COVID-19 Policy

Department of Ed and CDC Release District COVID Dashboard

Two federal agencies have released a new COVID-19 dashboard to publicize how the virus is hitting K-12 schools. The new dashboard, produced by the U.S. Department of Education and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), aggregates data on pediatric COVID-19 cases, youth vaccination rates and numbers on schools that are operating in-person, hybrid or remote.

The agencies said the data would be updated weekly and, where possible, presented geographically so that users, including educators and families, could view the impact of COVID in their communities. Location filters include states and districts.

The agencies also announced a plan to work with The Rockefeller Foundation, to speed up school-based screening testing for students and staff.

The data being used for the dashboard comes from a number of sources, and the agencies warned that it wasn't guaranteed to be "100% accurate." Sources include: Burbio's school opening tracker, MCH Strategic Data's district operational status updates, the Return2Learn tracker, and state dashboards.

To present data on school modalities, CDC researchers worked with the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory to define a model for estimating the most likely learning modality (in-person, hybrid and remote) for public and public charter school districts nationwide. These findings were originally presented in a recently published CDC report, and now CDC will be providing the data on a weekly basis.

The two agencies also recently teamed up with the Rockefeller Foundation to make it easier for schools to set up testing.

This program grew out of President Biden's Covid-19 Action Plan announced in September. The administration called on schools to set up regular testing for students, teachers and staff and provided $10 billion in funding for Covid-19 "screening testing" in K-12 schools -- in addition to the $130 billion provided to states and school districts that may also be used for testing.

The Rockefeller Foundation has been providing resources to schools on setting up testing programs since the early days of the pandemic – including by piloting screening testing programs to gather insights on how best to structure testing in K-12 schools; establishing a K-12 National Testing Action Program to connect school leaders and parents with labs and manufacturers; and issuing a school playbook to offer step-by-step guidance to design and implement effective testing programs in schools.

The latest initiative has several aspects:

  • Providing staff to state health departments through the COVID Workforce Initiative "to coordinate, execute and expand on school-based COVID-19 testing, contact tracing/case investigation and other public health activities."

  • Producing a one-page start-up guide for schools on how to launch screening testing programs.

  • Holding weekly "office hours" to connect schools to national testing experts to set up and sustain screening testing programs.

  • Launching an online directory for schools to identify a provider and get started with testing within their states.

  • Releasing a one-page fact sheet for districts on how to use relief funding in providing incentives to parents and guardians for participating in screening testing programs.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.