Just News from Center X – May 15, 2020

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Teaching, Leading, and Social Justice

COVID-19 testing key to reopening schools, health officials tell senators

Evie Blad, Education Week
Without a vaccine to halt the spread of the coronavirus, widespread testing and tracing of the illness will be essential to ensure public confidence that children can safely return to school in the fall, federal health officials told a Senate committee Tuesday. Such testing will be necessary to determine if states are ready to ease restrictions that have shuttered schools and businesses and to trace inevitable reemergence of the coronavirus in some areas after schools welcome students back, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s chief epidemiologist, told the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions committee. “I hope that if we do have the threat of a second wave, we will be able to deal with it very effectively to prevent it from becoming an outbreak,” with adequate preparation over the summer months, Fauci said.

CSU schools to keep campuses closed through fall semester, chancellor says

Alyssa Pereira, SF Gate
The entire 23-school California State University system, which includes five Bay Area universities, will keep campuses closed to students and faculty through the fall semester, CSU Chancellor Timothy White announced Tuesday.
All schools have shifted to online courses for most students, and that form of virtual instruction will continue at least through the end of 2020. There will be “limited exceptions” made for students whose schooling requires a in-person presence, such as those in nursing programs or those who need access to a lab.

Supreme Court weighs whether religious schools can fire lay workers

Nina Totenberg and Krishnadev Calamur, NPR
The Supreme Court’s conservative majority signaled Wednesday that it is on the verge of carving out a giant exception to the nation’s fair employment laws. Before the court were two cases, both involving fifth grade teachers at parochial schools in California. One, a veteran of 16 years teaching at her school, contends her firing was a case of age discrimination. The other said she was fired after she told her superior that she had breast cancer and would need some time off. Both schools denied the allegations but maintain that regardless, the fair employment laws do not apply to their lay teachers because they all teach religion for 40 minutes a day.

Language, Culture, and Power

The prospects for just schools in the wake of COVID-19 responses

Ann Ishimaru, Teachers College Press
As I write this, over 50 million children are now at home with their families due to school closures. In the wake of COVID-19, it is no longer possible to overlook the role of families in the education and wellbeing of young people. In a profound and sudden way, families have come to the center of conversations about education. At the same time, as so many have noted, the pandemic has not only revealed but deepened racial injustices in our society. Black, Native, and Latinx communities have been hit disproportionately hard by coronavirus; many working class immigrants have been forced to remain in frontline labor or have lost their jobs; those without documentation live with limited access to healthcare, few governmental supports, and constant fear; incidents of anti-Asian racism have increased dramatically.

Thousands of DACA recipients work on COVID-19 front lines

Jessica Myers, KTAR
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed everything from how most Americans work and shop to how they socialize – even if they can be in the same room. For Maria Leon Peña, it could change her chances of staying in this country. The Phoenix nursing assistant is one of an estimated 29,000 health care workers in the U.S. who are undocumented, according to a recent report,but have remained in this country under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program. It’s a program that the Trump administration is trying to abolish.

Coronavirus’ online school is hard enough. What if you’re still learning to speak English?

Erin Richards, USA Today
In normal times, teacher Ariana Tabaku helps her students learn English with structured curriculum, face-to-face encouragement and high fives. None of that is possible during the coronavirus outbreak. So she became a professional fundraiser. An IT specialist. A video producer. And that’s what it took just to get her students — all of whom speak a different language at home — logged in. During the school closures to contain the spread of the coronavirus, educators are rightfully worried about students falling behind. This period of remote learning, technology divides and lowered expectations has stalled progress for almost everyone.

Whole Children and Strong Communities

California wants to feed students’ families. The USDA says no. Some states are doing it anyway.

Laura Reiley, The Washington Post
By the end of April, more than 1 in 5 households in the United States, and 2 in 5 households with children age 12 and younger, were food insecure. A record 20.5 million Americans lost their jobs in April. Many American families are newly hungry, and in some communities, lines at food banks extend for several miles. Some grocery stores still have gaps and are instituting rationing.
California’s Education Department had asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture to allow the parents or legal guardians of children eligible for free school meals to pick up meals for themselves.

Coronavirus could cost parents custody of kids in foster care

Elizabeth Brico, Talk Poverty
“[My one-year-old] sees me, he hears my voice, he looks at me for a second, but that’s all,” said Juanita Moss, a mother in San Francisco, California. Her three children are in foster care, and for the past six weeks, video chats have replaced in-person visits. “My son, [who is] four years old, has a hard time expressing feelings. He’s very verbal about it, it’s painful to watch. He will kick and scream about how much he wants me…he’s constantly saying he wants to ‘come home, mommy.’” San Francisco enacted a citywide shelter-in-place order on March 17. Prior to the lockdown, Moss was seeing her three children twice a week in supervised settings like the public library or a designated visitation center. Now, she can only see her children through a screen.

We need to prepare for the mental health effects of coronavirus on kids

Sonali Kohli, The Los Angeles Times
Four-year-olds have play dates through closed windows, sliding their toy cars in unison on either side of the glass. A high school student worries about his mother going to work in a food-packing warehouse, at risk for contracting COVID-19. Another teen says “there is nothing to look forward to,” as he tries to avoid sliding into depression. Worried parents are calling school district hotlines seeking help for their troubled children. Experts say that when kids return to campuses, the demand for mental health care will be greater than the available services, as the effects of the coronavirus disruptions cut across societal strata, affecting children throughout California. But schools, the safe havens that provide the only access many children have to mental health care, are ill-prepared to support the magnitude of expected need.

Access, Assessment, and Advancement

UC president wants SAT/ACT mandate suspended through 2024 and new exam created

Larry Gordon, EdSource
With a proposal that could shake up the standardized testing industry and also antagonize some faculty, University of California president Janet Napolitano on Monday said undergraduate applicants should not be required to take the SAT or ACT through at least 2024 and maybe forever if the university can not develop a replacement exam. Her plan calls on UC to create its own entrance exam “that better aligns with the content UC expects applicants to have learned and with UC values,” according to a statement on the agenda for a UC regents meeting next week. The regents are scheduled to vote May 21 on the future of standardized testing for freshmen admissions, a hotly debated issue that focuses on whether the SAT and AC hurt or help the college entrance chances of low-income and some minority students.

Fewer students apply for college financial aid, a sign coronavirus may disrupt enrollment

Melissa Korn, The Wall Street Journal
College administrators expect more students to need financial aid for the coming school year—but fewer are applying for it. Applications for federal aid from high-school seniors dropped below year-ago levels in mid-March, as the coronavirus pandemic hit and many schools across the U.S. switched to remote learning. Since then, they have continued to slide, according to an analysis of federal data from the nonprofit National College Attainment Network.

With colleges shuttered, more students consider gap years. But those may be disrupted, too.

Susan Svrluga, The Washington Post
It wasn’t long ago that Anna Parra Jordan was excited to go off to college. She liked the idea of seeing new places, meeting new people, staying out until four in the morning if she wanted, wearing what she wanted. “I was ready to bounce,” she said. “Bounce from D.C.” Then, one boring Friday abruptly became the end — her final send-off from high school as the country shut down amid the coronavirus pandemic. And as she dragged herself through Woodrow Wilson High School online classes this spring, trying not to read the news stories her mother told her to read, she suddenly realized: She needed a year off.

Inequality, Poverty, Segregation

I’m sick of asking children to be resilient

Mona Hanna-Attisha, The New York Times
A baby born in Flint, Mich., where I am a pediatrician, is likely to live almost 20 fewer years than a child born elsewhere in the same county. She’s a baby like any other, with wide eyes, a growing brain and a vast, bottomless innocence — too innocent to understand the injustices that without her knowing or choosing have put her at risk. Some of the babies I care for have the bad luck to be born into neighborhoods where life expectancy is just over 64 years. Only a few miles away, in a more-affluent community, the average life span is 84 years. The ravages of Covid-19, which disproportionately affect low-income families and people of color, are surely widening this gap even further.

How Betsy DeVos’s handling of relief funds hurt some of the country’s neediest schools, students

Daniel Dougla-Gabriel, The Washington Post
When the novel coronavirus forced colleges and universities to abruptly send students and faculty home for the semester, vulnerable students scrambled to continue their studies amid financial stress, and schools reeled from housing refunds and other lost revenue.
Enter Congress with a $14 billion lifeline. Schools, anticipating a deepening economic crisis, had lobbied for more, but they still welcomed the support. And they hoped for swift and clear guidance from the Education Department, which Congress tasked with dispensing funding as quickly as possible.

School reopenings leave educators in high-risk groups with difficult choice over return

Shawna De La Rosa, Education Dive
Typically, districts try to hang on to staff during recessions. That will likely be difficult now, due to health and safety concerns of older teachers. Many districts will likely have to implement hiring freezes due to lost funds from the economic fallout. Districts that receive a larger portion of funding from states will be more affected than those with strong property tax bases. Some have suggested the national education system could soon experience what New Orleans faced after Hurricane Katrina. Following the storm, teachers were laid off for four months. By the time school reopened in the fall, only a third remained in New Orleans schools, while another 18% found jobs in other districts.

Public Schools and Private $

Why Bill Gates is not the man to reimagine New York education

Peter Greene, Forbes
It literally took less than an hour for the pushback to start. Governor Andrew Cuomo dismissively questioned why school buildings even exist these days, and announced that he was enlisting Bill Gates to help reimagine education in the Empire State. From a dozen different corners, the objections came. One day later, Cuomo’s Facebook page attempted to soften the announcement. “Teachers are heroes & nothing could ever replace in-person learning,” the post began, before assuring readers that the reimagining would be done “in full partnership with educators and administrators.” That does not appear to have calmed anybody’s fears.

The coming disruption 

James D. Walsh, NY Mag
In 2017, Scott Galloway anticipated Amazon’s $13.7 billion purchase of Whole Foods a month before it was announced. Last year, he called WeWork on its “seriously loco” $47 billion valuation a month before the company’s IPO imploded. Now, Galloway, a Silicon Valley runaway who teaches marketing at NYU Stern School of Business, believes the pandemic has greased the wheels for big tech’s entrée into higher education. The post-pandemic future, he says, will entail partnerships between the largest tech companies in the world and elite universities. MIT@Google. iStanford. HarvardxFacebook. According to Galloway, these partnerships will allow universities to expand enrollment dramatically by offering hybrid online-offline degrees, the affordability and value of which will seismically alter the landscape of higher education. Galloway, who also founded his own virtual classroom start-up, predicts hundreds, if not thousands, of brick-and-mortar universities will go out of business and those that remain will have student bodies composed primarily of the children of the one percent.

The class divide: Remote learning at 2 schools, private and public

Dana Goldstein, The New York Times
For Rachel Warach’s class, the 133rd morning of first grade, numbered on a poster board behind her, was similar to all of the previous mornings. Her students from across Chicago spent 15 minutes working quietly on math problems and writing in their journals. They split into small reading groups, with Ms. Warach bouncing between them to offer feedback. Later, there was an Earth Day discussion of “The Lorax” and a math lesson on sorting everyday objects — rolls of tape, coins, pens — according to shape.

Other News of Note

The Coronavirus and our work

The editors at Rethinking Schools
First, we hope that you are safe and healthy. This is a stressful and frightening time for everyone, and the uncertainty of where the coronavirus pandemic is headed adds to our anxiety. Our schools are closing. Our conferences have been canceled. Our communities are under emergency alert. We are told to practice “social distancing” to prevent the spread of the virus. And that is right — from a public health standpoint. But we cannot allow “social distancing” to be a metaphor for how we respond to this crisis and the profound social failure it reflects. This crisis threatens to amplify inequality in countless ways, and more than ever, we need to respond from a place of community, compassion, and solidarity.

Tent Schools: Education in Long Beach after the 1933 earthquake

Mike Guardabascio
As disruptive as the Long Beach schools landscape has been by the COVID-19 shut down of campuses across the city, this is not the first time local teachers and students have had to come together to overcome extraordinary circumstances. On March 10, 1933, a powerful earthquake ripped through the city at 5:55 p.m., with 10 minutes of chaos that turned Long Beach upside down. Had the earthquake hit five hours earlier, it’s likely that a significant portion of a generation would have been lost—the 6.4 magnitude earthquake, centered just offshore from downtown Long Beach on the Newport Inglewood fault line, destroyed every school in the city.