ED Review (01/21/22)

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January 21, 2022


Testing for Schools 

The Biden Administration is doubling down on its commitment to keeping all schools safely open for full-time, in-person learning by taking new actions to increase access to COVID-19 testing in schools.  Through new initiatives, it will increase the number of tests available to schools by 10 million per month -- more than double the volume of testing that took place in schools across the country in November 2021.  These additional tests will help schools implement screening testing and test-to-stay practices (see Secretary Cardona’s Twitter thread). 

Specifically, the Administration is:

  • Sending 5 million no-cost, point-of-care tests per month to schools.  This new allocation builds on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Epidemiology and Laboratory Capacity (ELC) program, which distributed $10 billion in resources to states to support COVID-19 testing in schools.  CDC will work with states that submit requests to receive additional tests for high-need school districts that can immediately put the tests to use.  The first shipments will be delivered later this month.
  • Providing 5 million lab-based PCR tests for free to schools per month.  This additional testing will be delivered through the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Operation Expanding Testing (OpET) program.  Three federally funded regional providers offer testing materials, supplies, and lab results and reporting at no direct cost to recipients through four regional hubs.  Schools may immediately gain access to this lab-based testing.
  • Deploying federal surge testing units to support free testing access for students, school staff, and families at community testing sites.  Both HHS and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) are working with state, territorial, and tribal partners to address needs in communities and stand up federal testing sites.  These surge testing sites are focused on ensuring hardest-hit and highest-risk communities have equitable access to free and convenient testing.  Effective immediately -- as the agencies review requests -- they will consider how these sites may support the safe operations of K-12 schools.
  • Connecting schools with COVID-19 testing providers to set up school testing programs using American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds.  ARP Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds may be used to support school-based COVID-19 testing.
  • Releasing new training, resources, and materials for implementing test-to-stay practices in schools. 

Subsequently, the Administration released more information for schools on COVID-19 testing, including:

Also, the Department, joined by the CDC, the Rockefeller Foundation, and others, will host webinars today, January 28, and February 4, each from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. Eastern Time, to help schools and districts start or strengthen their school-based COVID-19 testing program.  This is a great opportunity to hear directly from technical experts and school and district leaders who are regularly testing, as well as ask questions.  Register now! 

In related news:

  • The CDC released a transcript of Dr. Rochelle Walensky’s telebriefing on updates to guidance for K-12 school operations.
  • Secretary Cardona, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy, the CDC, and the White House hosted a webinar for school superintendents on sustaining safe in-person learning.
  • The CDC revised its consumer web page describing the best types of masks and respirators to prevent transmission of COVID-19.  The CDC currently recommends universal indoor masking for students, staff, and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of their vaccination status or the area’s transmission rates (press release). 


Extra Yard for Teachers Summit 

Earlier this month, Secretary Cardona traveled to Indianapolis to join the College Football Playoff Foundation’s Extra Yard for Teachers Summit and a series of events honoring educators from throughout the nation.  He also toured Decatur Central High School and spoke with students about the importance of athletics in education (Secretary’s tweets and re-tweets 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6). 

Next, last week, the Secretary traveled to Groton, Connecticut, to visit two schools and discuss career and technical education. 

Then, this week, First Lady Dr. Jill Biden and the Secretary visited Bergen Community College in Paramus, New Jersey, spotlighting resources offered to students and their families under the ARP (video and Secretary’s tweet).  They also announced additional support for addressing student needs (see below). 


American Rescue Plan infographic 

On January 18, the Department announced that every State Education Agency (SEA) has received approval of their ARP ESSER plan.  Thus, it has distributed all $122 billion of ARP ESSER funding to the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico.  These funds are critical to helping states and districts keep schools open for safe in-person learning during the pandemic, including responding to recent challenges arising from the omicron variant. 

Fact sheets are available for each state’s ARP ESSER plan, outlining how SEAs will use their funding.  Also, the Department’s web site includes links to districts’ plans.  Highlights from across the country demonstrate the efforts of SEAs and districts to address the needs of their schools with ventilation improvements, staff hiring and retention, mental health services, high-dosage tutoring programs, after-school and summer learning partnerships, and more. 

As SEAs amend their plans to reflect additional information and evolving strategies, updated plans will be posted online. 


On January 20, the Department announced more resources for students and institutions to help reduce barriers to success in higher education.  This includes an additional $198 million in ARP funds to primarily support community colleges and other institutions with the greatest needs, which institutions will be able to apply for next week; guidance on how institutions can use new and existing federal funds to meet students’ basic needs, such as housing and food security, and how leading colleges are accomplishing that goal; and guidance on how institutions can use existing data to connect students to other federal resources, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP).  Dr. Biden and Secretary Cardona outlined these actions at Bergen Community College in New Jersey, which has used federal pandemic relief aid to support its students’ basic needs, including providing access to child care on campus for student parents, discharging student debts so students may remain and re-enroll, and bolstering counseling programs. 


A new Dear Colleague Letter to Chief State School Officers details information about federal funds and resources available to support Afghan children and their families who have recently arrived or may be arriving soon to states and districts throughout the nation.  As part of Operation Allies Welcome, a unified approach led by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to coordinate the federal government’s efforts for vulnerable Afghans, the Department of Education recognizes the immediate and urgent need to provide high-quality, culturally responsive education to Afghan newcomers -- inclusive of primary, secondary, and English language learning, as well as social-emotional learning. 

Acknowledging that all children in the U.S. have an equal right to enroll and participate in public schools, the letter explains several sources of federal funding available to SEAs and districts.  Although the letter is specific to Afghan children and their families, the information also applies to children and families arriving from other countries. 

Furthermore, the letter contains resources that districts may use as they fulfill their obligations to not only provide students with free public education but also determine eligibility for and offer services to students with limited English proficiency and/or disabilities.  These resources include fact sheets, tool kits, and other Dear Colleague Letters.  (Note: Visit the Keeping the Promise web site and address any questions to KeepingthePromise@ed.gov.) 


  • Starting this week, Americans may order up to four free rapid COVID-19 tests per residential address at COVIDTests.gov, with tests typically shipped within a week of ordering.
  • On the one-year anniversary of the Administration, both the White House and the Department shared key accomplishments.  Notably, the Department has discharged $15 billion in federal student loans for over 675,000 borrowers.  That includes close to $5 billion for 70,000 borrowers through the revamped Public Service Loan Forgiveness program (see the Department’s Twitter thread).
  • Also, the Administration has made key progress toward implementing the largest long-term investment in America’s infrastructure and competitiveness in nearly a century.
  • Regarding the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) published a request for comment on the design and implementation of $48 billion in broadband programming.
  • The Department released the list of candidates for the 2022 U.S. Presidential Scholars Program, which honors some of the nation’s most distinguished graduating high school seniors.
  • Four educators -- from Colorado, Hawaii, Ohio, and Pennsylvania -- were selected as finalists for 2022 National Teacher of the Year.
  • Tennessee announced the first-ever permanent registered apprenticeship program for teachers, funded by the ARP.
  • The Department and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) are collaborating to enhance the Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) Scholar Recognition Program.
  • The Department released the 2022 application for the Alaska Native Education Program, which will award up to $36 million in grants to support innovative projects that recognize and address the unique educational needs of Alaska Natives.
  • Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsak announced an adjustment in school meal reimbursements to help schools continue to serve healthy and nutritious meals to children. 


Very few schools are closing.  Over 95% are still open….  [P]arents [know] it’s important for their children to be in school, and teachers know it as well -- that’s why we made sure that we had the ability to provide the funding through the [American Rescue Plan] Act – to make sure schools were able to be safe….  There’s billions of dollars made available….  And, in addition to that, there is now another $10 billion for testing of students in the schools.  So I think, as time goes on, it’s much more likely you’re going to see that number go back up from 95% to 98%, 99%…of schools in America open, functioning, and capable doing the job.”

-- President Joseph Biden (1/19/22), from a press conference at the White House 


The application period is now open for the 2021-22 President’s Environmental Youth Award and Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators.  These programs recognize outstanding environmental projects by K-12 students and innovative approaches to environmental education by K-12 teachers, respectively.  The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will select up to two students from each of its 10 regions -- one winner for grades K-5, and one winner for grades 6-12.  EPA will also select up to two teachers from each of its regions.  All applications are due by February 18. 

Digital Learning Day (February 22) is just over a month away.  This year’s theme is “Celebrating the Personal in Personalized Learning,” elevating educators who are effectively using digital tools to create robust, authentic, and personalized learning opportunities for students inside and outside the classroom anytime, anywhere. 

President Biden will deliver his first State of the Union Address on March 1. 

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