Archives for category: Education Reform

Howard Blume and Sonali Kohl’s report on the large number of students in Los Angeles who are getting no instruction during the shutdown.

About one-third of some 120,000 Los Angeles high school students have not logged onto online classes every day, and 15,000 are absent from all online learning as efforts to continue distance learning fall short, according to the school district.

The disappointing figures were released Monday by L.A. schools Supt. Austin Beutner during a morning video update.

“It’s simply not acceptable that we lose touch with 15,000 young adults or that many students aren’t getting the education they should be,” Beutner said in prepared remarks. “This will take some time and a good bit of trial and error to get it right. And it will take the continued patience and commitment of all involved — students, families and teachers.”

Beutner says he hopes the online reach will improve as more families take advantage of free computers provided by L.A. Unified and free internet through community hot spots that Verizon is setting up through a contract with the nation’s second-largest school system.

“The great big digital divide many have spoken about is very real in the communities we serve where about 80% of our students come from families who are struggling to get by and many are not connected on the internet,” he said. “We need to train students, teachers and families so they’re all connected and comfortable using the technology.”

He added: “Then comes the main event: making sure our educators are prepared to add this to their instructional plans.”

The L.A. schools chief also pointed to bright spots in efforts to maintain student learning during a shutdown that is scheduled to last until at least the beginning of May. Beutner said that more than 200,000 people “in the area” were now watching ramped-up educational programming provided on three local public television stations: the district’s KLCS, as well as KCET and PBS SoCal.

The school system also has opened three additional grab-and-go meal distribution centers since that program began, bringing the number to 63.

Jersey Jazzman (aka Mark Weber) just celebrated his first 10 years as a blogger.

He explains that he started blogging because he was so outraged by Chris Christie’s constant attacks on teachers, unions, and public schools.

Along the way, he decided that he needed to upgrade his skills and analytical ability, so he earned a doctorate at Rutgers University.

It has been my pleasure to post many of JJ’s blogs, which have been consistently honest, thoughtful, and rigorous (in the best sense of the word).

By telling the truth, JJ became a leader of the Resistance.

Happy BlogDecadeDay, JJ!

Anything from Lincoln Center is worth watching!

The first concert online is today at 4 pm.

Lincoln Center at Home Announces
#ConcertsForKids Programming

First Two Weeks Feature
Concerts at

NYC-based tap dance company and live music ensemble
Music from the Sole – Wednesday, April 1 at 4 p.m.

Latin-American singer-songwriter and guitarist
Sonia De Los Santos – Sunday, April 5 at 11 a.m.

Zeshan B brings an Indo-Pakistani feel to soul, blues,
and more – Wednesday, April 8 at 4 p.m.

Elena Moon Park celebrates folk and children’s music
from all over East Asia – Sunday, April 12 at 11 a.m.

What: For family audiences, Lincoln Center at Home presents a remarkable group of artists who will bring world-class performances and diverse musical perspectives straight from their homes to yours. #ConcertsForKids are new, short concerts recorded by the artists themselves, specifically for families, during this time.

The performances will premiere at, Lincoln Center’s YouTube Page, and on Lincoln Center’s Facebook Page and will be available after, on demand for families to enjoy whenever is convenient.

Who: Viewers at home can watch premiere live performances curated specifically for families with children. First up are Music from the Sole, Sonia De Los Santos, Zeshan B, and Elena Moon Park.

When: April 1 at 4 p.m.; April 5 at 11 a.m.; April 8 at 4 p.m.; and April 12 at 11 a.m.

Where:, Lincoln Center’s YouTube Page, and Lincoln Center’s Facebook Page

More: #ConcertsForKids is a part of Lincoln Center at Home (#LincolnCenterAtHome), a new initiative launched to maintain vital connections during the COVID-19 pandemic. Lincoln Center at Home also offers Pop-Up Classroom; led by some of the world’s best artists and educators, each creative learning activity utilizes simple materials found at home to help families with children explore a variety of art forms.

In addition to the family-friendly offerings, Lincoln Center at Home features a trove of video from the archives of Lincoln Center’s resident organizations, including rarely seen footage from decades of Live From Lincoln Center, more recent performances from across campus, and live streams from wherever performances are still happening – empty halls, living rooms, and more.

Follow #LincolnCenterAtHome and check our web calendar for the latest digital offerings from all of Lincoln Center.

Download Video Clips, Performer Bios, and Press Photos

About #ConcertsForKids

Music from the Sole
Wednesday, April 1, 2020 at 4:00 p.m. ET
Led by dancer-musician Leonardo Sandoval and bassist-composer Gregory Richardson, Music from the Sole reflects choreographic and musical influences from Sandoval’s native Brazil, and Richardson’s talent combining funk, house, jazz, and Afro-Cuban music. Featuring original music, choreography, and improvisation, this show is guaranteed to keep children and families engaged. (Recommended for all ages)

Sonia De Los Santos
Sunday, April 5, 2020 at 11:00 a.m. ET
A soulful and important new voice in family music, Sonia De Los Santos spreads messages of joyful community music-making and builds bridges across cultures to inspire and excite children and grown-ups of all backgrounds. Blending both old and new songs, Sonia weaves a personal musical story that touches on universal themes of understanding. (Recommended for all ages)

Zeshan B
Wednesday, April 8, 2020 at 4:00 p.m. ET
Tempestuous soul arias, urban love dramas, Memphis blues, and civil-rights anthems are interpreted with an Indo-Pakistani feel at this memorable concert by Zeshan B. Born to Muslim Indian immigrants in Chicago, Zeshan uses his powerful voice—singing in English, Urdu, and Punjabi—to tell tales of instability, ambiguity, loss, injustice, unrequited love, urban despair, and youthful ecstasy. His debut album Vetted, produced by legendary soul arranger Lester Snell and recorded in Memphis with a wrecking crew of Stax Records sidemen, was released in 2017. He has opened for Mos Def, A Tribe Called Quest, and Rakim, and performed at venues across the world, including the White House at the invitation of President Obama. (Recommended for ages 10+)

Elena Moon Park
Sunday, April 12, 2020 at 11:00 a.m. ET
Elena Moon Park celebrates folk and children’s music from all over East Asia, reinterpreted to mix various musical traditions, languages, styles, and stories. These tunes range from northern Japanese sea shanties to Tibetan jump rope rhymes, joyous Korean harvest sing-a-longs, and more. (Recommended for all ages)

Additional dates to be announced in the coming weeks. Next up are Gustafer Yellowgold, Falu, Soul Science Kids, and more. Check for updates.

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Desiree Naranjo

Jenni Klauder

Rosie Marinelli

I don’t know about you but my inbox is crowded with humorous videos of all kinds. Some are too raunchy to post. Some make fun of the toilet paper shortage and what it means. Some poke fun at our nation’s leaders.

There is nothing funny about a pandemic, but somehow humor pops up as people seek relief from social isolation.

This video was sent to me by my brother in Florida, who got it from…who knows. It’s all over Twitter and other social media.

Trump vs. God on Easter Sunday.

The creator of the video is credited, and apparently it has had millions of views.

Please note that Donald Trump called on Americans to crowd the pews of their churches on Easter Sunday, which he designated as the day when the economy would restart.

However, after his medical team told him that the coronavirus was not under control and that it might produce hundreds of thousands of deaths, he changed his mind and declared that the nation should not resume normal activities until at least the end of April.

We will learn on Easter Sunday whether his avid followers learned of his change of views.

Teresa Hanafin writes Fast Forward for the Boston Globe.

She wrote today:

Good morning! It’s Tuesday, March 31, the 91st day of the year. It’s César Chávez Day in 10 states, honoring his fight for social justice on his birthday…

The Old Farmer’s Almanac suggests tiring out those little people who are underfoot every day now by taking them outside to set up, dig, and plant a garden. Order seeds that are big enough for little fingers or that grow fast for impatient tykes, like peas, pole beans, squash, radishes, corn, cucumbers — but make sure they like to eat whatever they plant. Throw in pumpkins or sunflowers or morning glories, too.

The almanac also suggests other things you can do with the kids: build bat and bird houses, make a sundial, assemble a weather station, and tap some maple trees so you can make syrup. Oh sure, and while you’re at it, why not dig a well, build a playground, and reshingle your roof.

We all should be grateful that Trump is finally realizing that the coronavirus crisis is serious, agreeing to extend his physical-distancing recommendation through April. Welcome to the real world!

Unfortunately, it took a full-court press by the task force’s two top docs, Anthony Fauci and Deborah Birx, wheedling and cajoling, showing Trump charts and graphs (since he doesn’t read and likes to look at pictures instead), and convincing him that if he went through with his plan to pull back on physical distancing measures, encourage businesses to reopen, and tell workers to go back to work, then upwards of 2.2 million people could die, according to a study by the Imperial College in London.

That’s actually highly unlikely; most governors would have just ignored Trump and kept businesses closed and residents at home in their own states.

In fact, at least 30 states and the District of Columbia already have put mandatory stay-home orders in place, with more moving in that direction, which kind of makes whatever Trump says irrelevant.

But the risk was that some Republican governors who have been following Trump’s lead and downplaying the virus would actually comply if Trump had gone through with his go-back-to-work advice.

Look at Alabama, where just five days ago, Governor Kay Ivey said she would not issue a stay-at-home order because “Y’all, we are not Louisiana, we are not New York State, we are not California.” Just wait, Scarlett. As the number of cases and deaths in her state began to rise rapidly, and scientists and doctors (and her own lieutenant governor) clamored for action, she finally ordered nonessential businesses to close down and asked — but did not require — residents to stay home.

Or Florida, where GOP Governor Ron DeSantis still refuses to issue a stay-at-home statewide order, despite the images of college students packed together partying on beaches and in bars in mid-March. He eventually closed restaurants and bars, and yesterday finally issued a stay-at-home order for south Florida until April 15. Meanwhile, Miami is becoming one of the nation’s hotspots, and Florida has gone from 4,000 cases to 5,000 cases to 6,000 cases in just a couple of days. Oh, and he’s blaming New Yorkers for the increase.

They ought to follow the example of their fellow Republican, Governor Mike DeWine of Ohio. His fast, aggressive, and decisive actions have been a model for other governors.

But there was another big factor in Trump’s capitulation, something that matters to him more than anything: Polls. Political surveys by his former campaign pollsters show that most Americans want the country to close down and power through this crisis.

It was pretty jaw-dropping when Trump bragged about the high TV ratings for his coronavirus media briefings. Remember, they essentially are news conferences about devastating job losses, illness, and death, and he’s giddy because the ratings are good.

But then came this: His implication that New York hospitals were doing something nefarious with specialty masks for their staff (emphasis mine):

How do you go from 10 to 20, to 300,000? Ten to 20,000 masks to 300,000? Where are the masks going? Are they going out the back door? How do you go from 10,000 to 300,000? And we have that in a lot of different places. So, somebody should probably look into that, because I just don’t see, from a practical standpoint, how that’s possible to go from that to that.

Here’s how: Previously, only hospital personnel involved with surgery or treating a handful of highly contagious diseases were required to wear the protective masks. Now, every single employee of the hospital is required to wear one, including the cleaning crews.

In addition, every time a doctor or nurse or physician’s assistant or nurse practitioner or health aide or anyone deals with a patient, whether they have a COVID-19 diagnosis or not — in other words, every single patient — they must assume that the patient is infected, throw away that mask, and put on a new one before moving to the next patient.

As one surgeon said, “I don’t understand why this is so difficult for him to grasp.” Sure you do. We all do. Somebody, quick — draw him some pictures.

One infuriating aspect of this crisis is the yawning chasm between the Trump administration’s insistence that millions and millions of pieces of equipment — testing kits, masks, ventilators — have been shipped to states, and the daily pleas from many governors and hospitals facing shortfalls and rationing, endangering health workers and patients alike.

But when Montana Governor Steve Bullock pleaded for more test kits in a conference call, telling Trump that his state was one day away from being unable to do any more testing, Trump played dumb. (Okay, maybe he wasn’t playing.) “I haven’t heard about testing in weeks,” he said. “I haven’t heard about testing being a problem.”

Those quick-result tests approved by the FDA can’t arrive soon enough.

The other confounding aspect of this is the bidding war states are forced to engage in because there is no coordination from the feds. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said it’s like auctions on eBay, with states trying to outbid each other for critical items, and even FEMA swooping in to join the bidding, all of which is driving prices through the roof. Why FEMA didn’t assume the role of national purchasing agent and distribute items according to need is baffling, and critics say it’s such a failure of logic, organization, and leadership.

Dr. Larry Brilliant, the epidemiologist who helped wipe smallpox off the face of the earth when he was at the World Health Organization, has been sharply critical of Trump’s early downplaying of the virus as a hoax and insistence that the US wasn’t being affected for weeks: “Speaking as a public health person, this is the most irresponsible act of an elected official that I’ve ever witnessed in my lifetime.”

He’s still angry about the administration’s tepid response. “We should be flooding the zone” with testing and equipment, he said. “This should be a moonshot, a Manhattan Project.” The problem is that Trump thinks the Manhattan Project was when he built Trump Tower.

Leonie Haimson invites you to listen to her interview with Wednesday from 10-11 AM EST:

Join us Wed. from 10-11AM on WBAI for “Talk out of School” when I’ll interview Randi Weingarten, president of the AFT, about what schools should & should not be doing during the time of coronavirus , how not to overstretch and overstress the capabilities of teachers and families, & how the crisis threatens to lead to huge education cuts, further undermine student privacy & more. Please call in with your questions at 212-209-2877.

Education Week published an insightful article about the dangers to student privacy during this time when students are relying on tech products to connect to teachers. Read it in full if you have a subscription.

Massive Shift to Remote Learning Prompts Big Data Privacy Concerns

By Mark Lieberman

Schools are confronting a wide range of potential problems around student data privacy as they scramble to put technology tools for virtual instruction in place during extended school building shutdowns.

Teachers have already begun connecting with students using a variety of digital tools, some of which are new to them and their schools and weren’t designed for classroom use—everything from videoconferencing apps like Zoom to digital devices like Chromebooks and learning platforms like Babbel and BrainPop.

An unprecedented number of online interactions between teachers and students from their respective homes introduce new privacy questions that lack easy answers. And at least one state’s governor, aiming to speed up implementation of new remote learning tools, has temporarily waived legal requirements for agreements between school districts and technology companies that typically include student data privacy provisions.

The challenges for schools in staying abreast of privacy concerns have become acute as companies have begun offering temporary free subscriptions to their expensive tech products, said Antonio Romayor Jr., chief technology officer for El Centro Elementary School District in California.

Some teachers in his district have begun bypassing the typical vetting procedures for new tech products by adding the free products directly to their single sign-on platforms for students and teachers to use, he said.

Some of those free products could eventually cost schools and parents money, which means anyone using them should be extra careful about offering credit-card information when signing up, Romayor said. Programs that aren’t vetted in advance also might run afoul of privacy policy. “It’s a constant struggle,” he said.

While the new technological landscape for schools feels unprecedented in many ways, schools still have an obligation to inform parents of how their students’ data is being used, even if the teaching is occurring outside school buildings. Federal laws—such as the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA)—should help guide school leaders in deciding what new technologies to use.

“The rules, the regulations apply whether the student is actually in the classroom physically or is at home being taught through a distance learning framework,” said Linnette Attai, president of the for-profit education company PlayWell and a close observer of student privacy issues.

Student privacy experts are recommending that school districts take a deliberate, rather than frenetic, approach to adopting new technologies, and guard against overinvesting in new tools before being fully aware of how they work and how they could jeopardize students’ data privacy.

Cheri Kiesecker, co-chair of the Parent Coalition for Data Privacy, wants parents and schools to minimize as much as possible the amount of student data that’s being collected and sold by tech companies. She felt the same before the COVID-19 outbreak.

In fact, Kiesecker points to a 2018 warning from the FBI noting that the consequences of ed-tech companies collecting too much data on students “could result in social engineering, bullying, tracking, identity theft, or other means for targeting children.” Most U.S. states earned a “C” or lower grade from a 2019 survey of student data privacy protections by Kiesecker’s organization and the Network for Public Education.

As schools rush to put remote learning programs in places, Kiesecker argues that those student data privacy problems could get significantly worse. And that could have long-term consequences for many students. “Data is actually your identity and a form of social currency,” she said.

Vicki Cobb has written many science books for children.

She writes:

I write science books for children. People are confused about what science is.

Is it a body of knowledge?

Yes, one that has been growing incrementally and exponentially for the past 500 years.

How is this knowledge accumulated?

By experimental procedures that are verifiable by others and corrected by others.

It is produced by a community and is the original wiki. Why do some people distrust science?

Partly because much of it is non-intuitive or counter intuitive.

Why should we believe that the earth circles the sun, when it looks like the heavens circles us? What is its value that no other discipline has? It predicts with accuracy.

It doesn’t need to be believed in. For those who are questioning our faith in science when it comes to the course of this pandemic, they may be dead before they learn that they are wrong.

A valuable website called “Unkoch My Campus” is offering a webinar where you can learn how to identify the tentacles of the Kochtopus.

Charles Koch and his late brother David
have subsidized anti-government, anti-public school policies and think tanks for decades. They underwrote the voucher campaign in Arizona and other states. They work closely with the DeVos family foundations to promote their views. The Koch’s have established centers to advocate libertarian ideas on more than 300 campuses. In the midst of the coronavirus crisis, we see how necessary it is to have a functioning federal government. At times of crisis, we understand that we need an effective public sector. The Koch movement has worked hard to reduce the ability of governments to protect their citizens.

This is a message from “Unkoch My Campus.”

We’re building a movement against the most intricate infrastructure of political influence in the country.

The bad news? This means having to track and expose hundreds of Koch-funded university programs, think-tanks, advocacy organizations, legislators, and judges working at the local, state, and federal levels. Yikes!

The good news? We can learn skills to make this work a little easier, and there are incredible researchers doing a lot of this work for us already!

To learn these skills, join our upcoming “Researching the Koch Network 101” webinar next Tuesday at 2pm ET!

Next week we’re bringing in David Armiak, Research Director at the Center for Media and Democracy, to teach us how to better incorporate opposition research into our campus and community-based campaigns. On this webinar, participants will:

Become more familiar with the universities, state-based think-tanks, advocacy organizations, and legislators involved in moving Koch’s agenda forward;

Learn about the research and resources that already exists to inform and deepen your local campaigns;

Receive an overview of basic opposition research skills experts use to conduct investigations and connect the dots;

Identify ways to leverage research produced by UnKoch’s partners to inform your grassroots base and escalate your local campaigns!

This webinar is designed with campus AND community advocates in mind. Whether you’re trying to kick Koch off of your campus or wanting to deepen your local or state-based advocacy by targeting Koch, this webinar is for you. Register to join us next Tuesday at 2pm ET!

In solidarity,

Samantha Parsons

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

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

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

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

Resseger writes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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