Latest News and Comment from Education

Sunday, July 19, 2020


CURMUDGUCATION: ICYMI: Vacation Edition (7/19)

Vacation Edition 

The Institute staff and board of directors are headed for a corporate retreat in a place where the internet doesn't really reach, so things will be quiet here for a bit. But before I go, here's some reading for you to do. Sorry for all the paywalls today.

There have been several recurriing themes in this week's coverage. For instance, lots of folks have noticed that Betsy DeVos's current stance on getting schools open, and using federal muscle to force it, appears to be a complete reversal of her long-held beliefs.

Here's Matt Barnum at Chalkbeat with a pretty good take. Erica Green at the New York Times also offered some DeVosian historical context.

But other folks focused more closely on just how bad DeVos is at her job. Jennifer Rubin at the Washington Post wanted to know who the heck thought it would be a good idea to send DeVos out onto the Sunday shows. Jessica Calarco is at the New York Times wondering what the heck DeVos is thinking. And Charles Pierce at Esquire observed, among other things, that "the only thing DeVos knows about education is how to turn a buck on it."

Local dispatches have thrown the pandemic school issues into sharper relief. A Missouri school district wants parents to sign a waiver of liability for any illness of death that happens to occur. Ohio provides yet more examples of public schools getting funding cuts while charters hoover up some of that sweet small business loan cash. In Orange County, a "bold" idea to reopen school as if nothing unusual was going on turns out to come mostly from charter school fans. And from Wyoming comes this top-notch piece of reporting about a school board meeting that shows some of the attitudes and ideas roll out in unreal time.

Nancy Bailey blogs about some ideas for facing the new school year, and people continue to point out that it really will take some money to do this right, but the headline of the week award may go to The Nation, with their piece entitled "There are literally no good options for educating our kids this fall." Actually, for the "We've got the money; tough noogies for everyone else" crowd, there is one option-- hire teachers to come homeschool your kids.

In other news. Education Next has a brief of research that suggests that No Excuses schools have some problems (quel surprise!) just as KIPP decides that it's time for a motto change and Schools Matter has some thoughts.

I'll be back in ten days or so. In the meantime, check out the blogroll that I keep here, wear a mask, and be kind to each other.

CURMUDGUCATION: ICYMI: Vacation Edition (7/19)


SCOTUS Gives Private Religious Schools The Okay To Discriminate Freely - by @palan57 on @forbes

There Are No Writing Prodigies: What That Means For Writing Instruction - by @palan57 on @forbes

Want Schools Open In The Fall? All The Money In The World Can’t Solve These Problems - by @palan57 on @forbes

Everything's Made Up (And Nobody Is Behind)
This is the opportunity we're missing, but to grab it would require us to look at things that some of us would rather not look at. We can start with the notion that students are currently "falling behind." Well, now-- behind what, exactly? Is there some line scribed by the Hand of God in the intellectual sand that tells us, yes, a child who has been on earth 193 months should have crossed this abs
FL: The Broad Outlines of the PPP Cash-in
So it turns out that all you have to do to get some charter and voucher schools to admit they're businesses is just wave some sweet, sweet business-purposed money at them. We've heard the individual stories from here and there about this, but a friend of the Curmudgucation Institute sent along an astonishing piece of data crunching. I don't have a handy way to attach a spreadsheet to this post, bu
Report: Zuckerberg’s Favorite Digital Ed Program Is All Sizzle, No Steak
Last month, the National Education Policy Center released a new report: Big Claims, Little Evidence, Lots of Money: The Reality Behind the Summit Learning Program and the Push to Adopt Digital Personalized Learning Programs. It looks at one of the most prominent digital learning platforms, and how money and power are able to push such programs despite any real evidence that they work. Summit Scho
A Rebecca Friedrichs Reader
Friedrichs has been in the news yet again, this time appearing on Fox to accuse America's Evil Teacher Unions of being sexual predators . It's an accusation that will have traction in some circles; if you spend any time in conspiratorial comment sections of the interwebz, you're probably aware of the grand conspiracy theory that says that the entire Democratic Party is a smokescreen for pedophiles
The Test Many School Districts Failed Before The Pandemic Even Started
You’ve heard about an emotional bank account , a metaphor for the investments in personal relationships that keep them healthy and able to deal with the bumps and bruises that come along in any relationship. Build trust and deposit in the account in good times, make withdrawals in the lean times, and maintain a healthy balance. Organizations such as school districts have similar accounts, and 2020
NBA Includes Education Reform On Approved Social Justice Message List
So, the NBA and NBPA have created a list of approved social justice messages that players may put on the backs of their jerseys. Which is, I guess, a way to let players protest within a carefully delineated parameter, an official approved expression of disapproval. And the slogan will go in place of the player's name. But at least the NBA is doing something positive-ish, which is more than certain
Biden's Education Platform
The Unity Task Force has been working hard to convince Sanders supporters to back Biden to come up with policy statements that will appeal to all wings of the party, thereby promoting Unity! Huzzah! I almost didn't bother to look; this is a document that will be fed into the shredder that is the Official Platform Process, and it's pretty hard to compare about party platforms in a Presidential race
ICYMI: Hell Of A Week Edition (7/12)
Well, that was a hell of a week, between administration backflips and dictates over covid policy and the general rising tide of panic. Here at the Institute, I've decided to skip the 642 pieces I've read about reopening schools this week, 

Randi Weingarten: COVID-19: Teachers are ready to open classrooms if Congress acts

COVID-19: Teachers are ready to open classrooms if Congress acts

Randi Weingarten: Teachers want to be in a classroom — Congress must make it safe
Teachers aren't waiting for a vaccine to reopen schools, but we do need to keep students and educators safe. Where is the support from lawmakers?

We can usually count on a president and Education secretary to prioritize children’s and teachers’ well-being and safety. That certainly should be the expectation during a pandemic. But just as President Donald Trump has downplayed the virus from the beginning, now he and Secretary Betsy DeVos have demanded schools reopen regardless of the lack of a thorough plan, the necessary funding, or the safety considerations that scientists and public health experts tell us are needed.
Teachers are not waiting for a vaccine to reopen schools; they know in-person schooling is really important for kids, academically, socially and emotionally. But particularly as COVID-19 cases continue to rise in many states, teachers and our students need both a real plan to reopen safely and the resources to do so.
According to a recent poll of our members, 76% of educators support going back to school if we have the proper safeguards called for by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other experts — safeguards such as ensuring low community spread (New York calls for a daily infection rate 5% or lower), daily deep cleaning and sanitizing of school facilities, physical distancing, masks and other appropriate personal protective equipment, ventilation, and reasonable accommodations for those most at risk. CONTINUE READING: COVID-19: Teachers are ready to open classrooms if Congress acts

As fear of the virus wins out, a fast retreat from in-person learning - The Washington Post

As fear of the virus wins out, a fast retreat from in-person learning - The Washington Post

As fear of the virus wins out, a fast retreat from in-person learning

From the moment schools shuttered unceremoniously in March, one thought dominated: How to return.
Officials across the Washington region huddled to make plans for a triumphant resumption of in-person learning. Discussions persisted into the summer: Superintendents held listening sessions to solicit safety suggestions, parents tried to convince kids that face masks aren’t so bad, and educators scoured YouTube for videos depicting what socially distant teaching looks like in other countries.
Fairfax County Public Schools was the first to promise that kids could return, if only for two days a week. Still, administrators there offered a choice: Parents could also keep their kids home for 100 percent online learning. Almost immediately, several nearby school systems debuted near-identical plans, built around what became known as the “hybrid option.”
But as July rolled around — and coronavirus cases held stubbornly steady in the D.C. area, while surging to unprecedented heights elsewhere — momentum for in-person school stalled. Then it shifted in the other direction. A vocal coalition of teachers, staff and parents clamored for online-only instruction. They sent long emails and made angry phone calls. They flooded virtual board meetings, where teachers gave tearful testimony about how they were being forced to pick between their jobs or their lives.
Despite mounting pressure from President Trump to reopen full time, district after district gave in. In the span of two weeks, at least half a dozen school systems in D.C., Maryland and Virginia — the CONTINUE READING: As fear of the virus wins out, a fast retreat from in-person learning - The Washington Post

Mike Klonsky's Blog: There are no good choices when it comes to opening schools in the fall. I'm still hoping for something better.

Mike Klonsky's Blog: There are no good choices when it comes to opening schools in the fall. I'm still hoping for something better.

There are no good choices when it comes to opening schools in the fall. I'm still hoping for something better

74,710 New Cases*
918 New Deaths*
The current national and local debates about a "safe" opening of school buildings in the midst of the worst, deadliest pandemic in a century is perplexing, often bordering on the absurd.

Here's the conundrum: There are no safe havens from COVID-19 any place where groups gather indoors without adequate spacing, ventilation, and protection. And there's no authentic learning that can take place without, physical and social interaction, especially in early childhood grades.

On the local level, as summer draws to a close, the school-opening issue is becoming charged with emotion, frustration, and angry contention between school boards and teacher unions. Teachers have always taken the necessary risks involved when it comes to supporting and CONTINUE READING: 
Mike Klonsky's Blog: There are no good choices when it comes to opening schools in the fall. I'm still hoping for something better.

NYC Educator: The Safest and Best Education for our Students

NYC Educator: The Safest and Best Education for our Students

The Safest and Best Education for our Students

If you read my NY Post piece yesterday, you know I'm less than bullish on Mayor de Blasio's opening plan. In that piece, I give some suggestions on how we best approach September. Hong Kong's in its third wave of Covid, closing its Disney Park and movie theaters. Chancellor Carranza and Mayor de Blasio appear determined to set us on our second wave.

I've got an inbox full of messages from teachers freaking out over going back. I'd argue a rational fear for your life in a time of elevated danger is healthy, and something worth modeling for our students.

The whole risking your life in order to provide third-rate instruction is not going over well with teachers anywhere. And for those who cheerily say that young people aren't much at risk, the fact is they have not only teachers to consider, but also families. (Not only do we have them, but our students have them as well.) While advocates for opening buildings stick their heads in the sand, I'm going to expand on what I had in the Post.

The notion of seeing ten kids at a time while ignoring the rest is simply unworkable and ridiculous. I'll give it a mention later, but let's look at how we improve the online experience.

1. We need to show our faces. In April, I was pretty surprised to find all the students hiding behind photos of puppies and anime characters. Now don't get me wrong--I love puppies and I'm good with anime, but I'd rather see you. I had one student who never answered questions until someone texted her. Then she'd write, "I don't know," in the chat. She may as well not have been there. She got an NX, but should have failed. We need to make technology available to all, and we need to use it.

This is going to be exacerbated in September when we meet new students. I can't imagine spending an entire semester teaching pictures of kittens and rabbits. I want to see the kids. They see me, so I need to see them too. Of course it won't be as good as seeing students face to face, but it will be an improvement over not seeing them at all. I don't know whether this is regulated on a school level or a city level, but regardless it needs to be fixed.

2. We need real training and real resources. I went in the last three days the DOE mandated in March. I went to a bizarre meeting led by the principal. He didn't actually do anything bizarre, but it was the first time I'd been in a socially distanced CONTINUE READING: 
NYC Educator: The Safest and Best Education for our Students

Betsy DeVos wants to turn millions of America’s children into pandemic lab rats – Raw Story

Betsy DeVos wants to turn millions of America’s children into pandemic lab rats – Raw Story

Betsy DeVos wants to turn millions of America’s children into pandemic lab rats

The trouble with actually listening to Education Sec. Betsy DeVos and other Trump cabinet members is that their words lead nowhere.
They are circular arguments: Schools should open despite coronavirus because, well, schools should be open.
Clearly DeVos is backing Trump’s demand for schools across the country to be fully open with in-person classes in September. But under the fairly predictable questions of talk show appearances, she was tongue-tied about exactly how that is supposed to happen. Instead, she turned to the old reliable – that local districts need to figure it out on their own. All of which makes it more curious as to why the Trump campaign would send her around the country with her mealy-mouthed speech about re-opening schools as part of re-electioneering.
Fine. But, if “no one-size solution fits all cases” is the mantra, why are Trump and DeVos saying the federal guidance – under threat of loss of federal funds — is exactly that: Open up or else.

That this advice ignores a singularly difficult pandemic spread is obvious. Return to “normalcy,” as we hear endlessly, means making it appear that conditions are the best for a Trump reelection. But the contagion isn’t going away, nor is the popular unwillingness to take even basic precautions.
In states like Florida where Gov. Ron DeSantis wants to step as lightly as possible despite record numbers of new outbreaks of coronavirus, there is criticism because he is ignoring the disease. In states like California, where Gov. Gavin Newsom is re-imposing many but not all stay-at-home orders, there is criticism from those who find the orders CONTINUE READING: Betsy DeVos wants to turn millions of America’s children into pandemic lab rats – Raw Story