Free COVID tests headed to nation’s schools

Schools across the U.S. will soon be able to order free rapid COVID-19 tests from the federal government.
The administration’s initiative will make available millions of tests for school districts as they enter the winter months — a time when COVID activity is expected to peak. Already, emergency department visits and wastewater data indicate that cases are climbing in the U.S.
Schools can begin ordering tests in early December, the administration said.
While there have been some smaller efforts to distribute rapid tests to schools, this represents the first time that 19,000 school districts will have the ability to order tests directly from a federal stockpile, says Dawn O’Connell, assistant secretary for preparedness and response within the Department of Health and Human Services.
“We really would like to see these tests move into communities, especially as we hit this fall and winter season,” says O’Connell, who leads the Administration for Strategic Response and Preparedness, a..

How parents can help their kids feel seen

In his new book, How to Know a Person: The Art of Seeing Others Deeply and Being Deeply Seen, author and New York Times columnist David Brooks writes about a period of singular connection between him and his young son. The boy was just over a year old and would wake every morning at 4 a.m. Rather than shush the boy back to bed, Brooks would join him on the floor for several hours and play. “I’m naturally immature,” Brooks told me, “And I loved to play.” He recalls those extended, wordless sessions with his son as a time of profound tenderness and understanding, when each knew the other more completely than they did any other person. It was made possible by the natural bonding that comes with simple play.
Echoing the late British author Iris Murdoch, Brooks believes that looking closely at another person and striving to understand their place in the world, as he and his son did decades ago, is “the essential moral act” — a posture towards others that determines the kind of person we be..

A group of scientists set out to study quick learners. Then they discovered they don’t exist

Some kids appear to learn faster than others. A few years ago, a group of scientists at Carnegie Mellon University decided to study these rapid learners to see what they are doing differently and if their strategies could help the rest of us.
But as the scientists began their study, they stumbled upon a fundamental problem: they could not find faster learners. After analyzing the learning rates of 7,000 children and adults using instructional software or playing educational games, the researchers could find no evidence that some students were progressing faster than others. All needed practice to learn something new, and they learned about the same amount from each practice attempt. On average, it was taking both high and low achievers about seven to eight practice exercises to learn a new concept, a rather tiny increment of learning that the researchers call a “knowledge component.”
“Students are starting in different places and ending in different places,” said Ken Koedinger, a cog..

When parents only focus on college admissions, essential skills can slip through the cracks

The transition from high school to college has become a rite of passage laden with expectations – chief among them is the assumption that admission to a prestigious college is the golden ticket to future success. However, Ana Homayoun, an academic advisor and early career development expert, challenges the belief that taking all AP classes, starting on the varsity team and being first string in orchestra guarantees the skills a student needs to thrive in college and beyond. “We all play a role in supporting students beyond grades, test scores and college admission,” she said. “I started to think about what are the key skills that are not just crucial for our livelihood but also for social and economic mobility.” In her book Erasing the Finish Line: The New Blueprint for Success Beyond Grades and College Admission, Homayoun draws from over two decades of working with students to show how the narrow focus on competitive college admissions has inadvertently sidelined necessary skills like..

‘Just say no’ didn’t actually protect students from drugs. Here’s what could

College sophomore Elias Myers thinks his friends are lucky to be alive.
The 19-year-old recounts a recent incident in which his friends got ahold of a drug that test strips showed was laced with fentanyl, a potent, often deadly, synthetic opioid.
“That’s kind of when I decided that caution is not, like, a best practice, but a survival technique,” says the University of California, Berkeley, student.
And yet those survival techniques were never talked about in Myers’ middle and high school drug education classes. In fact Myers says they didn’t mention fentanyl at all. He says those classes failed to prepare him and his peers for an increasingly dangerous drug landscape in which a single high can have deadly consequences.
Myers says everything he learned about fentanyl has been from friends and older siblings.
“But it didn’t have to be that way. We could have learned safety way ahead of time,” he says.
For decades, students like Myers have been told to just say no to drugs. The mes..

Professors say high school math doesn’t prepare most students for their college majors

The typical ambitious high school student takes advanced algebra, trigonometry, pre-calculus and calculus. None of that math may be necessary for the vast majority of undergraduates who don’t intend to major in science or another STEM field.
But those same students don’t have many of the math skills that professors think they actually do need. In a survey, humanities, arts and social science professors say they really want their students to be able to analyze data, create charts and spreadsheets and reason mathematically – skills that high school math courses often skip or rush through.
“We still need the traditional algebra-to-calculus curriculum for students who are intending a STEM major,” said Gary Martin, a professor of mathematics education at Auburn University in Alabama who led the team that conducted this survey of college professors. “But that’s maybe 20%. The other 80%, what about them?”
Martin said that the survey showed that high schools should stress “reasoning and c..

Feds urge schools to protect rights of Jewish, Muslim students following ‘alarming’ rise in bias incidents

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Federal officials are urging school leaders to protect Jewish and Muslim students from discrimination following an “alarming rise” in reports of antisemitism, Islamophobia, and other incidents of bias at colleges and K-12 schools over the last month.
The letter, shared with U.S. schools and colleges on Tuesday, comes one month after the militant group Hamas launched a surprise attack against Israel, killing more than 1,400 people. Israel has responded with airstrikes in Gaza that have killed at least 10,000 people and displaced more than a million others.
The news has shaken many school leaders, educators, and students with ties to Israel and the Gaza Strip, and prompted protests on college campuses nationwide.
Since the start of the conflict on Oct. 7, the Education Department has received at least seven discrimination complaints involving antisemitism and two involving Islamoph..

Like it or not, kids hear the news. Here’s how teachers help them understand it

Each morning, Stephanie Nichols gathers her second graders around a table to eat breakfast and start their day.
As the kids unpack their knapsacks and settle into the classroom, Nichols likes to listen more than she speaks. Breakfast table conversation can be about anything – from video games to the New England Patriots.
But in recent weeks the table was buzzing about one thing: the mass shooting in Lewiston that left 18 people dead and 13 wounded. The event resulted in a multi-day search that closed schools and left the community on lockdown.
Nichols teaches at Narragansett Elementary School in Gorham, Maine, about 40 minutes from Lewiston. “Even that far away, you know, we all have connections,” she says. “It’s Maine. It really is like the biggest small town.”
Nichols knew her students needed to talk about it: “I think people sometimes really underestimate kids of this age level,” she says. “My kids had all these things they heard on the news.”
With tragedies dominating the news..

7 surprising ways the public library can help you save money

Everyone knows you can save money on books by checking them out at the library instead of buying them. But did you know that libraries can help you save on other things too?
In some locations, you can borrow tools (saving a purchase at the hardware store), take free language classes and even get free tickets to local museums and attractions.
The resources that your library has to offer will depend on its size and funding, which comes in part from taxpayer dollars and donor funds. These perks are part of the public library’s mission to serve the needs of the local community, says Joan Johnson, library director at Milwaukee Public Library. “Libraries are one of the most important parts of the social infrastructure. The possibilities for how you explore are endless.”
To take advantage of these money-saving benefits, sign up for a library card, says Mychal Threets, the supervising librarian at the Fairfield Civic Center Library in Fairfield, Calif. Then check out the library website or ..

Schools’ missions shifted during the pandemic with health care, shelter and adult education

Much attention in the post-pandemic era has been on what students have lost – days of school, psychological health, knowledge and skills. But now we have evidence that they may also have gained something: schools that address more of their needs. A majority of public schools have begun providing services that are far afield from traditional academics, including health care, housing assistance, childcare and food aid.
In a Department of Education survey released in October 2023 of more than 1,300 public schools, 60% said they were partnering with community organizations to provide non-educational services. That’s up from 45% a year earlier in 2022, the first time the department surveyed schools about their involvement in these services. They include access to medical, dental and mental health providers as well as social workers. Adult education is also often part of the package; the extras are not just for kids.
“It is a shift,” said Marguerite Roza, director of the Edunomics Lab at G..