Archives for category: Creativity

Jan Resseger explains here why community schools may be the best post-pandemic strategy for reopening schools.

Jeff Bryant recently profiled Mary Parr-Sanchez, the current president of the National Education Association’s New Mexico affiliate, speaking about what education will be like after the pandemic: “‘I think we’re all going to be different after this… When I first learned of the community schools model, it hit me like a lightning bolt,’ she told me. ‘I loved it because it focused on the academic and nonacademic needs of children, and the focus was on learning and a culturally relevant curriculum, not just test scores.’ Now, she is convinced the community schools model is the most promising way forward for schools as they reopen to the new realities of recovering from the fallout of COVID-19.”

Here is how the New York City Children’s Aid Society’s National Center for Community Schools defines a full-service, wraparound community school: “The foundations for community schools can be conceptualized as a Developmental Triangle that places children at the center, surrounded by families and communities. Because students’ educational success, health and well-being are the focus of every community school, the legs of the triangle consist of three interconnected support systems: A strong core instructional program… expanded learning opportunities… and a full range of health, mental health and social services designed to promote children’s well-being and remove barriers to learning.”

Community schools are designed locally to meet the needs of the particular school community, but they share essential characteristics. The Children’s Aid Society explains that community schools are not mere ad hoc school community partnerships, but are instead the product of careful planning and staffing. A Community School Director—an administrator—partners with the principal to coordinate the social, medical and enrichment services housed in the community school with the academic program. Each community school has a designated lead partner agency, which “maintains a full-time presence in the school and engages in regular joint planning with the Community School Director, the staff, and the community.”

The goal is to meet all the needs of children, not just their academic needs.

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?

David Berliner, one of our nation’s most eminent researchers, advises parents not to worry that their children are “falling behind.” School is important. Instruction is important. But “soft skills” and non—cognitive skills matter more in the long term than academic skills. Relax.

He sent this advice to the blog:

Worried About Those “Big” Losses on School Tests Because Of Extended Stays At Home? They May Not Even Happen,
And If They Do, They May Not Matter Much At All!

David C. Berliner
Regents Professor Emeritus
Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College
Arizona State University
Tempe, AZ.

Although my mother passed away many years ago, I need now to make a public confession about a crime she committed year in and year out. When I was young, she prevented me from obtaining one year of public schooling. Surely that must be a crime!

Let me explain. Every year my mother took me out of school for three full weeks following the Memorial Day weekend. Thus, every single year, from K through 9th grade, I was absent from school for 3 weeks. Over time I lost about 30 weeks of schooling. With tonsil removal, recurring Mastoiditis, broken bones, and more than the average ordinary childhood illnesses, I missed a good deal of elementary schooling.
How did missing that much schooling hurt me? Not at all!

First, I must explain why my mother would break the law. In part it was to get me out of New York City as the polio epidemic hit U.S. cities from June through the summer months. For each of those summers, my family rented one room for the whole family in a rooming house filled with working class families at a beach called Rockaway. It was outside the urban area, but actually still within NYC limits.

I spent the time swimming every day, playing ball and pinochle with friends, and reading. And then, I read some more. Believe it or not, for kids like me, leaving school probably enhanced my growth! I was loved, I had great adventures, I conversed with adults in the rooming house, I saw many movies, I read classic comics, and even some “real” literature. I read series after series written for young people: Don Sturdy, Tom Swift, the Hardy Boys, as well as books by Robert Louis Stevenson and Alexander Dumas.

So now, with so many children out of school, and based on all the time I supposedly lost, I will make a prediction: every child who likes to read, every child with an interest in building computers or in building model bridges, planes, skyscrapers, autos, or anything else complex, or who plays a lot of “Fortnite,” or “Minecraft,” or plays non-computer but highly complex games such as “Magic,” or “Ticket to Ride,” or “Codenames” will not lose anything measurable by staying home. If children are cared for emotionally, have interesting stuff to play with, and read stories that engage them, I predict no deficiencies in school learning will be detectable six to nine months down the road.
It is the kids, rich or poor, without the magic ingredients of love and safety in their family, books to engage them, and interesting mind-engaging games to play, who may lose a few points on the tests we use to measure school learning. There are many of those kinds of children in the nation, and it is sad to contemplate that.

But then, what if they do lose a few points on the achievement tests currently in use in our nation and in each of our states? None of those tests predict with enough confidence much about the future life those kids will live. That is because it is not just the grades that kids get in school, nor their scores on tests of school knowledge, that predict success in college and in life. Soft skills, which develop as well during their hiatus from school as they do when they are in school, are excellent predictors of a child’s future success in life.

Really? Deke and Haimson (2006), working for Mathmatica, the highly respected social science research organization, studied the relationship between academic competence and some “soft” skills on some of the important outcomes in life after high school. They used high school math test scores as a proxy for academic competency, since math scores typically correlate well with most other academic indices. The soft skills they examined were a composite score from high school data that described each students’ work habits, measurement of sports related competence, a pro-social measure, a measure of leadership, and a measure of locus of control.

The researchers’ question, just as is every teacher’s and school counselor’s question, was this: If I worked on improving one of these academic or soft skills, which would give that student the biggest bang for the buck as they move on with their lives?

Let me quote their results (emphasis by me)
Increasing math test scores had the largest effect on earnings for a plurality of the students, but most students benefited more from improving one of the nonacademic competencies. For example, with respect to earnings eight years after high school, increasing math test scores would have been most effective for just 33 percent of students, but 67 percent would have benefited more from improving a nonacademic competency. Many students would have secured the largest earnings benefit from improvements in locus of control (taking personal responsibility) (30 percent) and sports-related competencies (20 percent). Similarly, for most students, improving one of the nonacademic competencies would have had a larger effect than better math scores on their chances of enrolling in and completing a postsecondary program.

​This was not new. Almost 50 years ago, Bowles and Gintis (1976), on the political left, pointed out that an individual’s noncognitive behaviors were perhaps more important than their cognitive skills in determining the kinds of outcomes the middle and upper middle classes expect from their children. Shortly after Bowles and Gintis’s treatise, Jencks and his colleagues (1979), closer to the political right, found little evidence that cognitive skills, such as those taught in school, played a big role in occupational success.

Employment usually depends on certificates or licenses—a high school degree, an Associate’s degree, a 4-year college degree or perhaps an advanced degree. Social class certainly affects those achievements. But Jenks and his colleagues also found that industriousness, leadership, and good study habits in high school were positively associated with higher occupational attainment and earnings, even after controlling for social class. It’s not all about grades, test scores, and social class background: Soft skills matter a lot!

Lleras (2008), 10 years after she studied a group of 10th grade students, found that those students with better social skills, work habits, and who also participated in extracurricular activities in high school had higher educational attainment and earnings, even after controlling for cognitive skills! Student work habits and conscientiousness were positively related to educational attainment and this in turn, results in higher earnings.

It is pretty simple: students who have better work habits have higher earnings in the labor market because they are able to complete more years of schooling and their bosses like them. In addition, Lleras’s study and others point to the persistent importance of motivation in predicting earnings, even after taking into account education. The Lleras study supports the conclusions reached by Jencks and his colleagues (1979), that noncognitive behaviors of secondary students were as important as cognitive skills in predicting later earnings.
So, what shall we make of all this? I think poor and wealthy parents, educated and uneducated parents, immigrant or native-born parents, all have the skills to help their children succeed in life. They just need to worry less about their child’s test scores and more about promoting reading and stimulating their children’s minds through interesting games – something more than killing monsters and bad guys. Parents who promote hobbies and building projects are doing the right thing. So are parents who have their kids tell them what they learned from watching a PBS nature special or from watching a video tour of a museum. Parents also do the right thing when they ask, after their child helps a neighbor, how the doing of kind acts makes their child feel. This is the “stuff” in early life that influences a child’s success later in life even more powerfully than do their test scores.

So, repeat after me all you test concerned parents: non-academic skills are more powerful than academic skills in life outcomes. This is not to gainsay for a minute the power of instruction in literacy and numeracy at our schools, nor the need for history and science courses. Intelligent citizenship and the world of work require subject matter knowledge. But I hasten to remind us all that success in many areas of life is not going to depend on a few points lost on state tests that predict so little. If a child’s stay at home during this pandemic is met with love and a chance to do something interesting, I have little concern about that child’s, or our nation’s, future.

Bowles, S., & Gintis, H. (1976). Schooling in Capitalist America. New York: Basic Books.

Deke, J. & Haimson, J. (2006, September). Expanding beyond academics: Who benefits and how? Princeton NJ: Issue briefs #2, Mathematica Policy Research, Inc. Retrieved May 20, 2009 from:http://www.eric.ed.gov:80/ERICDocs/data/ericdocs2sql/content_storage_01/0000019b/80/28/09/9f.pdfMatematicapolicy research Inc.

Lleras, C. (2008). Do skills and behaviors in high school matter? The contribution of noncognitive factors in explaining differences in educational attainment and earnings. Social Science Research, 37, 888–902.

Jencks, C., Bartlett, S., Corcoran, M., Crouse, J., Eaglesfield, D., Jackson, G., McCelland, K., Mueser, P., Olneck, M., Schwartz, J., Ward, S., and Williams, J. (1979). Who Gets Ahead?: The Determinants of Economic Success in America. New York: Basic Books.

I recently had a discussion with Dr. Michael Hynes, the district superintendent in Port Washington, New York.

Our ZOOM discussion was sponsored by the Network for Public Education.

Mike Hynes is unusual because he believes in whole-child education. He is a revolutionary. He doesn’t think that test scores are important. He thinks schools should be places of joy. He believes in collaboration with staff. He shadows children to learn how their days are spent.

He is a different kind of superintendent.

Is he the wave of the future?

On May 20, I will ZOOM with Dr. Michael Hynes, the most interesting and inspiring superintendent I know.

Mike Hynes is superintendent of the Port Washington school district on Long Island, In New York.

He is a visionary. His new book—about educational leadership—is Staying Grounded.

He truly believes in whole-child education. He supports the parent opt-out movement. He believes that what matters most is children’s emotional, psychological, and social well-being. He is passionate about play, calm, mindfulness.

Mike is my choice for the next state superintendent of New York. What a wild thought! Imagine a major state led. Y a man who knows the harm done by standardized testing! Imagine a state willing to lead, instead of follow.

Join us on Wednesday May 20 at 7:40 pm EST to watch a discussion sponsored by the Network for Public Education. Space is limited to 100. Everyone else can watch a livestream on NPE’s Facebook page.

Author William Doyle and Superintendent Michael Hynes—both known for supporting whole-child education—-say that they would welcome Bill Gates to New York if he agrees to meet three conditions.

They suggest that Gates has a chance to redeem his reputation after 20 years of failure in education.

They write:

The Gates Foundation has been a driving force behind nearly 20 years of consistently failed federal and state attempts at education reform, including the widely reviled “Common Core” state standards. In that time, little-to-no system improvement has occurred, despite the squandering of vast sums of money by the Gates Foundation and by taxpayers. In a blog post noting the flaws of Common Core and announcing plans to re-focus their funding, Gates announced, “As we have reflected on our work and spoken with educators over the last few years, we have identified a few key insights that will shape our work and investments going forward.”

The Gates Foundation now has a historic chance to redeem and distinguish itself as a world leader in education as it has in the field of public health. In fact, we believe that the educators, parents and children of New York should welcome the Gates Foundation to New York with open arms and marching brass bands — but with three ironclad conditions.

Open their post to learn what their “ironclad conditions” are.

Do you think Gates might agree?

Do you think New York needs him, with or without the conditions?

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?

John Merrow has some good suggestions in this essay about the month of May and how to use it wisely and well:

May has been an educational ‘dead zone’ for years. Because of our national obsession with standardized test scores, teachers–particularly in low income areas–spend class time showing students how to guess at answers, giving practice tests, and even teaching children how to fill in bubbles for the standardized, multiple choice ‘bubble’ tests that await them. These activities come with a huge opportunity cost for students, because they are of no educational benefit whatsoever and probably set their learning back; for teachers, they are an insult to their profession. And school districts spend billions of dollars buying, administering, and grading the bubble tests required by their states and the federal government.

When I was reporting I occasionally heard people complaining–in song–about “the morbid, miserable month of May,” riffing off an old Stephen Foster tune, “The Merry, Merry Month of May.” As I recall, the expression surfaced in 2003 or 2004, which is when the unintended consequences of the 2001 federal “No Child Left Behind” law became apparent. Because NCLB penalized schools that didn’t achieve what it called ‘adequate yearly progress’ on standardized tests, many districts eliminated art, music, drama, journalism, and even recess in order to concentrate on ‘the basics.’

That’s when the month of May became a ‘morbid’ dead zone, educationally speaking.

I don’t remember where I first heard the expression. It might have been in the suburban North Carolina elementary school that held ‘pep rallies’ in advance of the upcoming state exams, or in Richmond, Virginia, where a veteran middle school teacher told me “Teaching and learning are done; now it’s all test prep.” Or perhaps it was the Chicago high school teacher who confessed that he vomited in his wastebasket when he saw his students’ scores, or the custodian in a Success Academy charter school in New York City who said he rinsed out classroom trash cans every night because students regularly threw up in them during testing. Another possibility is the Washington, DC, parent whose young son couldn’t sleep because his teacher said she’d get fired if they didn’t do well on the tests.

The good news is that May 2020 does not have to be ‘morbid,’ ‘miserable,’ or ‘malignant.’ Because schools are closed and state standardized testing has been cancelled, May is a blank slate–and an opportunity for us to make it ‘magical’ and ‘memorable.’

News reports indicate that many parents are unhappy in the role of ‘teacher at home.’ (They are also coming to realize just how hard it is to be an effective teacher!) Teachers are frustrated because nothing in their training prepared them for teaching remotely. And so, because the March-April experiment in ‘remote learning’ hasn’t been a rousing success and because May is a tabula rasa, let’s embrace ‘out of the box’ thinking. Stop thinking like educators whose jobs depend on high test scores. Think differently!

(An earlier blog post about librarians, swimming instructors, highway engineers, and gardeners is here.)

Imagine for a moment that you don’t have a captive audience (because right now you don’t). IE, think like a librarian. Public libraries are different from schools in one important way: they do not have required attendance. But even though no one is forced to attend the library, library usage continues to climb. To survive and prosper, librarians have had to identify their audiences and find ways to draw them into their buildings and electronic networks. For the most part, they’ve succeeded without pandering. That’s what’s called for in education at this moment.

Every Wednesday at 7:40 pm EST, the Network for Public Education has hosted a conversation about education. All the conversations are archived here.

In the first one, I discussed my new book SLAYING GOLIATH with Carol Burris.

In the second one, I talked to Pastor Charles Foster Johnson of Pastors for Texas Children about their fight against vouchers and for public schools.

In the third one, I asked Mercedes Schneider about her new book and her skill at investigative reporting.

In the fourth one, I discussed the effects of the pandemic on early childhood education with ECE experts Denisha Jones and Susan Ochshorn.

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.
[


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.