Category Archives: Article Medleys

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

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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Filed under Article Medleys, Billionaires, Gates, IREAD-3, NancyBailey, Pandemic, Public Ed, Testing, Walsh

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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School in the time of Coronavirus #2 – EdTech Wants Your School

EdTech Positions Itself for Boom Times

The Ed-tech industry is jumping into the gap left by closed schools during the coronavirus crisis. Many companies are offering temporary free options for students to use while their schools are closed. We can give them credit for offering a service for free during a crisis, but cynicism from past experience forces me to question whether it’s being done based on altruism or whether they are using the crisis to “hook” consumers on their products.

We in Indiana are well acquainted with the failure of virtual charter schools. I understand that everyone is forced into virtual schools right now — everyone except those who have little or no access to the internet — but the forced virtual schooling has only reinforced the importance of face to face relationships between teacher and student.

1: Teacher-student eye contact is important. “Eye contact makes so much difference: if students feel that the teacher is actually talking and engaging with them, they are more likely to engage with the teacher and listen to what they’re saying.”

2: Working at home has too many distractions. It’s hard enough for adults to transition to a work-from-home situation, yet we’re expecting our students to be able to change from the interaction of a live classroom to a disconnected digital environment. “…actually productively working from home can be challenging for some professionals.”

3: Students benefit from live, small-group work. “Learning in small-group contexts enhances students’ overall learning experiences in several ways. For example, it can…address gaps in students’ knowledge…provide opportunities for students to receive feedback on their learning…help students develop skills in critical thinking, problem-solving, communication, interpersonal relations, teamwork, team leadership, and lifelong learning skills…”

Oh, and if you haven’t read The Shock Doctrine or other books by Naomi Klein, then this is the time to look them up. [Check out Hoopla or Libby. Most public libraries allow you to check out ebooks or audiobooks using one or both of those apps. Hoopla works as a phone/tablet app or online using your computer. Libby is a phone/tablet app only.]

Here’s a look at how the EdTech sector is positioning itself to “reimagine” education…

Ed-tech Startups and Investors Shift Into Overdrive Amid Coronavirus Crisis

Like drug dealers…”Here’s a free sample. Once you’re hooked we’ll sell you more…”

March 19, 2020

Many educational technology startups have shifted into overdrive, providing services free of charge, both out of moral concern and in hopes of enlisting future paying customers. Several startups have even raised funding amid the crisis.

The First Taste is Free: Ed Tech Follows Drug Dealer Sales Techniques with Schools During Coronavirus Crisis

Steven Singer who blogs at Gadfly on the Wall makes the analogy to drug dealers clearer..

April 4, 2020

How much does it cost?”

Teachers, parents, students and education activists are wary of educational technologies in the classroom, and research backs them up. Ed-tech has been shown to widen socioeconomic divides, it hasn’t lived up to its promise of increasing academic gains, and – perhaps most tellingly – Silicon Valley executives restrict their own children’s use of technology and send them to tech-free schools.

“Nothing. It’s free.”

These for-profit corporations are offering limited time promotions – they’re providing additional services for free that would normally be behind a paywall.

“Oh goodie!”

Districts are jumping at the chance. They’re encouraging teachers to use apps, services and software that have never been tried before locally in an attempt to abide by continuity of education guidelines written by departments of education.

“That’s right. Absolutely free. But if you want some more, next time I’ll have to charge you a little something…”

So when the pandemic is over and classes eventually are reopened, a great deal of the technology that schools used to get through the crisis will no longer be on the house.

The Ed Tech Vultures Circle

Peter Greene who blogs at both Curmudgucation and Forbes, includes a link to an older article for the business community about the benefits of face to face business meetings as opposed to online.

March 23, 2020

My email is filing up with pitches from more companies than I’ve ever heard of, all variations on “Your readers (aka our prospective customers) would love to hear about our cool product that is just the thing for dealing with the current pandemic crisis.” While I am sure that some companies sincerely believe they have help they can offer at this time, I am equally sure that those companies are not trying to wring a bunch of client-building PR out of it. I’m seeing these pitches because I’m an education blogger at Forbes.com–if these things are coming to me, then the big-time education journalists must be drowning in the stuff…

As school closures drag on, there are two schools of thought on the ed-tech incursion. The ed-tech vultures of Coronavirus Katrina are sure that once pushed into using the products, teachers, parents and students will fall in love and never want to go back. Others suspect that once forced to deal with this stuff, students, teachers and parents will rediscover everything there is to love about traditional live-action 3D education.

Not to say that some of these tools may well turn out to be useful in the weeks ahead. Time will tell. In the meantime, the ed-tech vultures are circling, hoping that the current crisis will provide them with a bounteous feast.

How The Ed-Tech Industry is Trying to Profit From COVID-19

March 23, 2020

Want to cut costs? Put one teacher—or an assistant—in charge of fifty or so students, seated in front of their own screens, moving through pre-packaged curriculum one personalized step at a time.

Better yet, just keep kids at home. Let them attend virtual schools or plow through lessons without a teacher on hand.

For ed-tech’s innovators, COVID-19 is an opportunity to experiment with tech-driven, less labor-intensive schooling options. But, as Watters points out, education is much more than the simple delivery of instruction or the mastery of certain skills.

Instead, schools serve as community hubs and nutrition centers, as well as safe spaces for students and families left reeling by inequality, housing instability, and the general insecurity that many live with today.

Like Vultures, They’re Still Planning to End Public Schools and a Professional Teaching Workforce!

It’s not just EdTech, either. There are those who have spent years and careers trying to bring an end to the public schools — Bill Gates, Charles Koch, Laurene Powell Jobs, Jeb Bush, Betsy DeVos. They’re looking at this pandemic as an opportunity. This is a must-read by Nancy Bailey!

April 11, 2020

There’s a movement underfoot to end the way children learn. Look carefully at who says “we need to reimagine” or “this is the time to reassess” schools. These can be signals from those who’ve led the charge to dismantle public schools for years. Like vultures, they’re scheming how to use this pandemic to put the final stamp of success on their privatization agenda…

No one denies the importance of technology, but all-technology and a loss of public schools, will omit the rich learning experiences that all children deserve. No proof can be found that all online instruction works. It will leave children and the nation at risk.

While it’s understandable that public schools will face hurdles when they return, we must ensure that a democratic public education will continue to serve the children for which it was originally designed. That funding will address learning driven by professional teachers and not be for those who seek to cash in on our students.

💻💸📡

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School in the time of Coronavirus #1 – The digital divide

The Digital Divide

Millions of American school children are at home, their school year abruptly ended because of the coronavirus pandemic. Schools and teachers have been offering pickup meals and online education activities. The Indiana Department of Education (IDOE) has a page with educator and parent online resources for continuing students’ education during the time schools are closed.

But what about students who have no internet access? The IDOE resource page includes links to free or reduced access opportunities, but one needs access to learn about those opportunities. Some of those opportunities may not be available in all rural areas. The only access for some families is a cell phone. And some parents won’t avail themselves of the opportunities even if they are aware of them.

The chronological list of articles and blog posts below highlights the fact that under the extraordinary circumstances we now find ourselves, some students will be left behind.

We can’t (and in a free society, probably shouldn’t) try to reduce the resources that advantaged parents can give children…

But we can increase resources for other children to provide more equity…

What the coronavirus reveals about the digital divide between schools and communities

March 17, 2020

Students living in poverty and students with special needs are the ones who have lost their access to education now that schools are closed. Do we ignore them and just focus on the students who are able — economically and physically — to access and benefit from the online resources offered? Do we ignore the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) because it’s too expensive to try to educate students with special needs during a pandemic?

If you’re reading this, you have internet access. If you have children, your children have likely been able to benefit from the ability to connect to the internet and continue their learning opportunities. Unfortunately, in the economically divided America in which we live in, not all children are so lucky.

…With a disproportionate number of school-age children lacking home broadband access, the breadth of the U.S. digital divide has been revealed as schools struggle to substitute in-school resources with online instruction, electronic libraries, streaming videos, and other online tutorials.

Every U.S. student could eventually be impacted by extended school closures. New York City, whose public-school system serves more than 1.1 million students, has announced the closure of its 1,800 schools. These mounting circumstances have administrators scrambling to migrate courses online and create some level of accountability between students and teachers. However, the U.S. digital divide makes any effort fallible for certain individuals, households, and communities that are not sufficiently connected.

Broadband availability has been at the heart of the digital divide with an estimated 21.3 million people lacking access in 2019, according to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

Virtual Learning Through Quarantine Will Leave Poor and Disabled Students Behind

March 25, 2020

Education Secretary DeVos has the right, under the $2 trillion coronavirus bill, to seek waivers to parts of the law guaranteeing an education to students with disabilities. Will she discuss this beforehand with parents and teachers of special needs students? If she can’t think of ways to teach students with special needs during a pandemic does that mean that there are none? Let’s hope that she checks with people who actually know something about education before she sets this dangerous precedent.

The U.S. Senate’s proposed coronavirus aid package includes a provision to waive existing federal law that requires all schools to provide services to special education students. Removing this specification would allow districts to move forward with virtual learning without having to worry about meeting the needs of their special education students.

Advocates worry that even a temporary suspension of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) could have devastating long term effects on students with disabilities and ultimately remove the requirement upheld for the last 45 years that they receive a free public education…

This is tantamount to prioritizing the education of some students over others. In short, if we follow DeVos’ guidelines, we will be saying that regular education students are more important than students with special needs.

It is a dangerous precedent.

Pandemic response lays bare America’s digital divide

March 21, 2020

The inequity in our nation should shame us.

While the internet provides opportunity for many to live with some modicum of normalcy amid the outbreak, millions of Americans do not have reliable access to the web. Also many industries ranging from auto-manufacturing to hospitality cannot be conducted online. Because of this stark digital divide, many are at risk of educational lapses, profound social isolation or unemployment, advocates warn.

According to the Pew Research Center, 29% of adults with household incomes less than $30,000 a year don’t own a smartphone, while 44% don’t have home broadband and 46% lack a “traditional” computer either. Pew also noted that 35% of lower-income households with school-age children don’t have a home-based broadband internet connection.

How covid-19 has laid bare the vast inequities in U.S. public education

April 14, 2020

For two decades, we have been trashing schools and blaming teachers. It is easy to assume responsibility rests with them. But the achievement gap is a product of our unequal society — the reflection of an education debt that has never been settled. It is not something schools alone will fix; and as they remain shuttered, that fact will become painfully clear.

Perhaps the present crisis, then, will prompt some deeper reflection about why students succeed. And perhaps we will awaken to the collective obligations we have for so long failed to fulfill.

Schools will eventually reopen. When they do, we should return with eyes unclouded. Rather than finding fault with our schools and the educators who bring them to life, we might begin to wrestle with what it would take for all students to enter on equal footing. Until then, even an equal education will not produce equal outcomes.

Why covid-19 will ‘explode’ existing academic achievement gaps

April 17, 2020

With schools shut, white-collar professionals with college degrees operate home-schools, sometimes with superior curricular enhancements…

Meanwhile, many parents with less education have jobs that even during the coronavirus crisis cannot be performed at home — supermarket clerks, warehouse workers, delivery truck drivers…

…too many students in low-income and rural communities don’t have Internet access: 35 percent of low-income households with school-aged children don’t have high-speed Internet; for moderate-income families it is 17 percent, and only 6 percent for middle-class and affluent families…

We can’t (and in a free society, probably shouldn’t) try to reduce the resources that advantaged parents can give children…

But we can increase resources for other children to provide more equity…

💻💸📡

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2020 Medley #9: Hunkered Down at Home Edition

Dumping the tests, Some things don’t matter, Social Distancing, Focusing on students,
Beating Coronavirus Capitalism, Disasters

DUMPING THE TESTS IS A GREAT IDEA

Why Scrapping School Testing This Year Is a Good Idea

Before I retired, I had the difficult task of serving as one of my school’s co-test coordinators. It was my job to count, secure, distribute, secure, package up, secure, and prepare our state’s Big Standardized Test (h/t Curmudgucation) for shipping. Sadly, I have been trained in tests and measurements so I understood why, for so many years, the Big Standardized Tests were being overused and misused.

Now that the overuse and misuse of testing pendulum is, hopefully, swinging the other way, my fervent hope is that perhaps we can limit the damage done by the tests.

In the meantime, this year’s Big Standardized Tests are being canceled. Jersey Jazzman explains why that’s a good idea and in the process, also explains why the tests aren’t so good for students anyway. They are extremely accurate in assessing the economic status of students, but that’s about all.

Start with the obvious: a “standardized” test has to be administered in a standard way. If some students receive the test in different platforms, or in different environments, the test is no longer standardized. Of course, there were already huge differences between students in these factors… but Covid-19 has made things far worse. There’s just no way to even come close to standardizing the conditions for testing in the current environment. Will the students be at home, in school but “social distancing,” in regular school, somewhere else… we just can’t say.

Next, we have always had big differences in students’ opportunity to learn — but now the differences are greater than ever. Again, there are huge variations among students in their access to qualified educators, high-quality facilities, adequate instructional materials, well-designed curricula, and so on. The best use of test results was to make the case that the variation in these things was creating unequal educational opportunities, and that public policy should focus on getting resources where they were needed the most.

But in a quarantine, we now have to add all sorts of other inequalities into the mix: access to broadband, parents who have the ability to oversee students’ instruction, schools’ ability to implement distance learning, etc. Why implement these tests when inequities within the same classroom — let alone between schools — have grown so large?

PUTTING THINGS IN PERSPECTIVE

Dear Teachers: There Are Many Things That No Longer Matter

A pandemic puts things in perspective. The health and safety of our students, and their families, are more important than the tests.

If you are attempting virtual learning with your students, now is the time to teach what you have always recognized are the crucial topics in your curriculum. Throw out the state requirements and embrace your professional decision-making skills. The state requirements do not matter. There will be no formal observations. No one will give you some annual professional performance review (APPR). We have known all along that those measures are bullshit. I am continuing to cover the most important content, but I am also asking my students to act as historians through recording a daily diary of this extraordinary time. This time will shape them forever, and we are their guardians.

TOP 10 THINGS TO DO WHILE SOCIAL DISTANCING

Top 10 Things I Want My Students to do During the Coronavirus Quarantine

Steven Singer, who blogs at Gadfly on the Wall Blog, lets his students know that there are things to do during “social distancing.” The first is to read a book. For those without access to books, there are the library apps Libby and Hoopla to get digital books.

He wisely includes writing, immediately after reading. Reading and writing are reciprocal. “Reading is the inhale; writing is the exhale.”

2) Read a Book

I ask all of my students to have a self-selected book handy for sustained silent reading in class. Hopefully, you brought it home. If not, take a look around the house. Maybe you’ve got a dusty tome hanging out in some corner. Or – hey – if you have Internet access, you probably have the ability to get an ebook.

Read something – anything you want.

It will while away the hours, relax you and maybe get your mind to thinking about things above and beyond how much mac and cheese you’ve got stored in the cupboard.

3) Keep a Journal

Do you realize you’re living through a moment of history? People will look back on this and wonder how people got through it. You could fill in the blanks for some future researcher. Just a description of your everyday activities, what you’re thinking and feeling, your hopes and dreams – all of it has historical value. Plus, you’ll get some practice expressing yourself in writing. And just think – a simple story about how you survived the great toilet paper shortage of 2020 could end up being taught in the classrooms of the future!

Make it a good one!

IT’S ALL ABOUT THE STUDENTS

Our Students Need Us Now More Than Ever

Are you keeping in touch with your students during this extended coronviracation? You should.

If anything, we teachers and support personnel are needed now more than ever.

Close a school for a while and the community instantly feels the effects. Shut them down across the state and everybody has to adjust.

Our students look to us for guidance, direction, assistance, validation, answers, and the ability to use voice. Nothing has changed in that respect.

Educators advocate for students and schools. Nothing has changed in that respect.

We collaborate with each other and remove obstacles for our students. Nothing has changed in that respect.

We will adapt. We will overcome this obstacle. No one adapts to situations and change like we do.

Because it’s all about the students.

BEATING CORONAVIRUS CAPITALISM

Coronavirus Capitalism — and How to Beat It

Last week, in my post, Public Education, Disaster Capitalism, and COVID-19 (expanded into an op-ed in our local paper here), I discussed how “edupreneurs” will be likely to swoop in and take advantage of public education to further their dreams of privatization. I quoted author Naomi Klein from her book, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. Today, I saw this post by Ms. Klein talking about the exact same thing.

The COVID-19 disaster is exactly the sort of disaster that disaster capitalists exploit. Klein wrote…

This crisis — like earlier ones — could well be the catalyst to shower aid on the wealthiest interests in society, including those most responsible for our current vulnerabilities, while offering next to nothing to the most workers, wiping out small family savings and shuttering small businesses. But as this video shows, many are already pushing back — and that story hasn’t been written yet.

DISASTER UPON DISASTER

Midwest Girds for Floods While under Corona Lockdown

While we’re worrying about COVID-19, we can’t forget that the Earth is still reacting to human-induced climate change.

As an upsurge in coronavirus infections stretches thin the capacity of health care workers and emergency managers nationwide, the Midwest is bracing for another battle: a potentially devastating flood season.

😷🚑🩺

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2020 Medley #8: Public Education, Disaster Capitalism, and COVID-19

UPDATE: A version of this blog entry appears in the Friday, March 20 edition of the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette, titled: Coping in the time of COVID

DISASTER

Naomi Klein, in her book The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, described how natural and man-made disasters open the door to privatization. During the COVID-19 disaster, we must ensure that the same thing doesn’t happen to public education.

Schools have been starved over the last few decades. The lack of funding for public education, and other public institutions and public infrastructure, have opened up schools to vulnerability under the Shock Doctrine. Klein wrote…

When it comes to paying contractors, the sky is the limit; when it comes to financing the basic functions of the state, the coffers are empty.

and…

The American Society of Civil Engineers said in 2007 that the U.S. had fallen so far behind in maintaining its public infrastructure — roads, bridges, schools, dams — that it would take more than a trillion and half dollars over five years to bring it back up to standard. Instead, these types of expenditures are being cut back. At the same time, public infrastructure around the world is facing unprecedented stress, with hurricanes, cyclones, floods and forest fires all increasing in frequency and intensity. It’s easy to imagine a future in which growing numbers of cities have their frail and long-neglected infrastructures knocked out by disasters and then are left to rot, their core services never repaired or rehabilitated. The well-off, meanwhile, will withdraw into gated communities, their needs met by privatized providers.

COVID-19

As of this writing, schools are closed for more than half of America’s children. But, as we’ve discussed in these blogs over the last fourteen years, public schools, and public school teachers, are about more than academics.

Teachers care about their students. Friends of Betsy DeVos may think that we’re only in it for the money, but public school teachers care about the whole child…and as Nancy Flanagan writes below, teachers are First Responders when it comes to taking care of the nation’s children.

The following articles describe what public school teachers and public schools are doing to help children and their parents thrive during this stressful time. I recommend that you read all of them in their entirety…

ED-TECH

HEWN (Hack Education Weekly Newsletter), No. 344

Ed-tech is ready to dump their items on schools (for a price, of course)…especially now when those schools that have closed are using technology to connect with their students. Remember that computers, phones, iPads, and similar digital devices are tools, not ends in themselves.

…an assertion that rests on the assumption that ed-tech is good, that it can replicate at home what happens in the classroom. “This may be our moment,” ed-tech folks exclaim, giddily sharing lists of their favorite digital learning tools (with little concern, it seems for questions of accessibility, privacy, or security) and tips for quickly moving “to the cloud.” Of course, education technology — as a field, an industry, a discipline, a solution, what have you — has had decades and decades and decades to get this right. It still hasn’t. So when you hear “this is our moment,” you should recall perhaps the thesis of Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine. What we’re poised to see in response to the coronavirus — and not just in education, to be fair — is more disaster capitalism, and “disaster capitalists share this same inability to distinguish between creation and destruction, between hurting and healing.”

TEACHERS AND SCHOOLS STEP UP

Coronavirus Has Shown Us the Vital Role Schools Play, But Will America Listen?

Schools feed and house (and sometimes clothe) students every day. Those students who have little or no home resources will suffer most from the lack of open school buildings.

The coronavirus pandemic has laid bare something that educators have always known. Schools, side by side with hospitals, are the most important institutions in our country’s social safety net. Of course, we’ve said this since the era of school shootings, where teachers have placed their bodies (literally) in front of students to keep them safe.

But the coronavirus pandemic has put this into even sharper focus, as we grapple with the domino effects of closing entire school districts for prolonged periods at a time. Some public schools will be closed anywhere from a day to a month. Yet, others, such as the New York City system, are still, at this writing, open.

Thus far, dealing with the coronavirus has highlighted four important things about our nation’s schools:

Schools are key to keeping the economy running…
Schools provide respite housing for homeless students during daytime hours…
Schools help to prevent large-scale child hunger every day…
Schools are the primary source of public health information for many families.

Once Again Teachers are First Responders

Schools and teachers have stepped up to help their students.

…Teachers are like those firefighters in Kirkland, Washington who came to transport extremely ill nursing home residents to the hospital, without gloves and masks. Just doing our jobs, just following directions.

Thank you to the hundreds of thousands of teachers who organized take-home packets and figured out how to get coursework online, even if they didn’t have a clue about how to do it before last week. And thank you to those who pointed out, with considerable asperity, how incredibly inequitable virtual instruction will be, but went ahead and made plans to do it anyway. Thanks to all who sent home food or arranged for food pickup—or even made a single call to a single household, to make sure an adult was home.

Nobody knows how to do this well. Nobody. But schools and teachers are still trying.

Disaster Capitalism, Online Instruction, and What Covid-19 Is Teaching Us About Public Schools and Teachers

Nancy Bailey’s blog entry was the catalyst for this post.

We’re reminded of disaster capitalism, a concept highlighted by Naomi Klein in The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, how Katrina was used in New Orleans to convert traditional public schools to charter schools. Within nineteen months, with most of the city’s poor residents still in exile, New Orleans’ public school system had been almost completely replaced by privately run charter schools. (p. 5-6). Who thought that could happen?

The transitioning of technology into public schools, not simply as a supplemental tool for teachers to use at their discretion, but as a transformative means to remove teachers from the equation, has been highlighted with groups like Digital Promise and KnowledgeWorks. Both promote online learning and it’s difficult to find teachers in the mix.

Combining this with the intentional defunding of public schools, shoddy treatment of teachers including the unwillingness to pay them appropriate salaries, inadequate resources and support staff, crumbling buildings, and the destruction of public schooling in America, should we not question what placing students online at this strange time will mean in the future to our schools?

👩‍🏫🏘🧑🏽‍🏫

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