Latest News and Comment from Education

Sunday, March 22, 2020


CURMUDGUCATION: ICYMI: Stay In Place Edition (3/22)

Stay In Place Edition (3/22)

Well, here we all are, in place (except for some of you who think this is a fake and some of you who think nothing should interfere with spring break). Frankly, the reading this week has been a bit....well, repetitive. But here are some things to peruse while you're holding down your couch.

An Open Letter To Seniors
Louisiana's teacher of the year has some thoughts for high school seniors, whose big year is threatening to end with a whimper instead of a bang. Courtesy of the indispensable Mercedes Schneider, who also has some thoughts of her own for seniors facing this derailment.

Welcome To Your Hastily Prepared Online College Course
From McSweeney's. Probably the funniest thing you'll read this week.

AI Is an Ideology, Not a Technology
Intriguing contrary opinion about the artificial intelligence movement, courtesy of Jaron Lanier at Wired. A thoughtful look at the reasons to not be an AI fan.

The Demise of the Great Education Saviors  
Kevin Carey at the Washington Post looks at how choice and charters have lost political clout at this point. Maybe.

Only Ten Black Students  
Meanwhile, in NYC, you may recall a big flap last year over the proportionately tiny number of Black students who made it into Stuyvesant High School, one of the city's elite selective schools. Well, one year later, after carefully considering the issues-- nothing has changed at all. The New York Times has Eliza Shapiro on the story.

They Didn't Have A Chance To Say Goodbye
Yeah, I virtually never see eye to eye with Erika Sanzi, and am not exactly a fan of Education Post. But if you ignore those two things, this piece about the emotional cost for students of the sudden ending of school is on point. In PA we may feel it extra, since the governor shut down schools late Friday afternoon, after many students were already gone.

Coronavirus opens the gap  
This piece from the Philadelphia Enquirer takes a look at how the coronaviral break highlights that some districts can give every student a computer, and other districts, not so much.

Meanwhile, there are a million pieces about how you too can better handle the learning from home thing. I got tired of reading and eye-rolling at them about Tuesday.

So hang in there, stay safe, and order food from your local restaurants that are still trying to stay open, and any other local small business you can support.

CURMUDGUCATION: ICYMI: Stay In Place Edition (3/22)


AI Is Not Going To Drive Trucks (Or Your Classroom)

From Jalopnik, we get this report from the world of self-driving truck s. Mark it the gazillionth cautionary tale for folks who believe that AI will be able to take over critical human functions any time soon. The article takes a look at Starsky Robotics, a company that was in the business of producing unmanned semis for public highways. Now it's just in the business of shutting down. The co-found

MAR 20

Don't Ever Forget How Much Some Folks Hate Public Education

Interesting piece this week in the Washington Post , penned by Stuart Stevens , a GOP non-Trump fan consultant with a book coming out. The whole piece, about how the GOP has morphed into the kind of party ripe for something like this coronviracation we're now all sharing, is well worth reading, but here's just one quote: The failures of the government’s response to the coronavirus crisis can be tr

MAR 19

PA Scraps the Big Standardized Test

Word has been shooting out over social media for the last twenty minutes. The PSSA, the Keystone exam, and even the PASA are officially not happening this year . “Our school communities are operating within unprecedented conditions,” said Secretary of Education Pedro A. Rivera. “Schools are making extraordinary efforts to remain connected to students and families, to provide food service and to pu

MAR 18

Trust And Teaching

Among the may lessons we get to glean from the coronavirus semester is this one: trust matters. Trust matters a lot. And it matters in little things as well as big things, because little things set the stage for big things. You can start out with silly stuff like "My inauguration crowd was the biggest ever," and folks can just wave it off as harmless, but at the other end of the road is a major ev

MAR 17

Scrap The Big Standardized Test!

Education writers have been saying it for a week. I said it. There are plenty of reasons to question the high stakes use of these tests in any year, but one thing is clear—this year, they will produce no useful data. Peter DeWitt said it . Given all of the stressors that students, teachers, staff and leaders are under right now, and given the fact that there is still so much we do not know about C
On Line Class Discussions

Think of this as part of a series on ed tech tools that can actually be useful, now that some folks are being required to use them. Some of my teacher friends are discovering the joys of on-line class discussions, and I myself was always a fan. The best ed tech doesn't supplant the classroom, but extends its reach, and the on line discussion format offers several appealing features. Most importan

MAR 15

It's Okay. You Don't Have To Homeschool.

Like most teachers, I've had those student requests. End of the period, usually, they stop by the desk, usually looking downhearted. "Could I have the assignments for the next week or so," they ask. And then the cause. Death of a relative. Family emergency. A non-elective operation. A family tragedy. Some sort of unavoidable crisis that would take them away from school. My answer was usually somet

ICYMI: I'm a Grandfather Again Edition (3/15)

Beware the Ides of March, indeed. It's been a busy week and I've been a little behind on my own reading, so the list might be a little short today (and late, too). But my new grandson is beautiful. Texas Takeover in Shepherd A school 

Is Congress Using Crisis to Suspend IDEA? | Diane Ravitch's blog

Is Congress Using Crisis to Suspend IDEA? | Diane Ravitch's blog

Is Congress Using Crisis to Suspend IDEA?

I received this notice from two trusted allies.
From: Maggie Hart
Date: Fri, Mar 20, 2020 at 3:23 PM
Subject: Threat to ALL Special Education by COVID-19
Hi Everyone: I’m sorry to be bothering you with something work related but Senator Alexander has attached an amendment to the next proposed relief package that includes a full and complete waiver of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act for the rest of the school year! The National Disability Rights Network has a really simple way to write to your congress people to tell them not to let the amendment pass.
Here is the link:
The amendment would mean that school districts across the country would not have to provide any more special education services- all year- and they would never have to make up the missed sessions. Not even consultations over the phone or computer for parents to talk to therapists. No special education schools, no speech CONTINUE READING: Is Congress Using Crisis to Suspend IDEA? | Diane Ravitch's blog

Mitchell Robinson: White House Press Conferences: The New Faculty Meetings | Eclectablog

White House Press Conferences: The New Faculty Meetings | Eclectablog

White House Press Conferences: The New Faculty Meetings

Watching today’s Corona Virus Task Force press briefing, I experienced flashbacks to so many faculty meetings I’ve attended during my career as a teacher…
The meeting begins with opening remarks from the “big boss” (think: Trump), alternating between attempts at morale building (“We are doing so great! Better than ever before!”), paranoid defenses of the boss’ policies when challenged (“I’d say that maybe you aren’t doing a very good job of implementing our new attendance policy then!”), and bizarre attacks borne out of frustration at an “underling” daring to question his authority or power (“We have too many people who are not following proper protocols, so don’t bring me your problems–fix them on your own!”).

Anthony S. Fauci, M.D.Credit: NIAID

At this point, the boss often stamps out of the room, claiming he is already late for a “more important meeting,” and turns over the meeting to the “#2” (think: Dr. Fauci). This person is often highly competent at their job, does most of the day-to-day work required to run the school, and has figured out how to appease the boss’ wild mood swings without the boss knowing he’s being “handled.” Other staff members realize what a “difficult position” the #2 is in, and appreciate her or his efforts to help manage the group’s operations.
Photo credit: Gage Skidmore.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo; image taken from Wikipedia

Lurking in the background are the boss’ sycophants (think: Pence, Pompeo), who have nominally more positional authority than the #2, but don’t actually do much more in the building than run interference for the big boss, or share gossip that can help advance them in the group’s hierarchical structure, and/or hurt their CONTINUE READING: White House Press Conferences: The New Faculty Meetings | Eclectablog

EdAction in Congress March 22, 2020 - Education Votes

EdAction in Congress March 22, 2020 - Education Votes

EdAction in Congress March 22, 2020

Congress passes coronavirus package, but much more is needed

On March 18, the president signed into law the bipartisan Families First Coronavirus Response Act that provides free testing and paid sick and emergency leave for some (steps must be taken to cover more); the bill also bolsters unemployment insurance, food initiatives, and federal support for Medicaid. But it’s just a start. Additional legislation is already in the works and we need to weigh in—right now. NEA’s top legislative priorities include:
  • Putting money in people’s pockets by sending “stimulus” checks to households, cancelling federal student loan payments, and further expanding unemployment insurance
  • Injecting more money into state budgets and Medicaid to help avoid laying off educators and ensure access to health care
  • Closing the “homework gap” by providing devices and Wi-Fi hotspots for students who lack internet access at home
  • Providing flexibility in U.S. Department of Education regulations, especially those that govern Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) testing and interventions, and reasonable flexibility under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)
  • Guaranteeing paid sick and family medical leave for everyone who needs it
  • Taking steps to prevent housing instability and a rise in homelessness
Email your representatives and urge them to support these legislative priorities to help students, educators, and families weather the coronavirus pandemic. TAKE ACTION

Tell Congress to repeal unfair Social Security penalties NOW

The coronavirus is a double whammy for retirees, threatening to ruin both their health and finances—especially those subject to unfair Social Security penalties who are already struggling to make ends meet. Some 2.5 million people dedicated to public service, including many educators, have their Social Security benefits reduced—or lose them entirely—due to the Government Pension Offset (GPO) and Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP). The Social Security Fairness Act (S. 521/H.R. 141) repeals both the GPO and WEP. Email your representatives and tell them to make it part of the coronavirus legislative package. TAKE ACTION

Senator helps stranded students and educators get home

Teacher Robin Robinson was part of a group of 39 students and educators from Monrovia, Indiana, on a school trip to Europe. Stuck in Krakow, Poland, when the border closed due to the coronavirus crisis, they needed to get to Frankfurt, Germany, to catch their flight back to the United States. When they encountered a series of barriers, the Indiana State Teachers Association and NEA reached out to Sen. Mike Braun (R-IN) for help. He and his staff cut through the confusion and red tape to get the students and educators home safely. NEA President Lily Eskelsen García extended a heartfelt thank you to the senator and his team.

Cheers and Jeers    

Federal Communications Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel published an op-ed that reinforces NEA’s message: The FCC should send Wi-Fi hotspots to schools to close the homework gap.

Sens. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Jim Inhofe (R-OK), Ron Johnson (R-WI), James Lankford (R-OK), Mike Lee (R-UT), Ron Paul (R-KY), Ben Sasse (R-NE), and Tim Scott (R-SC) voted against the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.
EdAction in Congress March 22, 2020 - Education Votes

When Crisis Presents an Opportunity: How about a National Teacher Plan? | Teacher in a strange land

When Crisis Presents an Opportunity: How about a National Teacher Plan? | Teacher in a strange land

When Crisis Presents an Opportunity: How about a National Teacher Plan?

Remember Katrina? Remember when schools were closed and the students who went to public schools in NOLA fled, a diaspora, as the city tried to clean up and rebuild and restore?
My friend Jill Saia, who was teaching in Baton Rouge at the time, described days where batches of new students would appear, shell-shocked and sad, and teachers welcomed and made room for them. They didn’t have enough chairs or textbooks–or toothbrushes–but kids sat on the countertops and teachers bought pencils with their own money. Going to school was normal, and however imperfectly, those children were invited into functioning schools and classrooms for a bit of healing normality.
It certainly was one of those ‘Every Crisis is an Opportunity’ moments.
Unfortunately, we know what happened. Wipe out a school system (and, not coincidentally, remove a large number of its poorest and least protected students) and you’ve got yourself the opportunity to let the market create a profitable, PR-driven system of chartersWe’ve spent the last 10 years arguing about the all-charter NOLA system, while those students’ schools open, then close.
It’s become abundantly clear that nothing will be the same after the COVID-19 pandemic abates: the economy, the obviously failed American approach to health CONTINUE READING: When Crisis Presents an Opportunity: How about a National Teacher Plan? | Teacher in a strange land