Archives for category: Online Education

David Berliner has devoted his life to the study of education. He has achieved the pinnacle of his profession as a researcher and statistician. He is currently Regents Professor Emeritus at the College of Education at Arizona State University. His list of honors is too long to mention. I welcome his original contributions to the blog and am honored to present them to you. His title for this post is: “Learning Losses Associated with the ‘Required Curriculum’ Can Be Easily Offset by Gains in Learning in the ‘Not-Required Curriculum.'”


Parents currently worry that their children have not or will not learn enough by participating in the non-standard styles of schooling associated with our pandemic. Some worry, particularly, that their children will not test well if they miss too much of what we have come to regard as “regular” schooling. The regular or standard school curriculum differs slightly by state, but it is what teachers try to deliver in each grade. It is the curriculum designed to prepare children for their states’ tests, and for the SATs and ACTs taken near the end of high school.

The pandemic also has teachers and administrators worrying about safety, and the arrangements needed for instruction as our crisis continues: In-class? On-line? Hybrid? What? Educators are afraid that the reputation of their schools could suffer, if their students don’t test well because of missed schooling, or because instruction appears not to be as effective on-line as it is when it occurs in classrooms, the historic and preferred mode of delivering instruction. In addition, a reduction in test scores could easily reduce housing values in the school catchment area, eventually changing the pool of students that they work with. Worry, worry, everywhere, and no solution apparent.

But much of this worrying can easily be relieved. Think of it this way: If we stop worrying about learning the “required stuff” in the ordinary, test-prep oriented curricula now in place in most American schools and districts, and instead started thinking about learning, just learning good stuff, the problem disappears. The issue for every parent and every educator should be about students learning. Period (cf. Westheimer, 2020).

Learning, growing, forming beliefs that are factually based, gaining deep insights into particular subject matters, extending ones’ horizons, and mastering something complex is really what is important. Surely, we can all agree that there is a plethora of ‘stuff’ worth learning out there, things that are of interest, utility, or beauty. Much of this is not found in the standard/ordinary school curriculum. If we can accept that there are countless worthwhile things to learn that are not in the accepted/normal/required/test-prep school curriculum, we might worry less about our students, as long as they are learning many of these other acceptable things. Actually, some of these other things may not just be acceptable, but quite desirable to learn.

I simply can’t get as distressed, as so many others do, when we believe kids are missing the “proper” time in their development to learn gerunds and the role of apostrophes, long division and simple algebra, or the date the constitution was signed. These certainly may all be worthy goals in our youths’ passage to a competent adulthood through our public schools. But what if a good part of the thinking and learning they are engaged in during these unusual times is, instead, based on a project the student chooses, or is assigned and willingly accepts? What if they had a topic to study and become highly knowledgeable about? And what if students must eventually report on their project or topic of study?

Even first graders are quite capable of learning sophisticated information about, say, dinosaurs. In fact, many of them do this spontaneously, and are quite capable of knowing more about dinosaurs and the lives they led than the vast majority of adults (Chi and Koeske, 1983). Sophisticated domain knowledge, the knowledge of experts, can easily be learned in a child’s study of rainfall, global warming, dog breeding, or a hundred other topics. What if our children began to learn these other good things, as well as whatever on-line instruction a teacher or school provides during the pandemic? Would America’s children lose anything? Or, might our students actually gain from such experiences?

On-line contact with their classroom teacher is likely not to be for the six hours per day that the child experiences during regular classroom instruction. But on-line contact about projects or topical areas will allow teachers to individually assist, tutor, critique, and advise on each project or topical area studied. After a semester or a school year, the child should be ready to present a project or topical inquiry to an audience of peers, teachers, and parents.

The beauty of these kinds of inquiries is that there would be little down time for students during education in this time of pandemic. Students will be learning about something of interest to them, though just not necessarily everything that is in the state required curriculum for their age group. Since not everyone is likely to have access to the full, required curriculum for their grade, the validity of any test scores at that grade level is greatly compromised and thus of little use. No attention should be given to invalid tests of the “required stuff” for students of a certain age and grade. But I certainly do want a way for students to learn “good stuff,” when limited in their getting access to the “required stuff”. Learning something in depth, and sharing it with others, may be an excellent replacement to the losses in learning the “required stuff” that are likely to occur in this pandemic.

Let us take a closer look at project based learning. Imagine if one or a few students had some months to turn in a project on whether: the climate is changing in their community, the air or water in their community is breathable or drinkable, their schools are adequately funded, their food is safe to eat, or a robot could be built to help the school cafeteria staff. Or the students investigated the causes of homelessness or asthma, or the need for public transportation in their community. There exists an endless supply of challenging projects, local and otherwise, worthy of study. Many will be appropriate for a particular age group, and some will require sustained effort over a moderately long time period to master the material at an age appropriate level.

A project not only teaches an individual, but if done with another it can substantially remove the feelings of loneliness that many of our students are feeling because of virus-caused school shutdowns. Moreover, two things are frequently noticed when students present their research projects or topical research to peers, teachers, and parents. First, students show evidence that they have learned how to organize and reorganize their ideas to prepare presentations from which others could learn. Second, their presentations regularly demonstrated that deep learning in the domain of study had taken place. The remarkable educator Debbie Meier (1995) describes successful schools where this has happened on a regular basis. The schools she describes didn’t wait for a crisis to incorporate the idea that children can direct their own learning with some adult scaffolding. Her experience and the testimony of others who studied her schools, convincingly established that students can and do dig deeply and happily into subject matter that they want to learn and share with others!

Topics to study. What if students negotiated with their teachers a topic: Birds, automobiles, penguins, glaciers, honey bees, artificial intelligence, the civil rights movement, internment camps during WWII, comets, and so forth. The topics investigated by a particular student might be of interest for them, or even assigned. The students’ job is to become expert in that topic and present a talk on that topic at the end of the school year, conveying to their classmates and others what is exciting and important to know about that topic. A version of how this approach might work schoolwide and across grades is described by Kieran Egan (2011), a most creative philosopher of education.

If learning from projects and topical studies as I have described was made more salient in the educational experiences of our youth, while the ordinary/standard curriculum was taught whenever and however it could be taught, what might happen?

We actually have some data related to this kind of arrangement. It comes from a classic, long-term, highly creative study conducted many years ago (Aikin, 1942). As the push to standardize the American curriculum gained traction, history has forgotten this study. But it is still quite instructive.

Students in 30 unique high schools, “progressive” schools, were studied. These 30 schools had agreed to let their students take a non-standard curriculum. The students studied some of what the school wanted them to, as current on-line instruction is meant to do. But these students also received high-school credits for choosing to study, think, write about, and to build, almost anything they wanted. The high school gave them credits for doing some highly unusual, self-determined projects and papers, few of which would have been approved had these students been subject to the standard high school curriculum of their time.

The students of these progressive schools, taking a very non-standard high school curriculum, went on to about 300 colleges and universities that had agreed to monitor and document their progress and achievements. They were also to monitor students’ deficits as well, since they had not been “properly prepared” for their college experience. They clearly had not studied the regular, standard, state sanctioned curriculum, so how could they compete in college?

From Aiken (1942) and the High School Journal (November-December, 1942), we learn that when each of the progressive school graduates was matched with a traditional school graduate who shared many similar background characteristics, the graduates of “progressive” schools showed: more leadership; joined and led more clubs; were rated as thinking more clearly; demonstrated a better understanding of democracy; had greater interest in good books, music, and art; got slightly better grades in college than those from traditional schools; and won more academic honors (e.g. Phi Beta Kappa, and honor roll designations). A special sub-study of the graduates of the six most progressive schools, what traditionalists thought of as the “wildest”, revealed that those students were superior to their peers from the other progressive schools! Thus, they scored well above the traditionally educated students on all the indices used for comparison. These poor students, deprived of the regular curriculum, achieved the highest college grades, and were rated the highest in intellectual drive, highest in thinking ability, and highest in extracurricular activity participation.

All I have written on this topic, above, now comes to this: The scholars reporting on the 8-year study said that the belief that students must have a prescribed school curriculum is not tenable. Studying almost anything in depth and breadth, with some (but not necessarily a lot of) teacher support, and reporting it out, prepares a child for the highest levels of scholarship at the next levels of their learning. There were no apparent negative effects from studying “this”, instead of “that”, if it was studied well. Learning seriously, deeply, and sharing that knowledge through papers and presentations (perhaps with power-points and YouTubes, maybe via film, television, music or art,) to one’s peers, parents, and the school faculty, apparently has no long-term ill effects, when compared to learning the “required” curriculum.

So to all the worried parents, teachers, and school administrators concerned that our youth will not learn about gerunds and the role of apostrophes, or long division and simple algebra, or the date the constitution was signed, “on time,” relax! Let us instead make sure our children are learning though projects and topics that capture their fancy during the time they have open. That should more than suffice for what they might miss of the traditional curriculum.

Aikin, W. (1942). The Story of the Eight-Year Study. New York: Harper.

Chi, M. T. H., & Koeske, R. D. (1983). Network representation of a child’s dinosaur knowledge. Developmental Psychology, 19(1), 29–39. https://doi.org/1031037/0012-1649.19.1.29

Egan, K. (2011). Learning in Depth. A Simple Innovation That Can Transform Schooling. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

Meier, D. (1995). The power of their ideas: Lessons from a small school in Harlem. Boston, MA: Beacon Press.

The High School Journal, Nov.-Dec., 1942), 25 (7), 305-309.

Westheimer, J. (2020, March 21). Westheimer: Forget trying
to be your kid’s substitute school teacher during
COVID-19. Ottawa, Canada: Ottawa Citizen.

The New York Times wrote about Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’ sudden turnaround, from champion of local control to heavy-handed advocate of federal threats to reopen schools regardless of local conditions or wishes. Those quoted in the story are DeVos allies, which makes sense, since they must feel a sense of betrayal.

*Keri Rodrigues of the Walton-funded National Parents Union; she was a leader of the battle in Massachusetts for more charter schools, which was overwhelmingly defeated in a state referendum.

*Mike Petrilli of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a prominent voice for charters, vouchers, and high-stakes testing, issues quite far from the interests of the 85% of U.S. students who attend public schools.

*Sarah Carpenter of the Walton-funded Memphis Lift, which is highly critical of the local public schools; several low-performing Memphis public schools were turned into charters and handed over to the Achievement School District, but experienced no gains over five years.

*Ubiquitous conservative pundit Frederick Hess.

DeVos’s allies are surprised to see her depart suddenly from her conservative principles.

Supporters of public schools must be even more surprised, but for different reasons.

DeVos has repeatedly denounced and demeaned public schools and their teachers. She has sung the praises of online learning, which she now finds inadequate. (Her mentor Jeb Bush is still predicting that online learning is the future, even though most parents and students have had their fill of it.)

Most likely, Trump’s campaign consultants told him that this was a winning issue for him, and Betsy is falling into line, denouncing the distance learning and home schooling that she usually celebrates, and insisting that students must return to their brick-and-mortar public schools for full-time instruction.

We have learned, to our great surprise, that Betsy, like Donald, has no fixed principles.

A reader with the anonymous sobriquet “Kindergarten Interlude” writes:


For my kindergartners distance-learning was never fun. And Lord knows for me it is not just a challenge but truly sad. How do you connect with five and six-year-olds through a computer screen? And the parents are losing it. I give them a lot of credit!

Of course I am trying to make the best of this for my students, but gone is the essence of teaching and learning in kindergarten: The human touch, the facial expressions, the spontaneous moments, the joy – reading and singing and dancing and yoga and Simon Says and Thumbs Up at the end of the day. And Discovery Centers (my code word for play centers)- teamwork and problem-solving and using one’s imagination and learning basic social skills like taking turns and sharing. There is great satisfaction (and joy!) in learning and practicing these skills and working together as a team. It is how friendships are planted and take root over the weeks and months of working and playing and learning together. Deep feelings of security and acceptance come from belonging to a community. A REAL community, not a screen.

So no, this was never fun and it is an untenable way to teach kindergarten and I imagine pretty much every grade.

Because at the end of the day, it is all about that beautiful community that is established. That’s the essence of successful teaching and learning in kindergarten.

Peter Greene taught high school students in Pennsylvania for 39 years. Now he blogs and writes about education for Forbes, where people in the business world get schooled about education realities.

In this article, he makes clear that a Bill Gates has a horrible record in education policy and should butt out of New York.

Greene points out:

Nobody has expended more money and influence on US education, and yet even by his own standards for success—raising reading and math test scores—Gates has no clear successes. Nor are there signs that he is learning anything from his failures. Reading through years of the annual Bill and Melinda letter, and you find acknowledgement that their latest idea didn’t quite pan out, but the problems are never located within the programs themselves. Teachers didn’t have the right resources or training. The Foundation’s PR work didn’t properly anticipate resistance. After years of failed initiatives, the latest Gates newsletter concludes not that they should examine some of their own assumptions, change their approach, or invite a different set of eyeballs to look over their programs—instead, they should just do what they’re doing, but do it harder. “Swing for the fences.”

Currently the Foundation is focused on factors like curriculum and in particular computer-delivered education. This may seem like just the ticket for a governor who also questioned why his state is still bothering with brick-and-mortar school buildings. But regardless of what you think of the policies and programs that Gates is pushing, it’s important to remember that while he may be great at disruption, he has yet to build anything in the education world that is either lasting or which works the way it was meant to. And he can always walk away, having barely dented his fortune.

It is perfectly obvious that Cuomo’s invited Gates to “reimagine” education in New York because Cuomo’s wants to make distance learning permanent. Parents hate the idea. Students long to be back in school with their friends and teachers. Teachers want to see their students really, not virtually.

Cuomo should back off. He hasn’t talked to parents, students, or teachers, only to Bill Gates and Eric Schmidt of Google.

It’s also important to remember that the Constitution of the State of New York gives the governor zero authority over education. That power belongs to the Board of Regents.

Cuomo should take care of reimagining the economy, getting people back to work, and leave education to the appropriate state and local officials.

Naomi Klein coined the iconic book Shock Doctrine, about the way that the powerful elites use emergencies to expand their power because of the crisis. New Orleans was one of her prime examples of “disaster capitalism,” where the devastation of a giant hurricane created an opportunity to break the teachers union and privatize the public school system.

In this brilliant essay, published in The Intercept, Klein describes the many ways in which the plutocrats of the tech industry are turning the pandemic into a gold mine for themselves and planning a dystopian future for the rest of us.

Please read this provocative and frightening essay, which has numerous links to support her argument.

What she details is not just a threat to our privacy and our institutions but to our democracy and our freedom.

It is no coincidence, she writes, that Governor Andrew Cuomo is enlisting a team of tech billionaires to reimagine the future of the Empire State. They know exactly what they want, and it’s up to us to stop them.

She writes:

It has taken some time to gel, but something resembling a coherent Pandemic Shock Doctrine is beginning to emerge. Call it the “Screen New Deal.” Far more high-tech than anything we have seen during previous disasters, the future that is being rushed into being as the bodies still pile up treats our past weeks of physical isolation not as a painful necessity to save lives, but as a living laboratory for a permanent — and highly profitable — no-touch future.

Anuja Sonalker, CEO of Steer Tech, a Maryland-based company selling self-parking technology, recently summed up the new virus-personalized pitch. “There has been a distinct warming up to human-less, contactless technology,” she said. “Humans are biohazards, machines are not.”

It’s a future in which our homes are never again exclusively personal spaces but are also, via high-speed digital connectivity, our schools, our doctor’s offices, our gyms, and, if determined by the state, our jails. Of course, for many of us, those same homes were already turning into our never-off workplaces and our primary entertainment venues before the pandemic, and surveillance incarceration “in the community” was already booming. But in the future under hasty construction, all of these trends are poised for a warp-speed acceleration.

This is a future in which, for the privileged, almost everything is home delivered, either virtually via streaming and cloud technology, or physically via driverless vehicle or drone, then screen “shared” on a mediated platform. It’s a future that employs far fewer teachers, doctors, and drivers. It accepts no cash or credit cards (under guise of virus control) and has skeletal mass transit and far less live art. It’s a future that claims to be run on “artificial intelligence” but is actually held together by tens of millions of anonymous workers tucked away in warehouses, data centers, content moderation mills, electronic sweatshops, lithium mines, industrial farms, meat-processing plants, and prisons, where they are left unprotected from disease and hyperexploition. It’s a future in which our every move, our every word, our every relationship is trackable, traceable, and data-mineable by unprecedented collaborations between government and tech giants.

If all of this sounds familiar it’s because, pre-Covid, this precise app-driven, gig-fueled future was being sold to us in the name of convenience, frictionlessness, and personalization. But many of us had concerns. About the security, quality, and inequity of telehealth and online classrooms. About driverless cars mowing down pedestrians and drones smashing packages (and people). About location tracking and cash-free commerce obliterating our privacy and entrenching racial and gender discrimination. About unscrupulous social media platforms poisoning our information ecology and our kids’ mental health. About “smart cities” filled with sensors supplanting local government. About the good jobs these technologies wiped out. About the bad jobs they mass produced.

And most of all, we had concerns about the democracy-threatening wealth and power accumulated by a handful of tech companies that are masters of abdication — eschewing all responsibility for the wreckage left behind in the fields they now dominate, whether media, retail, or transportation.

That was the ancient past known as February. Today, a great many of those well-founded concerns are being swept away by a tidal wave of panic, and this warmed-over dystopia is going through a rush-job rebranding. Now, against a harrowing backdrop of mass death, it is being sold to us on the dubious promise that these technologies are the only possible way to pandemic-proof our lives, the indispensable keys to keeping ourselves and our loved ones safe.

Maybe this won’t seem like a big deal to you, but it’s a portent of the future. It’s not a lot of students or teachers, but it signifies what’s coming down the pike.

A small alternative school in Avondale, Michigan, is going to be converted to a full-time virtual school.

All seven teachers will be replaced.

The district pretends that the decision was for the sake of the students, but in reality, it’s to save money. The district and the state of Michigan just could not afford to educate these students anymore so they settled on a cheap strategy. The kids will get an inferior digital education with no personal interaction with real teachers, but, hey, the state can’t afford to give them a real education.

This week is National Teacher Appreciation Week – but, for the seven teachers at Avondale Academy, they just found out they’re being laid off.

On Monday, the Avondale Board of Education voted to close Avondale Academy and to restructure it as the Avondale Diploma and Careers Institute Virtual School – a fully online alternative high school.

Social studies teacher Paul Sandy said he is horrified by the board’s decision. He created the petition “Save Avondale Academy” and, as of Tuesday evening, it has more than 500 online signatures.

“It’s a central truth that all children deserve real teachers – not virtual teachers who can’t see them, talk to them, hand them fruit snacks out of their big Trader Joe’s bag, buy them art supplies or talk to them out in the hallway between classes,” said Sandy. “All students deserve an education that is hands-on and involves physical activity, social interaction and authentic, real learning…”

As part of the decision, the Diploma and Careers Institute will provide all Avondale Academy students with their own Chromebook, and a resource center would be open Monday through Thursday, staffed with an adult mentor, for students who need in-person support. There would continue to be opportunities for breakfast and lunch, transportation and counseling for the students.

According to Frank Lams, assistant superintendent for Financial Services, this decision will save the district a substantial amount of money.

“The district would pick up 20 percent of the enrollment (from per-pupil state funding) and the net revenue. DCI would pick up the cost for the counselors and mentors, as well as all the hardware and software necessary for the program. So, there’s a shift of about $180,000 positive. This is based on 115 pupil enrollment for the Academy,” said Lams.

The online board meeting attracted nearly 150 attendees – a record number for the board. Teachers, parents, students and experts from Michigan universities and organizations all joined together to argue for the future of the 115 students at Avondale Academy.

Paul Sandy, the social studies teacher at Avondale Academy, wrote this about the school in his petition to save the school:

Avondale Academy is an alternative public high school in the Avondale School District that serves approximately 113 students from Pontiac, Auburn Hills, and Rochester Hills, Michigan. It is intended for students who have either struggled to succeed in a mainstream high school or for students who want a smaller school setting with more social-emotional support and a community style education approach.

Avondale Academy currently provides students with a positive educational experience through social-emotional supports to students, mentor groups that reinforce community norms, creativity through art and music endeavors, a mental health peer-to-peer group, project-based learning, and reading and math intervention. All of those things are made possible with teachers.

The board decided: These kids are expendable.

“In The Public Interest,” a nonpartisan organization that supports a healthy public sector, has identified eleven warning signs that privatizers are targeting your school district.

Read them and be prepared to defend your public schools from privatizers and profiteers!

Here are the first six. Open the link and learn about the other five:

As students, parents, educators, and school districts struggle to adjust to the Covid-19 pandemic, others see the crisis as an opportunity to escalate their efforts to further privatize public education. For years, “education reformers,” private companies that want to profit from public education dollars, and others have worked to undermine public education by privatizing all aspects of it—from charter schools, to contracted out bus services and cafeterias, to private testing companies, to software and hardware providers touting the benefits of virtual/online education.

With the current need for districts to rapidly switch to distance learning, many of these same privatization advocates and corporations are using the crisis and the resulting confusion as an opportunity to greatly expand their privatization agenda by offering to help solve some of the problems that the crisis is creating.

The pandemic is creating a fiscal crisis for state, local, and school district budgets and these same forces are also offering up privatization as the solution to these longer-term economic problems. Consequently, we are seeing a major push now by online (virtual) charter schools to greatly increase their number of enrolled students. We are also seeing a major push by “EdTech” companies (education software providers, online pre-packaged classes and tests, computer hardware, cloud computing companies, and others) to peddle their goods and services. These companies seek to offer their services as a way to radically reshape education and education budgets for the long term by dramatically cutting back on qualified classroom teachers and overhead expenses of brick-and-mortar schools.

What to watch for:

Public education advocates need to be vigilant to ensure that during this crisis no long-term commitments are made that increase the privatization of public education.

Below are eleven warning signs and some follow-up questions to help advocates determine whether and how privateers may be trying to make inroads in your school district.

1. Emergency powers have been requested, given, or exercised by superintendents that circumvent normal oversight rules.

• Have emergency powers been granted to district or state superintendents of education? What, if any, are the limits to those powers? When will the emergency powers end?
• How are school boards informed of decisions being made, contracts being entered into, etc., under those powers? Does the board have the authority to review or overturn those decisions?
• Are other emergency orders being put in place? What do they waive or change?
• Are there efforts to suspend open meetings and public records laws?

2. Procurement rules and processes are being suspended, overruled, or ignored.

• In response to the crisis, has your district, locality, or state suspended normal procurement rules?
• Are procurements being made outside the normal process?
• Are there guarantees ensuring that the district isn’t entering into long-term contracts?
• What, if any, transparency is there in the procurement and contracting process?
• Who is responsible for the contracting process and what monitoring and oversight is
there?

3. Virtual/online charter companies are expanding their outreach and recruitment of students.

• Have online charters increased their advertising and recruitment activity in your area?

4. Charter schools and their advocates are pushing to change or ignore authorization and oversight rules.

• Are charter schools attempting to change or relax authorization, oversight, and renewal guidelines?
• Are charter schools requesting or being granted increased funding or extensions on funding or renewal periods?
• Are existing charter schools seeking to expand enrollment caps?
• Are districts providing additional services or technology to charter schools?
• Are there efforts to suspend or disregard open meetings and public records laws for
charter schools?
• Are there efforts to create long-term distance learning contracts with charters?
• Who is monitoring charter schools for compliance with all legal requirements? Are all
the services being delivered?
• Are charter schools ignoring requests for information?

5. Existing charter schools and new charter schools are pushing for immediate charter expansion.

• Are charter school chains or management organizations seeking expansive contracts to provide larger scale education services or replace schools struggling before the crisis?
• Are charter schools advocating for new or additional facilities, or changes in rules regarding facilities?
• Are homeschool charters aggressively marketing payments to families to be used to pay for educational and enrichment programs or services?

6. Education technology companies (hardware and software companies, online testing and lesson planning companies, etc.) are aggressively soliciting the district offering immediate solutions.

• Are education technology companies approaching the district to provide services during the crisis? Which companies? What services? Will those services be needed after the crisis has passed?
• Are companies that already have contracts with the district being allowed to expand those contracts?
• Are companies offering free introductory contracts that are tied to long term obligations?
inthepublicinterest.org
• Are educational technology companies offering free hardware that requires the district to purchase or lease software or other services?
• All students do not have equal access to the Internet. What—if anything—is being done to ensure equal access?
• Who evaluates education technology software for cost and effectiveness? Are new contracts for education technology being executed? What are the durations and terms, and who is providing oversight?
• Is there a protocol for ensuring that student and educator data is secure? What is the policy for responding in the event of a data breach?

I earlier posted Rep. Rosa DeLauro’s outspoken criticism of Secretary DeVos for diverting CARES (coronavirus relief) funds to her pet projects (anything but public schools). DeVos wants to liberate America’s students from public schools, despite the fact that the legislation does not authorize her to follow her own wishes. DeVos has this wacky idea that learning online is “student-centered,” when it is not. We already know from experience and research that virtual charter schools are typically the worst schools in every state that has them.I should have first posted the DeVos announcement:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 27, 2020
Contact: Press Office
(202) 401-1576 or press@ed.gov

Secretary DeVos Launches New Grant Competition to Spark Student-Centered, Agile Learning Opportunities to Support Recovery from National Emergency

States can compete for more than $300 million to rethink education by creating flexible K-12 models, developing postsecondary tools that aid economic recovery

WASHINGTON — U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced today more than $300 million in discretionary grant funds will be available for states to use to create adaptable, innovative learning opportunities for K-12 and postsecondary learners in response to the COVID-19 national emergency. The grants will be funded through the Education Stabilization Fund (ESF), authorized by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, signed into law by President Donald J. Trump.

“If our ability to educate is limited to what takes place in any given physical building, we are never going to meet the unique needs of every student,” said Secretary DeVos. “The current disruption to the normal model is reaffirming something I have said for years: we must rethink education to better match the realities of the 21st century. This is the time for local education leaders to unleash their creativity and ingenuity, and I’m looking forward to seeing what they do to provide education freedom and economic opportunity for America’s students.”

The CARES Act provides $307.5 million for these discretionary grants, which the Department will divide between two competitions: $180 million for the Rethink K-12 School Models Grant and $127.5 million for the Reimagining Workforce Preparation Grant.

The Rethink K-12 School Models Grant is aimed at opening new, innovative ways for students to access K-12 education with an emphasis on meeting students’ needs during the coronavirus national emergency. The competition is open to state educational agencies which can apply for funds in one of the three categories:

Microgrants for families, so that states can ensure they have access to the technology and educational services they need to advance their learning
Statewide virtual learning and course access programs, so that students will always be able to access a full range of subjects, even those not taught in the traditional or assigned setting
New, field-initiated models for providing remote education not yet imagined, to ensure that every child is learning and preparing for successful careers and lives
The full Notice Inviting Applications (NIA) will be available online today.

The Reimagining Workforce Preparation Grants are designed to expand short-term postsecondary programs and work-based learning programs in order to get Americans back to work and help small businesses return to being our country’s engines for economic growth. The full NIA for this competition will be issued later this week.

Secretary DeVos continued, “Current students and displaced workers will be navigating a very different job market and economy once America reopens. This competition is a tremendous opportunity for states to think creatively and strategically about what their workforce needs will be and how to support entrepreneurs and small business in order to get the economic engines in their states firing on all cylinders again.”

Application packages for these competitions will be available within two weeks. Applicants will then have 60 days to apply. As with most of the Department of Education’s discretionary grant competitions, applications will be evaluated by a panel of independent peer reviewers, and the highest-scoring applications will be funded. For additional information about how to apply, please visit https://oese.ed.gov/offices/education-stabilization-fund/states-highest-coronavirus-burden/.

The Department continues to update http://www.ed.gov/coronavirus with information on COVID-19 for students, parents, educators and local leaders.

For more information about COVID-19, please visit the following websites: coronavirus.gov, cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html, and usa.gov/coronavirus.

Talk about taking advantage of a crisis!

The rightwing extremist Heritage Foundation has issued its own report on how to recover from the pandemic. They cover it with patriotic glitz to make it appear like a government report, which it is not. It calls itself the “National Coronavirus Recovery Commission. But it is just a self-aggrandizing report from a rightwing think tank funded by the usual suspects.

The Task Force consists of people who share the Heritage view that government is evil, as are public schools.

Tucked into its recommendations is this: eliminate public schools and certified teachers.

That will help America sink back at least a century in educating its children, perhaps even two centuries.

Perhaps you will not be surprised to learn that the lead person on education was Kevin P. Chavous, CEO of the notorious for-profit K-12 Inc. online charter chain, noted for high attrition, low graduation rates, and low test scores–and above all, high profits! In 2019, Chavous’s total compensation was $4.3 million for his estimable services. But in the nature of for-profit enterprises, there are always new worlds to conquer, new markets to open up.

On page 5:

The Commission recommends that states help families return to work with access to K–12 education by making existing education funding student-centered and portable. Many parents and guardians who now find themselves in charge of teaching and monitoring their children’s educations are unable to access the public schools they pay for through their taxes and are looking for continuity in their children’s education. States should immediately restructure per-pupil K–12 education funding to provide education savings ac- counts (ESAs) to families, enabling them to access their child’s share of state per-pupil funding to pay for online courses, online tutors, curriculum, and textbooks so that their children can continue learning. Students are currently unable to enter the K–12 public schools their parents’ taxes support. They should be able to access a portion of those funds for the remainder of the school year in the form of an ESA. Parents would receive a por- tion of their child’s per-pupil public school funding in a restricted-use account that they could then can use to pay for any education-related service, product, or provider of choice. Additionally, state restrictions on teacher certification should be lifted immediately to free the supply of online teachers and tutors, allowing anyone with a bachelor’s degree to provide K–12 in- struction online. Research suggests that there is little if any difference in student academic outcomes between teachers who are traditionally certified, alternative- ly certified, or not certified at all. States should work with school districts to reopen districts based on data about where the disease is prevalent or waning. Deci- sions about whether to keep schools closed should be medically determined by zip code, tied to districts. Dis- tricts that have low incident rates should begin plans to
reopen, and all school districts should have emergency response plans (including quick transitions to online learning) if they are forced to close again.

The Commission recommends that states remove occupational licensing requirements. States have im- posed numerous occupational licensing requirements that in many instances are simply artificial barriers to entry that can inhibit individuals’ ability to pursue en- trepreneurial work. These should be eliminated. Simi- larly, states should extend reciprocity so that licensed individuals in one state are not subject to additional requirements in the new state. Eliminating or signifi- cantly reducing occupational licensing requirements can help to get people back to work and can also provide a state with access to individuals with high-demand skills. For example, Massachusetts created a one-day approval process to license doctors with out-of-state licenses as a means to expand access to medical care in response to the virus.

Peter Greene also saw this phony “commission report” that pretends to be an official document but is just another anti-government, anti-public school self-aggrandizing piece of propaganda.

He writes:

While Trump has announced a variety of groups he wants to gather together to charter a pandemic recovery for the nation, there’s one group that is already on the job– and their plans for public education suck.

The National Coronavirus Recovery Commission– doesn’t that sound grand? It sounds like a real official government thing, only it isn’t, exactly. It’s the project of the Heritage Foundation, a right-tilted thinky tank that has been a major policy player in DC since the days of Ronald Reagan.

He notes the presence of one Kevin P. Chavous, who has made good money by running with the rightwing crowd, a sector not known for their devotion to racial equality and civil rights.

Well, look. It’s Kevin Chavous, the big cheese at K12, the 800 pound gorilla of the cyber school world, the one funded by junk bond king Michael Milken and founded by a McKinsey alum (anoter early investor– Dick DeVos). They’ve had more than their share of messes (like the time the NCAA decided K12 credits don’t count). But the Trump administration has been good times for them. And Chavous used to help run the American Federation for Children, Betsy DeVos’s dark money ed reform group, from which he called for the privatization of post-Katrina New Orleans education. Do I need to add that he has no actual education background?

Want a reason to vote for Joe Biden? Read the Heritage Foundation report with their plans for a dark future.

A wise reader, who is anonymous, posted this comment a few days ago. I thought it was wise because we hear so many Disrupters cheering about “the end of schooling as we know it” when the reality is that most parents and students can’t wait for real school to start again. You don’t hear those same voices saying that no one will ever work in an office again; no one will every go to a concert or a play; no one will ever go to a physical store. They clearly have an agenda, and their predictions are their wishes, but they fly in the face of reality. Life goes on. It is never the same after an earth-shattering event such as a pandemic. But many things will not change. Who knows? Schools may even change for the better as parents show their gratitude to teachers and their public schools, and as the backlash against distance learning grows stronger, based on experience.

He or she wrote:

No one is calling for the end of grocery stores for Instacart, restaurants for takeout, church buildings for live streaming, physical stores for their online versions, theatre/sports/concerts for streaming, conventions for talking heads on video, clubs for solo dance parties on Zoom, renting office space for work at home, theme parks for Virtual Reality machines, etc. in the advent of COVID-19. But, so many think that this is a “great opportunity” to shift students away from school buildings.

“But education is broken.” Talk to people in any other industry, and they’ll tell you about the broken parts of those too. But they aren’t using COVID as a means to COMPLETELY change it. Yes, there will be a permanent uptick in grocery delivery, online shopping, a day or two a week to work from home, and videoconferencing as some people fall in love with the platforms and get used to them. There may even be a parent in a two-parent household where one was laid off, and they figured out that they could live on one income by getting rid of one of their car payments and so they decide to do virtual school.

BUT, society will be itching to get back into going to concerts, stores, conventions, theme parks, airplanes, sitting inside of restaurants, church, to the office, and SCHOOL!