Teaching, Leading, and Social Justice
The Shift to Online Education During and Beyond the COVID-19 Pandemic: Concerns and Recommendations for California
Christine Sleeter, Alison Dover, Ruchi Agarwal-Rangnath, Roxana Marachi, Kyle
Beckham, Carol Batker, and Kevin Kumashiro, CARE-ED
Right now, public-school leaders and educators across California and the nation are grappling with difficult decisions about how to proceed with the new school year; none of the options are ideal, and each has its own host of related risks and problems. In March 2020, schools almost universally closed campuses and converted to fully online and remote education, appearing in many ways like already existing virtual schools that use online platforms for both synchronous and asynchronous lessons as students and teachers interact and complete their tasks from home or wherever they can access the computer technology and internet.
Schools Reopen — and Teachers Fight for Their Lives, Their Students, and the Future of Public Education
Sarah Jaffe, Rethinking Schools
As schools begin to reopen, within teacher unions around the country, teachers have been coming together to discuss the risks they’re willing to take — both to protect public health in the short term, and to protect public education in the long run. The starting place for the unions, noted Stacy Davis Gates, vice president of the Chicago Teachers Union, is that the push to reopen schools as if they could wish the pandemic away, whether it was coming from President Trump and U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos or from Chicago’s mayor Lori Lightfoot, “was wrong and dangerous.” With safety as their first concern, the CTU organized through its delegates, held tele-town halls, talked with community groups it has been allied with since its landmark 2012 strike, held car caravans, and ultimately announced a strike vote.
Kristina Rizga, The Atlantic
Renee Moore still remembers the young man who changed the way she taught. It was 1999, and Moore was teaching at the nearly all-Black Broad Street High School in the rural town of Shelby in the Mississippi Delta. The 17-year-old who walked into her 10th-grade English class excelled in math but had never been taught how to write a proper sentence. He had spent nine years in separate classrooms for students with disabilities; looking back, Moore thinks he had undiagnosed dyslexia. The young man and his mother asked Moore if he could join her class for students without special needs; he was determined to earn a diploma.
Language, Culture, and Power
Madeline Will, Education Week
The Schenectady, N.Y., school district realized it needed to do better by its students of color: The vast majority of its teachers were white, while less than a third of students are. A couple years ago, the district began ramping up its efforts to hire more teachers of color, as well as provide anti-racist training for its staff. The Albany-area district was highlighted by the state education department and other groups for its efforts, which included recruiting a more diverse pool of educators.
Mark Lopez, Jens Krogstad, and Jeffrey Passel, Pew Research Center
Debates over who is Hispanic and who is not have fueled conversations about identity among Americans who trace their heritage to Latin America or Spain. The question surfaced during U.S. presidential debates and the confirmation of Sonia Sotomayor to the U.S. Supreme Court. More recently, it bubbled up after a singer from Spain won the “Best Latin” award at the 2019 Video Music Awards. So, who is considered Hispanic in the United States? And how are they counted in public opinion surveys, voter exit polls and government surveys such as the 2020 census? The most common approach to answering these questions is straightforward: Who is Hispanic? Anyone who says they are. And nobody who says they aren’t.
Rayna Acha, Minnpost
As a recent Minneapolis Public Schools graduate, I have seen how student resource officers affect my school. Kids who have been labeled as “bad” are arrested in schools instead of receiving help. After George Floyd was killed by Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) officers, Minneapolis took to the streets to protest his unjust death. Many museums, parks, and businesses cut ties with the department. People demanded Minneapolis Public Schools follow suit, which the school board ultimately did. This decision was widely celebrated at the time, but recent developments suggest the move was more a performative than truly anti-racist policy decision. Actually dismantling systemic racism in our school requires meaningfully engaging with and listening to students. Instead of engagement, there was a quick shift of funds to fill positions that appear to be similar to security guards.
Whole Children and Strong Communities
Catherine Gewertz, Education Week
The coronavirus has shattered the familiar routines of life and school for students and teachers across the country, and subjected millions to the stresses of illness, lost jobs, and isolation. But in 10 Western states, thousands of children and the adults who educate them are reeling from yet another layer of trauma: wildfires. In some districts, children who’d been chomping at the bit to see their friends at school have been told they’ll be stuck at home learning on a computer.
Edsource Staff, Edsource
This video, “Education during Covid: California families struggle to learn,” is part of a continuing project by EdSource on how California families are struggling with learning during the Covid crisis. It includes photos and videos contributed by participating families.
Richard Bammer, Vacaville Reporter
California high school graduates can now earn a seal that signals their understanding of what it means to be an active participant in a democracy. The State Board of Education has approved standards for students to earn a new Seal of Civic Engagement, an incentive aimed at encouraging active and ongoing citizenship, California Department of Education officials announced Friday. To earn the seal, students must demonstrate excellence in civic learning, participation in civics-related projects, contributions to their community, and an understanding of the U.S. Constitution, the state Constitution, and the American democratic system.
Access, Assessment, Advancement
Spoon-feeding students vs. whetting their appetite for learning: pandemic shows importance of cultivating curious, engaged and persistent learners
Maureen Downey, Atlanta Journal-Constitution
In a recent webinar, Andreas Schleicher, director for education and skills for the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, discussed the repercussions to American schools from the pandemic. Schleicher drew on the new data in the OECD’s latest report on global education, “Education at a Glance 2020,” a temperature taking of key benchmarks. The OCED is an an intergovernmental organization of industrialized countries that produces analysis and statistics on the economy and education, including the Programme for International Student Assessment or PISA. While most schools around the world are reopening and getting back on track, Schleicher said the pandemic is leaving long shadows on the lives on students and economies.
Tom Wheeler, Brookings Institute
Hooray for the broadband industry! It is time for some good news! America’s broadband providers have stepped up with the ‘K-12 Bridge to Broadband” to help meet the needs of millions of low-income American students who are unable to get on the internet so they can go to class from home. The national non-profit EducationSuperHighway estimates that 9.7 million students—half of which are students of color—do not have the home internet necessary for the COVID era’s online educational needs. Together, EducationSuperHighway and NCTA-the Internet & Television Association created the new program, subsequently to be joined by NTCA—The Rural Broadband Association and USTelecom.
Kara Yorio, School Library Journal
The National Education Association (NEA) now has a database of positive coronavirus cases in schools across the country. The federal government is not releasing information on the number of staff and students who test positive at schools, nor is it posting the districts that have closed because of positive coronavirus tests. The NEA is taking over the project from Kansas high school teacher Alisha Morris, who began tracking positive tests at schools as she saw one news story after another of coronavirus in schools but could not find any public data that pulled it all together. Morris created a Google spreadsheet and tracked news stories of outbreaks looking for patterns and more information about how other schools and districts were handling reopening.
Inequality, Poverty, Segregation
Bruce D. Baker, Ajay Srikanth, Preston C. Green III, Robert Cotto, EPAA
This article provides a systematic decomposition of disparities in school funding by race and ethnicity using two new data resources. First, we use a national district level panel of data from the School Finance Indicators Database to evaluate recent (2012 – 2017) disparities in school revenue and spending by race in addition to poverty, across and within all states and within selected states. Next, we use data from the National Education Cost Model (NECM) to evaluate disparities in spending against estimates of “costs” of achieving national average student outcomes to determine racial differences in gaps between current spending and costs of equitable outcomes. As Latinx shares increase, per pupil spending and revenue decrease, respectively by about 4% to 7% for districts that are approximately 100% Latinx compared to those that have few or no Latinx students, controlling for poverty. More striking, when controlling for poverty, a district that is 100% Latinx is nearly 2.5 times as likely as a district that is 0% Latinx to be financially disadvantaged (have revenue <90% of labor market average, and poverty greater than 120%), when controlling for poverty and 28.5 times as likely when not controlling for poverty. Finally, spending is less adequate to achieve national average outcomes, across states, in districts serving larger shares of Latinx students.
Roseline Orwa, Inequality.org
Schools and families the world over are grappling with the challenge of educating children in a pandemic. Pushing children back into schools might increase the Covid-19 infection rate. But keeping them home could threaten their future too — particularly if they don’t have internet access. Even in the wealthiest nations, the digital divide is widening inequality gaps, leaving many poor children behind. In the United States, nearly 17 million children lived in homes without high-speed Internet in 2018. While school systems there are rushing to close these gaps, millions of American children are still disconnected.
Paloma Esquivel and Howard Blume, Los Angeles Times
Six months after schools closed amid the coronavirus crisis and with online learning in full swing, tens of thousands of students remain without adequate digital access and school districts in Los Angeles County report they still need nearly 50,000 computers and Wi-Fi hot spots.The numbers are a stark reminder that technology access continues to pose a significant barrier to distance learning as schools in Los Angeles County will not be allowed to fully reopen until at least November. “I’m very concerned if there’s even a small fraction of students who aren’t accessing, especially when we’re talking about students who are already more vulnerable and disadvantaged,” said Debra Duardo, superintendent of the L.A. County Office of Education. “There is already a gap, whether you want to call it an academic gap or an opportunity gap. There is already a gap, and we don’t want that gap to get any larger.”
Public Schools and Private Dollars
Christopher Saldaña and Janelle T. Scott, NEPC
Tolly Taylor, WSBT 22 Reporter
You wouldn’t keep your kid in a school where students perform 35% worse than their peers in a neighboring school. But parents across the country are flocking to virtual charter schools. We did several stories on these schools in the spring, and they’re more popular than ever. K12, the nation’s largest virtual charter company, says enrollment increased by almost 50,000 students this year. Connections Academy, the 2nd largest, says applications increased more than 60%. But even with this new-found popularity, experts say there are reasons to be concerned.
Collin Binkley AP, Washington Post
As millions of American children start the school year online, the Trump administration is hoping to convert their parents’ frustration and anger into newfound support for school choice policies that Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has long championed but struggled to advance nationally. DeVos and President Donald Trump have repeatedly invoked school choice as the solution to parents’ woes. If public schools fail to open, they say, parents should get a cut of the district’s federal funding to send their children to private schools or for home schooling, learning pods or other options that have arisen during the coronavirus pandemic.
Other News of Note
Nicole Mirra and Antero Garcia, Harvard Education Publishing Group
As the coronavirus pandemic has upended lives and societal structures around the world, the thoughts of many have begun turning toward what life could (and should) look like on the other side of this crisis. In a widely circulated article, “The Pandemic is a Portal,” author Arundhati Roy warned against the yearning for a return to a “normal” characterized by social inequity and environmental degradation. Instead, Roy suggests that the virus has opened a “gateway between one world and the next,” giving humanity the opportunity to imagine alternative forms of shared existence. Roy’s words made us wonder: where and when do we humans find opportunities to practice the incredibly difficult task of dreaming a new world into existence? As educators, we know that societies (particularly the United States, the context in which we live) place a great deal of faith in schooling to accomplish this feat, trusting that in their classrooms young people will learn not only academic subject matter but also the dispositions toward democracy (often dubbed “civic education”) to build a society better than the one the previous generation leaves them.