NREA Weekly Updates: January 21st, 2022

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Request from our Partners: Rural School Collaborative
Request from our Partners: Rural School Collaborative
The GRAD Partnership for student success is a new national initiative that encourages and supports communities in efforts to use high-quality student success systems that empower schools to graduate all students ready for the future.

The GRAD Partnership, which is led by the Everyone Graduates Center at John Hopkins University, consists of nine national partners, including the Rural Schools Collaborative. RSC’s work will focus on establishing regional rural school networks that will participate in this nationwide effort. The project has received funding support from The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

To ensure that rural narratives are an integral facet of the GRAD Partnership, RSC is interested in identifying rural school districts that have engaged in the development and implementation of Early Warning/On-Track Systems (EWS). In addition, RSC is happy to visit with districts that would like to learn more about this work or the launch of the GRAD Partnership.

Please contact Gary Funk at if your district is using EWS or if you would like more information about the GRAD Partnership. RSC is committed to learning more about EWS work in the rural school sector, and they look forward to connecting rural school districts to this important work.

We invite you to learn more about the GRAD Partnership. Please know that reaching out or sharing information will not be regarded as a commitment to EWS or the project.
The Biden Administration is doubling down on its commitment to keeping all schools safely open for full-time, in-person learning by taking new actions to increase access to COVID-19 testing in schools. Through new initiatives, it will increase the number of tests available to schools by 10 million per month -- more than double the volume of testing that took place in schools across the country in November 2021. These additional tests will help schools implement screening testing and test-to-stay practices (see Secretary Cardona’s Twitter thread).
Specifically, the Administration is:
· Sending 5 million no-cost, point-of-care tests per month to schools. This new allocation builds on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Epidemiology and Laboratory Capacity (ELC) program, which distributed $10 billion in resources to states to support COVID-19 testing in schools. CDC will work with states that submit requests to receive additional tests for high-need school districts that can immediately put the tests to use. The first shipments will be delivered later this month.
· Providing 5 million lab-based PCR tests for free to schools per month. This additional testing will be delivered through the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Operation Expanding Testing (OpET) program. Three federally funded regional providers offer testing materials, supplies, and lab results and reporting at no direct cost to recipients through four regional hubs. Schools may immediately gain access to this lab-based testing.
· Deploying federal surge testing units to support free testing access for students, school staff, and families at community testing sites. Both HHS and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) are working with state, territorial, and tribal partners to address needs in communities and stand up federal testing sites. These surge testing sites are focused on ensuring hardest-hit and highest-risk communities have equitable access to free and convenient testing. Effective immediately -- as the agencies review requests -- they will consider how these sites may support the safe operations of K-12 schools.
· Connect schools with COVID-19 testing providers to set up school testing programs using American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds. ARP Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds may be used to support school-based COVID-19 testing.
· Releasing new training, resources, and materials for implementing test-to-stay practices in schools.
Subsequently, the Administration released more information for schools on COVID-19 testing, including:
· Secretary Cardona’s Dear Colleague Letter on federal resources to support COVID-19 testing
Also, the Department, joined by the CDC, the Rockefeller Foundation, and others, will host webinars today, January 28, and February 4, each from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. Eastern Time, to help schools and districts start or strengthen their school-based COVID-19 testing program. This is a great opportunity to hear directly from technical experts and school and district leaders who are regularly testing, as well as ask questions. Register now!
Rural Broadband
T‑Mobile Home Internet’s Bigger … (Clap, Clap, Clap, Clap) Deep in the Heart of Texas
T‑Mobile Home Internet’s Bigger … (Clap, Clap, Clap, Clap) Deep in the Heart of Texas
Home internet options in Texas are fixin’ to be a whole lot better. T-Mobile (NASDAQ: TMUS) today announced expanded access to its fixed wireless Home Internet service in 57 cities and towns across the Lone Star State. Nearly a quarter of the Texas homes with access to T-Mobile Home Internet are in small towns and rural areas, helping improve access to the Internet, outside of just the big cities, for everything from education to jobs.
Today, nearly 4 million Texans have either NO access to traditional home broadband or have only one choice. And in the middle of the pandemic, the Texas Education Agency estimated that 1.8 million students couldn’t participate in virtual learning because they didn’t have a broadband connection at home. That’s unacceptable.
For millions of Texans—and more than 30 million households nationwide—there’s finally a real alternative to traditional landline ISPs. For places like Brownwood, Mount Pleasant, and Fredericksburg, towns in Texas where more than a quarter of people are without any access to traditional home broadband, the expansion of T-Mobile Home Internet means more families can stay connected to the classroom, work remotely, and communicate virtually. And for homes across the state, from small towns to bigger cities, this expansion means more people can finally ditch traditional ISPs – the industry ranked dead last in customer satisfaction by ACSI.
T-Mobile recently announced the Big Fee Deal, bringing the internet to millions of homes for just $50/month, period. Landline ISPs have been having their way for years, adding bogus fees on top of the monthly rate, every single month. And they’ve gotten away with it. In 2020 alone, they charged customers more than $9 billion dollars, just in monthly fees. But T-Mobile Home Internet is different — there’s no BS or surprises.
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Survey Request of Rural Education Support
Survey Request of Rural Education Support
You are invited to reply to a 15-minute survey about the extent to which you receive services and supports from your state education agency that is responsive to rural contexts. Results from this survey, jointly developed by NREA, ADI, and ICF, will help NREA and other advocates understand rural educators’ needs for assistance.
Your replies will be kept private and anonymous, and your identity will never be associated with your answers. Your participation in this survey is entirely voluntary, and you may withdraw at any time without any penalty. In addition, your participation or non-participation will not be used to positively or negatively affect you or your participation in any NREA program. If you are unable to complete the survey in one sitting, you may leave it and re-enter to finish later.
Click here to get started: Survey of Rural Education Support
If you have any questions about this survey, please contact Caitlin Howley at Thank you for your input!
From Our Legislative Partners AASA
ACTION ALERT: Reverse the Narrative on ARP spending by districts.
Have you seen the headlines that federal COVID relief funds are being misspent or unspent by districts? It’s becoming an increasingly frustrating narrative not just in local newspapers but also on Capitol Hill.
As the voice for superintendents on Capitol Hill, AASA needs your help in telling a different story about the billions in ESSER funds that were used by states and districts to help students recover lost learning during the pandemic, improve air quality in classrooms, hire staff and boost the trajectory of the educational system in America, and highlight the recovery and innovation these investments are driving. Help us tell your story.

Please take five minutes to complete this quick survey for AASA that we will use in our communications with national media and Congress to ensure they understand how critical the American Recovery Act has been for the students and educators in your district.
Daily Yonder:
llustrating the News: How Are Rural Communities Using American Rescue Plan Funds?
llustrating the News: How Are Rural Communities Using American Rescue Plan Funds?
Graphic Journalist Nhatt Nichols has been exploring how rural areas across the country are using funding from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). To help tell the story, she’s using comics, not spreadsheets, as her format of choice. Enjoy this initial snapshot from two corners of rural America.
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In Rural Town With Two Historically Black Colleges, Student Needs Extend Beyond the Classroom
In Rural Town With Two Historically Black Colleges, Student Needs Extend Beyond the Classroom
Motels with fading shingle roofs. Tire shops with graffitied signs. Pawn stores and auto title loan lenders were only outnumbered by churches. A mobile home park and a mobile home supply shop.
These are common hallmarks of poverty in rural America. There is no inherent shame in them.
However, things don’t have to be this way.
Orangeburg, the small city within a large swath of rural South Carolina somehow is home to not one, but two, Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs): Claflin University and South Carolina State University. Those two universities present tremendous opportunities for the surrounding community: President Joe Biden visited Orangeburg just last month to deliver the commencement speech at South Carolina State, which is also Rep. Jim Clyburn’s alma mater.
School Boards in Focus
School Boards in Focus: Acting Now to Sustain Democracy. We are partnering with the Faith Matters Network and Welcoming America to support this retreat for school board members across the country, but particularly within driving distance of Asheville, NC.

Complete the online application by February 9:

Selected participants will be notified by March 7 and will be asked to attend a virtual orientation in March to meet the other participants and facilitators.
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The Rural Educator
A National Rural Postsecondary Research Agenda Reflections from the Working Group
Though national postsecondary education and workforce training outcomes have drawn growing attention in recent decades, very little research has centered on rural learners and rural postsecondary education. The data that exist related to rural postsecondary education attainment are extremely limited. Increasingly, practitioners, researchers, and philanthropic organizations in the rural postsecondary education and workforce training space have called for the advancement of a national rural postsecondary research agenda to fill this critical gap and unlock insights into the promising practices that can help support rural learners in earning degrees or credentials that lead to meaningful careers
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Commentary: Times Article on Rural School Misses Half the Story—Educational Success
Despite lack of funding, rural schools can serve as sites of learning, community, and excellence. We need to understand both the problems and opportunities to make a good education policy. This commentary was originally published in the October 6th edition of The Daily Yonder.
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