At a glance: October 20, 2021

Many teachers can see student loan forgiveness

To err is human, forgiveness divine. In this case, the US Department of Education is trying to correct these mistakes to produce a divine result for tens of thousands of public servants, including teachers, who will likely have their student loan debts written off.

Established in 2007, the federal student aid program has long been the target of lawsuits, government surveillance reports and a broad investigation by NPR for its mismanagement. Federal reports have found that within a year 99% of applications were denied and borrowers spent months making payments only to find they were ineligible.

“The system broke this promise [of public-service loan forgiveness] to date, but that is about to change for many borrowers who have served their communities and their country, ”US Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said this month, announcing changes to the program. “Teachers, nurses, first responders, the military and so many public service workers support us, especially amid the challenges of the pandemic. Today, the Biden administration shows that we support them too. “

To be eligible for civil service loan cancellation, borrowers had to follow an income-based repayment plan with a federal direct loan. They had to make 120 monthly loan payments, and those payments had to be made on time.

Now, the ministry is temporarily waiving many of these requirements and doing so retroactively so that payments that previously did not meet the strict loan cancellation criteria now count as long as the borrower was in the public service.

The changes will mean that about 22,000 people will be immediately eligible for automatic loan cancellation, according to the ministry. Another 27,000 borrowers could also have their debts canceled if they can prove they have already made payments while working in the public service.

That’s a significant increase: only 16,000 borrowers have had their loans canceled thanks to the program since its inception, NPR reported.

In total, the department estimates that more than 550,000 borrowers who previously consolidated their loans will now see some of their past payments eligible, accelerating their path to the two-year forgiveness.

Saliva test can predict severity of COVID-19 in children, research finds

A simple saliva test may be able to determine which children are at greater risk of developing severe symptoms of COVID-19, according to initial research findings from doctors at Pennsylvania State University.

While the vast majority of children who contract the virus have only mild symptoms or no symptoms at all, identifying those at risk of developing severe cases early would help doctors better monitor and intervene before children become seriously ill. said Steven Hicks, a pediatrician. at Penn State Health Children’s Hospital and study co-author.

Children at higher risk of serious illness could be admitted to hospital for observation and early intervention if symptoms worsen, and more serious complications, such as respiratory failure, could be avoided.

With the increase in cases of COVID-19 in children, there is an “urgent need” to understand which children are most at risk for serious illness, Hicks said.

Children account for about 16% of all COVID-19 cases and a fraction of one percent of deaths attributed to the virus. But since the increase in the highly contagious Delta variant over the summer, the number of children under 4 hospitalized with COVID-19 has increased tenfold, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In Pennsylvania, the number of children with COVID-19 was 10 times higher in the first week of September, compared to the same time last year. Between September 2 and 8, as schools reopened for in-person classes, nearly 5,400 Pennsylvania children aged 5 to 18 had confirmed infections, compared with 574 children with COVID-19 the same week in 2020, when students were away, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Health.

In their initial analysis of saliva samples from 150 children, the researchers found elevated levels of two cytokines among those who later developed severe COVID-19, compared to those with milder symptoms.

If larger samples support their early findings, researchers could seek approval from the Food and Drug Administration for the saliva test to be used routinely as part of the COVID-19 diagnosis in children.

After lull in 2020, school shootings increase as students return for in-person instruction

The COVID-19 pandemic. Social justice controversies. Now we can add another plague on the education system: Sixteen school shootings in which someone was killed or at least one person was injured have taken place so far this school year.

Although school shootings remain relatively rare, data shows that this school year’s start has been particularly violent compared to previous years. Gun control advocates attribute the increase to high levels of student anxiety and stress brought on by the pandemic and 5.4 million children living in homes with an unsecured loaded gun .

“This is an absolute formula for a horrific school opening, and that’s exactly what happened,” said Joe Erardi, school safety consultant for AASA, the association of school superintendents. . Erardi served as school superintendent in Newtown, Connecticut, after the deadly shooting at an elementary school in that district in 2012.

Between August 1 and September 15 of this year, at least 30 shots fired within the school grounds, killing five and injuring 23, according to Everytown for Gun Safety. The gun control advocacy group says it is the largest number of people shot at back to school since it began tracking gunfire on school grounds in 2013.

Everytown uses a broad definition of school shootings: it counts whenever a gun fires a live bullet inside a school building or on a campus, even if no fatalities or injuries have occurred.

Education Week follows K-12 field shootings that kill or injure at least one person.

By this narrower definition, Education Week has counted 24 school shootings in 2021 and 16 since the start of this school year. Six people were killed, including four children, and 34 were injured during the calendar year. There have been more school shootings at this point in the year than in 2020, 2019 or 2018.

The COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting switch to distance learning have halted the trend of school shootings, data shows, as there were only 10 in 2020 compared to 25 in 2019 and 24 in 2018.

Gun violence in the country is set to be worse this year than in decades, according to data from the Gun Violence Archives.

Student interest goes beyond computer lessons

Offer it, and they will come.

This seems to be the case when it comes to computer lessons. As it stands, many more students are interested in studying computer science than in taking a computer science course.

And that gap is especially pronounced for black and Hispanic college students, as well as those from low-income families, a report from Gallup and Amazon concludes. It is based on a survey conducted in June among 4,116 students in grades 5 to 12.

While 62 percent of students in these classes say they want to learn more about computers, only 49 percent have actually taken a course. The difference between children’s interest in computers and access to classes is particularly striking for students whose families earn less than $ 48,000 per year. Fifty-nine percent of these students are interested, but only 37 percent have taken a computer course.

The same goes for black students, with 60% saying they are interested in a computer course, but only 42% saying they have done so. For Hispanic students, 61% say they want to learn about computers, but only 44% have taken a course.

This lack of opportunities is a problem as IT is a growing field with a yawning labor shortage. Jobs in this field also offer students the opportunity to potentially earn much higher salaries than they would in other fields.

Access to computer courses is also important because students whose schools offer such courses are more likely to be interested in the subject. Sixty-eight percent of students who say their school offers computers also say they want to learn more about it, compared to 49 percent in schools that do not offer classes.

Gifted and talented program ending in New York

No longer show: New York City’s gifted and talented program, which critics say favors white and Asian American students, while disproportionately enrolling few black and Latino children.

Starting next school year, the district will stop giving 4-year-olds a drug test used to identify gifted and talented students, according to the plan released by the school system this month.

The program currently admits only 2,500 pupils per year out of 65,000 preschools in the city.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said the change would help tens of thousands of people get an advanced education, instead of the privileged few.

“The era of judging 4-year-olds based on a single test is over,” he said. “Every child in New York deserves to reach their full potential, and this new fair model gives them that chance.”

Instead, the district will train all kindergarten teachers to provide accelerated learning in which students use more advanced skills such as robotics, computer coding, and community organizing on projects while staying in their rooms. usual class. The district will also select students entering Grade 3 to assess whether they would benefit from accelerated learning in various subjects while remaining in their classrooms.

Despite being among the most diverse cities in the United States, New York’s public schools have long been ridiculed as among the most segregated. His gifted and talented program highlighted many inequalities in the education system.

About three-quarters of the roughly 16,000 students are white or of Asian descent, while black and Latino students make up the remainder, although they make up about two-thirds of a million schoolchildren.

Some Asian American activists have resisted dismantling the program, arguing that it has given their children educational opportunities to enter better schools and lift themselves out of poverty.

New York City currently has 80 elementary schools that offer accelerated instruction. City officials did not specify how much it would cost to expand this to 800 elementary schools.

The plan will require the hiring of additional teachers who are trained to provide accelerated instruction.