2021 Medley #11 – Surprise, there’s a teacher shortage

The teacher shortage continues,
COVID losses, PDK poll,
High-achieving schools, Evolution

 

TEACHER SHORTAGE? SURPRISE!

Four reasons why schools are facing crippling shortages

Chalkbeat, whose “supporters” include privatizers like the Walton Family, the Gates Foundation, and EdChoice, report here on the ongoing teacher shortage made worse by the pandemic. Their explanation focuses on the combination of low pay and the weak economy — which are, indeed, part of the problem. I think that a more important set of reasons, however, are how teachers have been treated due to lack of respect by the public (and politicians…and the media), and the impact of privatization on public education. After you read this, check out the next article on the same topic.

The staffing shortage has become a defining feature of this school year. Non-teaching, often lower-paid roles seem to have been particularly hard to fill.

“It is affecting the whole climate of the schools,” said Sabine Phillips, whose middle school in Broward County, Florida has buses regularly arriving late and few substitute teachers. “It’s just hard to keep people in a positive mood.”

So what is going on here? There’s no one answer, according to a range of experts watching these shortages nationwide, but a constellation of potential explanations. Some are exacerbated versions of old problems: schools need people to choose challenging roles with relatively low pay. Other explanations are new, like federal money boosting demand for educators, the continued disruption to childcare, and COVID-related health concerns.

‘Exhausted and underpaid’: teachers across the US are leaving their jobs in numbers

Quoted here is Steven Singer, blogger at Gadfly on the Wall Blog (and author of the next post as well). As an actual, current, real-life, teacher, he has a good handle on the reasons for the teacher shortage — the pandemic, of course, is one, but also, he says, we need to remember low pay, low respect, low autonomy, and lack of a professional voice. All these are part of teaching in Indiana and the supermajority of privatizers in the state’s General Assembly guarantees that it will stay that way. Chalkbeat, take note.

“They don’t give us numbers or report it but we see in our buildings how we’re all needed to sub for missing teachers. It’s way more than normal,” said Steven Singer, a middle school teacher in western Pennsylvania. “I, myself, was in and out of the hospital last week due to my Crohn’s disease. The stress of the pandemic is taking a toll on me and all of us. We’re just at a breaking point. This crisis for teachers didn’t start with Covid. We have low pay, low respect, low autonomy, and no one listens to us. Now we’re being forced to risk our lives and our health.”

At least 378 active teachers have died from Covid-19 since the beginning of the pandemic, along with hundreds of other school workers. Several surveys have shown teachers are more likely to leave the profession because of worsening stressand burnout during the pandemic, coupled with pre-existing issues such as a lack of resources and low pay.

COVID LOSSES

My Students Haven’t Lost Learning. They’ve Lost Social and Emotional Development

Teachers have been telling the public for years that there’s more to education than “reading, writing, and ‘rithmetic.” There are things that go on in classrooms that are more important than test scores. The “loss” caused by the COVID-19 pandemic is more than just content area loss, which can be made up. The loss is emotional…parents, relatives, and friends lost to COVID-19. The loss is social isolation from being quarantined. Students have to learn to deal with those losses before so-called “learning loss.”

According to the CDC, more than 140,000 children in the U.S. lost a primary or secondary caregiver such as a live-in grandparent or another family member to the virus.

Globally, that’s more than 1.5 million kids who have lost a parent, guardian or live-in relative to the pandemic, according to the Lancet.

No wonder kids are having trouble dealing with their emotions! Their support systems are shot!

My students are bright, caring, energetic and creative people. They have the same wants and needs as children always have. They just have fewer tools with which to meet them.

Administrators often focus on academic deficits.

They worry about learning loss and what the kids can’t do today versus students in the same grades before the pandemic. But I think this is a huge mistake.

My students are not suffering from a lack of academics. They’re suffering from a lack of social and emotional development.

PARENTS APPRECIATE THEIR LOCAL SCHOOLS

PDK Poll of the Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools
A supplement to Kappan magazine

Every time the PDK poll is released we learn that the majority of Americans (and even more public school parents) love their local schools…it’s “those other schools” elsewhere in the country that are, apparently, terrible. This year is no different. Why is that? Could it be that we are being given poor quality information about schools in other places? Could it be that we know our own children’s schools and appreciate the work that is done there?

Majorities of Americans give high marks to their community’s public schools and public school teachers for their handling of the coronavirus pandemic during the 2020-21 school year. Further, the public is broadly confident in schools’ preparedness to handle the challenges ahead in 2021-22.
Teachers fare especially well in these assessments. About two-thirds of adults overall, and as many K-12 public school parents, give their community’s public school teachers an A or B grade for their pandemic response. Parents are almost as positive about their community’s public schools more generally, giving 63% A’s or B’s, though the positive rating slips to 54% among all Americans.

As is customarily the case, public schools nationally — as opposed to schools or teachers in one’s own community — fare less well, with about 4 in 10 adults overall, and parents in particular, giving them A or B grades for their pandemic response.

HIGH ACHIEVING SCHOOLS MAY BE TOXIC

The Toxic Consequences of Attending a High-Achieving School

Toxic high-achieving schools…

Students at high-achieving schools exhibit much higher rates of anxiety, depression, and substance abuse than those at lower achieving schools…

The harmful effects of attending a high-achieving school are long-lasting…

The toxic achievement pressure for HAS students comes from parents, teachers, peers, and ultimately from within the student.

US ACCEPTANCE OF EVOLUTION PASSES FIFTY PERCENT

Evolution now accepted by a majority of Americans

Science, not religion, ought to be the determining factor in what’s taught in our public schools. But citizens of the US have always had a difficult time separating church and state, despite the protections of the First Amendment. Included among the topics attacked by the science-deniers is evolution. Education is the key. [Note: I added the link in the quote below]

Examining data over 35 years, the study consistently identified aspects of education — civic science literacy, taking college courses in science, and having a college degree — as the strongest factors leading to the acceptance of evolution.

“The more education you have, the more likely you are to accept evolution,” observed co-author Glenn Branch, deputy director of NCSE, adding, “The proportion of Americans with a college degree almost doubled between 1988 and 2018.”

The researchers analyzed a collection of biennial surveys from the National Science Board, several national surveys funded by units of the National Science Foundations, and a series focused on adult civic literacy funded by NASA. Beginning in 1985, these national samples of U.S. adults were asked to agree or disagree with this statement: “Human beings, as we know them today, developed from earlier species of animals.”

The series of surveys showed that Americans were evenly divided on the question of evolution from 1985 to 2007. According to a 2005 study of the acceptance of evolution in 34 developed nations, led by Miller, only Turkey, at 27%, scored lower than the United States. But over the last decade, until 2019, the percentage of American adults who agreed with this statement increased from 40% to 54%.

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What do vaccine and mask deniers do when they get sick?

Delightful. Medieval America always in intimate personal confidence of the Almighty. — George Bernard Shaw

In 1909, the women, ages 16-23, who worked at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory and the Leiserson & Company went on strike.* They were fighting against…

  • unsanitary working conditions
  • fire hazards (which would later prove all too relevant)
  • the endless fines for talking, laughing, singing, stitches being crooked, etc
  • long working hours, often until 10 at night, with only 1 break for eating
  • low wages (around $6 a week, men made $12 a week for the same work in 1907)
  • the inappropriate behavior (aka, sexual) of their bosses.

When the women were told by one magistrate that their strike was against “God and Nature” George Bernard Shaw wrote the words at the top of this page.

More than a century later, the same mentality that assures some that they know exactly what God wants is, as Shaw wrote, still present here in the United States.

DEMONIC MASKS

Let’s be clear at the outset, the people who are anti-mask-in-school are a minority. Those who are against school-children wearing masks because it’s “demonic” are an even smaller minority, but it’s those people who grab the headlines and the clicks…like the “nurse” who went viral with this…

“Remember we have authority in Christ Jesus,” Melissa stated. “These are demonic entities, and all the school boards of all the United States of America, and all of us Christians will be sticking together to take them out, or the police officers that kick us out for our First Amendment right.”

Melissa went on to say that she’s been a registered nurse for 13 years and that “masks just don’t work.”

…Melissa then went on to reiterate that the school board was full of “demonic entities,” which led school board officials to cut her mic off for a final time.

Where might she, and others like her, be getting this information? Could be from politicians…

Former Missouri gubernatorial candidate Saundra McDowell recently suggested that mask wearing is part of a “demonic ritual” to take away “God-given rights.”

It could be from religious leaders…

“I don’t need to be a jerk for Jesus, but … I’m not going to kowtow down to a wicked godless culture,” Mr Locke said…

The pastor has previously claimed that Vice President Kamala Harris is a “jezebel demon” and that the Biden administration is in charge of “child-trafficking tunnels” underneath Washington, DC.


FACTS SHOULD, BUT OFTEN DON’T, MATTER

More and more children are getting COVID since school started this academic year. Yet the extreme (and minority) right-wing science-deniers continue to fight against vaccines and masks.

This is despite the fact that masks…

The report found in part that masks effectively prevented COVID-19 transmission even without physical distancing in schools and on buses.

…work.

…studies show that even in situations where these other measures aren’t being used, masking makes a big difference in keeping the virus from spreading. That was one conclusion of the ABC Science Collaborative, a major research initiative involving nearly 1 million students from 100 school districts and 14 charter school in North Carolina. It found that universal masking policies helped keep transmission rates of the coronavirus within schools to under 1% last fall and spring.

…and so do vaccines.

studies that have looked at how COVID-19 vaccines work in real-world conditions (vaccine effectiveness studies) have shown that these vaccines are working well.

WHO ARE YOU GOING TO BELIEVE?

You need to choose who you’re going to believe.

Lack of Trusted Authority is Why Covid-19 is Kicking Our Butts

The US has only 4% of the world population but nearly a quarter of all Covid cases.

That’s not a coincidence.

In large part, it’s because we don’t know how to combat the virus because we don’t know who to trust.

And the resulting credibility vacuum has enabled unscrupulous politicians, agents of chaos and other charlatans to position themselves as experts.

I don’t know the self-proclaimed nurse, Melissa, quoted above.

I do know that Dr. Anthony Fauci has an M.D. from Cornell Medical College (N.Y.C.) and more than fifty years of experience in the field of medicine, and specifically, immunology and infectious diseases. I also know that the Centers for Disease Control, when not being manipulated by politicians, is staffed by professionals in their respective fields.

I’ll trust the experts rather than those who call down demons from supernatural myths we should have left behind centuries ago.

I’ll Trust Science

I admit it. I loved teaching science to young children during my years as an elementary classroom teacher. I loved teaching science because I understand the scientific method and I trust it to provide us with answers and then corrections to answers that we might have gotten wrong. It’s important for students, and all of us, to learn that science changes when we get new information.

When I was a child there were nine planets. Now there are eight planets, a collection of dwarf-planets, and tens of thousands of minor planets all orbiting the sun.

When I was a child, early computers took up hundreds of square feet of warehouse space and ran on vacuum tubes. Now we wear much more powerful computers on our wrists, or carry them in our pockets.

I’ll Trust Modern Medicine

I trust modern medicine. I never got smallpox or polio because I was born at a time when vaccines for those diseases were available. Because of modern surgical techniques, I can walk on my right heel that shattered when I fell down some steps. I can breathe even with allergies, lung disease, and an immune deficiency because of advances in medicine.

What do vaccine and mask deniers do when they get sick, with COVID-19 or any other illness? What do you think they do?

Susan B. Anthony explained it well in 1896, when she said,

I distrust those people who know so well what God wants them to do to their fellows, because it always coincides with their own desires.

Protect unvaccinated kids in school. Wear a mask. Get vaccinated.

*Triangle Shirtwaist Factory women strike, win better wages and hours, New York, 1909

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Blogoversary #15 – Ignorance, Allied With Power, is a Ferocious Enemy

Today marks the fifteenth blogoversary of this blog. When I began it on September 14, 2006, I was in my late 50s, teaching Reading Recovery in a small public school in northeast Indiana (which has since closed), the US was at war in Iraq and Afghanistan, there had just been a mass shooting at Dawson College in Montreal, and George W. Bush was the US President.

In September of 2006, Beyoncé and Justin Timberlake released their second albums and Elton John released his 29th; naturalist Steve Irwin and former Texas governor Ann Richards died; the Cubs finished last in the National League Central (a year later they would finish first); and Star Trek celebrated 40 years of television and movies (premier Sept 8, 1966).

Public education in the US was deep into the mess of No Child Left Behind. Testing defined everything taught in America’s public schools. In Indiana, we hadn’t started spending millions of dollars of tax money on vouchers and charter schools. Hoosier teachers still had seniority rights, the right to due process before getting fired, and collective bargaining for things like prep time and class size.

My blog’s focus was on 1) the overuse and misuse of standardized testing, 2) the overwhelming intrusion of politics and politicians into public education, 3) my students, and small, occasional forays into music and baseball. I was reading education authors like Richard Allington, Gerald Bracey, Susan Ohanian, and Alfie Kohn.

I taught part-time for a few years, and then retired in 2010, taught a semester at a community college, volunteered in three different elementary schools after retirement, and joined with others to advocate for public education. Since retirement, and in no particular order, I moved to a new house; made a few trips to the hospital; fought and beat cancer (so far); voted in seven elections; watched the Cubs win the World Series (Bucket List item #1); signed up for Social Security and Medicare; welcomed two more grandchildren, a grandchild-in-law, and a great-grandchild into my life; made new friendships and said good-bye to some old friends and family members; drove Route 66 from California to Illinois; celebrated a fifty-first wedding anniversary; reached half-a-gross years in age, and written 1423 blog posts (this one is #1424).

Here are some quotes about life and education that I’ve gathered the last year.

EDUCATION

“Three years ago, we started to learn how to run from armed intruders. Last year we learned how to pack bullet wounds. This year, we’re trying to figure out how to bring back learning in a pandemic.” — St. Louis psychology teacher Amanda Kaupp

“We live in a country where the state legislature must mandate play but congress doesn’t need to approve a war.” — Tweet by Fred Klonsky

“Public education isn’t important because it serves the public, it is important because it creates the public.” — [Attributed to] Neil Postman, former chairman, Department of Culture and Communication, New York University

“I have stayed true to my own memories of childhood, which are not different in many ways from those of children today. Although their circumstances have changed, I don’t think children’s inner feelings have changed.”Beverly Cleary, 1916-2021

APHORISMS

“Don’t be afraid of walking away from a mistake just because you took a long time making it.” — Unknown

“The moment you’re in now is the moment that matters.” — Don Lemon in This is the Fire.

“Silence in the face of evil, is itself, evil…Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”Misattributed to Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“The secret of freedom lies in educating people, whereas the secret of tyranny is in keeping them ignorant.”Maximilien Robespierre

“Don’t be in such a hurry to condemn a person because he doesn’t do
what you do, or think as you think or as fast. There was a time when you
didn’t know what you know today.”
Quoted by Maya Angelou
(quote reproduced in James L. Conyers, Andrew P. Smallwood, Malcolm X: A
Historical Reader, Carolina Academic Press, 2008, p. 181 and Elaine
Slivinski Lisandrelli, Maya Angelou: More than a poet, Enslow
Publishers, 1996, p. 90)

“You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.”Misattributed to C. S. Lewis

POLITICS, RACISM, AMERICAN HISTORY, AND THE AMERICAN EXPERIMENT

“You can’t teach American history without talking about race, it’s impossible. If you do that, what are you really teaching your students?” -— Rodney D. Pierce

“Assertions that CRT is being taught in America’s elementary and high schools is ludicrous–as I have been complaining pretty much forever, schools aren’t even teaching the most basic concepts required for civic literacy, let alone a theory that requires a familiarity not just with the Constitution and Bill of Rights, but with significant elements of America’s legal structures.”Sheila Kennedy

[Frederick] Douglass announced that the abolition of war and peace he envisioned, would never “be completed until the black men of the south and the black men of the north shall have been admitted fully and completely into the body politic of America.”Race and Reunion by David W. Blight.

“It is certain, in any case, that ignorance, allied with power, is the most ferocious enemy justice can have.”James Baldwin

“It is possible to read the history of this country as one long struggle to extend the liberties established in our Constitution to everyone in America.”Molly Ivins, great American newspaperwoman

“This country once led the global effort to eradicate deadly diseases for the benefit of all.
“It’s a sad testament of our decline as a nation and the selfishness of who we’ve become as a people that we no longer lead the way in something as easy to do as getting a vaccine.”
Jim Wright

“We must all live together and work together no matter what race or nationality. If you have an opportunity to accomplish something that will make things better for someone coming behind you, and you don’t do that, you are wasting your time on this earth.”Roberto Clemente

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

 

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2021 Medley #10 – I’m Back Edition

New York Times and Disclosures,
First Responders, COVID-19, and why I missed a month of blogging,
Textbooks in Voucher Schools,
Keep out of my air-space,
Know your rights

CONFLICTS OF INTEREST AT THE NEW YORK TIMES

Leonie Haimson: Columnists at NY Times Report on Gates Projects While Benefitting from Gates’ $$$

I yesterday’s post, It’s not as though we don’t know what works, I discussed an editorial in the New York Times about standardized testing and the low test scores achieved during the current (and ongoing) pandemic.

This morning, Diane Ravitch posted twice on her own blog about the New York Times and the financial conflicts of interests with some of their journalists. In the first she lets us know of the close ties between writers and both the Gates Foundation and the Aspen Institute. Readers of my blog know of Bill Gates and his foundation’s close ties to privatization. The Aspen Institute is also among the cheerleaders of privatization.

The second post, quoted below, reiterates the conflicts of interest, but also includes important information for news-reading/watching public school advocates about the Gates Foundation. This doesn’t mean that every Gates Foundation-funded organization will be pro-charter and anti-public schools. I have personally been assured by members of the Chalkbeat staff that they are not influenced by their donors. On the other hand, I still read their posts with the understanding that they get funding from not only Gates, but the Walton Family Foundation, EdChoice, and other privatizers.

In the quote below, Schwab refers to Tim Schwab, a writer for The Nation.

The Gates Foundation provides millions of dollars to many journalistic enterprises, which Schwab argued in an earlier 2020 piece helps to explain the kid glove treatment the Foundation has received over the last twenty years. The media outlets that get funding from Gates and regularly cover his education projects and investments include Chalkbeat, Hechinger Report, The 74, and Education Post, as well as K12 school reporting by NPR, Seattle Times, and others. The Foundation also helps to fund the Education Writers Association, which frequently features speakers friendly to various policies favored by Gates.

IN WHAT UNIVERSE DO FIRST RESPONDERS GO UNVACCINATED AND UNMASKED?

Cops must get vaccinated. Full stop.

I noticed this post on Fred Klonsky’s blog and it reminded me that, depending on where you live, “all city workers” — who are the subject of the Chicago Mayor’s vaccine mandate — doesn’t mean all first responders. At the same time I’ll explain why this blog went quiet for a month without any warning.

Late last spring I began to feel sick — suffice it to say that I needed minor surgery (which for someone my age means major recuperation time). I was taken to the nearby hospital by ambulance. (The following is a retelling of my spouse’s story since I can’t remember) When the two EMTs walked into our house they were unmasked. One began to work on me, and the other was peppered with questions from my panicky spouse: “Why aren’t you wearing masks?” “Are you vaccinated?” The EMT who was not tending to me put on his mask and answered that yes, he was vaccinated and vaguely reassured her. The man tending to what we assumed at the time was an emergency never answered the question, but he did don his mask.

I will assume that all the EMTs in my house (several more arrived later, masked) had recently been tested for COVID-19, but I don’t know that for sure. I am immune-compromised with several health issues, and I was and still am, susceptible to COVID-19, or any virus for that matter. Furthermore, it’s easy to see just by looking at me that I’m old enough to be seriously ill if I contracted the virus.

Masks and vaccinations should be required for all first responders…anyone who might have emergency contact with members of the community.

What could possibly be a reason that vaccination and proper medical procedure (masks, for example) should not be required for first responders, whether in a practice, or at a treatment facility or at an emergency scene, whether working with patients or sitting at the front desk, or driving the emergency truck? Other than the fact that I live in Republican, anti-science, Indiana.

Maybe Illinois isn’t that different.

[Chicago’s] Mayor Lightfoot issued the order yesterday that all city workers must be vaccinated.

The response by Fraternal Order Of Police president John Catanzara was predictable.

“We’re in America g—–n it. We don’t want to be forced to do anything. Period. This ain’t Nazi f—ing Germany (where they say) ‘Step into the f—ing showers. The pills won’t hurt you.’ What the f—?”

The language of this Trump loving fascist comparing vaccination mandates to gassing Jews by the Nazis has nothing to with mandating or union bargaining.

WHAT’S IN YOUR TEXTBOOK?

Vouchers And Disinformation

Here in Indiana, and in many other private-school-voucher-allowing states, kids are learning that humans lived with dinosaurs and that slaves were immigrants…using public funds.

The textbooks reviewed by the Guardian are used in thousands of private religious schools–schools that receive tens of thousands of dollars in public funding every year. They downplay descriptions of slavery and ignore its structural consequences. The report notes that the books “frame Native Americans as lesser and blame the Black Lives Matter movement for sowing racial discord.”

As Americans fight over wildly distorted descriptions of Critical Race Theory–a manufactured culture war “wedge issue” employed by parents fighting against more inclusive and accurate history instruction- -the article correctly points out that there has been virtually no attention paid to the curricula of private schools accepting vouchers.

…The U.S. Constitution gives parents the right to choose a religious education for their children. It does not impose an obligation on taxpayers to fund that choice, and we continue to do so at our peril.

KEEP OUT OF MY AIR-SPACE

Your Liberty To Swing Your Fist Ends Just Where My Nose Begins

A famous quote, or groups of quotes, which in today’s world might read…

“Your liberty to not go unvaccinated and not wear a mask thereby possibly spreading COVID ends where my air-space begins.”

John B. Finch, the great constitutional amendment advocate, was wont to settle this point by a single illustration. He said, “I stand alone upon a platform. I am a tall man with long arms which I may use at my pleasure. I may even double my fist and gesticulate at my own sweet will. But if another shall step upon the platform, and in the exercise of my personal liberty I bring my fist against his face, I very soon find that my personal liberty ends where that man’s nose begins.”

KNOW YOUR RIGHTS

Know Your Rights! A Tale Of Two Prayer Policies, One Forced And One Free

Americans United for Separation of Church and State have issued information about the rights of students, teachers, and parents in public schools. This post and the next are some examples of what they stand for.

I was glad to be free of compulsory prayer and school-sponsored religion. And even though I knew little about the law back then, I had an instinctive understanding that it was simply wrong for public school teachers and staff, who are agents of the state, to sponsor or pressure anyone to take part in religious activity.

Yet I also knew that our school was no “religion-free zone.” One of my favorite classes was an elective I took about World Religions. The approach was strictly objective, and there was no proselytizing. This was the first time I had been exposed to the doctrines of non-Christian faiths. It was an eye-opener.

Know Your Rights! How A Fourth Grader’s Request Sparked A Classroom Lesson On Tolerance

But when the Pledge ended, the students instead started asking questions – first, to Michael, about his decision to sit, his faith and why he couldn’t say the Pledge of Allegiance. And then they started asking me questions too: about the Pledge, why we do it, and what it means. After talking for 20 or 30 minutes, all of us – my students, Michael and I – had a greater understanding of what the Pledge was, why we said it and what it meant to each of us.

Dissent, in the form of religious difference or non-religion, can be scary. It can feel uncomfortable or disorderly. But that day in a class of fourth-graders, I saw how creating space for those with non-majoritarian beliefs doesn’t just protect those believers (or non-believers). It also presents us all with an opportunity to reflect on and gain a greater understanding of our own views and traditions. In other words, the rights of dissenters protect all of us. And I’m proud to work at Americans United, where through our Know Your Rights campaign and other vehicles, we protect those rights every day.

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It’s not as though we don’t know what works

One of the most distressing aspects of the Covid pandemic has been seeing governors and state education officials abdicate responsibility for managing the worst disruption of public schooling in modern history and leaving the heavy lifting to the localities. Virtually every school in the nation closed in March 2020, replacing face-to-face schooling with thrown-together online education or programs that used a disruptive scheduling process to combine the two. Only a small portion of the student body returned to fully opened schools the following fall. The resulting learning setbacks range from grave for all groups of students to catastrophic for poor children.

From the start, elected officials seemed more concerned about reopening bars and restaurants than safely reopening schools that hold the futures of more than 50 million children in their hands. Failed leadership continues to be painfully evident as the states enter yet another pandemic school year without enforcing common-sense public health policies that would make a much-needed return to in-person schooling as safe as possible. These policy failures are compounding at a time when the highly infectious Delta variant is surging and the coronavirus seems likely to become a permanent feature of life.

The New York Times editorial from last week, The School Kids Are Not Alright, quoted above, decried the “learning loss” of American students during the pandemic. A closer reading, however, should remind anyone that the “learning loss” is, was, and always has been a feature of inequality — racism and poverty.

Just like standardized tests BP (Before the Pandemic) those kids who were poor and/or who attended schools filled with low-income students (mostly children of color), scored lower on standardized tests than their wealthier, and mostly white, peers. The current assessments of students show significant differences between those who have access to the internet and those who don’t — between those who can afford to have at least one parent stay home and help them with school work, and those who cant — between those who live at or near the poverty line, and those who don’t.

Which parents found it easier to stay home with their children during the school lockdowns? Which parents have (or had) low-wage jobs that we now know are “essential?” Which students had access to the internet for online instruction? Which students often had to share one smartphone among the members of their entire family to get their lessons?

Are current test scores a “scalding rebuke of those who have minimized the impact of the school shutdowns” as the editorial says, or are they simply more of the same. And btw, who among those who wanted to shut down schools to keep families safe has minimized the impact of the pandemic? No one wanted to close schools…least of all educators, but a global pandemic sometimes means that we have to do things that we don’t want to do.

The editors wrote, “Perhaps the most grotesque of these minimizing arguments holds that concerns about learning loss are being manufactured by educational testing companies with dollar signs in their eyes.”

Grotesque?

Is that why the NYT Editorial Board, in looking for sources about “learning loss,” started with N.W.E.A. — a testing company? “NWEA is the company that generated a lot of buzz with their covid-learning loss “research.” NWEA sells standardized math and English testing.” Grotesque? I don’t think so.

As if that wasn’t enough, they also checked with the “educational experts” at McKinsey & Co…because financial consultants always know the best things to do for public education, right? The McKinsey report stated that “the pandemic has widened existing opportunity and achievement gaps and made high schoolers more likely to drop out.”

Raise your hand if you’re an educator who could have guessed that would happen! Raise your other hand if you’re an educator who knew that the pandemic would hit children living in poverty harder than those who never went to bed hungry.

The problem with school achievement has always been poverty. And the problem with poverty is that it’s built on racism (Read The Sum of Us, and The Color of Law to get started). It’s true that the pandemic made things worse, but that’s because during economic declines those at the bottom always suffer most.

Kids who live in poverty, just like their parents, suffered (and still are) more during the pandemic because our economy is a plutocracy made for the rich to get richer. Don’t blame teachers, administrators, and school boards for closing schools. The schools closed because we didn’t want children to die…or bring home COVID-19 to their parents and grandparents for them to die.

I’m seriously tired of the politicians, pundits (looking at you, NYT Editorial Board), and policy-makers telling teachers and public schools to single-handedly solve the problems of racism and poverty by increasing test scores. Public schools and public school teachers are not the only ones who have anything to contribute to growing our society!

Linda Darling-Hammond had this to say nearly a decade ago.

Why is Congress redlining our schools?

It’s not as though we don’t know what works. We could implement the policies that have reduced the achievement gap and transformed learning outcomes for students in high-achieving nations where government policies largely prevent childhood poverty by guaranteeing housing, healthcare and basic income security. These same strategies were substantially successful in our own nation through the programs and policies of the war on poverty and the Great Society, which dramatically reduced poverty, increased employment, rebuilt depressed communities, invested in preschool and K-12 education in cities and poor rural areas, desegregated schools, funded financial aid for college and invested in teacher training programs that ended teacher shortages. In the 1970s teaching in urban communities was made desirable by the higher-than-average salaries, large scholarships and forgivable loans that subsidized teacher preparation, and by the exciting curriculum and program innovations that federal funding supported in many city school districts.

These efforts led to big improvements in achievement and attainment from the ’60s through the ’80s. The black-white reading gap shrank by two-thirds for 17-year-olds, black high school and college graduation rates more than doubled, and, in 1975, rates of college attendance among whites, blacks and Latinos reached parity for the first and only time before or since.

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