Biden Issues Executive Order on Reopening Schools, Calls for Data and Evidence-Based Guidance
Biden Issues Executive Order on Reopening Schools, Calls for Data and Evidence-Based Guidance

January 2021

On January 21, President Joe Biden released the National Strategy for the COVID-19 Response and Pandemic Preparedness, accompanied by several executive orders to implement the strategy. One of the executive orders, Supporting the Reopening and Continuing Operation of Schools and Early Childhood Education Providers, directs the Department of Education to provide guidance on reopening schools safely and gauge the impact of COVID-19 on education.

The executive order instructs the Secretary of the Department of Education to coordinate with the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) to collect data “necessary to fully understand the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on students and educators, including data on the status of in-person learning.” IES Director Mark Schneider has proposed a similar school pulse survey conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) as part of Operation Reverse the Loss.

“We strongly concur with the Biden administration that there is tremendous need for data to understand how schools are operating during the pandemic and how students and teachers have been affected,” said AERA Executive Director Felice J. Levine. “The shift to remote learning and the economic downturn have exacerbated barriers and disparate effects faced by students of color, low-income students, and students with disabilities.

“As important as these data are to enable policymakers to respond to the educational impacts of COVID-19 mitigation strategies, we call on Congress to provide additional funding and staff to NCES to support this survey collection.”

In addition to data on the impact of COVID-19 on education, the executive order directs the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) to produce a report on the various consequences of the pandemic in all levels of education.

The executive order also calls for evidence-based guidance for reopening schools and the development of a Safer Schools and Campuses Best Practices Clearinghouse for sharing best practices to do so; technical assistance; and guidance to state and local agencies, institutions of higher education, and schools regarding distance and online learning, blended learning, and in-person learning, as well as the promotion of mental health, social-emotional well-being, and communication with parents and families.