State education officials are pushing the federal Department of Education to clarify expectations for state school accountability systems that have been largely halted by two years of pandemic disruption and cancelled state summative tests.

“In some cases, we simply don’t have the data to calculate accountability scores using normal business rules,” said a Georgia Department of Education spokesperson. “That will necessitate some adjustments.” The comments — and coverage by The 74’s Linda Jacobson — come after state officials met with Secretary Miguel Cardona during a meeting hosted by the Council of Chief State School Officers on topics of accountability and pandemic recovery.

Elsewhere, attention being paid to the distribution and use of billions of dollars in federal school aid is increasing among state and federal lawmakers, education advocates and experts, and groups representing philanthropies, parents, and teachers. In a recent congressional hearing on the use and tracking of funds, Cindy Marten, the Education Department’s deputy secretary, said the department had approved 46 state spending plans, while some members of Congress and of both parties urged more robust transparency and reporting for how the money is spent.

“Spending 400% more on K through 12 schools than they normally receive from the Department of Education in one year should warrant transparency and accountability at the very least,” said Rep. Burgess Owens, R-Utah. Meanwhile, some states and districts — like Indiana and Baltimore — are taking matters into their own hands by calling for transparency in spending or even moving forward on local plans to more closely monitor the trails of funds.

Looking beyond issues of accountability and relief funds, here are ten other updates from across the country about how states and school systems are confronting the challenges posed by COVID-19 and its variants — and working to preserve student learning amid the pandemic:

CONNECTICUT — Saturday Academies Compose One Tool for Hartford’s Learning Recovery

Multiple school buildings in Hartford, Connecticut, will be open and accessible on Saturdays as part of a new program aimed at offering learning acceleration opportunities to students who may have fallen behind during the pandemic. Local leaders hope the “Saturday Academies” will serve more than 800 students and offer a range of supports, from academic to physical and emotional. The program is estimated to cost $1.5 million, will be paid for by federal relief aid, and will run for the next three years.

Read the full article about COVID learning loss by Joshua Parrish at The 74.