Teaching, Leading, and Social Justice
Peter Baker and Erica Green, New York Times
President Trump demanded on Tuesday that schools reopen physically in the fall, pressing his drive to get the country moving again even as the coronavirus pandemic surged through much of the United States and threatened to overwhelm some health care facilities. In a daylong series of conference calls and public events at the White House, the president, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and other senior officials opened a concerted campaign to lean on governors, mayors and others to resume classes in person months after more than 50 million children were abruptly ejected from school buildings in March. Mr. Trump and his administration argued that the social, psychological and educational costs of keeping children at home any longer would be worse than the virus itself. But they offered no concrete proposals or new financial assistance to states and localities struggling to restructure academic settings, staffs and programs that were never intended to keep children six feet apart or cope with the requirements of combating a virus that has killed more than 130,000 Americans.
More than 40 school principals in the San Francisco Bay Area are in quarantine after being exposed to the coronavirus during an in-person meeting last month to discuss reopening campuses, according to a newspaper report. A person who attended the June 19 meeting by administrators of the Santa Clara Unified School District tested positive a few days later, the San Francisco Chronicle reported Wednesday. District Superintendent Stella Kemp confirmed the exposure to the school board during an online meeting last week, the Chronicle said. “Given the complexity required in the development of our reopening plan, some of our staff meetings are taking place in person,” Kemp said. “Of course those meetings are being conducted under the strict guidelines provided to us by the Santa Clara County Public Health Department.”
Eliza Shapiro, New York Times
About four months after 1.1 million New York City children were forced into online learning, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Wednesday that public schools would still not fully reopen in September, saying that classroom attendance would instead be limited to only one to three days a week in an effort to continue to curb the coronavirus outbreak. The mayor’s release of his plan for the system, by far the nation’s largest, capped weeks of intense debate among elected officials, educators and public health experts over how to bring children back safely to 1,800 public schools.
Howard Blume and Eli Stokols, Los Angeles Times
The pending reopening of K-12 campuses is suddenly at risk because of the ongoing surge of coronavirus cases, and all public and private schools must prepare for students to continue learning entirely from home, Los Angeles County’s top public health official has told local education leaders. This sobering message was delivered Tuesday by county Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer, in what she termed an “off the record” phone call with district superintendents and others that was not intended for the media or the public. The Times obtained a recording of the call. “Every single school district at this point needs to have plans in place to continue distance learning for 100% of the time,” Ferrer told school officials. “We would be irresponsible if we didn’t say to you that you have to have the backup plan ready.”
Valerie Strauss and Carole Burris, The Answer Sheet
School district officials are consumed with trying to figure out if, when and how to reopen schools during the coronavirus pandemic — with no definitive answers from even the top experts on infectious diseases. The American Academy of Pediatrics recently issued guidance for school reentry that said districts should do everything they can to bring students back into classrooms. The organization “strongly advocates that all policy considerations for the coming school year should start with a goal of having students physically present in school” — and the reasons are not just about academics.
Language, Learning, and Power
Miriam Jordan, New York Times
Jack Miralrio and his younger brother, Owen, were born in Mexico and brought to the United States illegally by their mother when they were little. Growing up, both enjoyed video games, soccer and building toy cars. Both excelled at school. Now, Jack, 20, is on his way to becoming a mechanical engineer. Owen, 17, is resigned to becoming a mechanic. Their paths have diverged because Jack is a beneficiary of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, which enabled him to obtain a work permit, a driver’s license and financial aid to attend college. Owen was preparing his paperwork to apply in September 2017 when the Trump administration rescinded the program — just days before his 15th birthday, when he would have become eligible.
Amid Black Lives Matter protests, more school districts are pushing to address racism. Is it enough?
Anthony DiMattia and Chris English, USA Today
T.R. Kannan is no stranger to racism. The school board president in the Pennsbury School District in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, has seen it firsthand before immigrating to the U.S. from India, where discrimination on religion, caste and gender is widespread. More than 20 years later, Kannan has grown accustomed to experiencing microaggressions, or unconscious biases that others may not be aware of. “Sometimes there’s a feeling of unease that’s always there,” he said. “I’ve seen it myself, I’ve heard it from family, friends and everyone.”
Whole Children and Strong Communities
Jeannie Oakes, Anna Maier, Julia Daniel, Learning Policy Institute
School buildings are closed for nearly all of the country’s 50.8 million public school students, and those being hit the hardest are the nation’s most marginalized students—more than 52% in 2016–17. For these students, school closures can mean the loss not only of precious learning time but also of essential services such as meals and medical and mental health services that mitigate the stresses of poverty. But there are schools that continue to support student learning and well-being—among them, community schools. The country’s community schools are designed to serve the whole child (addressing learning and well-being) and are based on the understanding that children are better positioned to learn when they are healthy, well fed, and safe. The United States has thousands of community schools serving millions of students already. Among these schools, 2,300 are part of the nonprofit network Communities in Schools. The nonprofit Coalition for Community Schools network supports some 5,000 community schools across the country.
Debra Viadero, EdWeek
School nurses could be on the front lines this fall as schools shut down by the coronavirus begin to reopen buildings to students. In this series, two school nurses—one from a middle school in Maryland and the other from a high school in Virginia— process how their profession has been upended by the coronavirus pandemic, as of May 2020.
Chris Gabrieli and Colleen Beaudoin, Educational Leadership
The insufficiency of learning time for American students has nearly achieved the status of the climate in the famous saying attributed to Mark Twain: “Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.” From 1983’s “A Nation at Risk” (National Commission on Excellence in Education) to 1994’s “Prisoners of Time” (a report by the congressionally mandated National Education Commission on Time and Learning) to the federal proposal Time for Innovation Matters in Education (TIME) Act of 2009, the cry has been consistent: The farm-and-factory era schedule of 180 school days per year, 6.5 hours of school each day is insufficient to meet the current needs and challenges of students. It’s also insufficient to meet the needs of teachers, working families, and communities. Yet over the years, most national surveys of school conditions show no detectable change in school schedules. This inertia persists despite plenty of evidence in favor of expanding learning time (Farbman, 2015).
Access, Assessment, Advancement
Peter Greene, The Progressive
Did students fall behind this spring when schools pivoted to remote learning due to the coronavirus pandemic? If so, how much? And do we need an extra bout of testing in the fall to recoup our educational losses? Many folks are worried about the COVID-19 slide. Arne Duncan, the former Secretary of Education in the Obama Administration, is worried. Jeb Bush is worried. The Wall Street Journal is worried. Researchers at Northwest Evaluation Association, one of the nation’s major test manufacturing companies, put together a “report” about the slide in which they tried to quantify exactly how much education students have lost. We know that some amount of education was lost this spring, but nobody knows exactly how much. Nevertheless, there are a few small reasons for hope.
Michael Burke, EdSource
Michael Drake, the former chancellor of UC Irvine and president of The Ohio State University, has been named as the next president of the University of California, with the system’s Board of Regents voting unanimously Tuesday afternoon to confirm his appointment. Drake, who is Black, will become the first person of color to head the system and will step into the role during an unstable period. The coronavirus pandemic has upended the university’s budget while also greatly altering instruction across the system by forcing classes to be held online.
Inequality, Poverty, Segregation
Will Brehm, Mark Paige, Bruce Meredith, FreshEd
It takes about 15 minutes to drive from Edgewood to Alamo Heights in San Antonio, Texas. Yet the schools in each neighborhood are worlds apart. The student body at Alamo is roughly 52 percent white and 40 percent Hispanic. Only about 20 percent of students are classified as economically disadvantaged. At Edgewood, less than 1 percent of students are white and 97 percent are Hispanic. Nearly 95 percent of students are considered economically disadvantaged.
Over 50 years ago, similar school disparities promoted parents in Edgewood to file a court case seeking equality in educational financing. The case would work its way up to the Supreme Court in what is known as San Antonia Independent School District v. Rodriguez
Ricardo Cano, CalMatters
Betty Hunter and her rising eighth grader had a challenging spring of distance learning. On one hand, Hunter felt “blessed” that her son, Angel, received at least some form of live instruction each day from his teachers at the Mary L. Booker Leadership Academy, the San Francisco charter school he attended this spring. Educators also made themselves available through office hours, another plus. Then there were the struggles. Hunter was forced to balance her day job and serve as her son’s de facto teacher. Angel, already behind his grade level in math, had trouble with multiplication and slid further. Special education services were elusive. Poor internet connectivity in the public housing development where they live sometimes meant missing out on virtual lessons.
Public Schools and Private Dollars
Andre Perry, Hechinger Report
A national uprising for racial justice and a pandemic killing disproportionately more Black people have made the call to action clear: We must dismantle the structures that generate racial disparities. Education activists have joined that call by demanding that districts defund police in schools. School boards are listening. The Los Angeles Board of Education last week voted to cut funding to its school police force by 35 percent, amounting to a $25 million reduction. Calls to defund the police, whether in schools or in our cities, are just one part of what must become a larger movement to end taxpayer funding for institutions that are anti-Black at their core. But as millions of protestors across the country call for monies to be redirected from police to institutions that propel economic and social growth, democracy and unity, school choice advocates are holding fast to their sordid legacy of defunding already under-resourced traditional public schools that serve Black children.
Olga Rodriguez and David Eggert, KCRA
The U.S. Department of Education is attempting to take pandemic relief funds away from K-12 public schools and divert the money to private schools, California and four other Democratic-led states argued in a lawsuit filed Tuesday against the Trump administration. California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel announced the lawsuit, which was joined by Maine, New Mexico, Wisconsin and the District of Columbia. The suit also names Education Secretary Betsy DeVos as a defendant. Becerra said the department unlawfully interpreted the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, which established guidelines to distribute $13.2 billion in aid to schools nationwide using Title I funds earmarked for students from low-income families.
Nicole Gaudiano, Politico
President Donald Trump in a ramped-up push to reopen schools vowed Tuesday to “put pressure” on reluctant governors, while Education Secretary Betsy DeVos blasted education leaders who won’t accept risk and “gave up and didn’t try” to launch summer instruction. But the result was intensifying tensions with teachers unions and leading school groups, including the PTA, which charged that the Trump administration in a “vacuum of leadership” has “zero credibility in the minds of educators and parents when it comes to this major decision.” The dispute leaves the White House deeply at odds with many involved in making major decisions in the next few weeks about reopening schools.
Other News of Note
Steve Phillips, The Nation
What are we waiting for? If this is not the moment to finally come to terms with the United States’ 401-year legacy of government-sanctioned, anti-Black oppression, then, pray tell, when will that moment be? Nearly every year since 1989, Congress has ignored a bill that would create a commission to study the effects of slavery on African Americans and explore possible remedies—including reparations. The current iteration of that bill, HR 40, was introduced by Representative Sheila Jackson Lee last year and languished in the House Judiciary Committee ever since, awaiting action in a chamber controlled by Democrats. What are they waiting for?
There has never been a more promising period for action on this legislation than the one we are in now. Even before the recent wave of protests for Black lives swept the nation, the bill already had unprecedented support. As of today, 135 members of Congress have added their names as cosponsors—compared to the two cosponsors that the previous iteration of the bill had in 2014.