"The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves." -- John Adams

"No money shall be drawn from the treasury, for the benefit of any religious or theological institution." -- Indiana Constitution Article 1, Section 6.

"...no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinion in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish enlarge, or affect their civil capacities." – Thomas Jefferson

Monday, April 20, 2020

School in the time of Coronavirus #1 - The digital divide

The Digital Divide

Millions of American school children are at home, their school year abruptly ended because of the coronavirus pandemic. Schools and teachers have been offering pickup meals and online education activities. The Indiana Department of Education (IDOE) has a page with educator and parent online resources for continuing students' education during the time schools are closed.

But what about students who have no internet access? The IDOE resource page includes links to free or reduced access opportunities, but one needs access to learn about those opportunities. Some of those opportunities may not be available in all rural areas. The only access for some families is a cell phone. And some parents won't avail themselves of the opportunities even if they are aware of them.

The chronological list of articles and blog posts below highlights the fact that under the extraordinary circumstances we now find ourselves, some students will be left behind.
We can’t (and in a free society, probably shouldn’t) try to reduce the resources that advantaged parents can give children...

But we can increase resources for other children to provide more equity...

What the coronavirus reveals about the digital divide between schools and communities

March 17, 2020

Students living in poverty and students with special needs are the ones who have lost their access to education now that schools are closed. Do we ignore them and just focus on the students who are able -- economically and physically -- to access and benefit from the online resources offered? Do we ignore the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) because it's too expensive to try to educate students with special needs during a pandemic?

If you're reading this, you have internet access. If you have children, your children have likely been able to benefit from the ability to connect to the internet and continue their learning opportunities. Unfortunately, in the economically divided America in which we live in, not all children are so lucky.
...With a disproportionate number of school-age children lacking home broadband access, the breadth of the U.S. digital divide has been revealed as schools struggle to substitute in-school resources with online instruction, electronic libraries, streaming videos, and other online tutorials.

Every U.S. student could eventually be impacted by extended school closures. New York City, whose public-school system serves more than 1.1 million students, has announced the closure of its 1,800 schools. These mounting circumstances have administrators scrambling to migrate courses online and create some level of accountability between students and teachers. However, the U.S. digital divide makes any effort fallible for certain individuals, households, and communities that are not sufficiently connected.

Broadband availability has been at the heart of the digital divide with an estimated 21.3 million people lacking access in 2019, according to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
Virtual Learning Through Quarantine Will Leave Poor and Disabled Students Behind

March 25, 2020

Education Secretary DeVos has the right, under the $2 trillion coronavirus bill, to seek waivers to parts of the law guaranteeing an education to students with disabilities. Will she discuss this beforehand with parents and teachers of special needs students? If she can't think of ways to teach students with special needs during a pandemic does that mean that there are none? Let's hope that she checks with people who actually know something about education before she sets this dangerous precedent.
The U.S. Senate’s proposed coronavirus aid package includes a provision to waive existing federal law that requires all schools to provide services to special education students. Removing this specification would allow districts to move forward with virtual learning without having to worry about meeting the needs of their special education students.

Advocates worry that even a temporary suspension of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) could have devastating long term effects on students with disabilities and ultimately remove the requirement upheld for the last 45 years that they receive a free public education...

This is tantamount to prioritizing the education of some students over others. In short, if we follow DeVos’ guidelines, we will be saying that regular education students are more important than students with special needs.

It is a dangerous precedent.

Pandemic response lays bare America's digital divide

March 21, 2020

The inequity in our nation should shame us.
While the internet provides opportunity for many to live with some modicum of normalcy amid the outbreak, millions of Americans do not have reliable access to the web. Also many industries ranging from auto-manufacturing to hospitality cannot be conducted online. Because of this stark digital divide, many are at risk of educational lapses, profound social isolation or unemployment, advocates warn.

According to the Pew Research Center, 29% of adults with household incomes less than $30,000 a year don’t own a smartphone, while 44% don’t have home broadband and 46% lack a “traditional” computer either. Pew also noted that 35% of lower-income households with school-age children don’t have a home-based broadband internet connection.
How covid-19 has laid bare the vast inequities in U.S. public education

April 14, 2020
For two decades, we have been trashing schools and blaming teachers. It is easy to assume responsibility rests with them. But the achievement gap is a product of our unequal society — the reflection of an education debt that has never been settled. It is not something schools alone will fix; and as they remain shuttered, that fact will become painfully clear.

Perhaps the present crisis, then, will prompt some deeper reflection about why students succeed. And perhaps we will awaken to the collective obligations we have for so long failed to fulfill.

Schools will eventually reopen. When they do, we should return with eyes unclouded. Rather than finding fault with our schools and the educators who bring them to life, we might begin to wrestle with what it would take for all students to enter on equal footing. Until then, even an equal education will not produce equal outcomes.
Why covid-19 will ‘explode’ existing academic achievement gaps

April 17, 2020
With schools shut, white-collar professionals with college degrees operate home-schools, sometimes with superior curricular enhancements...

Meanwhile, many parents with less education have jobs that even during the coronavirus crisis cannot be performed at home — supermarket clerks, warehouse workers, delivery truck drivers...

...too many students in low-income and rural communities don’t have Internet access: 35 percent of low-income households with school-aged children don’t have high-speed Internet; for moderate-income families it is 17 percent, and only 6 percent for middle-class and affluent families...

We can’t (and in a free society, probably shouldn’t) try to reduce the resources that advantaged parents can give children...

But we can increase resources for other children to provide more equity...


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