Biden seeks key school data to reopen schools — but the agency that collects it needs resources to do it

Dozens of organizations concerned about the NCES sent a letter (see below) Monday to key U.S. legislators asking them to give $10 million to the agency so that it can do the data collecting that Biden is seeking.

“Essential to reopening schools and returning students and teachers to the classroom safely and securely is taking rapid steps based on accurate, timely, and objective statistics,” says the letter.

Its signatories include the American Statistical Association, the American Psychological Association, the American Sociological Association, the National Center for Learning Disabilities and the two national teachers unions: the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers.

“Information about such issues as in-person student attendance rates; absentee rates for in-person and distance learning; teacher absence-due-to-covid-99-contraction, retention, and recruitment; student achievement; access to quality afterschool and summer learning opportunities; and covid-19 mitigation steps already in place is fundamental to identifying efficient, effective, and timely strategies for helping our schools and students,” it says.

It also says better data is needed on the “disparate impact of the pandemic, school disruptions, and learning loss that have been particularly acute for students of color and students from low-income backgrounds,” as well as “better data on students’ learning experiences.”

But “because of severe staffing and budget constraints (as reported in spring 2020), NCES is stretched too thin to attempt this undertaking without the infusion of additional funding,” the letter says. It asks for an appropriation of $5 million for NCES.

The letter was sent to Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), chair of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies; Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), ranking member of that panel; Rep. Rosa L. DeLauro (D-Conn.), chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies; and Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), ranking member of that House panel.

“If our nation is to effectively address the unprecedented educational challenges brought about by the pandemic, we will need objective, accurate, and timely data to inform policy and decision-making at the local, state, and national levels,” it says, asking for $5 million in emergency funding this fiscal year and again in appropriations for the next fiscal year.

Here’s the full letter:

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