Infants and young children have brains with a superpower, according to Georgetown University Medical Center neuroscientists, who found that unlike adults, who use specific areas in one or the other of their brain’s two hemispheres to process most discrete neural tasks, young children use both the right and left hemispheres to do the same task. This may explain why children generally recover from neural injury much better than adults.
U.S. Senators Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii) and Cory Booker (D-New Jersey) have announced their plan to introduce the Learning Opportunity and Achievement Act (LOAA), which would “improve distance and blended learning in U.S. public schools during the coronavirus pandemic.” LOAA is intended to combat instructional loss, particularly for at-risk and marginalized students, by providing support for professional development and training programs for teachers, tutoring and academic services, research and best practices, and other initiatives to enhance equity and access for all students.
The bill would provide funding to address instructional loss for at-risk and marginalized students, including English learners, low-income students, minority students, migratory students, children with disabilities, homeless children and youth, and children or youth in foster care.
Specifically, LOAA would provide the following resources:
- $2.25 billion in formula grants for ESSA professional development and training programs (Sec. 5)
- $100 million in competitive grants for states and school districts, working with K–12 schools, colleges and universities, national organizations, and community-based organizations (including Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian organizations), to develop training programs (Sec. 7)
- $50 million in competitive grants for states to provide supplemental professional development for educators, paraprofessionals, specialized instructional support personnel, and school leaders, focused on distance and hybrid learning models (Sec. 6)
- $50 million in grants for states and school districts, working with K–12 schools, colleges and universities, national organizations, and community-based organizations, to provide tutoring services for at-risk and marginalized students (defined as low-income students, minority students, students with disabilities, English learners, migrant students, homeless students, and foster youth) and Native students (Sec. 8)
- $25 million in grants for school districts to support educators, paraprofessionals, specialized instructional support personnel, and school leaders with innovative ideas to improve distance learning, especially for at-risk students and Native students (Sec. 9)
- $25 million in grants to support on-campus “learning hubs” for at-risk students and Native students with limited access to broadband and devices
LOAA would also require the U.S. Department of Education, through the Institute of Education Sciences, to conduct research and identify and disseminate best practices for addressing instructional loss due to COVID-19—especially for at-risk and marginalized students.
The bill has received broad support from national and local organizations, including the Joint National Committee for Languages, whose policy director, Alissa Rutkowski, commented, “This bill provides a crucial initial step in ensuring equitable and quality educational opportunities for students facing a higher risk of instructional loss, including and especially the five million students who speak a language other than English and the educators and professionals who serve them.”
At this time, a date has not been set for the bill’s introduction to the Senate, and it remains to be seen if it will become part of the latest stimulus package.