The Texas Education Agency (TEA) announced yesterday two new resources that educators and parents have been requesting: guidance on promoting educator well-being that actually emphasizes educator input and information about reporting on the number of COVID-19 cases in Texas public schools.
First, TEA has posted a guide promoting staff support and well-being in a COVID-19 environment, entitled “SY 20-21 Educator Wellness: Equipping Staff to Return to School.” The introductory paragraph of the new guide has this to say:
“Throughout this tool you will find practical guidance, suggestions, and key action steps for the topics addressed in the chart below to promote staff wellness, resiliency, and overall well-being. The first step in preparing for the reentry of staff is to plan. Campus leaders should convene a team of mental health and well-being champions. It is vital that this team is supported by the senior leadership team in a district, school, or open-enrollment charter school. This team should be charged with developing a multi-tiered system of support (MTSS) plan using reputable resources that are trauma-informed for school mental and behavioral health, starting with a focus on promoting staff wellness. Next, assessing the well-being of staff is an essential step for prescriptive planning. After initiating the assessment and evaluating the results from the adaptable assessment options sample below, it will be important to build a school culture that promotes wellness and resiliency throughout the school year. Finally, equipping staff with the most relevant professional development and training will lead to a strong and safe start for the 2020-2021 school year.”
Of course, this guidance would have been more helpful six to eight weeks ago when districts still had ample time for planning and convening new committees, and when organizations such as ATPE were imploring the agency and state leaders to pay attention to the largely-ignored concerns of our state’s educators. Thankfully, the new guidance is pro-educator and finally recognizes that supporting students requires first supporting those adults who teach them. On that basis, this thoughtful guidance can be filed under the category of better late than never.
The agency is still working out final details on the public reporting of lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 among Texas public school students and staff. The new reporting requirement will be in addition to long-standing required reporting to local health agencies for infectious diseases. Through a joint effort between TEA and the state health agency, data will be reported out by the Department of State Health Services on at least a district-by-district basis. Districts are expected to start submitting data in early September, with a group of pilot districts beginning to submit data this week.
Other updates to TEA’s COVID-19 site since last Thursday include the following:
- An announcement on the upcoming release of new math materials for Texas Home Learning 3.0, with YouTube and PowerPoint presentations. Webinars on this release for Grades K-5 and for Grades 6-12 will be held August 25; register using the links provided. Materials are expected to be available August 31.
- Other changes under TEA’s instructional continuity tab include an update to the Asynchronous Plan FAQ and the Strong Start Resources guide.
- Gov. Greg Abbott announced the procurement of over one million devices and WiFi hot spots through Project Connectivity. TEA has posted slides to related Project Connectivity webinars on the bulk order process and the local match reimbursement program for schools, as well as additional questions and answers in the CARES Act funding and expense reimbursement FAQ on the Operation Connectivity Bulk-Purchase Program and Local Cost Reimbursement Program.
- Under the grants and waivers tab, TEA has updated the Federal Funding and Grants FAQ with new information (questions 48 – 60) on the “A Bright Beginning“ program, which provides federal funding for educating migratory children. Additional updates have been added to the Cares Act equitable services FAQ on a variety of issues. Also of note: the deadline to apply for ESSER funding is next Monday, Aug. 24, 2020.
- Finally, the Attendance and Enrollment FAQ has been reformatted for improved readability and searching, but is otherwise essentially unchanged.