Governors’ Executive Actions and State Guidance
- The National Governors Association provides a resource page covering governors’ actions across the states in response to COVID-19. This page includes a section on schools/childcare and universities.
- Below are examples of guidance from states on matters related to education:
- Alabama: The state closed all public schools, starting March 18. The Alabama State Department of Education released a Frequently Asked Questions document addressing questions about the length of the closure, student absences and how they will relate to school accountability; whether school staff will be required to work during the closure; whether employees will be charged annual leave during the closure; and food services. The state has also released an LEA Guide and a Parent Guide. Both guides include information regarding expectations for schools, student attendance, online learning and testing.
- Arizona: All Arizona schools are closed from March 16 to April 10. The Arizona Department of Education’s Office of Communications has posted Guidance to Schools on COVID-19. The guidance includes information on pandemic preparedness for schools, school meals, statewide testing, special education considerations and graduation requirements. The state also provided a Frequently Asked Questions document that addresses which schools are impacted by the closure, online learning, graduation, statewide assessments and student meals.
- Illinois: The Illinois State Board of Education released Mandatory Statewide School Closure Guidance for Illinois Schools and School Districts, last updated on March 23.The document answers questions related to assessments and accountability; board meetings; calendar and instruction/continuity of education; nutrition, meals, and food service; the scope of school closures; special education; and staffing. See here for extensive ISBE updates and guidance.
- North Dakota: All public and private schools in the state are closed indefinitely. The North Dakota Department of Public Instruction has posted School Guidance that contains expectations and general guidance for schools, including, among other things, information on student well-being, how the closures impact special education, online learning, state aid to schools, teacher evaluations and professional development requirements, makeup days for school closures, student attendance, assessment and accountability, and school meals.
- Washington: All public and private schools are closed March 13 to April 24, subject to extension. The Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction released Guidance for Long-Term School Closures on March 13. The released bulletin addresses allowable building activities, rulemaking, state and federal funding, assessments, federal accountability, special education, considerations for paid school staff, and meals and nutrition. It also includes contact information for any further questions individuals may have. Additional information can be found here.
- Wisconsin: All public and private schools in the state are closed from March 18 to April 6. The governor has released a Frequently Asked Questions document addressing questions about instructional hours, student meals, supports available for students with IEPs, testing requirements, athletics, graduation, parent conversations with their students, pay for hourly staff, and whether school staff are prohibited from reporting to work. Additional information can be found here.
State Legislation in Response to COVID-19
Education Commission of the States tracks education legislation across all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Because of the influx of legislation addressing the COVID-19 pandemic impacts on education, Education Commission of the States now tracks the topic in both its 2020 State Education Policy Watch List and State Education Policy Tracking tool.
The National Conference of State Legislatures is tracking COVID-19 related legislation, which includes education topics.
Education Topic Areas
Switching to virtual education may be one method to reduce the spread of coronavirus, but this move also can cause challenges for students who are not able to access internet-based education. Florida provides an example of virtual education used in response to COVID-19. In recognition of increased reliance on internet access for many students participating in online learning, some internet service providers have altered their policies, raised internet connection speeds and eliminated data caps. Below, we include some relevant Education Commission of the States resources; provide examples of state policy; and include external resources regarding remote, virtual and/or distance learning.
- While Education Commission of the States has not completed a 50-state scan on this issue, this Virtual School Policy Snapshot provides an overview of state legislative activity from 2017 to 2019 and may be useful. The snapshot provides information in three primary areas: attendance and engagement, authorizing and governance, and funding.
- This 50-state scan on charter school policies provides information on virtual charter schools.
- Although Education Commission of the States does not have a comprehensive resource on states that permit e-learning during extenuating circumstances (for instance, snow days or a health emergency), below we provide several examples of related state policies. Note that while these states have a policy permitting e-learning for snow days, none appear to require it — so it may or may not be implemented at the district level in these states.
- While it is not in state law, the department of education in Indiana has adopted formal rules and regulations for its e-learning day program.
- Ohio has a law that allows districts to adopt a plan addressing online learning programs (“e-learning”) in the event of school closure.
- It also appears Pennsylvania had a pilot program to allow districts to permit students to complete work at home on snow days. It is not clear if the program continued beyond the 2017-18 school year.
- Kentucky allows schools and districts to offer nontraditional instructional days in lieu of school cancellations. The policy requires districts that wish to participate in the NTI program to submit a plan to the Kentucky Department of Education for approval. For districts that have yet to receive approval for an NTI program, they are able to apply for emergency approval to operate a program for the rest of the year. The Kentucky Department of Education released guidance, last updated March 2020, highlighting three popular instructional approaches (p. 17-18) for NTI days, including:
The guidance also outlined key methods districts can implement for students who do not have access to the internet or a device:
Assessments and Accountability
- Allowing students to check out or borrow a device.
- Pre-loading content onto a device or jump drive.
- Parking a Wi-Fi bus in the community.
- Using an internet switch than can be activated at the district.
- Opening school buildings for computer lab use.
- Sending staff to community locations that have internet/devices.
- Having agreements with a local utility company or internet service provider.
- Assigning project-based work.
- Alternating assignments/paper packets.
- Minnesota requires districts that wish to offer e-learning days in place of school closures to submit an implementation plan for approval by the Minnesota Department of Education that includes accommodations for students without internet or device access. According to guidance from the Minnesota Department of Education on accommodating students without a device or internet access: “All students must have similar learning experiences in terms of subject matter, task difficulty, and interaction with peers and their teacher(s). Tasks must be completed during the regular hours of the eLearning day. Students without access cannot be required to make-up the work on another day. Students may use physical texts or books and may handwrite their work, but those resources would have to be available at home. Teachers must contact students by telephone to conference with students, assess and support their learning.”
- Pennsylvania allows for flexible instruction days that can be online or offline. For districts that opt to use technology to offer remote instruction, they must outline accommodations for students and staff who do not have access to technological devices or internet in order to receive plan approval.
The U.S. Department of Education provided a fact sheet on March 12 regarding the impact of COVID-19 on assessments and accountability. The department and President Donald Trump announced March 20 that schools can apply to waive assessments for the rest of the 2020 school year. Assessment HQ is maintaining a list of states’ school closure dates, assessment status and the status of their waiver request (if any), which was updated March 18.
This 50-state resource on instructional time offers information that includes minimum day, hour or minute requirements. Although it does not specifically capture information regarding exceptions or waivers to these requirements because of emergencies (such as for an epidemic), many states make mention of such emergency provisions in similar or adjacent sections of code to those cited on this page.
As noted in the federal guidance section, the U.S. Department of Education produced a fact sheet for students with disabilities. Below are examples of state-level guidance for special education.
Nutrition and Homelessness
- Illinois: The state board of education put forward special education guidance for Illinois schools and local education agencies, last updated March 18.
- Virginia: The department of education released a memorandum March 23 on providing equitable access and support for a variety of student learning needs in preschool, elementary and secondary schools.
Although many states are shutting down schools or extending spring breaks as a method to prevent spread of the coronavirus, school closures can also bring about unintended consequences for students who rely on other services provided in schools, such as free or reduced-price lunches.
As the situation evolves, issues continue to emerge around teacher certification and teacher pay. The American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education released Educator Preparation Community Coronavirus (COVID-19) Response, which includes information from the national office, member voices and AACTE advocacy. On March 11, Brookings provided information on using federal stimulus to help during the pandemic, including teacher pay. Below are examples from states on teacher topics.
- Colorado: Denver Public School teachers will continue to get paid during the district closure.
- Washington: On March 19, the Legislature passed legislation pertaining to emergency teacher certificates, as well as provided a document with related frequently asked questions.
Resources relevant to early learning responses to COVID-19:
Resources relevant to postsecondary education responses to COVID-19: