Helping Students Heal

The education blogosphere, as well as the general media, is full of articles dealing with opening schools in the fall, keeping students safe, social distancing by lowering class size, doubling the number of buses, and other, expensive fixes. Additionally, schools will have to take into consideration the mental and emotional health of students and deal with the multiple traumas they will carry with them.

As of this writing (June 3, 2020), the death toll from COVID-19 in the US is over 105,000 which has left hundreds of thousands of Americans grieving for their lost loved ones. Many have had to postpone or forego funerals and memorials in order to stay safe themselves. Among those who have lost family members are thousands of children who, already traumatized by the fear of illness or the loss of contact with their friends and teachers, are further hurt by the very real loss of parents, grandparents, relatives, teachers, or friends.

The coronavirus pandemic has caused economic trauma, too…and with economic trauma comes social upheaval as families living from paycheck to paycheck start to panic when the food runs out…when the rent or mortgage is due…when the insurance coverage ends.

And we can’t talk about social upheaval without acknowledging the excessive number of deaths of Black Americans and the damage to communities of color by the racism present in Amerian society…racism which is exacerbated by economic trauma and political cowardice. The current political upheaval around the country will also traumatize students before they return to school in the fall, no matter how much their parents try to protect them from it.

Public schools have always been a stable force in students’ lives and when the next school year begins — whenever that is — they will have to take on the additional role of helping students heal from multiple traumas.

How can teachers and schools help their students and likely their families, too, heal after the pandemic and the societal upheaval?

1. CANCEL THE TESTS

First, cancel the state (and other) standardized tests. We already know that standardized test scores reflect the economic conditions in which a child is raised. We can just as easily rank schools and children using their family income if ranking must be done; the results will be the same. In any event, subjecting children to the added stress of standardized tests which for some determines whether they go on to the next grade is too painful to even consider.

Why shouldn’t high stakes testing be abandoned next year?

It would also waste precious instructional time, waste resources, and provide meaningless bad data. Look– if testing really worked, if it really told us all the things that guys like Toch want to claim it does, don’t you think teachers would be clamoring for it? If it were an actual valuable tool, don’t you think that teachers, struggling with spotty resources against unprecedented challenges, would be hollering, “If I’m going to try to do this, at least find a way to get me those invaluable Big Standardized Test!”

But no– in the midst of this hard shot to the foundations of public education, a lot of professional educators are taking a hard look at what is really essential, what they really need to get the job done. The Big Standardized Test didn’t make the cut. We don’t need the “smart testing,” especially since it isn’t very smart anyway. We just need smart teachers with the resources they need to do the work.

Note the last sentence, “…with the resources they need to do the work.” Canceling the tests will save money, too…millions of dollars. With the likelihood of budget cuts coming, that’s money that we can’t afford to spend on wasteful tests.

2. INTRODUCE A HEALING CURRICULUM

Second, build the new curriculum around healing…and that starts with recess and free time.

A proposal for what post-coronavirus schools should do

Play is urgently relevant to the new education world that will emerge from the coronavirus pandemic. “Play can mitigate stress,” Dr. Yogman tells us. “The executive function skills that kids develop through play can promote resilience, and play can restore safe and nurturing relationships with parents, teachers and other children, which also promotes resilience. That’s got to be our goal when kids get back to school. At every level, in our schools, homes, and communities, our social structures have to acknowledge the magnitude of stress all families, especially those with young children will experience, and design programs that mitigate that, including lots of physical activity and play.”

Schools should focus on developing good relationships between teachers and students. My 2020 Teachers New Year’s Resolution #4 was Develop Positive Relationships. In it, I quoted Educational Historian Jack Schneider,

But what policy elites don’t talk about—what they may not even know about, having themselves so little collective teaching experience—is how much relationships matter in our nation’s classrooms. Yes it matters that history teachers know history and chemistry teachers know chemistry. But it also matters that history teachers know their students, and that chemistry teachers know how to spot a kid in need. It matters that teachers have strong academic backgrounds. But it also matters that they can relate to young people—that they see them, hear them, and care for them.

Now, more than ever, students need consistent, caring adults in their lives. Teachers can be among those adults.

To paraphrase Schneider, above, yes, it matters that we teach reading, math, science, and history. But it also matters that teachers know their students and can spot children in need. It matters that teachers can relate to young people — see them, hear them, and care for them. Learning improves when teachers and students form personal relationships.

3. DIVERT MONEY BACK TO PUBLIC SCHOOLS

Stop sending needed public funds to unaccountable private institutions. We can’t afford to support three competing school systems (public, charters, and vouchers) with one pot of public funding. It’s time we direct our focus on investing in our public school system.

Research | Public Funds Public Schools

A wide range of research shows that private school voucher programs are an ineffective use of public funds…

Private School Vouchers Don’t Improve Student Achievement…

Private School Vouchers Divert Needed Funding from Public Schools…

Private School Voucher Programs Lack Accountability…

Absence of Oversight in Private School Voucher Programs Leads to Corruption and Waste…

Private School Vouchers Don’t Help Students with Disabilities…

Private School Vouchers Don’t Protect Against Discrimination…

Private School Vouchers Exacerbate Segregation…

Universal Private School Voucher Programs Don’t Work…

Charters, as well, have proven to be an experiment that has not lived up to its promises.

Student Achievement in Charter Schools: What the Research Says

The evidence on the effectiveness of charter schools in raising student achievement is, at best, mixed. There is no consistent evidence that charter schools are the answer to our education problems. A research literature that focuses on finding and studying “high-quality” charter schools naturally misleads the public about the average impact of all charter schools and demonstrates that academic performance in most charter schools is underwhelming.

At best, charters do no better than real public schools. It’s time to move the funding back to public schools where it belongs.

And yes, this means that there needs to be a change in leadership in Indianapolis and Washington. In order to divert public funds back to public education, and make sure there’s enough money for our public schools — aka our future — we need to throw out the anti-public education politicians. Elections matter.

🙋🏻🚌🙋🏽‍♂️

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Filed under Charters, Pandemic, Play Kid's Work, PositiveRelationships, Public Ed, Recess, SchoolFunding, Testing, Trauma, vouchers

Tuesdays, Twice a Month

“I don’t like eating,” he often said. “I only eat because I have to.”

I ordered quesadillas. He ordered a tuna salad sandwich that came with a dish of fruit and a big bowl of chicken soup. He always ended up packing half of his meal in a take-home box because it was too much. He didn’t like eating.

When the food came he would pull out his syringe and give himself a shot of insulin. He was proud of how well he did in managing his medication. The need for insulin had come later in his life, but he studied, learned how to take care of himself, and felt confident that he knew what he was doing.

We changed restaurants every now and then. The last change was because he had moved and the previous places we had gone to were too far away from his new home. We also switched from breakfast twice a month to lunch twice a month. He did “stuff” in the morning.

We talked while we ate…often about how the technology that we had understood so well in the mid-80s had passed us by. He’d pull out an index card with questions on it. “How do I fix this?” “Why isn’t that working the way it’s supposed to work?” More often than not I’d have to Google the answer, and I always reminded him that he could do the same and figure it out that way. Still, I’d get the answer on my phone and he’d write it down on his index card to take home. The next day he’d email or text me with another question…or tell me how my idea worked…or didn’t work. Sometimes we’d talk on the phone. Now and then a problem would come up that needed immediate attention and I would help him over the phone. Every couple of months I’d go to his house after lunch and we’d work together on his latest tech problem. Other times he’d tell me that he figured out what was wrong and we’d just sit and browse the net together.

We’d also talk about religion, economics, politics, world peace, or personal issues. We both agreed that the world would be a much better place if we made him our benevolent dictator. He promised to make health care available for everyone. That got my vote.

Our politics and philosophies of life were similar. His quirky sense of humor would be the catalyst for jokes about certain public figures. We laughed so we wouldn’t cry.

We were friends for a long time before we adopted the routine of eating together twice a month which only began after I retired. Before that, while we were both still teaching, we talked less often… usually through email.

We’d meet each other at the full system staff gathering at the beginning of each school year and find a place to sit together…now and then we’d spend the time backstage watching the speakers from there. We traveled to the state teachers union Representative Assembly together. The ride to Indy was like the lunches we were to have years later…uninterrupted time to share. During the Assembly, we’d comment about the speakers, have lunch, and enjoy the ride home.

We discussed our students and shared what we did in our two, very different classrooms. If something entertaining happened in his classroom I’d read about it in an email the next day. If I needed help of one kind or another I would email him. There was a period of time in the early 2000s when I needed help fairly often. I could always count on receiving his insights and suggestions.

In later years he would frequently remark on how much he liked working with his students. We both liked being able to help kids “become human.”

When he retired I remember thinking how amazing it was that he had taught as many years as he had. And I noticed how the teachers union Representative Assemblies weren’t as much fun after that.

When I retired we started our twice-monthly meals — the first and third Tuesdays of each month.

We sometimes missed our meal together. I spent some time in the hospital during the last few years, (though I could always count on his visit)…one or the other of us went on a trip…there were doctor appointments and the like. But most of the time I’d email or text him on Monday and say, “Lunch tomorrow?” He would invariably reply, “Can’t wait. Lots to share.”

Now that he’s gone, the first and third Tuesdays of each month aren’t going to be as much fun anymore.

“Kindness is the foundation for peace and happiness.”
💾🖥💻

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Filed under Friendship, Personal History, Retirement

2020 Medley #11: DeVos, Cuts, and Online education

DeVos privatizes with pandemic funds,
The cuts have already begun,
Selfish Americans, the Digital Divide,
Real schools are better than online

DEVOS USES PANDEMIC TO FURTHER DAMAGE PUBLIC EDUCATION

Arne Duncan, Barack Obama’s Secretary of Education said that Hurricane Katrina was “the best thing that happened to the education system in New Orleans.” The test scores of students in New Orleans did improve, though that was likely due to increased funding (by nearly $1400 per student) and the fact that the number of students living in poverty decreased significantly. In any case, the point is that Duncan ignored the suffering of hundreds of thousands of Americans as an excuse to privatize public education.

Not to be outdone by this, Betsy DeVos is all for using the suffering of millions and the deaths of tens of thousands to support privatizing public education throughout the entire country.

Taking Duncan one step further, DeVos has ignored Congressional intent for the millions of dollars set aside to support public schools that serve all children and manipulated its distribution with “guidelines” intended to dump more than originally intended into the coffers of private and religious schools.

Just how much damage can this administration do to public education, and the rest of the country, before they are finally replaced next January?

Betsy DeVos Is Using The Coronavirus Pandemic To Push School Vouchers

Vouchers are a bad policy idea during the best of times, and during this pandemic, they’re even worse. Voucher programs don’t improve student achievement, lack appropriate oversight and accountability and, of course, violate religious freedom by forcing taxpayers to fund religious education at private schools. Public schools need public funds desperately right now. They must pay teachers and staff, provide technology and distance learning, support struggling students, and survive budget cuts. The last thing public schools need during a pandemic is DeVos’ unaccountable, unfair, and ineffective voucher agenda.

Small Things: Secretary DeVos, Twitter, and Teachers Vs. Charters

…I think it’s worth highlighting once again that we have a Secretary of Education who is not a supporter of public education or the people who work there, who is, in fact, far more excited about a privately-run system for replacing the institution that she is charged with overseeing. I can’t say that it’s highly abnormal, because the office has never attracted many people who really support public education, but it’s still weird that when public school teachers look up at state and federal authorities, they find people who are lined up against them. It’s a weird way to run a national education system.

DeVos Funnels Coronavirus Relief Funds to Favored Private and Religious Schools

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is using the $2 trillion coronavirus stabilization law to throw a lifeline to education sectors she has long championed, directing millions of federal dollars intended primarily for public schools and colleges to private and religious schools.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, signed in late March, included $30 billion for education institutions turned upside down by the pandemic shutdowns, about $14 billion for higher education, $13.5 billion to elementary and secondary schools, and the rest for state governments.

Ms. DeVos has used $180 million of those dollars to encourage states to create “microgrants” that parents of elementary and secondary school students can use to pay for educational services, including private school tuition. She has directed school districts to share millions of dollars designated for low-income students with wealthy private schools.

Asked whether she is using crisis to support private school choice, DeVos says ‘yes, absolutely’

“Am I correct in understanding what your agenda is?” [Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the Catholic archbishop of New York] asks.

“Yes, absolutely,” DeVos responded. “For more than three decades that has been something that I’ve been passionate about. This whole pandemic has brought into clear focus that everyone has been impacted, and we shouldn’t be thinking about students that are in public schools versus private schools.”

The comments are DeVos’ clearest statement to date about how she hopes to pull the levers of federal power to support students already in — or who want to attend — private schools. She has already made that intention clear with her actions: releasing guidance that would effectively direct more federal relief funds to private schools, and using some relief dollars to encourage states to support alternatives to traditional public school districts.

THE CUTS HAVE ALREADY BEGUN

Schools Will Need Help to Recover

States are going to have to make up the money lost during the coronavirus pandemic somewhere, and if past history is any guide the public schools are going to suffer (Indiana schools are still waiting for money promised after the 2008 cuts). DeVos’s redistribution of funds intended for public schools is just the first in a long line of cuts to public schools.

The cuts have already begun, and they’re sobering. In April alone, nearly 470,000 public school employees across America were furloughed or laid off. That’s 100,000 more teachers and school staff who lost their jobs than during the worst point of the Great Recession a decade ago. At the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, we are closely analyzing state budget gaps because we know the tremendous harm that can result from funding cuts.

Recently, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, a Republican, announced plans to cut $300 million in K-12 funding and $100 million in college and university funding for the current year. Meanwhile, Georgia’s top budget officials told the state’s schools to plan for large cuts for next year that will almost certainly force districts to lay off teachers and other workers.

AMERICAN SELFISHNESS

Weekend Quotables

Mike Klonsky, in his Weekend Quotables series, posted this picture. The residents of Flint, Michigan, while the state claims that the water is now ok, and 85% of the city’s pipes have been replaced, are still scared to drink their water. Meanwhile, some Americans are more concerned with their appearance than human lives…insisting that wearing masks make them “look ridiculous” or demanding haircuts.

DIGITAL (CLASS) DIVIDE

The Class Divide: Remote Learning at 2 Schools, Private and Public (Dana Goldstein)

Dana Goldstein, the author of The Teacher Wars, compares two different schools facing the coronavirus pandemic requirement to close. This is a clear description of how money provides more opportunities for some children than others.

Private school students are more likely to live in homes with good internet access, computers and physical space for children to focus on academics. Parents are less likely to be working outside the home and are more available to guide young children through getting online and staying logged in — entering user names and passwords, navigating between windows and programs. And unlike their public-school counterparts, private school teachers are generally not unionized, giving their employers more leverage in laying out demands for remote work.

ONLINE ED CANNOT REPLACE REAL SCHOOLS

Why online education can’t replace brick-and-mortar K-12 schooling

In the Public Interest has gathered research on online education, revealing a track record of poor academic performance, lack of equity and access, and concerns about privacy. Take a look…

Coronavirus has put the future of K-12 public education in question. School districts, teachers, and staff are mobilizing to provide students with online learning, emotional care, meals, and other support. Meanwhile, online education companies—with the ideological backing of right-wing think tanks—are aiming to further privatize public education and profit off of students.

It goes without saying that online education can’t replace the in-person teaching, social interaction, and—for many students—calories that a brick-and-mortar public school provides. However, that isn’t stopping some from arguing that much if not all of K-12 education should stay online after the crisis.

🚌💲🚌

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Filed under Article Medleys, DeVos, DigitalDivide, Duncan, Flint, Lead, NewOrleans, OnlineLearning, Pandemic, poverty, Privatization, SchoolFunding

Have you ever met children?

We Cannot Return to Campus this Fall

Harley Litzelman, Oakland public high school teacher and union organizer, has written a piece for Medium that likely echoes the thoughts of the majority of America’s public school teachers.

We cannot and dare not return to school this fall.

Read the whole post.

The “reimagining” of public education by non-educators now taking place in board rooms and government offices throughout the country fails to take into account the fact that children are not adults. Trying to force students into social distancing while on the bus, in the classroom, in the cafeteria, and on the playground will result in the very worst kind of educational practices.

Litzelman, a high school teacher, tries his hand at explaining how social distancing would likely fail in elementary schools.

No more group seating. No story time on the carpet. No small group stations. Coloring must be strictly monitored to eliminate sharing, probably requiring children to keep their own personal sets of crayons and markers, revealing stark class differences within classrooms and between schools. No fingers in the mouth or nose, and several minutes spent washing their hands after they inevitably forget. They, too, cannot get out of their seats during class, and no longer can they enjoy the couches and bean bag chairs that their teachers have acquired. Again is the time to ask: Have you ever met children?

The preceding paragraph follows a description of how difficult — and costly — it will be to double or triple the number of buses needed to transport the kids to school, rearrange classrooms and attendance days, and serve lunches. Young children are physical. Young children cannot keep their hands away from their faces. They cannot keep from touching other people and objects and teachers can’t force them to no matter how hard they try and no matter how many times their teachers tell them to. How much time will need to be spent washing hands? To assume that 5-8-year-olds can “social distance” is to 1) assume that their classroom teachers have magical powers and 2) exhibit extreme ignorance about the nature of children.

Where will the supplies come from that high school teachers need to disinfect the desks and chairs between classes? It’s insanity to assume that school districts will pay for disinfectant spray or wipes when states are going bankrupt, legislatures have been cutting school budgets, and teachers are already spending their own money on supplies and food for their students. And what about those states that support public funding of three different school systems — public schools, charter schools, and private/parochial schools?

And then there are the high school students. They won’t all comply with all the new pandemic rules of social distancing because teenagers are a non-compliant bunch. They will expose themselves, their classmates, their teachers, and their families to possible illness.

…it won’t happen. It won’t happen because teachers already spend an average of $479 per year on classroom expenses without reimbursement, and there’s no reason to believe that every school will suddenly be able to provide their staff with millions of antimicrobial wipes and thousands of gallons of disinfectant spray. It won’t happen because students will recognize the ample contradictions between the rules they’re asked to follow and the enclosed spaces they’re expected to fill. They’ll balk at administrators demanding that they separate from their friends while asking them to go to class and sit just as close to their peers. They’ll pinpoint the differences in enforcement, identifying teachers who are “cool” with eating in class and who are not. It won’t happen because the children of shelter-in-place protesters won’t reject their parents’ politics, and they will find teachers and principals who agree with them. It won’t happen because it is a regime that demands students to leave their authentic selves at home, selves that students are prohibited from nurturing in bombastic conversations at lunch and quiet moments of intimacy with their first romantic partners. It demands that teachers forfeit the interactions that brought them into teaching in the first place: working side-by-side with kids until that light bulb goes off, giving queer kids the only space to be themselves. It is a regime that cannot survive, and throughout its rise and fall, the virus will spread…

Adults are fighting about who to believe. Do you believe the President? The doctors? The armed protesters pushing their way into the statehouse? How can we expect students of all ages to trust the school system to keep them safe?

How will the school system treat the parent who doesn’t believe that it’s safe for their child to come back to school? How will the school system treat the parent who doesn’t believe that the pandemic is real?

How can we expect teachers, parents, and students to agree on how to structure our “reimagined” schools when the government and medical communities can’t agree on when to open stores, how many people need to wear masks, and how much social distancing is necessary?

We cannot return to campus this fall. We cannot return until the public health community has reached a consensus that physical distancing and constant, obsessive sanitation at schools are no longer necessary to stop the spread of COVID-19. If this means that we cannot return until an effective vaccine has been widely disseminated, then that is what it means…

Instead, we need to wait until there is a preventative treatment for the pandemic. We need to wait until there is a treatment for those who become ill.

In the meantime teachers need time to adjust to internet teaching…and we must make sure that all students have access to their internet-based teachers.

This summer, we can give teachers time to do what they do best, but did not have the time to do before: Plan. Collaborate. Share tricks and best practices. Finally figure out how to work Zoom. Debate the ethics of grading and acceptable volumes of work. Fight tooth-and-nail for universal Internet and 1:1 computer access for all students, as Oakland teachers are already doing. We can build the best learning experiences we can under the awful circumstances we are handed because that is what we do anyway.

We must also not give up the concept of live, face-to-face interaction in a classroom. That’s where relationships between students and teachers begin. And good relationships between students and teachers is where good teaching begins.

…we must remember that nearly 75 percent of online charter school students are enrolled in programs that graduate less than half of their students within four years. We must learn the lesson of Hurricane Katrina, which Obama Education Secretary Arne Duncan called “the best thing that happened to the education system in New Orleans,” when Louisiana illegally fired more than 7,000 predominantly Black teachers and remade the city into a charter school paradise. We must make it clear that we teachers want nothing more than to see our kids on campus again, but that we simply cannot return until it is safe. Until then, we resist all attempts to exploit this crisis and profit from its misery.

Or we take the other road; we reopen. We begin this grand experiment of bad teaching. We can hope that student rebellion, adult intransigence, institutional failure, and political cowardice aren’t enough to restart the exponential spread of the disease. We can hope that the daily lapses in judgment made every day on every campus, at scale across more than 56 million students herded into 132,000 K-12 schools in the United States, aren’t enough to derail the public health outcomes we desire. We can pretend that school-age children are too young to suffer the worst of this pandemic…

Does anyone honestly think that politicians, especially the pro-privatization politicians who overwhelmingly inhabit state legislatures, will allocate enough money to pay for all the supplies, schedule adjustments, and training needed to accommodate teachers and students in socially distancing classrooms?

The health and safety of our children and the adults who work in their schools depend on our using reason and facts when deciding how to attack the problem of how to educate children during a global pandemic. The politicians, policy-makers, and pundits have already done enough damage to public education because they assume that since they were once students, they “know education.”

This would be a good point to mention that any plans we have for the beginning of the next school year must include plans for students who have unique needs. What do we do for students who need translators? How do we include students who might have special learning needs? Public schools are more than just distributors of information.

🚌🏫🚌

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2020 Medley #10: Thoughts on Reimagining Public Schools

Thoughts on Reimagining Public Schools

GOV. CUOMO CALLS ON BILLIONAIRES

Screen New Deal: Under Cover of Mass Death, Andrew Cuomo Calls in the Billionaires to Build a High-Tech Dystopia

When it’s time to fix society’s problems — with established ideas or innovations — politicians call on billionaires even if they have no training or experience in the area needing help: economics, education, government, whatever.

Andrew Cuomo has handled the coronavirus pandemic in his state of New York with what many people believe to be high-quality governance. He’s helped his state through the toughest parts of the pandemic with poise and confidence. Now it’s time to plan for the future…so what does he do? He calls on billionaires.

One of the billionaires is Bill Gates. Cuomo has asked Gates to help develop a “smarter education system.” This directive assumes that Gates and his foundation have the ability to create such a system. Unfortunately, Gates’s ideas for school reform haven’t worked in the past, and there’s no indication that they will work on the other side of the pandemic. Gates has no experience in public education. He didn’t attend public schools. He has no teaching qualifications and never worked in a public school. His only experience in education is throwing money into his inexperienced and often poorly thought out educational programs. [For some information on the failures of Bill Gates’s education “innovations” see here, here, here, here, and here. See also Anthony Cody’s book, The Educator and the Oligarch: A Teacher Challenges the Gates Foundation]

Naomi Klein writes…

Just one day earlier, Cuomo had announced a similar partnership with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to develop “a smarter education system.” Calling Gates a “visionary,” Cuomo said the pandemic has created “a moment in history when we can actually incorporate and advance [Gates’s] ideas … all these buildings, all these physical classrooms — why with all the technology you have?” he asked, apparently rhetorically.

It has taken some time to gel, but something resembling a coherent Pandemic Shock Doctrine is beginning to emerge. Call it the “Screen New Deal.” Far more high-tech than anything we have seen during previous disasters, the future that is being rushed into being as the bodies still pile up treats our past weeks of physical isolation not as a painful necessity to save lives, but as a living laboratory for a permanent — and highly profitable — no-touch future.

The School Year Really Ended in March

This New York Times “Economic View” calls for investing millions of federal dollars to help those kids who have been left behind by the pandemic to catch up. The idea of helping students learn…and helping students catch up is a good one. The idea of increasing federal funding to help the students is also good. Beyond that, there’s not too much innovation in this other than in paying underqualified and unemployed college graduates to tutor students who fell behind during the pandemic. Teach for America, anyone?

The federal government can tap unused energy and talent by funding a big domestic volunteer effort for our schools, in the style of AmeriCorps. There will be far too many unemployed college students — and graduates — in the coming years, because recessions always hit young workers the hardest.

Young people could be paid a stipend to tutor, troubleshoot technology for online classes, assist teachers (virtually or in person) and disinfect classrooms. High school students who typically work during the summer and after school could be paid to attend classes themselves.

IDEAS FROM ACTUAL STAKEHOLDERS

Instead of billionaires might Governor Cuomo (and the rest of the nation) do better to ask people who actually have a stake in the public schools? Shouldn’t we rely on people who attend, work in, or send their children to the public schools? Why do we insist that so-called “business leaders” make decisions about public education with little or no input from teachers?

Ask Moms How to Reimagine Public Schools!

Nancy Bailey asked moms how they thought schools should be “reimagined.” I don’t know the economic status of the moms who were asked…Cuomo might discount their responses because some might not be billionaires, but these are the people whose kids go to public schools.

Bailey listed 23 ideas. Federal funding would be better directed towards these instead of more screen time and more “test and punish.”

For Mother’s Day, I asked Moms what they wanted from their public schools. I collected their comments and added a few of my own. Feel free to add to the list.

1. The Arts. All schools must provide arts education. Music, painting, dance, acting, students thrive with exposure to a rich arts program.

2. Assessment. Drop the high-stakes standardized testing! Mothers know these tests were never about their children. Moms started the Opt-Out Movement! Have less assessment and more teacher-chosen tests to determine student progress.

3. Cafeterias…

4. Career-Technical Education. Students benefit from classes in Career-Technical Education (CTE).

5. Communication. School officials and teachers must stay in touch. Politeness and positivity in forms and business information go a long way with parents.

6. Community. Schools are the hub of the community. Moms want the community to get behind their public schools.

7. Curriculum. Students deserve a rich variety of classes. Elementary students need social studies and science. Civics must be addressed in high school. Many mothers want to see the return of classes like Home Economics and business education. Their students need to understand personal management and life skills.

8. Diversity. Laura Bowman, who’s on the Board of Directors of Parents Across America, reminded us of the need to recruit more teachers of color. Classes should reflect cultural differences. We will never become a better nation if we don’t bring children together.

10. Individuality…11. Joy!…12. Libraries…13. Play…14. Physical Education…15. Safety…16. School Boards…17. School Buildings…18. Socialization…19. Special Education…20. Teachers…21. Technology…22. Reading…23. Recess…

One More Question…..

When John Merrow graduated from Harvard with an Ed.D he applied for a job as a school superintendent. They asked him…

“Dr. Merrow…If we hire you to be our School Superintendent, what’s the biggest change you would want to make in our schools?”

His answer was to keep all third graders in place until they could all read. A shocking answer…and one I don’t think he meant literally. On the other hand, he has several more ideas to add including some Nancy Bailey’s collection of moms suggested.

1) Suspension of all high stakes machine-scored bubble tests for at least two years. Use the savings for teaching materials and teacher salaries.

2) Frequent measurement of academic progress, led by teachers, guided by an “assess to improve” philosophy. That is, lots of low-stakes assessments.

3) End-of-year testing of a randomized sample of students, which would produce a reliable analysis of how the entire student body is doing. Sampling is done in every other aspect of society (including when your doctor withdraws a sample of your blood!). It’s far less expensive and highly reliable.

4) A rich and varied curriculum that includes at least five short breaks for recess every day in all elementary schools. Play is essential!

5) A strong commitment to project-based learning, preferably involving students from other schools (perhaps in other states and countries).

6) A school environment that celebrates accomplishments of all sorts–and not just athletics!

7) A school environment that promotes inquiry, one in which it is safe to say “I don’t know” and praiseworthy to be curious. It’s not enough for schools to be physically safe for students. They must also be emotionally and intellectually safe.

8) A public rejection of the philosophy of ‘sorting’ because our economy and our democracy need everyone to be educated to their fullest capacity. 

TESTING, TESTING, TOO MUCH TESTING

Why Johnny Can’t Read? It’s Complicated, Ms. Hanford.

As long as we’re reimagining education, let’s take a look at reading…my particular interest.

When I reimagine reading instruction in public education I imagine a system without wasteful and damaging standardized tests. I imagine a school where students have choices in their reading. I imagine a school where students are not punished if they learn to read more slowly than their peers.

It’s past time to end standardized testing. The tests don’t provide much help to teachers and are part of a massive system of misuse. A standardized test shouldn’t be used to punish a child who takes more time to learn, evaluate a teacher, or grade a school system. Using tests in that way invalidates them. On the other hand, standardized tests do a good job of identifying a child’s race and economic status.

Reading is a big issue in the U.S. The “reading wars” have been bouncing back and forth from “whole language” to “intense phonics” for decades. Many states have third-grade reading laws designed to retain children in third grade until they can pass a reading test showing that they can read “at grade level.” As usual, the reading test is one that is standardized. As usual, the test divides children based on their racial and economic status.

Instead of testing we should help children learn to read by taking them from where they are, to where they can be, using all the techniques available…not just phonics.

There are numerous reasons that some children have trouble reading. It’s not just phonics; it’s not just poor instruction; it’s not just poverty. Here is just the first of a series of posts on why some children have trouble learning to read by Russ Walsh — make sure you check out the later entries as well. Not all children have the same needs. Can we reimagine a public education where all children get what they need?

My old history professor, George Turner, used to warn me away from simple explanations in history. He said that historical events were best understood through the concept of the multiplicity of inter-causation: Lots of things conspire to make something happen or not happen. We might remember that the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand in Sarajevo led to the First World War, but that is an oversimplification. Various alliances, increasing militarization, imperialism, and nationalism were all contributing factors. We may remember the Watergate break-in precipitated Nixon’s downfall, but Nixon’s arrogance, pettiness, racism, mendacity, and paranoia all played a role.

So, it is with reading difficulty. The answer to why some children do not learn to read is complex. And, therefore, the solutions must match that complexity. Until we recognize this fact, we will continue to search for simple solutions that will inevitably fail.

Reimagine Public Education: A place where all children get what they need.
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Children Learn What They Live, 2020 version

Children Learn What They Live
By Dorothy Law Nolte, Ph.D.
Copyright © 1972 by Dorothy Law Nolte

OUR CHILDREN ARE WATCHING

If children live with criticism, they learn to condemn.

If children live with hostility, they learn to fight.

“The president’s attacks have done some damage,” Fox News anchor Chris Wallace said Wednesday at an event at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. He cited a Freedom Forum Institute poll this year where more than three-quarters of Americans said “fake news” is a serious threat to democracy.

“I believe President Trump is engaged in the most direct, sustained assault on freedom of the press in our history,” Wallace said.

If children live with fear, they learn to be apprehensive.

The ICE raids, carried out under the leadership of a Donald Trump-appointed US attorney, took place at seven food processing plants in six Mississippi cities. Photographs of crying children left distraught when their parents were taken into custody immediately went viral worldwide.

Father Jeremy Tobin, a Catholic priest who works with the Mississippi Immigrants Rights Alliance (Mira), told the Guardian he had been flooded with worried calls and messages from immigrants, documented and undocumented alike.

If children live with pity, they learn to feel sorry for themselves.

The world has loved, hated and envied the U.S. Now, for the first time, we pity it — Fintan O’Toole

If children live with ridicule, they learn to feel shy.

If children live with jealousy, they learn to feel envy.

Trump seems terrified that history will look more kindly on Obama’s presidency than on his own.

If children live with shame, they learn to feel guilty.

Peter Alexander, White House correspondent at NBC News, asked the US president: “What do you say to Americans, who are watching you right now, who are scared?”

Erupting in anger, Trump unleashed a tirade: “I say that you’re a terrible reporter. That’s what I say. I think it’s a very nasty question and I think it’s a very bad signal that you’re putting out to the American people.”

WHAT WE WOULD LIKE CHILDREN TO SEE

If children live with encouragement, they learn confidence.

In the middle of difficulty there is opportunity. – Albert Einstein

If children live with tolerance, they learn patience.

We either overcome our innate tribalism and learn to live amicably together, or this experiment we call America is over. — Sheila Kennedy

If children live with praise, they learn appreciation.

Blessed is he who has learned to admire but not envy, to follow but not imitate, to praise but not flatter, and to lead but not manipulate. —- William Arthur Ward

If children live with acceptance, they learn to love.
If children live with approval, they learn to like themselves.

A man cannot be comfortable without his own approval. – Mark Twain

If children live with recognition, they learn it is good to have a goal.

The deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated. -– William James.

If children live with sharing, they learn generosity.

Nothing is yours. It is to use. It is to share. If you will not share it, you cannot use it. ― Ursula K. Le Guin, The Dispossessed

If children live with honesty, they learn truthfulness.

MARIANA: Come, let’s return again, and suffice ourselves with the report of it. Well, Diana, take heed of this French earl: the honour of a maid is her name; and no legacy is so rich as honesty. ― William Shakespeare, All’s Well That Ends Well

If children live with fairness, they learn justice.

Fairness does not mean everyone gets the same. Fairness means everyone gets what they need. ― Rick Riordan, The Red Pyramid

If children live with kindness and consideration, they learn respect.

There are three ways to ultimate success: The first way is to be kind. The second way is to be kind. The third way is to be kind. — Fred Rogers

If children live with security, they learn to have faith in themselves and in those about them.
If children live with friendliness, they learn the world is a nice place in which to live.

Studies routinely show that students learn better when they feel safe, for example. Yet interventions that focus on visible signs of safety—metal detectors, wand searches, and so on—have not been found to deter crime and actually can make students feel less safe at school. What does reduce bullying and make students feel safer? According to an analysis of the National Crime Victimization Survey, only one intervention: more adults visible and talking to students in the hallways, a mark of a climate with better adult-student relationships.

ROLE MODELS

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School in the time of Coronavirus #3 – Some Questions

Sadly, this post consists mostly of questions.

What is the impact that the pandemic-induced closure of America’s public schools has had and will have on our children? How are families coping with teaching and learning at home? How are teachers coping with learning the new skills needed to reach their students?

How will public education cope with the economic loss that is sure to come from the coronavirus pandemic? Where does the education of children rank as a priority for state and federal policymakers? Whose voice will be raised in support of public schools?

What will public education look like post-pandemic? Will public education continue to exist? Will states have enough money to fully fund public schools.

Indiana funds three different school systems — public schools, privately run charter schools, and private/parochial schools. How will we have enough money to pay for even one of these three publicly funded school systems? Who will be shortchanged?

ADJUSTMENTS

Teachers, parents, and students have had to adjust to a new model of school. For those with internet access online school has become the norm with daily lessons, group video chats, and independent study. Parents are learning what it means to be a first-year teacher. Young children are losing out on important social/emotional learning. Older students must work through the loss of contact with friends, lost social events, and the lack of extra-curricular activities. Teachers are struggling to reach all their students, including those with no access to online resources. The public is beginning to understand the importance of a public school system that provides education for everyone, food for those in need, and intense services for students with special needs.

Parents and teachers are worried about the progress that students will make. The importance of classroom experiences is now understood by parents and the general public.

Does this mean that the media will stop bashing teachers?

Opting-Out of Remote Schooling and Opting-In to Play is an Option All Parents Can Choose

Should parents of young children opt-out of online learning? The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests screen time limits for children. Pasi Sahlberg and William Boyle’s recent book, Let the Children Play, shows us that play is important for young children.

How do parents balance the need for play and the worry that their child will fall behind in academics?

What about the loss of learning? How will they get promoted to the next grade? Won’t they get left behind? These are just some of the questions I hear when I advocate for parents opting out of remote schooling, and I understand that many parents are not sure this is the right decision. Honestly, there is no easy answer because a lot depends on whether your state plans to reopen schools this year and how they will proceed with reopening schools next year. But what we need to remember is that a temporary break in schooling is not the end of the world. Students who had their schooling interrupted during hurricanes Katrina and Sandy, recovered just fine. And given the multitude of inequities inherent in the push to remote instruction, schools will likely not be able to determine grade promotion based on what students are expected to do during this time. Many districts are exempting remote work from counting towards final grades or only expecting teachers to spend this time reviewing previous material. If we can cancel standardized testing across the country, we can get our students back in school in the next grade without expecting them to spend hours each day engaging in remote instruction.

Here are some questions I think you should ask when deciding if opting out of remote schooling is right for you:

• Is remote schooling causing additional stress on your child and your family?
• Is your child expected to be on a computer for two or more hours a day?
• Are you unable to stay on top of your work from home responsibilities and facilitate remote schooling?
• Does remote schooling bring your child and your family joy?

THE FUTURE

When we, as a nation, “rethink” education, whose ideas will take precedence? Will teachers have a voice? Will money continue to rule? Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is already pushing her privatization agenda…with no proof that privatization improves educational outcomes.

With COVID-19 as an ongoing threat, we’ll need to continue social distancing necessitating smaller classes. Where will the money come from to hire more teachers? or will we adjust the calendar instead? Some have suggested alternating weeks for students so a teacher can teach two small groups instead of one large group. Others have opted for alternating days. How will teachers enforce social distancing with four-, five-, and six-year-olds?

Where will we find the funds to do what’s best for our students if (when?) the nation’s (and world’s) economy slips into recession or depression?

How a Trump administration official is quietly exploiting the pandemic to advance her family business — and right-wing agenda

Betsy DeVos’s disdain for public schools is well known. She has no experience with “the others” who attend public school. Instead, she’s spent her adult life advocating for privatization while buying influence in the form of campaign donations. Her goal is to privatize public education as a way to bring “God’s Kingdom” to Earth. The disaster of a pandemic is her excuse to see her dream come to life. (See The Shock Doctrine). Disaster capitalism has energized her. It’s up to us to stop her.

Charter operators rolled out new marketing campaigns to lure families to enroll in their schools. And in national and local news outlets, advocates for charters, vouchers, and other forms of “school choice” helped forge a new media narrative about how the shuttering of the nation’s schools was an opportunity for parents and their children to leave public schools…

“This is an opportunity,” said DeVos in an interview with right-wing radio talk show host Glenn Beck, “to collectively look very seriously at the fact that K-12 education for too long has been very static and very stuck in one method of delivering and making instruction available.”

8 Ways to Save Public School Funding During and After Covid-19

Where will we get the money to lower class sizes and fund our public schools? Nancy Bailey suggests eight different things we can do to reclaim public funds for public education. The top three on my list are the same as hers — end the funding of charter schools, vouchers, and high stakes testing.

1. End Charter Schools
Why do we have two separate school systems that work against each other? This is the time to rethink charter schools. In “Federal Charter Schools Program a Fountain of Corruption and Disruption,” Thomas Ultican provides compelling reasons why charters have seen their day…

2. End Educational Scholarship Programs
It’s common knowledge that students who attend voucher schools don’t do as well as students in public school. Like charters, voucher schools are largely unaccountable to the public…

3. End High-Stakes Testing…

4. End Common Core State Standards…

9 Ways Schools Will Look Different When (And If) They Reopen

Here come the predictions for “tomorrow’s schools.”

…there are still many more unknowns than guarantees. Among the biggest, says Lily Eskelsen Garcia, president of the National Education Association, the nation’s largest teachers union, is this: “Is it safe and healthy for my kids to pack them into that classroom?”…

Based on the typical size of a classroom in New York City, 12 would be the most children you could accommodate while maintaining social distancing, says the UFT’s Mulgrew. At the International School in Denmark, they are grouping kids in classes of 10…

Every expert NPR spoke with predicted that the need for remote learning would continue because of staggered schedules, schools prepared to close again for future waves of infection, and many students needing remediation. And that means training and support for teachers, and equipment for children.

Eskelsen Garcia of the NEA says the equity issue is acute: “What we’ve been telling [political leaders] for years is the digital divide is hurting children.

THE DAMAGE OF COVID-19

Everyone has been hurt by the coronavirus pandemic. The damage has been physical…and emotional…and psychological. Our lives will likely never go back to what they were like before COVID-19. Like the years following the 1918 influenza pandemic, things will, hopefully, get better, but the impact will follow us until later generations have overcome the damage. Humans are adaptable. Whether we adapt to this new world is yet to be determined.

Children have had to adjust to being without their extended families, friends, and teachers. Worse, some have lost family members, friends, or teachers to COVID-19. How do children adjust to the death of their teachers? their friends? their family members?

In the meantime, curricular learning time has been lost, though a different kind of learning continues.

What’s more important, learning what is in the established curriculum, or learning how to survive a pandemic?

Every Child Left Behind

For all the good—and real—conversations about how invaluable school is in our national social and economic organization, there has been no solid, easily adopted plan for re-starting public education. We may end up with something that looks quite different at first, and we may morph—for much better or far worse—into a completely altered conception of how ‘school’ works.

Here’s an example: A friend posted the suggestion that students return to school in the classroom they were in when formal school ended, in March. That would, she argued, preserve teacher knowledge about students’ strengths and weaknesses and allow the most tailored, individualized instruction.

Immediately, her elementary-school colleagues started raising ‘buts’—but who will teach the new kindergartners? But what will the 7th grade receiving teachers do—will middle school also have to stay at the same level with the same teachers? But what about seniors? But I don’t want to teach the next-grade curriculum!

All of these arguments are based on the idea that all important knowledge and skills can be divided into thirteen neat slices and all students should encounter, engage with and even master these slices, in order, based on their age, before they can successfully navigate to the next grade or higher education or the world of work.

Which is ludicrous. Everyone—and especially teachers—knows this is absurd.

Grieving At Home, Kids Face Their Teachers’ Deaths

How do students handle the loss of a teacher or a friend? Can parents alone provide the support students need?

When teachers and school staff members die, they leave behind friends, family, colleagues. They also leave behind hundreds of children and teenagers whom they see nearly everyday. With widespread school closures, children have been left to grieve in isolation, sometimes experiencing the tragedy of death for the first time.

Schools have been offering counseling and holding online vigils. But without face-to-face interaction, it’s hard to know which students are struggling.

“We worry constantly that a student is going to be in need and we wouldn’t know it,” said Todd Minichello, the school counseling coordinator for Rockwood School District in Missouri. The district recently lost guidance counselor Sandy Kearney, who worked in its schools for over 30 years.

The current crisis has only further illuminated the role that schools play in neighborhoods: They feed hungry children, they provide medical and mental health care. Vigilant educators and staff members make sure that children are clean, clothed and safe. Schools are mini-universes, with classrooms providing the structure of artificial families. 

Teachers, parents and principals tell their stories about remote learning

Jeff Palladino is the principal of Fannie Lou Hamer Freedom High School, located in the most impoverished congressional district in the United States. Sixty percent of Fannie Lou Hamer students are Latino, and 39 percent are black. Their parents are either workers declared essential or suffering from the worry of being laid off.

The Bronx community that the high school serves has been devastated by covid-19. “Since this began, our students are losing family members,” he said. “We lose two or three each week. We have lost an alumna. One of our students passed away, although we are not certain if the cause was covid-19. It is so hard because you cannot physically be there for them.”

Palladino told me about a student whom they could not contact for two weeks. Both parents had the virus, and she was caring not only for them but for the rest of the family as well. Everyone was relieved when they got the message that she was okay and catching up on her work.

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