Online instruction, Charters = risky business, Undermining religious liberty,
Talking to students about race
IT’S STILL POVERTY
We know that student achievement is based largely on out of school factors yet we continue to try to “fix” the schools. Changing curriculum, blaming schools or teachers, privatizing, or overtesting won’t solve the problem of low student achievement. The main link to low school achievement is poverty.
About a fifth of American students live in poverty (the same as child poverty in Indiana) and millions of those children live in food-insecure households.
As long as we, as a nation, refuse to address the growing inequality among our students, we’ll continue to have high child poverty levels. Since high poverty correlates with low school achievement, we’ll continue to have a large number of our students who fail to achieve.
World-class education nations don’t do what seems to be our main strategy: Insist schools compete against one another, use toxic accountability measures to control and measure what schools do, and hold teachers as scapegoats for plunged education rankings…
Half a century of systematic research has shown that teachers account for about 10 to 15 per cent of the variability in students’ test scores. A similar amount of variability is associated with other school factors, such as curriculum, resources and leadership. This means that most of the influence on students’ educational achievement lies outside school — in homes, communities, peer groups and students’ individual characteristics.
Make no mistake, teachers are the most influential part of school. We should stop thinking that teachers have the power to overcome all those inequalities that many children bring to school with them every day.
Public policy can ameliorate child poverty without being revolutionary. However, programs need to be redesigned and targeted to alleviate instability, privation and misery for the more than 2 million children living in America’s poorest families. Child poverty overall was reduced in the decade between 1995 and 2005, but during that same period, the number children living in the deepest poverty rose from 2.2 to 2.6 million children. These are the conclusions of a new report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) defines deep poverty as families living below half of the federal poverty level—below $14,000 per year for a family of four. Who are these children? “Children living in deep poverty are a diverse group…. In 2016, 37 percent were white, 30 percent were Latino, 23 percent were Black, and 6 percent were Asian; 45 percent lived in suburban areas, 32 percent in urban areas, and 11 percent in rural areas; 51 percent lived in a single-mother family, 37 percent in a married-couple family, and 6 percent in a single-father family; 16 percent lived in a family where someone had a work-limiting disability; and 89 percent were U.S. citizens and 31 percent lived in a family with a non-citizen.”
A TEACHABLE MOMENT?
Children all over the country are getting an unplanned vacation from school because of COVID-19. Their schools are moving to “virtual instruction” (more on that below). The virus seems to be the perfect “teachable moment” as explained by Ed in the Apple. Students who are still in school could also benefit.
I was speaking with a school supervisor yesterday: he was teaching a kindergarten class: how to wash their hands. The lessons should be replicated in all classrooms across the city.
Science lessons, by grade, should explain what a virus is; English classes should be reading non-fiction about viruses and epidemics.
When I mentioned this I was told, “We don’t want to unduly scare children.” Knowledge is power: the more we involve the children, teach children, we all know that the “teachable moment” is at the heart of impactful instruction.
STANDARDIZED TESTS — A LOW PRIORITY
What should schools do when they come back from the forced COVID-19 layoff? Skip the test!
First, debrief your students. They will all have stories to tell about how their family survived, who got sick, who might still be sick, what they did to amuse themselves, and how they coped.
Then, get back to the curriculum. We should not waste time on tests. Remember that the greatest impact on a child’s standardized test is what happens outside of school (see also We have a learning crisis but it’s not about the kids, elsewhere in this Medley).
The question remains – what do we do when we get back to class?
We could extend the school year, but families have vacations planned and other obligations. This wouldn’t solve much and frankly I don’t think it will happen unless we’re out for longer than expected.
I anticipate being back in school by mid April or so. That would leave about a month and a half left in the year.
This really leaves us with only two options: (1) hold our end of the year standardized tests and then fit in whatever else we can, or (2) forgo the tests and teach the curriculum.
If we have the tests, we could hold them shortly after school is back in session. That at least would give us more time to teach, but it would reduce the quality of the test scores. Kids wouldn’t be as prepared and the results would be used to further dismantle the public school network.
Much better I think is option two: skip the tests altogether.
There will simply be no way to know how much of this year’s test data is the result of coronavirus disruption. They will be a waste of time.
So don’t give them.
Schools can not only recoup the time lost for giving the tests, but all the time spent preparing for the tests (plus, in some cases, all the time spent on zippy test pep rallies).
Cut the test. Reclaim the instructional time and use it to patch the holes that the coronavirus is going to blow in the school’s curriculum. It’s not a perfect solution, but it makes far more sense than wasting a bunch of time and money on a meaningless standardized test.
If online charters are worthy of education dollars from the state, shouldn’t they be taking the lead in teaching students “laid-off” from school during the COVID-19 crisis? This article is specifically about Ohio but is appropriate for any state with public money going to online charter schools.
With all this COVID-19 talk, every Ohio Public School District is planning to move to online instruction through the end of the year. While that seems like a heavy lift, it really shouldn’t be. Why?
Because no state has more students already attending virtual schools than Ohio.
Yet in no instance has the Ohio Department of Education or any school district — despite this emergency crisis — said, “Hey, we have a lot of online schools already, why don’t we ask them for help?”
CHARTERS — A BAD RISK
Will higher risk relieve us of the charter school scourge which diverts public funds from real public schools?
5) National: Standard & Poor’s has issued an assessment of the charter school sector’s creditworthiness as part of an overview of public finance. “The charter school sector is inherently risky and volatile, relative to other public finance sectors, as reflected in our ratings distribution, and charter nonrenewal or revocations can affect credit quality swiftly. However, despite these intrinsic risks, the majority—82%—of S&P Global Ratings’ ratings in the sector carried stable outlooks as of Dec. 31, 2019. While the sector is facing increasing political support for stricter charter laws or oversight in some states, federal government support for school choice remains strong, per-pupil funding is generally stable to growing, and demand for charter schools continues to grow. From a financing standpoint, charter schools’ opportunities and options have expanded and interest rates remain low…
“Our rated universe increasingly reflects more established charter schools, which generally have completed several successful charter renewals, maintain steady academics, and experience less credit volatility than newer schools. While there are inherent credit risks that can affect schools throughout the year, such as failure to meet authorizer standards, charter nonrenewal due to factors such as academics, or enrollment shortfalls, we believe the sector’s outlook for 2020 will continue being stable due to continued demand and growing per-pupil funding levels. However, should charter law and policy changes of significant impact occur in states where we hold a large number of ratings, or some of the broader risks (such as a slowing national economy or recession) transpire during this calendar year, charter schools could face more credit stress.” [Registration required]
VOUCHER PROGRAMS UNDERMINE RELIGIOUS LIBERTY
The following is from the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty. Vouchers aren’t good for anyone…
Yes, “choice” sounds like it is associated with “freedom,” but by funneling government funds to religious schools, vouchers actually undermine the religious freedom of both the taxpayer and the religious institution receiving the payment.
Not only do vouchers force taxpayers to support religious education they might disagree with, they also threaten religious autonomy by attaching government regulations that may compromise the religious mission of the school. Once dependent on voucher funds for its success, a church-based school can be even further pushed toward gaining favor with government regulators.
In other words, government neutrality toward religion is good for the state and good for religion.
TALK TO WHITE KIDS ABOUT RACE
We should talk to all our students about race in America.
In our interviews with young people around the country for our Teaching While White podcast, we have seen firsthand an inability among white students to talk about race without exhibiting racial stress. We hear white children as young as nine years old express anxiety about being white and what they think that means. Often these white students, who mind you have volunteered to be interviewed, feel ill equipped and sometimes unable to engage in racial conversations. It seems that we are successfully raising the next generation of white people who, like too many in the current generation of adults, feel afraid and reluctant to talk about race.
There is a common cultural myth that racism is diminishing among youth today. In reality, not only are white students not talking about race, but incidents of blatant individual acts of racism are currently on the rise. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), there has been a surge in reports of hate and bias in schools in the last three years. Racism appears to be the motivation behind a high percentage of these hate and bias incidents, accounting for 63% of incidents reported in the news and 33% of incidents reported by teachers in the SPLC survey. School responses to this uptick in racialized incidents has been disappointing. More than two-thirds of the educators SPLC surveyed had witnessed a hate or bias incident in their school. According to the report, “most of the hate and bias incidents witnessed by educators were not addressed by school leaders. No one was disciplined in 57% of them. Nine times out of 10, administrators failed to denounce the bias or to reaffirm school values.”