratic vision on this issue, Republicans are "filling the vacuum and advancing a private school agenda, which would not protect the rights of students and would skirt accountability standards." (For a recent example of this trend, see the Sunday coverage from PBS NewHour of the legal battle over Oklahoma's public funding for a religious charter.)

Democrats, as a matter of equity, should support giving all families access to high-quality, nonsectarian, free, public school options.

New Biden Guidance on Affirmative Action

On Monday, the Biden administration issued new guidance in the wake of the Supreme Court's decisions in Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA) v. Harvard and SFFA v. UNC—which banned the use of race-conscious admissions practices in higher education. The US Department of Justice and US Department of Education jointly published a “Dear Colleague” letter, encouraging colleges to implement programs of preparation, outreach, and recruitment that will attract diverse applicant pools. The letter argues that students derive educational benefits from diverse campuses.

The SFFA decision is limited in scope to admissions practices, so the letter notes that the holding should not prevent schools from redoubling their efforts to recruit and retain talented students from diverse and underserved communities. During the admissions phase, moreover, the letter explicitly calls out that colleges may still consider information about a student’s personal experiences, especially in facing adversity or disadvantage. By contrast, colleges may want to examine admissions practices that are not based on merit and that hinder diversity, such as the use of legacy preference. (See our research on the prevalence of that discriminatory practice in Connecticut here.)

In an open letter released yesterday, ERN's head of higher education policy, James Murphy, applauded the administration's commitment to advancing diversity and opportunity in higher education. The open letter expands upon some of the policy strategies that were touched upon by the administration's guidance. It also encourages the federal Departments of Education and Justice to take more action—beyond guidance—through: the bully pulpit and executive orders; providing support for school counselors, coaches, mentors, students, and families impacted by the SFFA decision; and more.

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