"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

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

2020 Medley #23

Everything has changed,
It's not that simple,
Teachers are still disrespected,
Do we need charter schools?


Everything about teaching has changed.

We were already in the midst of a teacher shortage before the pandemic began. Now, when things are harder than ever for teachers, we're going to lose more if we don't take care of the teachers we have.

The current pandemic has an impact on everything we do. It impacts shopping, medical appointments, and school attendance. It affects children and their teachers...and, by extension, everyone who lives with, or interacts with, a child or a teacher. That might include infants and grandparents. It includes people with high-risk conditions like obesity, kidney disease, COPD, heart conditions, diabetes, and sickle cell disease. Just because a child doesn't have a high-risk condition doesn't mean they couldn't transmit COVID-19 to someone in their family with a high-risk condition. Just because a teacher doesn't have a high-risk condition doesn't mean that they couldn't transmit COVID-19 to someone in their family with a high-risk condition.

Everything about teaching has changed...from attendance (face to face, virtual, or both), to eating a meal with students, to loss of planning and instructional time due to more time spent on keeping students and teachers safe. Teachers can no longer sit close to a student to help them read a passage, or hold a pencil, or search for a topic online or in a book. Teachers can no longer talk to a student privately if they're in a Zoom classroom, or if social distance has to be maintained. No more pats on the back, high fives, or fist bumps.

Everything about teaching has changed and teachers are expected to change everything they do with little or no help, with little or no additional resources, and with students who are traumatized beyond what they might have been before, by forced isolation, loss of loved ones to COVID-19, or lack of home stability.


John Thompson Reviews “School’s Out” About Pandemic

Most readers will label this article tl;dr. Still, it's important if only to document how difficult it is to come to a consensus about opening schools during a pandemic.

Politicians will holler "Open the schools," but it's not so simple. Parents have to get back to work. Kids should have a chance to be around other kids. Teachers need to be face to face with kids to build relationships. Those things are all true, but there are conditions that must be met to keep everyone safe. The hollering politicians often ignore local coronavirus numbers, calls to provide PPE for staff and students, and additional funding that returning to school with various safeguards in place will cost.

Did you know, for example, that the speed with which schools opened during the pandemic had more to do with a community's voting record than with the safety of the students, students' families, and staff?

Simple solutions don't work for complex problems.
When I first read Alec MacGillis’ School’s Out, I worried that he reached conclusions that were too optimistic, but it made me hopeful. After all, it was a co-production by ProPublica and New Yorker, and MacGillis had listened to numerous top public health experts. Upon rereading, and following his links, I’ve reached a more discouraging appraisal. The published research he cites actually makes the case for more caution, and against MacGillis’ implicit call to reopen schools more quickly for in-person instruction...

The big problem, however, wasn’t teachers’ new fearfulness. The problem was the realities created by Trump, “governors and everybody else” who made it impossible to safely reopen many schools. For instance, a Brookings Institution study “found that districts’ school opening decisions correlated much more strongly with levels of support for Trump in the 2016 election than with local coronavirus case levels.” That reality was bad enough. But, School’s Out didn’t to seem fully consider how much schools in urban areas which voted against Trump are poorer and, often, politically powerless.


How Are American Teachers Doing, Really?

Teachers are used to being ignored, underfunded, and generally treated with disrespect. The COVID-19 pandemic has not changed that.
What seems very wearing for a large number of teachers is the lack of support—doubly wearing because none of it is unexpected. We knew that pandemic schooling would be very expensive, but few additional resources have been forthcoming. We knew staffing would need to be expanded, but mostly it has not been. We knew that pandemic schooling would create whole new kinds of problems, but teachers have been left to solve those issues themselves. We knew that district leaders who had failed to build and maintain trust with their staffs would have extra trouble. We feared that too many teachers would be tossed into this storm and left to sort things out on their own, and in too many districts, that has come true. Disempowering teachers while offering a thin dose of toxic positivity doesn’t help. And through it all, far too many states and districts stick with the old top-down management model, failing to include teacher voices or insights in the crafting of policies, and in some cases deliberately silencing teachers who try to ask, “But what about—?” None of this is a surprise to classroom teachers, but it’s still discouraging.

Across the nation, a thousand odd contingencies have emerged, none of them planned for. Who’s responsible for reporting a child’s exposure, and how many degrees of exposure call for isolation? Parents have been more than willing to send symptomatic students to school. There are districts that forbid teachers to get a Covid test, because a test means automatic two-day isolation. Florida’s governor has forbidden the reporting of school Covid stats, and some schools have defied his order. In other districts, teachers are scolded for posting data from their school. In other districts, teachers are scolded if they try to provide more substantial classroom barriers. And some districts are delivering ultimatums to teachers—show up and risk exposure, take unpaid leave, or lose your job.


The Foundational Fallacy Of Charter Schools

Peter Greene brings up an important argument against charter schools. They're not needed.

If you have a public school with room for 1000 students, serving 800, what's going to happen when a charter school opens down the block. Will there be enough students for both schools? Will the community save money? The answer to both questions is no.

Fix public schools that need to be fixed. Fund underfunded communities and schools. Stop expensive and needless privatization.
Before we talk about the quality of education or the importance of [free ed], when it comes to charter schools, there's a much more fundamental fallacy that we must address first, a fallacy that addresses a premise of virtually every charter program launched in this country.

You cannot run multiple school districts for the same amount of money you used to spend to operate just one.

This really should not come as a surprise to anyone. When was the last time you heard of a business of any sort saying, "The money is getting tight, and we need to tighten our belts. So let's open up some new facilities."

UPDATE: What it's like teaching during a pandemic: Article and video.


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