Archives for the month of: January, 2021

Gary Rubinstein may be one of your favorite bloggers. He is certainly one of mine! He is also an administrator of my blog. I literally don’t know how to put PDF files into a post or how to add graphics; I reach out to Gary and he helps me. I first met Gary about a decade ago when I started researching “miracle” schools. I discovered that Gary uses his powerful analytical skills to debunk miracle claims. Since then, we have become good friends, and I admire him about as much as anyone I know. He is a truth-teller, a man of impeccable integrity.

I just learned that Gary has written and published a book of his essays, not his blog posts. They are available on amazon for only 99 cents. I don’t think there is a better bargain anywhere on the Internet. I also learned by reading this post that Gary has done stand-up comedy!

If there were a category on my blog for “Integrity,” that’s where I would place Gary.

He wrote in this post:

About 8 years ago I published a Kindle e-book of essays I had collected over the years. This included essays about my family and about my neuroses and also some older writings from when I wrote a humor column in college. I even included my college application essay. So I put it out there and after a few weeks it had been downloaded a bunch of times. Unfortunately some of those downloads were by my family. And some of those family members are more sensitive than I had anticipated. So I had to un-publish the book. It was sad for me to do this since this was the net result, even though it was only about 150 pages, of a lifetime of the thing that I think I was born to do.

The past four years with Trump in office has been rough for many people. For me, it caused me a lot of stress and I spent hours every day watching MSNBC as a way, I felt, to keep my sanity. So when Biden won I felt a great cloud lifted and decided I was going to enjoy my life and my hobbies more without needing to spend so much time obsessing about Trump. And I took another look at my e-book. And I decided it wasn’t so bad. I changed a few sentences to hopefully make some of my family members less embarrassed and I put it out there again. I’m 51 years old now and I’m really proud of my essays so I’m re-publishing. I’ll deal with the fall out if there is any.

This is the story of Marga Steinhardt. She was born in a town in central Germany in 1927. She was a young child when Hitler came to power. Friends urged her parents to leave Germany for France or Palestine or the United States, but her father didn’t believe the warnings. He thought they were exaggerated.

“I remember overhearing talk between my parents, and my father said, ‘You worry too much. It’s not going to get that bad. Hitler talks a lot. The world will not tolerate for Hitler to do what he’s saying he’s going to do.’ He just couldn’t believe it. Even later, when we were already deported, he would not accept that there were mass killings. He’d say, ‘Have you seen it? Can you prove it?’ ”

When they finally sought an exit visa, there were 27,000 people ahead of them. No one wanted them anyway. The world closed its doors to Jews.

Marga and her family went through the worst of the Holocaust. Labor camps, concentration camps, forced marches.

The story she tells is a microcosm of the experiences of European Jewry, most of whom perished (including every member of my family who had not migrated to the United States in the 19th or early 20th centuries).

The same day that I read her story, I responded to someone who asked why the public was so unmoved by 400,000 COVID deaths.

Typically people are unmoved by mass deaths. A number like 400,000 or six million deaths does not touch people’s emotions. The story of one person’s suffering does. The particulars matter. People remember Anne Frank because they know her story. Read Marga’s story.

Betsy DeVos made the goal of school choice clear: Shift public dollars away from public schools and transfer them to privately managed charter schools, online schools, for-profit schools, home schools, and vouchers for religious schools. She never supported public schools. Her actions emboldened her followers in Red States to make a full frontal attack on public education. Please share this information on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media. Alert your friends and colleagues. The attack on public education rolls on, despite the overwhelming evidence that charter schools do not get better results than public schools unless they cherrypick their students, and voucher schools get worse results, while most avoid accountability and transparency.

The Red State governors want to fund failure, instead of adequately and equitably funding their most important responsibility: the public schools.

In this article, Carol Burris–with research assistance of Anthony Cody and Marla Kilfoyle–of the Network for Public Education reports on the action in the states to advance privatization of public funds.

It is school choice week. Across the country, conservative state legislators are sponsoring “school choice” bills that would divert public funds to charter schools, online schools, and/or private and religious schools and homeschools.  

The 2020 election resulted in gains for Libertarian Republicans in statehouses who are now aggressively pushing school voucher bills, whether they be through the use of devices such as “Education Opportunity Accounts,” tax credits, or direct subsidies from state tax dollars. These bills would have a devastating impact on the funds available to support public schools struggling through the pandemic.   

But of course, that is the point. Make no mistake. Those proposing these bills are hostile to both the idea and the ideals of district-run public schools.

In addition to new voucher programs, state legislators are also promoting the expansion of charter schools, the imposition of capricious regulations on public schools, and the undermining of their democratic governance.

In Iowa, the Governor has proposed a law that would allow the state board, as well as districts, to authorize charter schools, thus placing charters in school districts that do not want them. A bill under consideration in Missouri would authorize a dramatic expansion of charter schools and make it simple for a small minority of voters to initiate a recall of elected school board members. Kansas legislators are pushing to allow public funds to flow to private schools with little public oversight, and New Hampshire legislators are again pushing a universal voucher program. 

Here is a summary of some of the bills that have been introduced.

Arizona 

Over three years, Senate Bill 1041 would increase the amount the state spends on corporate School Tuition Organization vouchers, from $5 million to $20 million. In 2017, tax dollars diverted into deductible voucher “donations” exceeded a billion dollars, providing “donors” with a dollar for dollar tax credits. Senate Bill 1452 expands the state’s ESA voucher. 

In a move hostile toward public schools,  Senate Bill 1058  requires schools to compile and publish a list of every resource used in classrooms the previous year — including online videos, articles, and websites. The purpose of this burdensome requirement is to allow parents to opt their child out if they do not agree with the instructional content. In what is clearly a show of hostility to district public schools, the bill does not apply to private schools, including those whose students receive vouchers, and charter schools have more relaxed rules. 

Florida 

Florida SB 48 aims to merge and expand the multiple voucher programs that already exist into two programs. According to the Tampa Bay Times, “the 158-page proposal would merge the state’s five key school choice programs and make them all state-funded. It would also convert the scholarships into more flexible education savings accounts by merging the state-funded Family Empowerment Scholarship program, an ESA program, with the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program, and the Hope Scholarship Program. Also, it would merge the McKay Scholarship Program for Students with Disabilities with the Gardiner Scholarship Program under a new name–the McKay-Gardiner Scholarship Program.”

Make no mistake–these are not scholarships in the traditional sense–provided when a needy student receives tuition-help because she has attained high grades. These “scholarships” are all disguised vouchers to private and religious schools, resulting in taxpayers paying for private school education. If passed, this bill would also reduce the frequency of audits to detect fraud from every year to once every three years, increase the yearly growth rate of voucher programs, and via ESAs, expand the use of public funds. 

Georgia 

House Bill 60 is a neo-voucher that would allow students who withdraw from a local public school to take state funding with them to use as a scholarship to a private school. In Georgia, about 50% of school funding comes from the state. This would have a devastating effect on school districts who would likely lose far more than they would save by an individual student’s withdrawal. One of the eligibility criteria for this ESA voucher is that a student’s school not be 100% open for in-person instruction, thus targeting schools whose elected leaders have made decisions about the safety of their school communities.  As with many of these proposals, the pandemic is being exploited to advance a privatization agenda.

Indiana  

 House Bill 1005 would greatly expand the state’s voucher program by allowing families with incomes up to $145,000 a year to participate. That amount is near twice the median income of families in the state and provides taxpayer assistance to families who can already comfortably afford to send their child to a private school. According to an estimate from the Legislative Services Agency, it could increase the number of students receiving state stipends by about 40% in 2021-22.

Some 12,000 students already attending such schools would be eligible for state funding–costing taxpayers $100 million in the first year alone. In addition, the bill would add a new “Education Savings Accounts,” which would be made available to parents with students with special needs. 

 Iowa 

Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds has proposed SSB 1065, (now known as SF 159) which is being fast-tracked through the state Senate.  This “school choice” bill would:

  • Provide up to $5,200 per student in “state scholarships” for parents to use for private school tuition or homeschooling expenses. 
  • Greatly expand charter schools in the state by allowing applicants to start a charter school by going straight to the state board, bypassing the school district.
  • Allow students to transfer out of their local public schools with a voluntary or court-ordered diversity plan

According to Senator Pam Jochum, this bill is being fast-tracked because, “Obviously, the faster they move it, the less chance there is for push back from the public that’s not happy with this kind of a change because it will take about $54 million and shift it from public education to private.”

Kansas:

House Bill 2068 and Senate Bill 61 are allegedly designed to expand school vouchers in the state via a tax credit program. They are, at their core, an attempt to create a taxpayer-funded invitation to discriminate. 

According to the Kansas School Boards Association, these bills would allow private schools that discriminate in admissions based on achievement, religion, gender, disability, or sexual preference to participate in the tax-credit program. They would neither be required to be accredited nor report student results. 

“Scholarships” created by these tax dollars could be as generous as $8,000.

Kentucky 

House Bill 149 would create a new “Education Opportunity Account” program that would allow participants to divert their tax dollars into accounts to be used as voucher funds for private or parochial school tuition.   

Missouri 

There is only one intent of Senate Bill 55–to destroy public education in Missouri. It was pushed through the Senate Education Committee last week. This mega bill began as two Senate bills to create vouchers and expand charters. They were then loaded onto SSB 55 at the last minute, which included provisions hostile to public education that have never even had a public hearing. According to the Missouri School Boards Association, the bill now includes:

  • School Board Member Recall: Requires an election to recall a school board member if a petition is submitted signed by at least 25% of the number of voters in the last school board election. It would also restrict members of the state board of education to one term.
  • Education Scholarship Account/Vouchers: Creates up to $100 million in tax credits for donations to an organization that gives out scholarships for students to attend a home school or private school – including for-profit virtual schools.
  • Charter School Expansion: Authorizes charter schools to be opened in an additional 61 school districtslocated in Jackson, Jefferson, St. Charles, and St. Louis counties or in cities of 30,000 or more and allows charters opened in provisionally and unaccredited districts to remain open even after the school district regains accreditation.
  • Direct Access to Virtual Charter Schools: Allows students enrolling in MOCAP (The Missouri CourseAccess and Virtual School Program) full time to apply directly to the vendor, thus pushing the resident school district and professional educators out of the process.

New Hampshire

House Bill 20 would create a universal voucher program entitled “Education Freedom Accounts,” which would take state dollars from monies allocated to support public schools and give them directly to parents to use for private school tuition, homeschooling costs, and other education-related expenses. The per-student amount would range from $3,786 and $8,458 based on eligibility and costs.  

Conclusion

During her 2019 appearance at the Education Writers Association, former Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos attempted to re-define the very definition of what public education is. 

“Let’s stop and rethink the definition of public education,” she said. “Today, it’s often defined as one type of school, funded by taxpayers, controlled by government. But if every student is part of ‘the public,’ then every way and every place a student learns is ultimately of benefit to ‘the public.’ That should be the new definition of public education.” 

According to DeVos’s definition, public education, as we know, it is “government education”, while the term public education is used as a substitute for the word “learning.” Take your child to a museum—by DeVos’s reasoning, that is “public education.” Teach them how to ride a horse, or how to storm Congress to air your grievance—according to this definition that would be “public education” as well. 

This is not just rhetoric—it is at the heart of the right-wing Libertarian philosophy that believes that parents should be fully in charge of where and what children learn. The bills that are being pushed in statehouses across America represent that philosophy.

Persuading Americans to buy into such a radical concept took years of work. Joseph P. Overton, an electrical engineer, was senior vice president of the right-wing Mackinac Center for Public Policy in the 1990s until he died in 2003. The Mackinac Center is located in Michigan, Betsy DeVos’s home state. Overton is most known for creating the Overton Window—a means by which to analyze and rebrand extreme policies to make them more acceptable to the public. According to Overton, only those policies identified as “in the window” are politically possible. Therefore, if one wishes to make the unacceptable or unthinkable acceptable, the solution is to shift the window.   

According to Mackinac, the example Overton often used to illustrate the window’s movement is the changed public perception of school choice. In the 1980s, advocating for charter schools was politically dangerous. As charters became more acceptable, so did school choice, which in turn allowed conservative politicians to advocate for homeschooling, private school tax credits, and charter expansion. 

And here we are today. What was once unthinkable–the dismantling of our nation’s public schools–is now a real possibility. 

It is up to those who believe in the promise of public education to join together, recognize these legislative attempts for what they are, and defeat them before it is too late. If we do not act, there may be choices, but democratically governed public schools will not be one of them.

The National Education Policy Center produces a series of podcasts about current issues.

In this one, Christopher Saldaña interviews historian Jack Schneider and journalist Jennifer Berkshire about their new book A Wolf at the Schoolhouse Door: The Dismantling of Public Education and the Future of School. Schneider and Berkshire have produced a podcast called Have You Heard? and they are skilled interviewers and discussants of their work.

The podcast raises important issues about the assault on public education and what comes next.

In A Wolf at the Schoolhouse Door, the authors discuss the political actors who have advocated for market-oriented policies in order to privatize public schools. They explain that the goal of the book is to examine powerful but less well-known state-level groups who have sought to influence and shape the governance of schools, educational policy, and educational practice. The authors argue that it is these state-level interest groups that have consistently and meticulously undermined the public-ness of public schools.

According to Schneider and Berkshire, the desire to make individual choices about education private, as opposed to collective, is at the heart of the privatization agenda. They argue that advocates of privatization seek to narrow the purpose of schooling to the accumulation of human capital for individual gain. Within this approach to schooling, parents decide where their child should learn, what they should learn, and how they should be taught. Like a market for cars or groceries, parents as consumers – not the larger public – determine what are successful schools. The authors explain this approach strips away the democratic purpose of schools. Where democratic schooling is designed to ensure all children receive equal educational opportunities and do so in an environment that integrates students of different backgrounds, a system that relies purely on parental choice – such as universal school vouchers – is designed to segregate students solely by parental preference.

Schneider and Berkshire see signs of hope in the collective movements organized by teachers unions and communities. In their view, if public schools are to survive and thrive, they require a well-organized collective to identify and push back against the contradictions inherent in market-oriented policies. They recommend that readers and listeners familiarize themselves with the groups advocating for privatization and consider how these groups work to influence policy in order to develop long-term strategies that successfully oppose privatization.

Andrea Gabor has written recently about the importance of civics education. She has reminded us that the obsession with standardized testing has robbed students of the joy of learning and consumed time that could be better spent in other ways.

The 22-year-old Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman, who spoke so beautifully at the inauguration of President Joe Biden, reminded her that we have lost the study of poetry in our mad Race to Leave No Child Behind and to force testing on every student and teacher.

I heartily agree with Gabor. I have always loved poetry. I edited two collections that included many iconic poems: The American Reader and The English Reader (with my son Michael). During a time when I was grieving the loss of a child, I read poetry and found solace in a poem by Ben Jonson. When my children were young, we read poetry together, and they learned the fun of wordplay.

Gabor writes in her article about the need to allot more time to reading and writing poetry.

For too long, poetry has been treated as impractical, and even frivolous, with just 12% of the U.S. adults reporting, in 2018, that they had read a poem during the previous year. Perversely, that sad metric represented a major improvement over the previous decade, when annual poetry reading fell to below 7%. With schools encouraged to focus on practical subjects such as math, science and engineering, and a growing emphasis on nonfiction in the Common Core standards used to help states and school systems decide what to teach, poetry has become an afterthought.

It shouldn’t be. Poetry can be inspirational and teach important lessons about communication (thanks again, Amanda Gorman). It can even be practical, as poetry-loving business executives have long asserted. Elevating the role of poetry also could serve as a low-cost way to bolster student creativity and engagement.

For children, poetry serves as a key to literacy with the rhythm and cadence of books like Dr. Seuss’s “Cat in the Hat” helping even the youngest decode words and meaning, while its absurd rhymes make reading fun. Think of Thing One and Thing Two and the havoc they’ll do.

As children get older, the metaphors and ambiguity of more complex poems serve as an intellectual puzzle, helping youngsters analyze, make connections between words and concepts, and foster critical thinking. Poetry teaches grammar in bite-sized stanzas. Great poems embed unforgettable images and teach the power that a few spare words by Carl Sandburg can convey:

The fog comes
on little cat feet.
It sits looking
over harbor and city
on silent haunches
and then moves on.

Gorman herself described the research skills that her inaugural poem employed, including examining the work of earlier poet laureates, as well as the oratory of Fredrick Douglass and President Abraham Lincoln. She drew on the musical “Hamilton,” which pays homage to hip hop and rap, the street poetry that rose out of economic devastation in the 1970s. And she examined tweets following the Capitol riot, which inspired the line, “We’ve seen a force that would shatter this nation rather than share it.”

For Gorman and Biden, who both wrestled with speech impediments, reciting poetry paved the way to eloquence. Gorman has trouble pronouncing Rs, so she practiced the rap lyrics of “Aaron Burr, Sir” from “Hamilton.” To help him overcome a stutter, Biden recited the poems of William Butler Yeats.

For poor children, from New York City to New Delhi, poetry serves as an especially important outlet for self-expression and even for promoting mental health. In Allison Baxter’s class of English-language learners at West Chicago high school, teaching Langston Hughes’s poem “Harlem” is a key to understanding Lorraine Hansberry’s play, “A Raisin in the Sun.” The poem begins:

What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?

The sophistication of the language and grammar in both the poem and the play provide a welcome challenge for students who relish reciting excerpts from both works, Baxter says. They also offer a window on the Chicago of Hansberry’s youth and an opportunity to help introduce students to their adopted city. 

Poetry has its real-world uses, too. Sidney Harman, the founder of the audio-technology company Harman Kardon, once famously said: “Get me poets as managers. Poets are our original systems thinkers.” (Harman endowed a writer-in-residence program at Baruch College; I’m on the program’s selection committee.)

Consider the frustration of Wes Chapman, a health-care technology entrepreneur, who once rejected dozens of applicants for a marketing job at his Hanover, New Hampshire-based startup M2S — English majors from Dartmouth College, his alma mater — because none of them could identify a favorite poem or poet. “Marketing is a job that requires command of language and understanding how words and images influence people,” says Chapman, who notes that the scientists he worked with, at the time, recited poetry. Although Chapman favors 19th-century verse, he eventually hired a young woman who was able to recite a poem by Maya Angelou.

Poetry is an important part of the liberal arts tradition, which is again being seen as a key to business success.

School principals should encourage teachers to make time for verse. And states and districts should help fund the kinds of organizations — including libraries and student clubs — that offer resources and outlets for student poets. And with states advocating for the federal government to suspend standardized testing this year, in recognition of the difficulties posed by the pandemic, schools could be encouraged to produce year-end projects instead, including those focused on poetry.

Inspiration, creativity, joy, critical thinking about language and its nuances: these are the lessons of poetry, and they matter more than bubbling in the right answer. That is, if you care about real education.

New York City has a form of education governance called mayoral control, initiated by billionaire Mayor Michael Bloomberg in 2002, in which the mayor appoints most of the school board members and selects the chancellor of the system. Bloomberg claimed at the time that he knew how to solve all the problems of education, and he appointed an attorney with no education experience (Joel Klein) as his chancellor. Klein brought in McKinsey and a host of business consultants to reorganize the school system repeatedly. On the one occasion in 2004 when the city’s school board voted to oppose a decision by the mayor (who wanted to end social promotion for third graders, an idea championed by Jeb Bush), he (and the borough president of Staten Island) fired three dissenting members of the panel on the spot.

‘This is what mayoral control is all about,” Mr. Bloomberg said last night. ”In the olden days, we had a board that was answerable to nobody. And the Legislature said it was just not working, and they gave the mayor control. Mayoral control means mayoral control, thank you very much. They are my representatives, and they are going to vote for things that I believe in.”

In light of the mayor’s control of education, it came as a shock when the city’s “Panel on Educational Policy” voted 8-7 to oppose the mayor’s plan to continue testing 4-year-olds for admission to the highly coveted “gifted and talented program.” Both the mayor and the chancellor admitted that the testing program was a terrible idea, but insisted that it should be given just one year more. A majority of the panel thought that it made no sense to do the wrong thing “just one more time.” Children in the gifted program get extra enrichment that should be available to all students.

Chalkbeat reports:

In an extraordinary rebuke to Mayor Bill de Blasio, a New York City education panel early Thursday morning rejected a testing contract — halting, for now, the controversial practice of testing incoming kindergartners for admission to gifted programs.

With testing originally scheduled for this spring, it’s unclear how admissions to the city’s gifted and talented programs will move ahead. 

The rejection was an unusual flex for a panel that has little formal authority, is mostly appointed by the mayor, and has acted largely as a rubber stamp for his education policies. Approval seemed like a forgone conclusion when Mayor Bill de Blasio announced earlier this month that the entrance test would continue for one more year. But that required the Panel for Educational Policy to approve an extension of the city’s contract with the company that provides the entrance exams, at a cost of $1.7 million.

Instead, the vote failed 8-7, despite City Hall’s intense lobbying behind the scenes and the appointment of a new panel member just a day earlier. The rejection came even after Deputy Mayor Dean Fuleihan appeared at the virtual meeting, promising future significant reforms to the gifted program. In the meantime, the city proposed several admissions tweaks aimed at creating more diversity for the incoming kindergarten class. 

New York City is one of the only school districts in the nation that uses a test given to preschoolers to determine admission to elementary school gifted programs. Mayor de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza have both criticized the exam, but intended to use it this year while pursuing long-term changes. 

“This is a very challenging topic. As a pedagogue, as a principal, as a parent, I can say with certainty that there is a better way to serve our learners than a test given to 4-year-olds,” Carranza said at Wednesday’s meeting. “That’s why we want this to be the last year this test is administered.”

Governor Kim Reynolds has proposed legislation to take money away from Ohio public schools and divert it to privately managed schools, vouchers for religious schools, charter schools, and home schooling. She is following in the footsteps of Betsy DeVos, who spent four years trying to eradicate public schools.

If you live in Iowa, contact your legislator and Governor Reynolds! Speak up for your public schools! Resist the privatization of public funds!

Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds proposed SSB 1065, (now known as SF 159) which is being fast-tracked through the state Senate.  The vote may be today. This “school choice” bill would:

  • Provide up to $5,200 per student in “state scholarships” for parents to use for private school tuition or homeschooling expenses. 
  • Greatly expand charter schools in the state by allowing applicants to start a charter school by going straight to the state board, bypassing the school district.  No longer would districts be the only decider for charter schools. 

If you love your public schools, you need to drop what you are doing and get to work!

1. Call your state senators NOW and ask them to support public schools by OPPOSING Senate File 159, SSB 1065. Or say, “I oppose the school choice voucher/charter bill.” You can find your Senator and their phone number by going here. Click on their name for their phone number.

2Click here and send an email in opposition to SSB 1065/SF 159  NOW.

3. Share this link with friends and family who live in the state

https://actionnetwork.org/letters/save-iowa-public-schools-oppose/

Don’t wait. Act now. 

Carol Burris

Executive Director

Network for Public Education

John Merrow, former PBS education correspondent, writes about the choices that we should make when the COVID is someday behind us.

He offhandedly reminds us that “School Choice Week” was originally funded by right-wingers and charter school funders.

(SIDEBAR: In case you are curious, the ‘School Choice Week’ website does not list its funders, but, as Valerie Strauss reported in the Washington Post,  “According to the Center for Media and Democracy, the National School Choice Week website listed the American Federation for Children, the Walton Family Fund, ALEC, SPN, the Freedom Foundation, FreedomWorks, Cato Institute, Reason Foundation, the Heritage Foundation, the James Madison Institute, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce as education partners in 2016. Using the Wayback Machine, you will also find so-called progressive organizations such as Democrats for Education Reform (DFER), KIPP and Education Reform Now on the partners’ list that year.”

It is a stretch to refer to KIPP and DFER as “progressive” organizations, although they claim to be. KIPP, you may recall, performed at the Republican National Convention in 2000, to showcase their schools and promote George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind program. DFER is the hedge-fund managers’ group, not a progressive organization at all; DFER promotes charter schools and high-stakes testing. Two state Democratic parties (California and Colorado) passed resolutions disavowing DFER).

Merrow says that schools should not revert to where they “used to be.” They should be much better.

Here are a few of his suggestions: Schools should be less autocratic, more democratic.

What better place to start practicing democracy than in classrooms?  Teachers can make the classrooms more democratic by letting students develop the rules for classroom behavior–I.E. for their own behavior.  

As I wrote back in March, 2019:  “I am partial to teachers and classrooms where the children spend some time deciding what the rules should be, figuring out what sort of classroom they want to spend their year in. I watched that process more than a few times. First, the teacher asks her students for help.

Children, let’s make some rules for our classroom.  What do you think is important? 

Or she might lead the conversation in certain directions:

What if someone knows the answer to a question?  Should they just yell it out, or should they raise their hand and wait to be called on?

Or: If one of you has to use the bathroom, should you just get up and walk out of class? Or should we have a signal?  And what sort of signal should we use?

It should not surprise you to learn that, in the end, the kids come up with reasonable rules: Listen, Be Respectful, Raise Your Hand Be Kind, and so forth.  But there’s a difference, because these are their rules.”

Those words–Kind, Safe, Respectful–are found in store-bought laminated posters, but when students create the rules, they own them and are therefore more likely to adhere to them.

Merrow adds:

Some other suggestions:

1. Give kids time and space to get accustomed to being with peers, even socially distanced, for the first time in many months, while recognizing that social and emotional learning (SEL) may matter more than book-learning for these first weeks and months, because we don’t know the effects of isolation. 

2. Make time for lots of free play.  Schools need to be happy places

3. Suspend high stakes testing for the foreseeable future–and perhaps permanently–while also calling a halt to hand wringing conversations  about ‘remediation’ or ‘learning loss,’ because that’s blaming the victim, big time.  Some states, including New York, are calling on the US Department of Education to suspend its requirements, something that then-candidate Biden pledged to do at a Presidential Candidates Forum in Pittsburgh in December, 2019. I was there and heard him with my own ears. Let’s push him and his choice for Secretary of Education to follow through!

I don’t pretend to understand the QAnon cult, but it seems to believe that the federal government is controlled by satanic pedophiles and that Trump was the one who would root them out. They apparently held massive online events to watch the dramatic overturning of Joe Biden on Inauguration Day and the triumphant return of Trump.

According to this article in Huffington Post, many in the cult expressed confusion and disappointment when “the storm” didn’t happen. Some thought they had been duped, others urged patience.

Since there has recently been an efflorescence of Trump enthusiasts commenting on this blog, perhaps one will show up to explain what happened and why their hero is luxuriating in Palm Beach instead of leading their battle against dark forces.

Mercedes Schneider reports here on the absurd class sizes assigned to teachers in Louisiana in virtual classes. The teachers are not “teachers,” they are in charge of case loads. They are using a canned curriculum called “Edgenuity,” and she says that it can easily be gamed by students to get higher marks. Education? Not really.

She writes:

Unlimited enrollment is particulary obvious in the virtual high school numbers.

First-semester biology, 282 students; first-semester environmental science, 461 students– both belonging to the same teacher of record (who has an additional 91 students in two other classes).

Yowsa.

First-semester US History, 306 students; first-semester World History, 129 students, AP US History, 48 students– all assigned to one teacher.

First-semester English I, 381 students; first-semester English I Honors, 55 students– both courses, one teacher.

First-semester Algebra I, 394 students assigned to one teacher, who also has another 125 students in 3 additional courses.

First-semester Government, 567 students. One teacher.

First-semester English II, 299 students; first-semester English II Honors, 68 students– same teacher.

Alg II, 220 students; Spanish II, 208 students; Spanish I, 193 students; Computer Science, 93 students; Pre-calculus, 81 students; Algebra III, 72 students; Algebra II Honors, 57 students; Pre-calculus Honors, 29 students; Spanish III, 3 students; Business Math, 49 students. All. Overseen. By. One. Teacher.

How thin can you spread your peanut butter and still call it a sandwich?

When a single teacher is responsible for tutoring and regularly communicating with 400, 500, 600, 700 students on a pre-fab curriculum that students are expected to primarily complete independently, you tell me how much quality education is transpiring here.