TCTA urges state officials to designate teachers as frontline workers for COVID-19 vaccine

Gov. Greg Abbott announced this week that the state could get 1.4 million doses of a COVID-19 vaccine by mid-December, if the FDA grants emergency approval to Pfizer and Moderna. While health care workers in hospitals top the list of who gets the voluntary vaccine first, TCTA sent a letter to Gov. Abbott and members of his Expert Vaccine Allocation Panel this week urging them to designate teachers as front-line workers to ensure those who want the vaccine have access earlier. In the state's initial list, school nurses, but not teachers, are in the second tier of people who get access to the vaccine.

Most Americans will have to wait until spring or early summer for vaccinations, according to federal officials. That is why it is essential to continue wearing masks in public, keeping social distance and washing hands frequently. Children and teens will have a longer wait for a COVID-19 vaccine, as pediatric safety tests are not as advanced as studies for adults.

Texas must do more to slow spread of virus
As Texas sets new records for COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, the White House Coronavirus Task Force has called on state officials to step up their response to the pandemic. With three-quarters of Texas counties experiencing moderate or high levels of viral transmission, the task force said the state “must intensify” mitigation efforts, including significantly reducing occupancy limits for indoor spaces and increasing proactive coronavirus testing of people working in the community, including teachers.

CDC shortens coronavirus quarantine period
The CDC announced that some people may only need to quarantine for 7 or 10 days following exposure to the virus. While a 14-day quarantine remains the safest option, the CDC says 10 days without a test is enough for people who do not develop symptoms. Quarantine could end after 7 days with a negative test result and no symptoms.

The shorter period could help schools struggling to keep classes going as more students and staff are required to quarantine. The state will update its COVID-19 dashboard for school districts on Friday, adding data from the past two weeks. On Tuesday, the Texas Medical Association urged all school districts to offer rapid COVID-19 testing to staff and to students with parental consent. Many districts have joined TEA's rapid COVID-19 testing program, with several starting this week.

We have all the latest state and federal guidance in our COVID-19 FAQs on 2020-21 Education Issues. While this information is not legal advice, we hope it helps answer questions you may have about COVID-19's impact on schools. Members who have specific concerns or questions should call the Legal Department at 888-879-8282 to speak with a staff attorney.
Report highlights pandemic's impact on reading, math

A new review of national test data suggests the pandemic-driven jump to online learning has had little impact on reading growth and has only somewhat slowed gains in math for students in grades 3-8. But the report from the nonprofit NWEA also includes a worrying caveat: Many of the nation's most vulnerable students are missing from the data. NPR has more information about the data in this report.
USDE postpones NAEP test in 2021 amid pandemic

The U.S. Department of Education has postponed the 2021 administration of the Nation's Report Card due to surging COVID-19 rates across the country. It likely will be 2022 before it administers its next reading and math exams and releases the results. Click here to read more.
Charles Butt Scholarship supports aspiring teachers

Application deadlines are approaching for the 2020-21 Charles Butt Scholarship, which awards $8,000 to $10,000 per year for up to four years to aspiring teachers through 10 partner universities. Applicants must be committed to teaching in a majority-economically disadvantaged school or in a teacher shortage area in a Texas public school. About 100 new scholarships will be awarded this year. For more information and how to apply, visit CharlesButtScholarship.org. 
TEA seeks input by Jan. 12 on grades 7-12 ELAR test

Public comments are being requested through Jan. 12 on the draft TX331 English Language Arts and Reading 7-12 examination framework, which is based on the ELAR standards approved by the State Board for Educator Certification. The framework will help guide the test development process for the new TX331 ELAR 7-12 test. Click here to review the draft and give input.
New elementary certification requirement starts Jan. 1
TEA is reminding those seeking elementary-level certification that they must demonstrate their proficiency in the science of teaching reading on a new standalone certification exam beginning Jan. 1. The new requirement applies to the following certificates:
  • Early Childhood: EC–Grade 3
  • Core Subjects: Early Childhood–Grade 6
  • Core Subjects: Grades 4-8
  • English Language Arts and Reading: Grades 4-8
  • English Language Arts and Reading/Social Studies: Grades 4-8
Candidates who complete certification by Dec. 31 will not be affected.
Teachers who are currently standard certified in Core Subjects: EC-6, Core Subjects: 4-8, English Language Arts and Reading: 4-8, or English Language Arts and Social Studies: 4-8 will not be required to pass the STR exam for renewal of their certificate. Click here to read more.
  • The TRS Board of Trustees meets Dec. 9-11.
  • Dec. 28 is the deadline to notify headquarters if you want to be a delegate-at-large or a student delegate at the 2021 Virtual Convention on Feb. 26-27. This is a great way to learn more about TCTA if you're in a district without a local affiliate. Delegate allocations will be sent to local affiliate presidents in mid-December. Click here for more information.
  • Encourage your colleagues to join TCTA and you could earn $25 for every two eligible Active-level members you recruit through Dec. 31 with our Take 2/Make $25 program. Click here for details.
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