Archives for the month of: March, 2020

I wrote a post yesterday and planned to post it at this hour. It was a brief recapitulation of an opinion piece that Kevin Huffman wrote yesterday in the Washington Post, in which he boldly stated that the current reliance on distance learning would hurt students and set back their learning.

Kevin Huffman is one of the leaders of the corporate reform movement. He worked for Teach for America, was married to Michelle Rhee, served as Commissioner of Education in Tennessee, where he pushed charters and vouchers and standardized testing. But when he tried to lose the state’s lowest performing school, the Tennessee Virtual Academy, he ran into a blank wall. It couldn’t be done. The TVA had friends in the legislature and it was impossible to close it down.

So in this article, he warned that the necessary emphasis on distance learning would not end well. In the post I planned to publish (but didn’t), I noted that he plugged the “no-excuses” Achievement First charter chain and Jeb Bush’s accountability-obsessed Chiefs for Change. I was not planning to mention that the “expert” he quotes is Hoover economist Erik Hanushek, who has a devout belief in testing and VAM and has predicted that increasing test scores would add trillions to the nation’s GNP. He has promoted the theory that teachers who can’t get their students’ scores up should be fired. Clean the ranks every year and—voila!—test scores will rise.

But unlike gullible me, Jan Resseger understood that Huffman’s article was a coded propaganda piece for the corporate reformers’ favorite organizations and remedies. Not only did he plug Achievement First and Chiefs for Change, he also cited the billionaire-funded City Fund, where he works. He did not note that it was created to subvert local school board elections by pumping money into the campaigns of charter-friendly candidates.

Resseger writes:

Kevin Huffman begins his recent Washington Post column with a warning about problems he expects to result from the widespread, coronavirus-driven school closures: “As the coronavirus pandemic closes schools, in some cases until September, American children this month met their new English, math, science and homeroom teachers: their iPads and their parents. Classes are going online, if they exist at all. The United States is embarking on a massive, months-long virtual-pedagogy experiment, and it is not likely to end well.”

This is pretty harsh. While in many places teachers are going to enormous lengths to create interesting projects to challenge children and keep them engaged, virtual schooling is a challenge. Online efforts school districts are undertaking to meet children’s needs during this long break are likely to be uneven. Huffman describes Stanford University research on the problems with virtual schooling, problems that are being exacerbated today by inequitable access to technology.

But what Kevin Huffman neglects to tell readers is that his purpose is not entirely to analyze his subject—the ongoing shutdown of schools. At the same time as he discusses the widespread school closure, he also manages to share the agenda of his current employer, The City Fund, a relatively new national group that finances the election campaigns of of charter school advocates running for seats on local school boards, supports the rapid expansion of charter schools, and promotes portfolio school reform. And when the Washington Post tells readers that Huffman, “a former education commissioner of Tennessee, is a partner at the City Fund, a national education nonprofit,” the Post neglects to explain The City Fund’s agenda.

Worse, Huffman proposes that schools should administer standardized tests to students when they return to school in September! Good grief, the results are not available for months. Of what value are such tests? I suppose we can now expect the testing corporations to begin losing for tests on the first day of school.

Resseger read the subtext: students, teachers, and schools can’t possibly survive without standardized testing. Be grateful for the charter chains who offer to help struggling school districts, which do not have the charters’ freedom to push out the kids they don’t want and do not have billionaire money to keep them afloat.

I read Huffman’s article and appreciated that he was wary of distance learning and unprepared parents struggling to teach their children.

Jan Resseger read it and exposed the hidden agenda: praising the billionaire agenda of charters and high-stakes testing. She correctly notes that this agenda failed when Huffman was Commissioner of Education in Tennessee. Some people learn from failure. Some don’t.

Valerie Strauss wrote a delightful article about parents who have a new-found respect for teacher’s, now that the pandemic has forced them to become home teachers.

They have discovered that teaching is not easy. They have realized how hard it is teach two or three children and are amazed that teachers can handle classes of 24 or more at the same time.

Plenty of parents around the country — and, presumably, around the world — are finding new appreciation for their children’s teachers as they sit at home with their kids during the coronavirus pandemic and take over the role of educator.
Some 1.5 billion students around the world have been affected by school closures during the crisis, and parents whose jobs are not deemed “essential” to keep the country functioning are at home taking over as impromptu teachers. It’s a lot harder than many of them realized, as you can see from the following tweets.





One parent, Shonda Rhimes, tweeted:

Been homeschooling a 6-year-old and 8-year-old for one hour and 11 minutes. Teachers deserve to make a billion dollars a year. Or a week.”
16 March 2020.

The global coronavirus pandemic reminds us of the importance and value of strong, effective public institutions. We are all in this together. “Everyone for himself” is a recipe for disaster. None of us can solve the problems on our own. The only way to address the disease is by collective action and public leadership.

The widespread closure of schools has made parents and communities aware of the crucial importance of these institutions.

Donald Cohen of the nonpartisan “In the Public Interest” asks why school districts were reluctant to close the schools.

He answers:

It’s simple. Public schools are public goods. They provide basic educational, social, emotional, and even physical needs to not only students and families but also entire communities. Closing them has effects that ripple out beyond school doors. As Erica Green wrote in the New York Times, mass school closings could “upend entire cities.”

Just look at the numbers:

The nation’s public school system serves more than 50 million students, many of whom have parents who work and need childcare during the day.

The federal National School Lunch Program serves food to over 30 million kids annually. Many families rely on school to feed their children meals throughout the school year.

There are more than 3.1 million public school teachers, many of whom are already struggling to get by. Teachers, paraprofessionals, front office workers, bus drivers, janitors, and other school staff rely on public school jobs to make ends meet.

But perhaps most importantly, public schools provide kids with the opportunity to learn alongside their peers. Schools are where the community comes together to learn and grow regardless of skin color, income level, sexual orientation, or any other difference.

Only public institutions—not private markets—can make sure that these basic needs are available to everyone.

The next few days, weeks, and months are uncertain, but one thing’s for sure: we’ll be learning how much public schools really matter to all of us. Some—teachers, administrators, and school staff—already know how important they are.

In communities across the country, teachers are organizing “teacher parades,” where they drive slowly through the neighborhoods where their students live, honking and waving as their students jump up and down with excitement.

Where did it start? This one was in Springfield, but I have heard that the first one was in Lawrence, Kansas.

Do you know?

This is a multiple-choice test, with a possible essay at the end.

Trump lashed out at Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer because:

1. She did not praise him enough.

2. She is a woman.

3. Trump hates strong women.

4. Other (write your own guess after reading the following Document-Based Information.)

President Donald Trump has lashed out at several Democratic governors who are responding to the coronavirus crisis, but his harshest words have been reserved for Michigan’s Gretchen Whitmer.

Trump said Thursday he had a “big problem” with the “young, a woman governor” in Michigan, complaining that “all she does is sit there and blame the federal government.” On Friday, he said that he told Vice President Mike Pence, “don’t call the woman in Michigan,” and later referred to her as “Gretchen ‘Half’ Whitmer” in a tweet and said she is “way in over her head” and “doesn’t have a clue.”

Those attacks — and her direct response to them — have thrust the first-term governor further into the national spotlight as she manages her state’s efforts to slow the pandemic’s spread, which includes seeking assistance from the Trump administration. Whitmer now finds herself among other Democratic governors, like Washington state’s Jay Inslee and New York’s Andrew Cuomo, who are navigating the deepening public health crisis in their states while also confronting the President’s demand for public praise and appreciation.

Whitmer responded to Trump’s Thursday attacks in a tweet that included a hand-waving emoji, writing, “Hi, my name is Gretchen Whitmer, and that governor is me.”

“I’ve asked repeatedly and respectfully for help. We need it. No more political attacks, just PPEs, ventilators, N95 masks, test kits. You said you stand with Michigan — prove it,” she wrote.

Did you know that the Trump Cabinet has its own Bible teacher?

His name is Ralph Drollinger, and he is bigoted and hard of hearts.

He wrote recently that the COVID-19 pandemic is an expression of God’s wrath.

Why is a God angry? Gays, environmentalists, and other groups that Drollinger doesn’t like.

He obviously thinks he knows what God thinks.

And he thinks he is God’s spokesman on earth.

This is a combination of bigotry and stupidity.

Thomas Ultican has analyzed the billionaire funders behind the pro-Disruption, anti-democracy website “Education Post.”

The major funders are the usual members of the Billionaire Boys and Girls Club: Bloomberg, Waltons, Chan Zuckerberg, and Mrs. Jobs.

Please open and read his post.

If you thought the Disrupters might have softened their tone during the pandemic, like, as a show of decency, you will be disappointed. They are still attacking, vilifying, and mocking anyone daring to defend public education, which is a cornerstone of our democracy. It must really upset them that after all these years and billions spent on privatization, only 6% of American students enroll in charter schools.

For some reason, I am one of their prime targets. I suppose I should take it as a compliment.

I will never answer in kind.

They are swimming in cash, but what they cannot buy is civility, kindness, compassion, or dignity.

Trump continues to view the coronavirus pandemic through the lens of the stock market and his need to pump up his prospects for re-election. He briefly listened to scientists and medical experts but reverted to his usual stance of catering to his base, praising himself, and demonizing his critics. He now thinks he can talk his way out of a public health emergency.

Yale psychiatry Bandy Lee says that the COVID-19 epidemic brings out the worst in Trump. He can’t control it, but he can pretend to control it. That’s enough for his rabid base.

Asmany of America’s and the world’s leading mental health experts have repeatedly warned, Trump is mentally unwell to the extreme. He has publicly and repeatedly shown that he is a malignant narcissist, a pathological liar and a delusional fabulist. He is detached from reality and appears to live in his own fantasy world. His lack of empathy, care and concern for others can reasonably be described as sociopathic.

The coronavirus pandemic is one of the greatest threats to public health — and perhaps even modern human civilization — of the last century. Many millions of people may directly die from the virus in the United States and around the world. The global economy is collapsing into a state that may be worse than the Great Depression of the 1930s. To defeat the coronavirus will require patient and wise leadership based on facts, reason, and expertise. Because the coronavirus is a public health crisis it is a problem of science and empirical knowledge. It cannot be wished away or prayed away or eliminated through other forms of magical thinking.

For many reasons, including his mental health, overall temperament, values and intelligence, Donald Trump is existentially ill-equipped to handle this emergency and defeat the coronavirus pandemic.

Dr. Bandy Lee is perhaps the leading voice among those who have warned the American people and the world that Donald Trump’s presidency would result in disaster. She is a professor of psychiatry at the Yale University School of Medicine and editor of the bestselling book “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump.”

In our most recent conversation, Lee contended that explains the pressures of the coronavirus pandemic are making Donald Trump’s various mental pathologies worse and more dangerous. She explained her view that Trump, aided by Fox News and other parts of the right-wing echo chamber, is creating a collective state of mental illness among his cult members that is making the coronavirus even more lethal.

As she has done before, Lee argued that Donald Trump is the most dangerous person on the planet and expressed her concern he may use the coronavirus pandemic to start or inflame mass violence in order to keep himself in power permanently.

Read the rest of the interview.

Veteran teacher Nancy Bailey offers some common sense advice about how to help students become better readers and writers. Her advice is meant for students with or without disabilities.

Here are first two suggestions:

I welcome teachers and parents to add whatever they’d like to share, what works for you, or special resource pages or links.

Handwriting

Teachers don’t always focus on handwriting because of other skills they are made to address. The focus on technology has sometimes pushed handwriting out of the picture. So, helping students, especially students with reading or writing (dysgraphia) disabilities, become better at handwriting at home, might be a beneficial exercise at this time.

Teachers struggle to understand what students mean when they turn in sloppy papers. Even if students misspell words, it’s much easier to see the breakdown of their errors and help them correct their papers, when letters are neatly printed or written in cursive.

***Don’t push a child to write if they have difficulty holding a pencil or if they are too young.

Holding a pencil.

This may seem strange, but many students don’t know how to hold a pencil! My husband teaches college students and remarks about the many strange ways he has observed students holding pencils and pens in a cramped and uncomfortable manner.

The pencil should be held between the thumb and middle finger with the index finger riding the pencil. The pencil should be grasped above the sharpened point. Pencil grippers are helpful, or some tape or a rubber band wrapped around the pencil can help with gripping.

Younger children work better with larger pencils.

As a left-handed writer with horrible handwriting, I should remain silent. But I have noticed young adults who literally don’t know how to hold a pencil and whose handwriting is even worse than mine.

The Washington Post reported that Trump made clear that he would reward those governors that are “appreciative” of him and punish those who were not.

Have we ever had a president who was so petty, so vain, so desperately in need of praise?

President Trump is a commander in chief dealing with a coronavirus outbreak in which many difficult decisions have to be made. And on Friday, he seemed to suggest some of those decisions could be made according to who has run afoul of him personally.
Appearing at the daily White House briefing, Trump disclosed that he has told Vice President Pence, who is leading the coronavirus task force, not to call the governors of Michigan and Washington state because those governors had been critical of Trump and the federal response.
“When they’re not appreciative to me, they’re not appreciative to the Army Corps, they’re not appreciative to FEMA, it’s not right,” Trump said.
He then added: “I say, ‘Mike, don’t call the governor of Washington; you’re wasting your time with him. Don’t call the woman in Michigan. It doesn’t make any difference what happens.’ You know what I say: ‘If they don’t treat you right, I don’t call.’ He’s a different type of person; he’ll call quietly anyway.”

Those states are particularly important. Washington state was the first real hot spot in the United States for the coronavirus outbreak. Michigan, which has among the nation’s highest rates of the virus, is also a key swing state in the 2020 election. You wonder if Trump’s comments about not wanting to communicate with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) during a crisis might be used against him in his reelection campaign.
Asked what more he wants from Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D), in particular, Trump said he just wants more gratitude.
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“All I want them to do — very simple: I want them to be appreciative,” he said. “I don’t want them to say things that aren’t true. I want them to be appreciative.”