Archives for category: International

This is the most important post you will read this month or maybe even this year. It refutes the basis of American education policy.

This is major study of the relationship between scores on PISA and economic growth. It demonstrates that there is none.

It was written by Hikaru Komatsu (Associate Professor at National Taiwan University) and Jeremy Rappleye (Associate Professor at Kyoto University, Graduate School of Education) for the Network for International Policies and Cooperation in Education and Training. The authors criticize the work of Hoover economist Eric Hanushek and demonstrate how his theories of human capital development were widely adopted by American and European organizations and became the convention wisdom.

Komatsu and Rappleye demonstrate the flaws in Hanushek’s theories, which have led to unprecedented emphasis on improving standardized test scores in many nations.

They begin by reviewing a paper published by the European Commission, based on Hanushek’s human capital theories. Open the link to see the graphs.

The EC report was written by Eric Hanushek (Hoover Institute, a think tank on the campus of Stanford University) and Ludger Woessmann (University of Munich, ifo Center for Economics of Education). It laid out the same findings, methods and arguments that can be found in a range of publications in the United States dating back to the early 2000s (e.g., Hanushek & Kimiko, 2000), and reaching back even – with a bit more historical awareness – to the heady Anglo-American neo-liberalism of Reagan and Thatcher in the 1980s (e.g., Hanushek, 1981, Hanushek, 1986). These claims were articulated strongly in a 2013 book by the same authors, published by the Brookings Institute and intended to reach US policymakers, entitled Endangering Prosperity: A Global Look at the American School. These same findings were also publicized in major reports by the World Bank (2007) and the OECD (2010, 2015), both of which commissioned Hanushek and Woessmann to write their findings into development policy. The World Bank would later officially adopt the model as the underpinning logic of Learning for All (2011) (see Auld, Morris, and Rappleye, 2019), while the OECD’s 2010 report entitled The High Cost of Low Educational Performance – The Long-Run Impacts of Improving PISA Outcomes would be virtually transferred carbon copy into the EC’s 2019 report. That is, the EC 2019 Report claims that an aggressive, focused 15-20 year reform push to raise scores by 25-points would “add €71 trillion to EU GDP over the status quo” and which “amounts to an aggregate EU gain of almost 3 times current levels of GDP and an average GDP that is seven percent higher for the remainder of the century”. Based on the Hanushek and Woessmann numbers, Andreas Schleicher enticed European leaders with precisely that same narrative in 2010, as shown here in a slide from his presentation below (Slide 34 in the original presentation). Schleicher claimed that a PISA-improvement reform add 30% of the current GDP in 2100, which makes the total economic value of this reform is equivalent to 340% of the current GDP – the exact value shown in Figure 2…

For quite some time, we and others (here, here, here, and here) have pointed out that the Hanushek and Woessmann “findings” are deeply flawed. Our work includes a number of published papers, newspaper articles, and blogs published since 2016. We have tried to call attention to this situation in two previous NORRAG blog pieces here and here. Our argument in the main 2017 paper was simple. Hanushek and Woessmann used a relationship between students’ performance in international tests and economic growth for estimating the economic value of improving 25 points of PISA scores. However, Hanushek and Woessmann surprisingly compared students’ performance for a given period and economic growth for the same period. However, as it logically takes several decades for that cohort of students to occupy a major portion of workforce and then contribute to economic growth. We logically compared students’ performance for a given period and economic growth for a subsequent period. Surprisingly, in doing so we discovered virtually no relationship between them, casting strong doubts on the purportedly strong causal claims (Komatsu & Rappleye, 2017). While we find it disheartening that there has been no response to our work, it is far more disappointing that find that now the EC have turned to Hanushek and Woessmann, paying them hefty consultancy fees to write policy recommendations for Europe. We wonder aloud: Why does the EC Directorate for Education, Youth, Sport, and Culture need to turn to American think tanks to generate new policy ideas?…

Returning again to the larger picture, it seems that now the EU and OECD, alongside the World Bank, OECD and often highly influential figures in UNESCO, are now utilizing the same Hanushek and Woessmann Knowledge Capital claims. What makes this ‘Western consensus’ so alarming – at least to us – is not simply that education and economics are being so tightly coupled or that PISA is being embedded deeply into policymaking goals through these works. It is, instead, that so many leading minds in the West seem unable or unwilling to think differently.

A decade ago, when I wrote The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education, I quoted a study by Keith Baker, a statistician who worked for many years in the U.S. Department of Education. Baker pointed out that the U.S. had placed last in the first international assessment in 1964, yet over the next half-century had outperformed the eleven nations with higher scores. He concluded then that test scores do not predict economic growth or anything else. Every time the results of a new international assessment are released, whoever is in charge says that the performance of the U.S. students is horrible, shameful, alarming, and proclaims “a new Sputnik moment.” And every time I point out that the U.S. has never been number one on international assessments and that these scores are meaningless. But the press reports the lamentations without contradiction anyway.

TIME Magazine just published a story about school reopening in Denmark, South Korea, and Israel, with lessons for the U.S.

Lesson #1 from Denmark: Get the virus under control before reopening schools. Unlike Denmark, the United States is bungling that, and the virus is spreading in the south and west. Perhaps states that have taken the necessary steps and flattened the curve can begin to reopen, with caution.

Lesson #2 from South Korea: Prepare to delay reopening if cases spike. Older students returned to school fumirst.

Lesson #3 from Israel: Infections increase when schools don’t take every safety precaution. Expect to close down again if you don’t follow the protocols of masks, social distancing and other precautions.

The necessary health and safety protocols require extra funding. No extra funding is available. Trump threatened to cut federal funds from schools that don’t open fully even without the small classes, masks, PPE, extra nurses, etc. He wants the schools open without regard to the health or safety of teachers and students.

So rule 1: take the measures necessary to contain the pandemic. The United States is not doing that.

Rule 2: if schools open, fund the steps necessary to make them safe. The United States is not doing that.

Rule 3: prepare for a new surge in infections if public officials ignore rules 1 and 2.

The New York Times reports on a new study from South Korea that finds that children as young as 10 can spread the coronavirus. Will the American Academy of Pediatrics and the CDC revise their guidelines based on this new information?

A large new study from South Korea offers an answer: Children younger than 10 transmit to others much less often than adults do, but the risk is not zero. And those between the ages of 10 and 19 can spread the virus at least as well as adults do.

The findings suggest that as schools reopen, communities will see clusters of infection take root that include children of all ages, several experts cautioned.

“I fear that there has been this sense that kids just won’t get infected or don’t get infected in the same way as adults and that, therefore, they’re almost like a bubbled population,” said Michael Osterholm, an infectious diseases expert at the University of Minnesota.

“There will be transmission,” Dr. Osterholm said. “What we have to do is accept that now and include that in our plans.”

Several studies from Europe and Asia have suggested that young children are less likely to get infected and to spread the virus. But most of those studies were small and flawed, said Dr. Ashish Jha, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute.

The new study “is very carefully done, it’s systematic and looks at a very large population,” Dr. Jha said. “It’s one of the best studies we’ve had to date on this issue.”

Other experts also praised the scale and rigor of the analysis. South Korean researchers identified 5,706 people who were the first to report Covid-19 symptoms in their households between Jan. 20 and March 27, when schools were closed, and then traced the 59,073 contacts of these “index cases.” They tested all of the household contacts of each patient, regardless of symptoms, but only tested symptomatic contacts outside the household.

The first person in a household to develop symptoms is not necessarily the first to have been infected, and the researchers acknowledged this limitation. Children are also less likely than adults to show symptoms, so the study may have underestimated the number of children who set off the chain of transmission within their households.

Still, experts said the approach was reasonable. “It is also from a place with great contact tracing, done at the point interventions were being put in place,” said Bill Hanage, an epidemiologist at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Children under 10 were roughly half as likely as adults to spread the virus to others, consistent with other studies. That may be because children generally exhale less air — and therefore less virus-laden air — or because they exhale that air closer to the ground, making it less likely that adults would breathe it in.

Even so, the number of new infections seeded by children may rise when schools reopen, the study authors cautioned. “Young children may show higher attack rates when the school closure ends, contributing to community transmission of Covid-19,” they wrote. Other studies have also suggested that the large number of contacts for schoolchildren, who interact with dozens of others for a good part of the day, may cancel out their smaller risk of infecting others.

The researchers traced the contacts only of children who felt ill, so it’s still unclear how efficiently asymptomatic children spread the virus, said Caitlin Rivers, an epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

“I think it was always going to be the case that symptomatic children are infectious,” she said. “The questions about the role of children are more around whether children who don’t have symptoms are infectious.”

Dr. Rivers was a member of a scientific panel that on Wednesday recommended reopening schools wherever possible for disabled children and for those in elementary schools, because those groups have the most trouble learning online. She said the new study does not alter that recommendation.

The study is more worrisome for children in middle and high school. This group was even more likely to infect others than adults were, the study found. But some experts said that finding may be a fluke or may stem from the children’s behaviors.

These older children are frequently as big as adults, and yet may have some of the same unhygienic habits as young children do. They may also have been more likely than the younger children to socialize with their peers within the high-rise complexes in South Korea.

“We can speculate all day about this, but we just don’t know,” Dr. Osterholm said. “The bottom line message is: There’s going to be transmission.”

He and other experts said schools will need to prepare for infections to pop up. Apart from implementing physical distancing, hand hygiene and masks, schools should also decide when and how to test students and staff — including, for example, bus drivers — when and how long to require people to quarantine, and when to decide to close and reopen schools.

But they face a monumental challenge because the evidence on transmission within schools has been far from conclusive so far, experts said. Some countries like Denmark and Finland have successfully reopened schools, but others, like China, Israel and South Korea, have had to close them down again.

Andy Hargreaves, a scholar of international renown, participated in a virtual seminar in South Korea about post-pandemic education.

His 20-minute presentation is brilliant, pithy, and compelling.

Look for it on this YouTube video. He starts at about 22:00 minutes and concludes at about the 43:00 minute mark.

He urges South Korea and the rest of the world not to “return” to austerity, competition, high-stakes testing, and education that is subservient to GDP, but to pursue a very different path.

To learn about that different and very alluring vision of the future, take 20 minutes of your time, watch and listen.

How and when should schools reopen?

Here are the choices:

1. To reopen schools fully for in-person instruction, with no additional funding, which is dangerous and ignores the CDC guidelines for safety; this is the option advocated by Trump and DeVos.

2. To reopen schools fully, with the funding needed to protect the safety of students and staff; thus far, neither Trump nor Mitch McConnell has shown any willingness to provide the necessary funding; the necessary money is not available.

2. To reopen them partially on staggered schedules or with blended learning; this will require at least one parent to be available to care for children when they are not in school; some districts have opted for this route.

3. To continue distance learning until there is a vaccine for the coronavirus. No one knows when a vaccine will be ready and when it will be available en masse.

Many articles have appeared about the successful reopening of schools in other nations, but it is important to bear in mind that other countries contained the virus before schools opened again.

Due to an abdication of leadership by Trump and Pence, the virus is now spreading in many states, especially Florida, Texas, Arizona, and California.

Can schools reopen safely when the virus is uncontrolled? Los Angeles and San Diego have announced that they will not reopen this fall due to the resurgence of the coronavirus.

Various reports and studies have described how other nations have returned to school. These nations “flattened the curve” and we have not.

Here are two recent examples: The Washington Post ran a long story by Michael Birnbaum about the nations that have successfully reopened their schools. The Brookings Institution published a report by Emiliana Vegas about the reopening of schools in Denmark and Finland.

Vegas wrote:

In Denmark, the decision of when and how to reopen schools was made by the central government together with the Parliament. This allowed for municipal councils (similar to school districts in the U.S.) to develop their own plans, and school leaders and teachers to do the same for each individual school based on guidelines from the National Board of Health. The legal right to quality education factored heavily in the decision to reopen. When announcing the reopening of schools, the government recognized that “in current circumstances, schools and municipalities cannot guarantee that children receive the education in all subjects for which they are entitled.”

Finland had a similar decision-making process. Minister of Education Li Andersson tweeted that to extend the school closures, the government would have to prove that opening schools would be unavoidable in the current situation and was “a matter of weighing basic rights.” Given the country had contained the spread of COVID-19, the message was that children’s right to education outweighed the health risk of going back to school.

In addition, both countries’ governments considered the equity implications of school closures and reopening. In Finland, according to a news report, the government emphasized that “the right to basic education is a subjective right laid down in the Constitution and belongs equally to everyone.” In Denmark, as secondary students spent much of the term learning remotely, end-of-year assessments were suspended for the school year. The main reason provided for suspending these assessments was to avoid increasing inequality between those students (many of whom are immigrants) who have not been able to get help from school or at home.

STAGGERING REOPENING: WHO SHOULD RETURN TO SCHOOL FIRST?

In reopening their economies, decision-makers are faced with the critical question of what services and sectors to open first. For education policymakers, a key decision is when and how to reopen preschools and primary schools, secondary schools, and higher education institutions.

In Denmark and Finland, the decision to gradually reopen included staggering by age, with schools for the youngest children reopening first. The main factor underlying the decision was the emerging evidence indicating that children play a small role in spreading the virus. In Denmark, preschools, early childhood care centers for the youngest children, and primary grades 0–5 (equivalent to K–5 in the U.S.) were reopened on April 15. In Finland, on April 29, the government announced the reopening of early childhood education and care, as well as primary and lower education (grades 1–9) on May 1 of this year. In Denmark, the central government announced that municipalities may open secondary schools (grades 6–10) on May 18.

WHAT HEALTH AND SAFETY MEASURES NEED TO TAKE PLACE IN SCHOOLS?

Once the decision on which schools to reopen first is made, a clear plan must first and foremost prioritize the health and safety of students, educators, and families. In both countries, a number of public health measures were put in place. Among these, schools prohibited the usual morning meetings held in classes at the beginning of the school day, forbade food sharing, and introduced new preventative practices like staggered student arrivals and much more frequent cleaning and handwashing practices throughout the day. In Denmark, where average class sizes were around 20 students prior to COVID-19, classes were divided into two to three smaller groups and, whenever possible, held outside. It is worth briefly noting that the Copenhagen Teacher Association raised significant concerns over dividing the classroom into smaller groups, as it increased teachers’ work hours and created staffing shortages.

Birnbaum writes:

BRUSSELS — Many countries around the world are pushing ahead with plans for full-time, full-capacity, in-person classes, after having largely avoided coronavirus outbreaks linked to schools during more tentative reopenings in the spring.


From Belgium to Japan, schools are abandoning certain social distancing measures, such as alternate-day schedules or extra space between desks. They have decided that part-time or voluntary school attendance, supplemented by distance learning, is not enough — that full classrooms are preferable to leaving kids at home.
Those experiences and conclusions may offer hopeful guidance to societies still weighing how to get students and teachers back into primary and secondary classrooms.


Still, public health officials and researchers caution that most school reopenings are in their early stages. Much remains unknown about the interaction between children, schools and the virus. Schools have only reopened in countries where the virus is under better control than in many parts of the United States.

And parents and teachers, especially in Europe, have been vocal about their concerns. It is premature to say, as President Trump put it this past week, that “In Germany, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and many other countries, SCHOOLS ARE OPEN WITH NO PROBLEMS.”


While documented cases of younger students transmitting the virus to their classmates or to adults so far appear rare, there is enduring worry about the susceptibility of teens, college-age students and their teachers. And, especially in communities where the virus is still circulating widely, elaborate and expensive measures may be necessary to avoid shutting down entire schools each time a student tests positive.


Arnaud Fontanet, head of the Epidemiology of Emerging Diseases unit at the Institut Pasteur in Paris, said he “gladly” sent his four teenagers back when French schools reopened on a voluntary basis in mid-May. But he emphasized that was only because “the virus is not too much circulating in France.”
“High schoolers are still contagious and primary school students are less contagious but not zero-risk,” he said.


Public health officials and researchers say they have not detected much coronavirus transmission among students or significant spikes in community spread as a result of schools being in session — at least for students under 12.
Virologists warn there may be additional spread that hasn’t been recognized, since testing asymptomatic people, particularly children, remains uncommon.

But in many cases, young children who test positive have gotten it from someone in their family and do not appear to have infected others in school. Dig into reports of two or three elementary students with the virus, and often it turns out they’re siblings.

There are exceptions. At the École Louis-de-France, an elementary school in Trois Rivières, Canada, almost an entire class of 12 students tested positive in late May. And at the Cheondong Elementary School in Daejeon, South Korea, two brothers were found to have the virus on June 29, and two students who had contact with one of the brothers tested positive the next day.
Such cases, though, have been rare.

Before the suspected transmission in Daejeon, South Korea’s education minister had emphasized that not a single student in the country had contracted the virus at school.




In Finland, when public health researchers combed through test results of children under 16, they found no evidence of school spread and no change in the rate of infection for that age cohort after schools closed in March or reopened in May. In fact, Finland’s infection rate among children was similar to Sweden’s, even though Sweden never closed its schools, according to a report published Tuesday by researchers from the two countries.
In Sweden, researchers also found that staff members at day cares and primary schools were no more likely than people working in other professions to contract the virus.
“It really starts to add up to the fact that the risk of transmission, the number of outbreaks in which the index is a child, is very low, and this seems to be the picture everywhere else,” said Otto Helve, who worked on the report as a pediatric infectious-disease specialist at the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare.
He said he sent his own children back to school.


Why young children may be less susceptible to the coronavirus or less prone to exhibit symptoms of covid-19, the disease it causes, remains a topic of hot debate among scientists. Theories range from the possibility that children have fewer of the receptors that the virus uses as a gateway into the respiratory system to their having higher overall immunity because of a greater exposure to other types of coronavirus.


But the overall observation has led some to question whether school closures were warranted in the first place.
“The scientific evidence for the effects of closing schools is weak and disputed,” said Camilla Stoltenberg, director general of the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, which has advised Norway’s pandemic response.
She said that although she supported her country’s March lockdown, it was less clear that Norway needed to close schools. “We should all have second thoughts about whether it was really necessary,” she said. “We see now that, after having opened schools, we haven’t had any outbreaks.”


The calculations may be different, however, for students in their teens and older, as they are thought to be somewhat more prone to the virus and more capable of spreading it.
Fontanet, with the Institut Pasteur, was the lead author on twin studies that found the virus spread in the high school of one French town but not in its six primary schools before the country’s March lockdowns.
In Israel, where the virus has been surging again, schools at every level have been affected. By early June, more than 100 schools had been shut and more than 13,000 students and teachers had been sent home to quarantine. The most notable outbreak was tied to a middle and high school: The Gymnasia Rehavia in Jerusalem saw 153 students and 25 staff test positive.


Israeli health authorities said they were unsure how many of those cases were the result of the virus being passed around within school buildings.
“We just don’t have a good answer for that,” said Hagai Levine, the chairman of the Israeli Association of Public Health Physicians. Many students tend to spend time together in and out of school, Levine said, making it hard to pinpoint the actual site of transmission. “There does some to be evidence that there is less transmission in children under 10.”
Plans are uncertain for what classes will look like in Israel on Sept. 1, when the next school year begins.


In many nations preparing to reopen school buildings for the first time in the fall, social distancing concerns are dominating the debate.
The Italian government, which closed schools when the pandemic first exploded and made no attempt to restart in the spring, has pledged to restart classes in mid-September and has committed to “less-overpacked classrooms.”
“We don’t want chicken coops,” Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said in a national address.


The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that desks should be spaced six feet apart.
 But many countries that resumed in-person classes in May and June have already abandoned some social distancing measures, at least in primary schools.
In Japan, where schools reopened shortly after the country’s state of emergency was lifted in May, children initially attended on alternate days in some schools to allow for more space in classrooms. But classes are largely back to normal now, albeit with students and teachers wearing masks, washing hands regularly and taking daily temperature checks…





When France shifted from voluntary to mandatory attendance for primary and middle school students for the last two weeks of June, a social distancing requirement of four square meters between students was reduced to one meter laterally.
“This allows us to accommodate all students,” Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer said at the time of the announcement.
Similarly, before the biggest wave of school reopenings in Belgium in early June, policymakers declared that strict physical distancing rules would not be enforced, allowing more students in each classroom at once.


Belgian schools are now closed again for the summer, but leaders have an ambitious reopening plan for Sept. 1. For kids under 12, classes will remain in session, full-time and full-capacity, no matter how bad the second wave of infections gets in the country. If current infection rates stay steady in Belgium, students 12 and older will attend school four days a week, with an additional half-day of virtual schooling. Officials would dial back the in-person schooling for the older children if there is a second wave.
To some extent, these shifts reflect growing confidence that bringing children together may not lead to a spike in infections.
There is also rising concern about the downsides of keeping students home.



Belgium’s reopening was accelerated by an open letter from hundreds of pediatricians arguing that the educational cost of keeping schools closed was worse than the health risk of reopening them.
In Germany, some public health experts have welcomed plans to drop a 1.5-meter minimum distance rule and resume full-capacity classes after summer vacation. Policymakers fear that digital learning has put poorer students at a greater disadvantage and that there would be a rising mental health toll on students if school restrictions dragged on.


But the shift away from social distancing is also about practical concerns.
“Basically, the difficulty is enforcing social distancing among students,” said Fontanet of the Institut Pasteur. He said distancing is hard for high school students, but especially for younger kids. “People have more or less given up on that entirely at this stage,” he said.


Although schools in Israel initially resumed with strict rules about temperature checks, carefully spaced-out desks and masks, critics complained that the precautions quickly lapsed. “Within two or three days, that all fell away,” said Dan Ben-David, president of the Shoresh Institution for Socioeconomic Research.
Italy’s education minister, Lucia Azzolina, said that to keep classroom sizes at acceptable levels, districts would have to reopen shuttered school buildings and transfer some students elsewhere. She also floated the idea of holding classes in theaters, cinemas and museums — “even parks,” she said.


But countries that have resumed classes already have found that it’s easier and cheaper to welcome all students back to their classrooms than it is to devise complicated schedules with multiple shifts or to find new space.
Creating ‘bubbles’ within schools may be more important.


In Israel, hypervigilant public health officials mandated that an entire school close any time a single coronavirus case was detected among students or staff.
By contrast, in Germany, when a student tested positive, that class was put into a mandatory two-week quarantine, but the rest of the school continued on.
Clearly, the German model is less disruptive.

Some health experts have thus come to advocate that more important than social distancing within a classroom are efforts to create bubbles within schools, to limit potential contamination and the need to shut everything down.



England started sending some grades back on a voluntary basis in June. But when schools fully reopen in September for mandatory, full-time, in-person classes, elementary school students will be in “class bubbles” of up to 30 and high school students in “year bubbles” of up to 240.


Quebec, the Canadian province hit hardest by the coronavirus, experimented with various means of social distancing when it reopened elementary schools outside Montreal in May. Classes were limited to 15 students. Libraries remained closed. Recess times were staggered. Some schools painted green dots on schoolyard grounds to mark sufficient separation.
Bubbles will be introduced when elementary and high schools reopen for compulsory in-class instruction in the fall. Within classrooms, students will form groups of up to six students who won’t have to maintain social distancing. Bubbles must keep a one-meter distance from each other and two meters from teachers.


Helve, the Finnish infectious-disease specialist, noted that bubbles may be especially valuable in societies with high infection rates, such as the United States, where it may be inevitable that a student or teacher shows up with the virus at some point.
“How do you minimize the impact on the school?” he said. “The more cases you have in a society, the more likely it is that you will have an outbreak at a school, or that you will have a teacher or a parent or a child who brings the virus to the school.”


In part because there haven’t been many outbreaks associated with schools, some students, parents and teachers who initially resisted classroom reopenings have come around.
One survey of French-speaking parents in Belgium found that 96 percent of respondents planned to send their children back to school in the fall.
Technically, they won’t have a choice. Education is compulsory in Belgium for children 6 and older, and although the requirement was suspended this spring, it will be back in force in September.


That’s in line with moves by many countries away from voluntary in-person attendance, which saw limited uptake.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who was forced to delay plans for a full reopening of elementary schools in England after strong resistance from teaching unions and some parents, intends to forge ahead in the fall.
“We want them all back in September,” said Johnson. “We’ve got to start thinking of a world in which we are less apprehensive about this disease.”


In France, when schools reopened in May on a voluntary basis, statistics from the Education Ministry showed that only about 1.8 million out of 6.7 million nursery and primary schoolers went back, along with 600,000 out of 3.3 million middle schoolers.




France had hoped reopening would address the inequalities evident under distance learning. But the government found that students from wealthier families were more likely to be among those who returned to their classrooms, while many poorer families continued to keep their children home. The education minister suggested the gap had to do with a lack of trust.
French officials ultimately made school attendance mandatory for the final two weeks of classes in June, before the summer holidays began. Families and teachers questioned the need for such a scramble for so little class time. Some accused the government of being more concerned about freeing parents to return to work than about the needs of students and teachers.
That’s in contrast to the United States, where a growing chorus of families complain that state and local governments are downplaying the need for kids to be in school before parents can return to their workplaces.
The French government defended its decision.
“Two weeks count; two weeks are not nothing, whether it’s out of an educational aspect or a psychological aspect,” Blanquer, the education minister, said. “School should never be considered as a day-care center of sorts.”

Most nations in Europe imposed strict quarantines, masking, and social distancing. They eventually got the virus under control.

Not Sweden. It took a different route, relying on the good sense of individuals and the hope of “herd immunity.” It didn’t work, according to this story in the New York Times.

LONDON — Ever since the coronavirus emerged in Europe, Sweden has captured international attention by conducting an unorthodox, open-air experiment. It has allowed the world to examine what happens in a pandemic when a government allows life to carry on largely unhindered.

This is what has happened: Not only have thousands more people died than in neighboring countries that imposed lockdowns, but Sweden’s economy has fared little better.

“They literally gained nothing,” said Jacob F. Kirkegaard, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington. “It’s a self-inflicted wound, and they have no economic gains.”

The results of Sweden’s experience are relevant well beyond Scandinavian shores. In the United States, where the virus is spreading with alarming speed, many states have — at President Trump’s urging — avoided lockdowns or lifted them prematurely on the assumption that this would foster economic revival, allowing people to return to workplaces, shops and restaurants.

In Britain, Prime Minister Boris Johnson — previously hospitalized with Covid-19 — reopened pubs and restaurants last weekend in a bid to restore normal economic life.

Implicit in these approaches is the assumption that governments must balance saving lives against the imperative to spare jobs, with the extra health risks of rolling back social distancing potentially justified by a resulting boost to prosperity. But Sweden’s grim result — more death, and nearly equal economic damage — suggests that the supposed choice between lives and paychecks is a false one: A failure to impose social distancing can cost lives and jobs at the same time.

Sweden put stock in the sensibility of its people as it largely avoided imposing government prohibitions. The government allowed restaurants, gyms, shops, playgrounds and most schools to remain open. By contrast, Denmark and Norway opted for strict quarantines, banning large groups and locking down shops and restaurants.

More than three months later, the coronavirus is blamed for 5,420 deaths in Sweden, according to the World Health Organization. That might not sound especially horrendous compared with the more than 129,000 Americans who have died. But Sweden is a country of only 10 million people. Per million people, Sweden has suffered 40 percent more deaths than the United States, 12 times more than Norway, seven times more than Finland and six times more than Denmark.

The moral of the story: Social discipline and leadership are necessary to get the disease under control. In the absence of both, the virus will continue to spread and destroy lives.

Sweden decided not to close down its economy. It took a bet that its population would quickly develop “herd immunity,” so it allowed life to proceed without restricting gatherings or requiring quarantines and social distancing.

In other words, the Swedes acted from the start as many governors are acting now. Don’t worry about the pandemic. Life goes on as usual.

G.F. Brandenburg reports on how that worked out.

The short answer: Not well.

The editorial board of the Washington Post denounced Trump for abruptly withdrawing one-third of American troops from Germany, in retaliation for Chancellor Merkel’s rejection of his invitation to have a snap summit.

IN A transparent attempt to boost his sagging political fortunes, President Trump proposed to stage a summit meeting of the Group of Seven nations in Washington this month, with Vladimir Putin among the special guests. In a May 30 phone call that reportedly turned testy, German Chancellor Angela Merkel demurred, citing the continuing threat of the covid-19 pandemic as well as the lack of preparation for such a meeting.

One week later, Trump’s riposte to Ms. Merkel surfaced: a vindictive and, for U.S. national security, deeply damaging decision to withdraw nearly a third of the American troops stationed in Germany. The move was made without consultation with the Germans, other NATO allies or even senior U.S. military officers in Europe, who were taken by surprise when the story emerged on Friday.
The pullout, which Mr. Trump arrived at in the absence of any National Security Council deliberation, could substantially weaken U.S. ability to deter Russian aggression in Europe or respond to other foreign crises. However, shortly after speaking with Ms. Merkel, Mr. Trump initiated a phone call with Mr. Putin, who will be thrilled by the president’s unilateral disarmament and exacerbation of a rift with a key ally.

Mr. Trump appears to believe he is punishing Ms. Merkel by removing forces that nominally defend Germany. The sycophant whom the president installed as ambassador to Germany, Richard Grenell, has been arguing publicly that Germany doesn’t merit U.S. bases when it fails to meet NATO defense spending guidelines. What he and the president fail to understand is that the 34,500 U.S. personnel in Germany — down from 235,000 during the Cold War — primarily bolster U.S. defense. The Ramstein Air Base is vital to operations in the Middle East and Africa, and the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center provides critical care to wounded American soldiers medevaced from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Mr. Trump has been impervious to serial attempts over the past three years by his national security advisers and senior military commanders to explain such basics to him. Instead, conceiving U.S. troops as mercenary forces who should be deployed only when host countries offer compensation he regards as adequate, he also has been threatening to pull troops out of South Korea — which would delight another dictator, North Korea’s Kim Jong Un.

Further, Mr. Trump is reportedly contemplating accelerating a withdrawal of the remaining U.S. forces in Afghanistan, so that it can be carried out in advance of the November election, rather than sometime next year. Never mind that this would likely short-circuit nascent talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban, and leave the latter in position to restore a theocratic dictatorship.
If the past is any guide, there will now be a scramble within the Pentagon or by Trump-friendly congressional Republicans to reverse or water down the president’s decision — which as of late Monday had still not been formally announced. In the meantime, it should be clearer than ever why former senior military leaders such as Jim Mattis and Colin Powell have taken the lead in publicly repudiating the president. He is, as they have said, a liar who divides the country. He is also, increasingly, a threat to national security.

Many medical experts expressed concern about what might happen when restrictions were relaxed and the ecomony reopened. The experience in Europe offers hope that it is possible to restart the economy without triggering a new wave of the COVID.

THE Washington Post reports:

ROME — When Italy ended its lockdown one month ago, Angelo Pan, an infectious-disease doctor, was worried. His hospital, at the epicenter of the country’s outbreak, braced for the possibility that progress against the coronavirus might slow or reverse — and that beds might again become crowded with people struggling to breath.


But that is not what has happened.


In Italy and across most of Europe, countries have restarted their economies and resumed a degree of socializing without visible signs of the dire health consequences forecast by many. Pan’s northern Italian hospital, rather than seeing an uptick, has been able to restore once-paused services and dismantle the intensive care beds added during the emergency.


As of Friday, it hadn’t admitted a coronavirus intensive care patient in 12 days.
“

It’s amazing that [the virus] has not started back,” said Pan, who leads the infectious-disease unit at the public hospital in Cremona.


Virologists from Milan to Berlin have become much more optimistic about Europe’s ability to manage the pandemic and say that, at least through the summer, the continent might have nothing more than localized and hopefully-containable hot spots.


Europe’s experience, at least so far, suggests that sending children back to school, reopening restaurants and even making way for large outdoor protests does not lead to an inevitable resurgence of the virus.


But scientists also readily admit there’s much they don’t know about the idiosyncrasies of this virus. They are still trying to make sense of why it is behaving as it has in Europe and whether those trends will hold — and what the answers might mean for the rest of the world.


Many disease experts say enduring behavioral changes, from hand-washing to mask-wearing, could by themselves be substantially limiting the spread in Europe. They say the continued ban of large-scale events is probably capping the damage wrought by highly contagious people — the “super-spreaders” who account for much of the transmission.


They also say there’s growing evidence that the virus could be proving seasonal — ebbing based on the temperature or other climactic conditions. Though warmer weather doesn’t stop the virus, it can aid in the fight.
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Europeans, heeding warnings that the virus is more transmissible indoors, have adapted their lives accordingly — something easier to do in warmer months. In Rome, the parks and alfresco restaurant tables are full; the tables indoors are empty. 


In Germany, confined indoor gatherings have led to small outbreaks, while outdoor mass demonstrations against the lockdown in several cities — some drawing thousands of people — have not led to obvious consequences.





“There might be [open-air] transmissions occurring but they are rare,” said Dirk Brockmann, a professor at Humboldt University in Berlin who models infectious diseases for Germany’s Robert Koch Institute, the federal agency tasked with disease control.


“When you are in a club and there are hundreds of people dancing and breathing and yelling in a confined space — that’s a whole different ballgame,” Brockmann said.


One contested theory, aired by two Italian doctors this past week, is that the virus has weakened or become less aggressive. Many health officials have pushed back forcefully against that claim, saying there is no peer-reviewed evidence of such changes, and that cases every day are still proving deadly.


Massimo Ciccozzi, head of the molecular epidemiology unit at the Rome-based University Campus Bio-Medico, said his lab would be studying ways the virus may have mutated. But he said there were other reasons serious pneumonias might be developing less frequently — among them, the wider use of new therapies. Other experts have raised the possibility that a younger cohort of people is now being infected.


There is accumulating evidence that the “viral load” is linked to the severity of the infection, and that outdoor summer transmissions could make for a milder disease.


“It’s like a huge, huge puzzle,” Ciccozzi said. “Every day you find a piece.”
All the while, in country after European country, reported daily case numbers have not just leveled off, like in parts of the United States, but continued to plummet.


In Italy, the number of coronavirus patients in ICUs has declined from 4,000, at the peak in early April, to 400; it ticked down every single day of May. In Germany, many contact tracing teams sit idle, without enough new infections to trace. In Belgium, which had been one of the worst-hit countries, hospitals are clearing out, and doctors don’t report any unusual spikes in patients reporting flu-like symptoms.

The advocacy group called Public Funds a Public Schools gathered a useful archive of research studies of vouchers.

The studies were conducted by nonpartisan academic and federal researchers.

The findings are broadly congruent.

Voucher schools are academically inferior to public schools.

Voucher schools divert funding from public schools, which enroll most children.

Voucher programs lack accountability.

The absence of oversight promotes fraud and corruption.

Voucher programs do not help students with disabilities.

Voucher schools are allowed to discriminate against certain groups of students and families.

Voucher programs exacerbate segregation.

Voucher programs don’t work, don’t improve education, and have multiple negative effects.