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Coronavirus

First Standardized Test Results Reveal Extent of Pandemic’s Effect on Education

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(Julianne Dressner/The New York Times)

Results released Monday from the Texas Education Agency (TEA) are the first of many states’ first look into the pandemic’s effect on education.

What We Know:

  • Grades 3 through 8 fell considerably when it came to meeting grade expectations compared to data from 2019. For example, only 30% of third graders and 25% of seventh-graders met grade level or above in math. In reading, results were similar, with the percentage of students reading at their grade level sliding to the lowest level since 2017.
  • Florida and Indiana, who are expected to release their scores by the end of the month, also reported declines. Florida officials said reading scores dropped by 4%. Indiana warns of a drop in reading scores and a decline in math.
  • Texas Education Agency Commissioner Mike Morath tried to spin the results positively by pointing out how Texas prioritized in-person teaching over other states. He went on to say, “But it is also clear that the pandemic had a very negative impact on learning. I shudder to consider the long-term impact on children in states that restricted in-person instruction.”
  • Experts warn that the data will be unreliable due to low participation rates in some regions. In Texas, for example, only 86% of students took standardized tests compared to the typical rate of 96%. Regardless, these early results provide the most significant data detailing the effects of shutdowns, the switch to virtual learning, and related disruptions for school children.
  • When considering the race and economic class of students, the results become more disheartening. According to the TEA results, 57% of black students and 47% of Hispanic students in the third grade failed to meet grade-level expectations. Robin Lake, director of the Center of Reinventing Public Education at the University of Washington, responded to these statistics.

“It’s a little sickening to see the bottom drop out for so many kids. Clearly remote learning has been hitting the most vulnerable kids the hardest. It’s what we were expecting, but tough to see,” Lake said.

  • Typically standardized testing scores are used by Texas to determine school ratings and whether students can move on to the next grade. Officials suspended these measures because of the pandemic and instead provided intensive tutoring to students who fell short on testing standards in the fall. Indiana lawmakers passed a bill to prevent poor test results from being used against teachers or schools. The state also set aside $150 million to address learning loss with House Bill 1008.
  • Nationally, students were given a year off of federally required exams during the pandemic. However, the Biden Administration has ordered states to resume exams this year with new flexibility. States were instructed not to require students to come to school to complete the tests, and the education department granted some states additional leeway to modify tests or test fewer students.

Although scores have shown a clear decline in learning from students, many still stand by the school’s decisions to go remote during the shutdown. Clay Robison, a spokesperson for the Texas State Teachers Association, stated, “We were in the middle of a deadly pandemic, and we are sure it saved the lives of some students, it saved the lives of some school employees, it saved the lives of some members of their families and it was necessary.”

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Coronavirus

U.S. May Approve COVID-19 Booster Shots at 6 Months

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The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is currently reviewing booster data from vaccine manufacturers and other countries given at 6 months.

What We Know:

  • An unnamed source told the Wall Street Journal the boosters would be approved for all three COVID-19 vaccines administered in the US- Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson. In addition, they declared approval would come in mid-September.
  • The information comes after officials reported that booster shots would become available to some adults 8 months after their last dose beginning on September 20. These include healthcare providers, nursing home residents, and other seniors. However, booster rollout depends on FDA approval and recommendation from a key Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) outside vaccine advisory committee.
  • Officials want people to receive the third dosage because of the current rise in Delta strain cases. Studies show that the coronavirus vaccine loses potency after several months. Additionally, the Delta strain currently holds the highest number of infections among vaccinated and unvaccinated people; despite this, those who obtained the vaccine experience milder breakthrough infections.
  • In addition, the CDC and FDA urge citizens to receive vaccinations as hospitalizations rise once more. Recently, the U.S. saw 100,000 people hospitalized, a number only seen since before vaccines were easily accessible. A third of the country’s hospitalizations come from states with low vaccination rates, large populations, and governors who disagree with vaccine and mask mandates, such as Texas and Florida. As of Aug. 25, Texas saw 23,412 new daily cases, 248 deaths, and 14,000 hospitalizations. On that same date, Florida saw 26,203 positive cases, 9 fatalities, and 17,000 hospitalizations.

Alongside more hospitalizations, daily numbers are also creeping back up. On Aug. 25, the U.S. saw 148,000 new cases, only 3,000 less than Jan. 30’s report. In contrast, deaths from COVID-19 waned since January, dropping from 3,100 a day to 1,100 a day.

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FDA grants full approval to Pfizer’s Covid vaccine

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The Food and Drug Administration granted full approval to Pfizer-BioNTech’s two-dose vaccine Monday for people ages 16 and up, making it the first Covid-19 vaccine to pass this final regulatory hurdle.

“The FDA’s approval of this vaccine is a milestone as we continue to battle the Covid-19 pandemic,” Acting FDA Commissioner Dr. Janet Woodcock said in a statement. “While millions of people have already safely received Covid-19 vaccines, we recognize that for some, the FDA approval of a vaccine may now instill additional confidence to get vaccinated. Today’s milestone puts us one step closer to altering the course of this pandemic in the U.S.”

What We Know:

  • The FDA’s decision may also pave the way for more vaccination mandates: Many businesses were waiting for full approval before they required employees to be vaccinated.

“Full approval could not come at a more important time, as the highly contagious delta variant continues to drive up caseloads and deaths across the U.S.,” the president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Dr. Richard Besser, former acting director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said in a statement. “I am hopeful that full approval will address any remaining concerns and will move many people to a ‘yes’ on vaccination.”

  • Besser said the lack of vaccines in middle- and low-income countries “represents a global failure,” adding, “Ensuring an adequate supply of vaccines in every country and community must be a health, economic, and moral imperative for the world.”
  • Federal health officials announced that, starting September 20th, people who received the Pfizer vaccine will be eligible for third doses eight months after their second doses. The FDA has not yet signed off a third dose.  No Covid vaccines have been authorized or approved for use in children under 12, though this is expected to change soon with FDA approval.

Pfizer’s vaccine is one of three in use in the U.S. Moderna has also applied for full approval, also known as a Biologics Licensing Application. Johnson & Johnson has not yet applied for full approval, and remains in use under emergency authorization.

Pfizer’s product was the first Covid vaccine to gain emergency use authorization, in December. As of Monday, more than 203 million doses have been given in the U.S., according to the CDC.

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Coronavirus

Reverend Jesse Jackson and His Wife, Jacqueline, Hospitalized with COVID-19

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Reverend Jesse Jackson and his wife Jacqueline are currently being treated at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago.

What We Know:

  • News about the couple’s diagnosis became public after a statement released by the Reverend’s Rainbow/Push Coalition on Saturday. In the statement, officials declared that doctors were monitoring both Jesse and Jacqueline; it did not provide any further information.
  • However, their son, Jonathan, provided more information on Sunday. Jonathan told the Associated Press that doctors are carefully observing Jesse and Jacqueline because of their ages. Additionally, the two responded “positively” to treatments and were resting. On Monday, Jonathan said his parents’ status did not change and asked for prayers for the two,
  • Despite his hospitalization, Jesse received his first coronavirus vaccine dosage in January 2021 during a publicized event. Alongside obtaining protection against the disease, he urged his followers to receive the vaccine as soon as possible. The Associated Press reported that it is unclear if Jacqueline also got the vaccine.
  • Underlying health concerns might have been the cause for both of them catching COVID-19. Family members said Jacqueline had an unspecified condition which made them concerned recently. In addition, Jesse was diagnosed in 2015 with Parkinson’s disease and underwent gallbladder surgery earlier this year.
  • Rev. Jesse Jackson worked with mentor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in moving the Civil Rights Movement forward. His impact helped guide the movement on numerous issues, such as voting rights. After the movement and even currently, Jesse continued working to make a change in his society. Police recently arrested Jesse for civil disobedience after participating in a sit-in at Sen. Kyrsten Sinema‘s Phoenix office with 39 others.

Black News Alerts prays that Jesse and Jacqueline make a speedy recovery and continue inspiring many.

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