Archives for category: Courage

A friend shared this 15-minute video with me.

It is the story of a Master Sergeant in the U.S. Army who was captured with his men in World War II.

Their captors wanted to separate the Jewish troops, but this brave man would not let it happen.

We are reminded of the goodness and courage that exists in the world.

We need that reminder now.

Arthur Camins offers sage advice: Don’t be silent in the face of injustice.

Our nation is controlled by bullies who are looting the wealth produced by others and using State power to instill fear and maintain control. Protest, march, write, call, email, strike.

Do whatever you can. Just do not be silent.

I have a visceral reaction to bullies. A few guys in my junior high school found self-worth in demeaning or hurting someone vulnerable. Occasionally, I was the victim. Some joyfully joined in the mocking. Other kids looked on. Some laughed uncomfortably, relieved that it was not them. Others, like me, kept their distance in silence.

We live in a country dominated by institutionalized bullying and too much silence. The police bully Black people, mostly with impunity. The NRA bullies legislators. The uber-wealthy, their legislative enablers, and their current presidential spokesperson intimidate the rest of us into compliance by instilling fear of unemployment, loss of income, discrimination, and even death.
Overwhelmingly, the recipients of the most vicious social, economic, and judicial bullying are people of color and usually poor.

Stand up to the bullies.

Do not be silent.

Nancy Bailey here presents a vision of schools that create a new realty and build a better society.

Public schools can bring us together. When children learn to care for each other with tolerance and understanding, they will grow to respect one other as adults. Honor the memory of George Floyd and black citizens who have unjustly died, by reconsidering our past efforts to integrate public schools. One place to start is by reading Gerald Grant’s book, Hope and Despair in the American City: Why There are No Bad Schools in Raleigh.

Learn how, once upon a time, Raleigh brought children together to learn, thereby reducing the gap between the rich and poor.

Vouchers and charters divide. Private schools and charter schools segregate. Remote learning, or learning at home or anyplace anytime, does little to bring students together.

This country needs strong public schools that unite students and families.

Who’s considering how to address the growing racial chasm that, along with the virus, could be America’s undoing? It has been 66 years since Brown v. Board of Education. How have public schools changed?

As we watch the unrest in Minneapolis and around the country, how, after all these years, can America bring students together? How, when Covid-19 separates us, can we find our way back to schools that are better than before? What will public schools be like when this disease is over?

Juan Gonzalez is a veteran journalist who wrote a regular column for the “New York Daily News” for many years. He retired from the “News” but frequently appears on “Democracy Now” as co-host with Amy Goodman. Gonzalez is renowned as an investigative reporter and champion of justice. He wrote this post for the blog.


New Brunswick, New Jersey Community Fights to Save a Public School
From Corporate Hospital Industry Expansion

A plan by the political and financial elite of Central New Jersey to demolish a downtown New Brunswick public school this summer so that one of the state’s largest hospital chains can embark on a $750-million expansion has provoked repeated street protests since January, drawn hundreds of angry parents and community residents to public meetings and has already spawned two lawsuits – even in the midst of the coronavirus lockdown.

​The fight to save the Lincoln Annex Public School has emerged as a classic David-and-Goliath battle. On one side are New Brunswick’s low-income Latino residents. More than 50 per cent of the city’s population is Hispanic. Most are immigrants from Mexico and Central America, and many reside in rented houses surrounding the downtown business district. They have garnered support from a dozen Rutgers student organizations and the Rutgers faculty union, AAUP-AFT.

Arrayed against that community alliance is a group of powerful and entrenched institutions that have long pursued a policy of gentrifying the city. They include Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, the Rutgers Cancer Institute, the New Brunswick Development Corp. (DEVCO), and the Middlesex County Democratic Party machine, led by Mayor James Cahill, who has ruled New Brunswick for nearly 30 years.
​​​
​Last June, RWJ/Barnabas Health, Rutgers and several major state politicians announced plans to build a new 12-story $750-million cancer research and treatment pavilion. At the time, however, they didn’t specify the exact location of the new building, even though internal emails later obtained by parent advocates show they had already decided where. Within months, some local media began reporting that talks were underway behind the scene for the city’s Board of Education to sell a public middle school across the street from RWJ, so that the school could be demolished and the cancer pavilion erected there.

​Lincoln Annex School has an enrollment of 760 children, more than 94% of them Hispanic and more than 80% from economically disadvantaged families. Many parents of the students are not eligible voters and therefore have very little political influence. The school, however, was only opened in September of 2016, after the city purchased the former St. Peter’s elementary and high school, and completely renovated the site at a cost to taxpayers of $22 million. As a result, Lincoln Annex is in far better condition than other schools in the district, and it happens to be one of the city’s best performing schools, with an excellent gifted and talented program.

​Throughout the fall and winter, hundreds of parents and residents began attending the monthly school board meetings to ask if it was true that the city was about to sell their school. At each meeting, the BOE members insisted these were just rumors, or informal discussions, that nothing was on the table. Not until early February did Mayor Cahill officially acknowledge the school would be sold and demolished by this summer. He immediately launched a public relations campaign, claiming “cancer can’t wait,” and he labeled opponents of the plan as somehow opposed to cancer treatment.

​The plan is to relocate the Lincoln Annex students in September to a “swing space” the school district leases on the outskirts of town, nearly two miles from the current Lincoln Annex. The building is actually a warehouse in an industrial park that was converted into classrooms. The students would attend that “swing space” for at least three years until a replacement school is built. Given the notorious delays in school construction, it could likely be much longer. The last school population that was relocated there, the Redshaw School, ended up with pupils spending 10 years in the facility due to such delays.

​Robert Wood Johnson and its developer, DEVCO, have promised to pay for the new school. Initially, they mentioned $25 million. But as community opposition grew, they upped the offer to $50 million, then to $55 million. Still, the students would have to be bused to the “swing space” for years while the new school is built, disrupting their education.

​To make matters worse, Mayor Cahill initially proposed a vacant brownfield site also on the outskirts of town for the new replacement school. The Coalition to Defend Lincoln Annex, the alliance of community groups that formed, soon obtained state environmental records that revealed the site was hopelessly contaminated with heavy metals and carcinogenic chemicals, which the city and its private owners had not been able to remediate after 10 years of effort. Once the group made that information public, the city came up with a new site, one closer to the current Lincoln Annex, but one that is still a contaminated brownfield site. The extent of that contamination is not known because of delays in state responses to freedom of information requests since the COVID-19 lockdown.

​All the while, parents and community residents mounted numerous protests – at Board of Education meetings, at meetings of the Rutgers Board of Governors, at City Council meetings and at Planning Board meetings, but officials continued to ignore the public pressure and bulldoze ahead. As many as 200 people showed up to the Feb. 25 board of education meeting, all in opposition.

​Even the Catholic Church was drawn into the fray. When the Diocese of Metuchen sold the site to the Board of Education in 2013, it specifically included a deed restriction that the property had to be used as a “public school or for public administrative purposes” for fifty years. The parents, most of whom are Catholic, began to ask Bishop James Checchio to invoke the deed restriction and prevent the sale. They even appealed to Cardinal Joseph Tobin in Newark and to Pope Francis for help. Church leaders have declined to meet, but the bishop keeps issuing statements that he wishes to reach some kind of agreement with all parties.

​Faced with such overwhelming uproar, the New Brunswick Board of Education has resorted to limiting public testimony, ousting people from meetings, conducting official business in private, and otherwise violating state regulations on how to close or erect new public schools.

​Even after the coronavirus pandemic erupted, city officials kept moving forward with their plans, holding all meetings in telephonic conversations that further limited public participation. Initially, they claimed that the new school would not cost taxpayers a penny because Robert Wood Johnson would pay for the whole project. But then early this month, the Middlesex County Freeholders suddenly voted out of the blue to provide $25 million for the new cancer pavilion.

​At one point, members of the Coalition attempted to seek help from New Jersey’s non-profit Educational Law Center, which famously spearheaded the historic Abbott v. Burke decision thirty years ago that mandated the equalizing of state funding for public schools. But the center never responded. Only later did Coalition members learn that David Sciarra, the civil rights attorney who heads the law center, is also on the board of directors of DEVCO, the non-profit developer that is sponsoring this project!

​The Coalition eventually went outside of New Jersey, to a New York based Hispanic civil rights law firm, LatinoJustice/PRLDEF. Last week LatinoJustice filed two key actions. One is a complaint in Middlesex County Superior Court on behalf of parents and residents to enforce the deed restriction against a sale and raising key issues of violations of due process in the decision to sell the school. The other is a complaint to New Jersey Education Commissioner Lamont Repollet, asking him to reject the Long-Range Facilities Plan that New Brunswick submitted a few weeks ago to the state, which must approve any school district’s amendments to its school facilities.

​The degree of wealth and power confronting this parent-community coalition is breath-taking. Twenty executives of the the non-profit RWJ hospital and its parent chain received more than $1 million in compensation in 2018, a review of their IRS 990 tax form shows, topped by RWJ/BarnabasHealth’s CEO Barry Ostrowsky’s $4.9 million, northern regional president Thomas Biga’s $3.5 million, and RWJ President John Gantner’s $2.1 million. Dr. Steven Libutti, director of the Rutgers Cancer Institute, was paid $1.1 million; Christopher Paladino, the chief executive of DEVCO, received nearly $700,000. All of this raises serious issues about how public education policy is being driven by corporate interests, how public officials are seizing on the COVID-19 pandemic, in shock doctrine style, to push through their agenda without public accountability, and why a supposed “sanctuary city” like New Brunswick is running rough-shod over the interests of its immigrant community.
​Meanwhile, parents and community leaders have repeatedly said they will continue to resist the sale of Lincoln Annex.

​For more information, follow Defend Lincoln Annex on facebook:
https://www.facebook.com/Defendamos-Lincoln-Annex-110326327234225/

Garrison Keillor marks an important milestone that reminds us of times when public leaders were intelligent and eloquent:

It was on this day in 1940 that Winston Churchill gave his first speech as prime minister to the House of Commons. He had taken over the job three days earlier. The speech Churchill gave is considered one of his greatest.

He said: “I would say to the House, as I said to those who have joined this government: ‘I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat.’ We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many, many long months of struggle and of suffering. You ask, what is our policy? I can say: It is to wage war, by sea, land, and air, with all our might and with all the strength that God can give us; to wage war against a monstrous tyranny, never surpassed in the dark, lamentable catalogue of human crime. That is our policy. You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: It is victory, victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory, however long and hard the road may be; for without victory, there is no survival. Let that be realized; no survival for the British Empire, no survival for all that the British Empire has stood for, no survival for the urge and impulse of the ages, that mankind will move forward towards its goal. But I take up my task with buoyancy and hope. I feel sure that our cause will not be suffered to fail among men. At this time I feel entitled to claim the aid of all, and I say, ‘Come then, let us go forward together with our united strength.’”

Churchill was a good writer as well as a good speaker. He wrote more than 40 books — histories, biographies, memoirs, and even a novel. He is the only British prime minister who has received the Nobel Prize in literature.

Eric (Chaz) Chasanoff died of COVID-19 at the age of 69. He was a greatly admired high school teacher and blogger. He started his blog “Chaz’s School Daze” in 2006 in response to the oppressive policies of the Bloomberg-Klein regime. He was an inspiration to other teachers and bloggers, including me.

The UFT honored him as a teacher and a fearless activist.

This was his assessment of the legacy of Joel Klein.

Here are his prescient thoughts on the failure of de Blasio’s chancellor to clean house and get rid of the Klein hires.

Here he is on Bloomberg’s failed policies.

He wrote this post a few weeks before he died.

I urge you to browse his blog. His was a strong, fearless, independent voice. He will be missed.

Sadly, with condolences to his family, friends and former colleagues, I add Chaz Chasanoff to this blog’s honor roll. A teacher who loved teaching, a fearless and relentless advocate for students and teachers. A teacher who spoke truth to power. A man of principle.

William Golding’s novel about a group of adolescent boys who are stranded and create their own society has been a staple of English classes for many years. It is a cautionary tale about the brutality that lies within the human heart.

Dutch historian Rutger Bregman was fascinated by the story but unpersuaded by its thesis. In this article in The Guardian, he describes his search for a counter-narrative, which culminated in success. He discovered a true story of a group of boys from Tonga (in the South Pacific) who were marooned for 15 months. What they did to survive is very different from the boys in Lord of the Flies.

Bregman’s article is fascinating.

He begins:

For centuries western culture has been permeated by the idea that humans are selfish creatures. That cynical image of humanity has been proclaimed in films and novels, history books and scientific research. But in the last 20 years, something extraordinary has happened. Scientists from all over the world have switched to a more hopeful view of mankind. This development is still so young that researchers in different fields often don’t even know about each other.

When I started writing a book about this more hopeful view, I knew there was one story I would have to address. It takes place on a deserted island somewhere in the Pacific. A plane has just gone down. The only survivors are some British schoolboys, who can’t believe their good fortune. Nothing but beach, shells and water for miles. And better yet: no grownups.

On the very first day, the boys institute a democracy of sorts. One boy, Ralph, is elected to be the group’s leader. Athletic, charismatic and handsome, his game plan is simple: 1) Have fun. 2) Survive. 3) Make smoke signals for passing ships. Number one is a success. The others? Not so much. The boys are more interested in feasting and frolicking than in tending the fire. Before long, they have begun painting their faces. Casting off their clothes. And they develop overpowering urges – to pinch, to kick, to bite.

By the time a British naval officer comes ashore, the island is a smouldering wasteland. Three of the children are dead. “I should have thought,” the officer says, “that a pack of British boys would have been able to put up a better show than that.” At this, Ralph bursts into tears. “Ralph wept for the end of innocence,” we read, and for “the darkness of man’s heart”.

This story never happened. An English schoolmaster, William Golding, made up this story in 1951 – his novel Lord of the Flies would sell tens of millions of copies, be translated into more than 30 languages and hailed as one of the classics of the 20th century. In hindsight, the secret to the book’s success is clear. Golding had a masterful ability to portray the darkest depths of mankind. Of course, he had the zeitgeist of the 1960s on his side, when a new generation was questioning its parents about the atrocities of the second world war. Had Auschwitz been an anomaly, they wanted to know, or is there a Nazi hiding in each of us?

I first read Lord of the Flies as a teenager. I remember feeling disillusioned afterwards, but not for a second did I think to doubt Golding’s view of human nature. That didn’t happen until years later when I began delving into the author’s life. I learned what an unhappy individual he had been: an alcoholic, prone to depression; a man who beat his kids. “I have always understood the Nazis,” Golding confessed, “because I am of that sort by nature.” And it was “partly out of that sad self-knowledge” that he wrote Lord of the Flies.

I began to wonder: had anyone ever studied what real children would do if they found themselves alone on a deserted island? I wrote an article on the subject, in which I compared Lord of the Flies to modern scientific insights and concluded that, in all probability, kids would act very differently. Readers responded sceptically. All my examples concerned kids at home, at school, or at summer camp. Thus began my quest for a real-life Lord of the Flies. After trawling the web for a while, I came across an obscure blog that told an arresting story: “One day, in 1977, six boys set out from Tonga on a fishing trip … Caught in a huge storm, the boys were shipwrecked on a deserted island. What do they do, this little tribe? They made a pact never to quarrel.”

Bregman embarks on a journey to interview the captain who found the lost boys and the one of the rescued group.

What he learns will surprise and reassure you.

William Golding was wrong. Human nature is not destined to be evil.

Pasi Sahlberg and William Doyle celebrate the importance of play in their new book, Let the Children Play: How More Play Will Save Our Schools and Help Children Thrive , published by Oxford University Press.

This article, excerpted from their book, features the work of Superintendent Michael Hynes and the Patchogue-Medford school district on Long Island in New York. The article appears in Kappan online.

In 2015, a school district in New York State declared an educational revolution. Teachers and parents decided to rise up and liberate their schools and their children — by giving them more play.

The revolution erupted at the Patchogue-Medford district on Long Island, which serves 8,700 K-12 students, over half of whom are economically disadvantaged, and it is being led by Michael Hynes, the athletic, passionate young district superintendent. He realized that federal education schemes based on the compulsory mass standardized testing of children, schemes like No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top, were proven failures, and he figured it was time to try something new, even radical.

Hynes started following his students around through their typical day and was increasingly alarmed to realize how little recess, play, and self-directed time they got. “We have done a great job of stripping away childhood from our children,” he thought. “We tell kids what to do from the moment they wake up in the morning until they go to bed. They don’t have the ability to take time for themselves, just be kids, to make decisions for themselves.” He remembered his own childhood, and how different things were when he started as an elementary school teacher in the 1990s. “My students were free to play often,” Hynes recalled. “I loved watching them benefit physically, emotionally, and socially. We would go outside three times a day.” A single idea began to dominate his thinking: “Kids must be free to play in school. Childhood itself is at stake. I am sworn to protect children, and I must give this to them.”

Making time for play

For years, Hynes had read about the striking successes of Finland’s school system, and its strong foundation of play in childhood education. It gave him an inspiring idea, and he presented it to his community. And with the strong support of his school board and local parents, Hynes and his team took a series of steps almost unheard of in American public education today, steps that for some politicians and bureaucrats would be shocking, even downright dangerous, and nothing less than pure blasphemy. They doubled daily recess from 20 minutes to 40 minutes and encouraged children to go outside even in the rain and snow. They brought building blocks, Lincoln Logs, toys, and kitchen sets back into the classrooms. They gave each child a 40-minute lunch. They added optional periods of yoga and mindfulness training for K-8 children. They launched an unstructured Play Club for kindergarten through 5th-grade children, every Friday morning from 8:00 a.m. to 9:15 a.m.

They opened “Divergent Thinking Rooms” filled with big foam blocks, where children can negotiate, plan, innovate, collaborate, and construct new worlds of design and architecture together, free from adult interference. A free breakfast program in classrooms was started so children and teachers could eat together every morning. The amount of homework was sharply reduced. Hynes calls the program “PEAS”: Physical growth, Emotional growth, Academic growth, and Social growth. It has nothing to do with technology. During the play periods, there isn’t a tablet, laptop, or desktop in use.

In 2018, Hynes sent a letter to his district, informing teachers and students that they were more than a score on a government-imposed standardized test, and they should feel free to toss such test scores in the trash. “We must abandon one-size-fits-all lesson plans and stop drilling to create high scores on year-end standardized tests,” he argued. “Instead, children should be involved in play, project-based learning, cooperation, collaboration, and open-ended inquiry.”

Hynes is an educational revolutionary. He stands firmly against the status quo of high-stakes testing and hyper-pressure. It takes courage to think afresh.

Imagine if we had state leaders with this vision?

Carol Burris conducted a survey of teachers, parents, and principals on behalf of the Network for Public Education to learn about how this extended period of emergency remote learning is affecting them. The summary is reported in this article posted on Valerie Strauss’s Answer Sheet blog.

This period of emergency remote learning is taking an emotional toll on many.

Burris writes:

When I asked Bronx high school Principal Jeff Palladino to describe his day recently, he replied: “That is hard to do. I don’t know when it begins and when it ends.”


He starts his day, he said, by checking into Google Classroom to see if students turned in their work. “Many of our students live in crowded apartments with family members that are ill, so the only time it’s quiet enough for them to do their work is at night,” he said.


Jeff Palladino is the principal of Fannie Lou Hamer Freedom High School, located in the most impoverished congressional district in the United States. Sixty percent of Fannie Lou Hamer students are Latino, and 39 percent are black. Their parents are either workers declared essential or suffering from the worry of being laid off.
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The Bronx community that the high school serves has been devastated by covid-19. “Since this began, our students are losing family members,” he said. “We lose two or three each week. We have lost an alumna. One of our students passed away, although we are not certain if the cause was covid-19. It is so hard because you cannot physically be there for them.” Palladino told me about a student whom they could not contact for two weeks. Both parents had the virus, and she was caring not only for them but for the rest of the family as well. Everyone was relieved when they got the message that she was okay and catching up on her work.


In a New York suburb in hard-hit Nassau County, South Side High School Principal John Murphy begins his workday at 7 a.m.


“The first thing we do is check-in with our at-risk kids — kids with emotional issues, health issues, kids who were at-risk before covid-19,” he said. “We call and make sure they are okay.”

His school has lost four parents to the disease to date. One teacher, who since has recovered, was hospitalized and on a ventilator.
School counselors follow up with students who are struggling, speaking with parents as well as kids.

Then Murphy moves on to supervising instruction by dropping in on online classes, with parent and teacher concerns, trouble-shooting software issues, and attending district meetings. Work moves into night and weekends, as crises pop up.
Murphy has high-praise for his teachers, who themselves are struggling to do the best they can. “Teachers and students miss each other desperately,” he said.


Meanwhile, Arthur Goldstein teaches his Francis Lewis High School students from his home on Long Island. His students are all beginning English Language learners. Some hide behind avatars in his virtual classroom. He worries about what is happening in their homes, which are often tiny apartments in Queens, New York, where covid-19 has taken a staggering toll.




In the Midwest, Fort Wayne elementary school teacher Eileen Doherty struggles to teach her inner-city students. She is dismayed by the differences between what her own children who attend a suburban school have when compared with those she teaches.

One mom explained to her why schoolwork was not her first priority: “I am just trying to feed my children.”

Between April 8 to April 13, 2020, the Network for Public Education surveyed teachers and educators across the United States to find out how they were responding to and coping with the emergency closing of school buildings due to covid-19. The survey was distributed to our mailing list of 350,000, shared online via social media, and then subsequently shared by teacher, administrator, and family groups.


Here’s who responded: 7,249 public school teachers, 5,536 public school parents, and 354 public school administrators responded.


About half of the educator respondents reported that their own children are remotely learning, therefore it is possible that approximately half of the parent respondents are educators themselves.

Responses came from every state.
In the educator surveys, urban, suburban, small city and rural districts were represented in proportions similar to the United States at large.

Suburban parents were over-represented in the parent survey; however, 33 percent of respondents lived in urban centers or small cities. A majority of teachers (56 percent) taught in schools in which over half of the students received free or reduced-price lunch. Thirty percent taught in schools where the proportion of low socio-economic status students exceeded 80 percent.


In addition to the surveys, we conducted nine in-depth interviews with educators and parents from around the country to gain insights into emergency remote learning during the covid-19 pandemic.

What follows is an account of what we found. You can find all three surveys and their results here.


A tough adjustment 


Only 19 percent of teachers reported having completely adjusted; over 50 percent said their adjustment was difficult, and nearly 31 percent were, at the time of their response to the survey, still struggling to adjust. While 41 percent of parents reported that their child had adjusted and was able to complete assignments, 22 percent reported that their child was still struggling to adjust.


Emily Sawyer is the mother of five in Austin, Texas. Each of her children has reacted differently; each has his or her own adjustment challenges. Ironically, the child she worries about the most is her son who has transitioned the best. “He is the one who needs the most socialization that physical school attendance provides.” She worries about his transition back to his brick and mortar school.


The difficulty of managing multiple children in a remote learning environment was echoed by Khanh-Lien Banko, who has four children in public schools in Alachua County, Florida. Both she and her husband are juggling to keep their children on task, while working remotely from home.
“We all have our devices in our home; however, it is still very, very difficult. Distance learning for middle-schoolers is probably the worst possible choice,” she said with a laugh.


The emotional toll 


Over 80 percent of parents reported that their child misses his/her classmates, and over 60 percent reported they miss their teacher. Fifty-eight percent of parents told us their child misses sports and extracurricular activities, and 39 percent said he or she regularly expresses feelings of loneliness. Almost 10 percent — 9.5 percent — said their child prefers remote learning to classroom learning. Reactions were generally consistent across grade levels.




Teachers and administrators were asked to select adjectives that described how they were feeling regarding distance instruction. Both administrators (43 percent) and teachers (57 percent) most frequently chose “overwhelmed.” Large shares of both groups also chose “anxious” and “struggling.”
While 37.5 percent of administrators felt supported, only 29 percent of teachers chose that adjective as a descriptor. Eight percent of teachers and 11 percent of administrators were “enthusiastic” about distance learning.
For some children, attending school at home, coupled with the uncertainty about when they will return, has been traumatic.

Khanh-Lien Banko’s youngest son “somehow got it in his head that he was going back in two weeks.”
”When he found out he was not, he was heartbroken., she said. “All of our children are grieving and miss going to school.”


New York City teacher Gary Rubinstein told me his son “has wonderful teachers who create a social, highly interactive classroom in which he thrives.” Absent the support provided by teachers and friends, his young son is struggling both academically and emotionally.


Superintendent Joe Roy of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, said he is proud of his teachers who are providing instruction; still, remote learning cannot begin to replace all of the socio-emotional benefits that learning with others offers.


He is acutely aware of the stress his families are going through as well. One father, a truck driver whose wife is a nurse, called to talk about how overwhelming it is as his family tries to balance work, health, and his children’s schoolwork. Roy’s message to his community is simple and straightforward: “Compassion before curriculum; grace before grades.” Roy uses self-produced videos to reassure his community, provide emotional support, and keep them informed.


Face-to-face contact, virtually


Sixty-four percent of teachers told us that they video-conference with their students at least once a week — 38 percent conference with students several times a week.

Conferencing rates were relatively stable across school type with one exception—rural teachers were less likely to video conference (60 percent) than colleagues in city and suburban centers.




Although everyone we interviewed highly valued visual contact via technology, there were concerns regarding privacy issues, especially in the context of streamed classroom instruction.


“Kids are used to saying whatever they want, whenever they want on social media, and there is a fear, especially among students who have been bullied, that harassment will take place in online classrooms — including harassment that can be recorded and then shared,” said Principal Murphy.
Incidences of classrooms being “crashed” by non-students, other family members being seen on camera, and even an instance when a parent recorded and critiqued a lesson, have been posted on administrator email lists, giving schools pause when it comes to the use of live, online lessons.


Online live classroom management can also be more difficult. Goldstein, the teacher on Long Island, lamented that he could not control student behavior online the way he can in his classroom, in which he can cajole reluctant learners to participate.
“When they hide behind avatars it is difficult to see if they are engaged or lying in bed during class,” he said. “But I have to respect their privacy, so I feel I have no right to tell them to come out from behind the avatar.”


Dual roles for teachers


Rubinstein teaches mathematics at New York City’s elite Stuyvesant High School. At the same time, he is taking care of two school-age children, one of whom has a learning disability.
Being isolated has taken a toll on his son, and hours of effort are required to help him do his work. He walked me through his exhausting daily schedule, explaining how he divides his time supporting his children and teaching his students. Rubinstein said he carefully crafts videos that students can watch on demand, posts assignments, and teaches a live class every day.




According to our survey, 76 percent of teachers work a minimum of five hours a day, with 20 percent logging in more than nine hours a day. Eighty-eight percent of administrators were working five or more hours a day, with more than 32 percent exceeding a nine-hour work day.

Half of all teacher and administrator respondents have school-age children at home.


The tools and online platforms that teachers and schools are using vary. Seventy-two percent of all teachers email students. Sixty-four percent use Google Classroom, and 32 percent use Google Meet to create classroom groups. Zoom, which has been hit with privacy and intrusion concerns, is also a frequently used platform for conferencing and instruction (40 percent).


Whatever the platform, the delivery of instruction is challenging, educators say.


Murphy of South Side High School quickly learned that trying to keep up the pace of the in-school curriculum is an impossibility. “Learning a topic takes twice as long online.”
Teachers and students were burning out. “I finally had to tell them to slow down,” he said.
Not only were his teachers and students overloading, so were the online platforms they were using. “Once schools on the West Coast came online, everything would slow to a crawl. Students became frustrated as they futilely attempted to submit their work,” he said.


Because Fannie Lou Hamer Freedom High School is a performance-based assessment school, free from the regulations that demand adherence to the New York State Regents curriculum, the transition to remote instruction has been easier.




“Project-based learning is the centerpiece of our instruction,” Palladino said. “A test is not our endpoint, so our work in many ways has not changed. Teachers do not have to redo the curriculum.”
The school will have its cumulative portfolio conferences virtually.

“Our teachers have been able to do office hours, small group conferencing, and one-on-one conferencing to support student work. It is a good match for what we do.”
Still, Palladino said, online learning is not optimal or a long-term strategy for the school. “What keeps remote learning going for us are the relationships we built before the building closed,” he said.


Fannie Lou Hamer is a full-service community school, with an 11-year relationship with The Children’s Aid Society.

Relationships with community organizations that continue to support students, as well as strong advisory groups, have helped keep afloat instruction in a community devastated by covid-19.
Palladino said he also worries that his staff is overly concerned about students falling behind. “My teachers are entirely too hard on themselves. I have to tell them not to worry,” he said. ” We will figure all of this out.”


Connectivity and instruction


One of the greatest challenges for schools in implementing distance learning is providing access to both devices and connectivity.

According to our survey, only 35 percent of administrators believe that all of their students have their own laptop or a tablet. Sixty-four percent of administrators reported some device distribution to fill the technology gap. Sixteen percent indicated that they had distributed laptops or tablets to all students before the covid-19 crisis began.




Fannie Lou Hamer Freedom High School modified and distributed 300 Chromebooks from their school supply. When 30 students were unable to pick them up, Palladino drove into the Bronx and distributed the laptops from his car window, he said. The school also distributed hot spots.
“Without connectivity, the laptop is just a paperweight,” he said.


Students in Grades 8-12 in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, had Chromebooks, but students in Grades K-7 did not. Roy loaned school-based laptops to families, with priority going to those who have no laptops at all.


In the Duarte Unified School District in California, where 78 percent of all students receive free or reduced-price lunch, middle and high school students already had a school-issued laptop, but elementary students did not.
Heather Messner, teacher and union president, said school-based laptops are being given out, and “hot-spots” are distributed to families without internet services. In addition, Duarte teachers create paper learning packets, which school principals copy and distribute at both food-distribution centers and schools, trying to leave no child without instruction.


In some places, devices and connectivity shortages are particularly severe.


Fort Wayne, Indiana teacher Eileen Doherty told us, “Some of my students wait for their mother to come home so that they can access her phone to do the work. About 20 percent of my students come to my class on Zoom each day, and it is not even the same 20 percent.”

Getting laptops to seniors who need them for credit recovery for graduation has been the first priority in Fort Wayne, she said.


Schools as centers of community


Nearly 95 percent of all school administrators reported that their school(s) were engaging in the distribution of food.


Roy runs eight support sites in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania — seven from his schools, and one in a low-income housing center. The sites distribute food at the rate of 3,000 meals a day to the families of public, charter, and parochial school students.




According to Florida parent and PTA advocate, Khanh-Lien Banko, the district’s food service is providing 20,000 meals a day at 76 locations.

Fannie Lou Hamer distributes “grab and go” breakfasts and lunches to any community member who walks through the door.


But schools are doing far more than just distributing food to the public. They are providing emotional support services as well as making connections between families and social services.
There is a worry about families who have slipped through the cracks.

Banko, who is a leader of the PTA in Florida and running for the school board in Alachua County, told us that despite outreach emails and phone calls, it has not been possible to contact every family. “School faculty and staff are now going door to door to check on kids and families in accordance with safety guidelines,” she said.


The first priority


Fifty-five percent of teachers and 59 percent of administrators believed that students are likely to fall academically behind. Parents are more optimistic — only 27 percent thought their child would lag academically, likely a reflection of the large share of teacher-parents who took the survey. Large proportions of all three surveyed groups believed that they could not come to a judgment regarding student progress at this time (34 percent of teachers, 30 of administrators of administrators, 29 percent of parents.)


In every interview, student academic performance came second to worry about the physical and emotional health of children.


Rubinstein said he worried about the health and safety of his predominantly Asian-American students, many of whom live in small, multi-generational apartments in Queens County of New York City. Not only are they living in one of the hardest-hit places in America, he told me, but they are also dealing with bias stemming from the origins of the disease.




Texas parent Emily Sawyer said she worried the most for the black and brown children of Austin, who had fewer resources and support than her five children. And the inability to physically see and support every child through the pandemic weighed deeply on everyone’s mind.


In an opinion piece in The Washington Post, Michael Petrilli, president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a conservative non-profit think-tank, suggested that one solution to academic loss was to have large shares of students, especially those in Title I Schools, repeat their present grade. I asked interviewees what they thought of that idea.
All strongly disagreed, saying it was an ineffective and punitive measure.

Goldstein, on Long Island, said, “That is heartless and cruel to punish kids for something they can’t control. We are through 70 percent of the school year … That is saying to kids. ‘You came for nothing.’”
Goldstein and a team of teachers from his school proposed a grading policy for students that would “do no harm,” with teachers not assigning grades lower than the grade the student had achieved when the school building closed.


In states further south and west of the New York metropolitan area, schools were even closer to the end of the year. Fort Wayne teacher Doherty noted that most of April would have been devoted to prepping for and taking state-wide tests, with schools then closing in May.


Banko told us there was one upside to remote learning. Since state tests were canceled, the assignments students were being given were far more interesting than the usual spring test prep. “I am seeing more creativity and collaboration than I have seen in years,” she said.

This is a message from UnkochMyCampus, an organization dedicated to stopping the nefarious influence of the super-rich on campuses, starting with the Koch family. In this case, the contribution to a Missouri university came from billionaire Rex Sinquefield, a rightwing libertarian extremist. Mr. Sinquefield is a strong supporters of charter schools and vouchers.

Please consider signing the letter of thanks to this brave professor, David Repach.

In an act of protest, a professor at Saint Louis University (SLU) has renounced his Endowed Chair in Economics. In a memo explaining his decision, Dr. David Rapach cites the university’s acceptance of a financial donation “rife with violations of well-established academic norm” as his reason for renoucing the John Simon Endowed Chair. The $50 million donation came from St. Lous billionaire Rex Sinquefield, a local political donor well known for funding campaigns to cut taxes and privatize public goods in Missouri.

Saint Louis University’s decision to accept donor-influenced financial support from Rex Sinquefield is reflective of the ultra-wealthy’s strategy to use colleges and universities to build public support for their private legislative agenda– an agenda that harms working families and public education.

Show your support for Professor Rapach by signing our petition endorsing his courageous action!
“I hope to send the message to students that principles are more important than the money and/or prestige that accompany particular titles. Based on my understanding of SLU’s mission, I feel compelled to renounce the Simon Chair to be true to my principles and to protest what is happening at SLU.” -Dr. Rapach’s March 9, 2020

Sinquefield’s agenda includes pushing the repeal the progressive income tax system, thwarting efforts to secure fair wages for hard-working Missourians, and investing in legislation that weakens Missouri’s public schools. The violations of academic norms in the donation allow Sinquefield to leverage SLU to promote his private interests and legislative agenda. Help us demand that colleges and universisties serve the common good, not private interest!

Sign the Petition
In solidarity,

Samantha Parsons