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Chan Zuckerberg Initiative Grants Aim to Help Students Amid Coronavirus Closures


See full coverage of the coronavirus and schools.

Initiatives for teaching online, navigating complicated policy questions, and supporting parents during coronavirus-related school closures are targets of a new round of grants announced by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative this week.

It's one of the first philanthropy announcements related specifically to responding to educational concerns that have emerged as schools respond to the pandemic.

The organization, launched by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan, has provided a combined $1.3 million in grants.

See: Education Week's Map of Coronavirus and School Closures

The Council of Chief State School Officers will use its grant to support state education leaders in communicating with the public, making decisions during closures, and assisting schools when they eventually re-open. CCSSO leadership has pushed for flexibility in federal education law, like waivers U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced last week that have allowed states to opt schools out of standardized testing required under the Every Student Succeeds Act.

In a conference call with reporters last week, CCSSO Executive Director Carissa Moffat Miller said states will continue to need guidance and assistance to face "cascading consequences" well after schools reopen. 

The International Society for Education Technology and the State Educational Technology Directors Association will use grants to assist schools with onlline learning initiatives during extended closures. ISTE has launched a helpline to support school leaders, a webinar series, and online resources. SETDA is launching a "coalition for e-learning" to support state leaders with the transitions.

The switch to online classes has been rocky for some families, educators, and schools, and gaps in internet access have sparked equity concerns. And in a March 10 survey of school administrators by the Education Week Research Center, 41 percent of respondents said they did not have the capability of educating all of their students remotely, even for one day.

And the National Parents Union, a recently formed organization that hopes to assert itself in education policy discussions, will use a CZI grant to provide resources about economic, educational, and child well-being through a network of about 200 parent organizations around the country. 

The National Parents Union willalso  partner with several organizations— Great Schools, EdNavigator, Learning Heroes, The Policy Innovators in Education Network, TNTP, ExcelinEd, Prepared Parents and local public access channels—to provide infomation for "low-income families, communities of color, formerly incarcerated parents, foster families, parents with disabilities, parents of children with special needs, grandparents and LGBTQAI families," an announcement from CZI said.

Photo: Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg in Mountain View, California. --Peter Barreras/Invision/AP-File

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