Archives for category: Online Learning

The respected organization Human Rights Watch issued a damning report about the widespread violation of children’s rights when they were required to use online instruction. Without their knowledge or their parents’ consent, children in many countries were subject to surveillance by online tracking devices embedded in their online programs.

Governments of 49 of the world’s most populous countries harmed children’s rights by endorsing online learning products during Covid-19 school closures without adequately protecting children’s privacy, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. The report was released simultaneously with publications by media organizations around the world that had early access to the Human Rights Watch findings and engaged in an independent collaborative investigation.

“‘How Dare They Peep into My Private Life?’: Children’s Rights Violations by Governments that Endorsed Online Learning during the Covid-19 Pandemic,” is grounded in technical and policy analysis conducted by Human Rights Watch on 164 education technology (EdTech) products endorsed by 49 countries. It includes an examination of 290 companies found to have collected, processed, or received children’s data since March 2021, and calls on governments to adopt modern child data protection laws to protect children online.

We think our kids are safe in school online. But many of them are being surveilled, and parents have often been kept in the dark. Kids are priceless, not products….

Of the 164 EdTech products reviewed, 146 (89 percent) appeared to engage in data practices that risked or infringed on children’s rights. These products monitored or had the capacity to monitor children, in most cases secretly and without the consent of children or their parents, in many cases harvesting personal data such as who they are, where they are, what they do in the classroom, who their family and friends are, and what kind of device their families could afford for them to use.

Most online learning platforms examined installed tracking technologies that trailed children outside of their virtual classrooms and across the internet, over time. Some invisibly tagged and fingerprinted children in ways that were impossible to avoid or erase – even if children, their parents, and teachers had been aware and had the desire to do so – without destroying the device.

Nora de la Cour is a high school teacher and writer. This article about the sham of for-profit remote instruction appeared in Jacobin. Study after study has demonstrated the poor results of virtual instruction, but the research does not deter the greedy entrepreneurs who see the profit in virtual charter schools. You may recall the recent press release from the National Alliance for Charter Schools about how charter schools increased enrollment by 250,000 during the pandemic; what the press release didn’t admit was that the “increase” was due entirely to growth in virtual charter enrollments, which may turn out to be a temporary response to the pandemic.

De la Cour sees the push for for-profit remote learning as another front in the privatization movement.

She begins:

In spring of 2020, we saw signs that billionaires and neoliberal politicians were looking to use the COVID-19 lockdown to finally eliminate one of the last remaining venues where Americans convene in the practice of democratic self-governance: the brick-and-mortar schoolhouse.

Plutocrat-funded techno-optimists giddily suggested we use the temporary requirement of virtual learning to test-drive modelsthat give families more “flexibility” and “freedom.” Then-governor Andrew Cuomo formed a partnership between New York state and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to explore a post-pandemic future without “all these physical classrooms.” Betsy DeVos announced $180 million in grants for states to “rethink” K–12 learning, and her cohort of privatization pushers began licking their chops.

Advocates of public education were rightly horrified, recognizing that this would amount to a further hollowing out of one of our last remaining public goods. Fortunately, a combination of factors turned the discourse emphatically back in favor of preserving in-person K–12 learning as the American standard — for now.

The nearly universal problems with remote instruction last year made it politically impossible for the privatization crew to continue arguing that e-learning is the glittery new frontier of educational progress. In fact, survey data shows that a majority of parents disapprove of any kind of change to traditional schooling. This is despite a relentless onslaught of rhetorical attacks on public schools — from the bipartisan vilification of teachers’ unions to right-wing attempts to use mask mandates and critical race theory to breed ill will among parents. The term “school choice” has apparently become so distasteful that school choice conservatives are looking to rebrand their body blows to public education as a “school freedom” and “parents’ rights” movement. They’re winning legislative battles in diverse states, but they’re losing the war for public opinion.

It’s widely accepted that in-person schools meet critical developmental needs and are necessary for most students. Nevertheless, the pandemic has swiftly accelerated the expansion of digital instruction. Public education advocates are now at a crossroads. We can either proactively define the relationship between remote and in-person schooling, or we can watch from the sidelines as private companies claim a monopoly over distance learning and use it to undermine public education.

Open the link and read the whole article.

Mayoral control of the schools was never a good idea. The current race for mayor of New York City demonstrates that it is a horrible idea. The leading candidate at the moment is Eric Adams, who was a police office, a member of the legislature, and borough president of Brooklyn. Certainly he has deep experience in municipal affairs.

But his plans for education are unsound. He doesn’t know what he doesn’t know.

Mercedes Schneider lives in Louisiana but she spotted Adams’ platform on the running the schools and called him out for the worst plan ever proposed.

She writes:

Eric Adams is running for mayor of New York City.

He wants to assign hundreds of students to a single teacher because technology could allow it, and it costs less.

Of course, in Adams’ mind, the ridiculous student-teacher ratio is fine because *great teachers* with technology (aka, kids on laptops) produces “skillful” teaching. Consider Adams’ words in this February 2021 candidate interview with Citizens Budget Commission president, Andrew Rein, when Rein asks Adams about how much a “full year school year” would cost. 

Apparently, Adams’ plan is the well-worn ed-reform idea of cost-cutting excellence:

Think about this for a moment, let’s go with the full year school year because that’s important to me. When you look at the heart of the dysfunctionality of our city, it’s the Department of Education. We keep producing, broken children that turn into broken adults and live in a broken system. 80% of the men and women at Rikers Island don’t have a high school diploma or equivalency diploma. 30% are reported based on one study to be dyslexic because we’re not doing what we should be doing in educating, we find ourselves putting young people in a place of being incarcerated. That must change. And so if you do a full year school year by using the new technology of remote learning, you don’t need children to be in a school building with a number of teachers, it’s just the opposite. You could have one great teacher that’s in one of our specialized high schools to teach 300 to 400 students who are struggling in math with the skillful way that they’re able to teach. 

Let’s look at our best mastered teachers and have them have programs where they’re no longer being just within a school building. We no longer have to live within the boundaries of walls, of locations. We can now have a different method of teaching and I’m going to have the best remote learning that we could possibly have, not just turning on the screen and having children look at someone or really being engaged.

When market-based ed reform hit Louisiana in 2011, one of my concerns as a classroom teacher was that I might be rated “highly effective” and *rewarded* with increased class sizes. That thinking was and still is an idiotic core belief of ed reform: A “great teacher” can continue to be great no matter how thin that teacher is spread in trying to meet the educational needs of any number of individual students.

When Michael Bloomberg was mayor, he once proposed a similar plan: Identify “great teachers” and double the size of their classes. No one thought that was a good idea. Adams wants the neediest children to be online in a class of 300-400 students. They will never get individual attention or help. Dumb idea.

But, wait! There’s more. After Adams got negative feedback for his proposal, he backtracked and said he had been misquoted or misunderstood. Leonie Haimson writes here that if most people learned one thing from the pandemic, it is that remote learning has limited and specific value. If students need extra attention, they will not be likely to get it in remote settings.

The National Education Policy Center frequently engages researchers to review studies, reports, and evaluations. NEPC recently released a review of a RAND study that looks at online learning and whether it deserves federal funding. The title of the RAND report is “Remote Learning is Here to Stay,” but the body of the report does not support that conclusion, according to reviewer David R. Garcia of Arizona State University.

Garcia summarizes his review:

The RAND Corporation recently released a report based on a national survey of school district superintendents and charter management organization (CMO) directors (or their designees) about their experiences navigating the COVID-19 pandemic. The survey asks non-biased questions about how school districts and charter schools have responded to the pandemic and about their greatest educational needs. But some issues arise with the report’s reporting of results and with one of its two recommendations. The report is curiously titled, Remote Learning is Here to Stay, but that headline is surprisingly unsupported by the sur- vey responses. In fact, the respondents expressed much higher concerns about three other areas: (1) “addressing students’ Socio-Emotional Learning and mental health needs” (the area with the greatest need for additional resources), (2) “addressing disparities in student opportunities to learn that result from differences in supplemental supports provided by families” (the most anticipated challenge), and (3) inadequate funding (the top staffing chal- lenge). Relative to these concerns, remote learning is a minor consideration. The report’s first recommendation does follow from the respondents’ need for more funding to address inequities and socio-emotional learning. But the other recommendation, for more funding to support remote learning, does not appear to align with needs expressed by district lead- ers. Finally, the report combines two different types of local education agencies (school dis- tricts and CMOs). Thus, while the report suggests that its most important finding is that “about two in ten districts have already adopted, plan to adopt, or are considering adopting virtual schools as part of their district portfolio after the end of the COVID-19 pandemic,” it is unclear how much of this result is driven by CMOs rather than school districts. For these reasons, readers are encouraged to go beyond the title and read deeper to get a complete picture of the challenges, needs, and future of education from district leaders’ perspectives.

Mercedes Schneider reports here on the absurd class sizes assigned to teachers in Louisiana in virtual classes. The teachers are not “teachers,” they are in charge of case loads. They are using a canned curriculum called “Edgenuity,” and she says that it can easily be gamed by students to get higher marks. Education? Not really.

She writes:

Unlimited enrollment is particulary obvious in the virtual high school numbers.

First-semester biology, 282 students; first-semester environmental science, 461 students– both belonging to the same teacher of record (who has an additional 91 students in two other classes).

Yowsa.

First-semester US History, 306 students; first-semester World History, 129 students, AP US History, 48 students– all assigned to one teacher.

First-semester English I, 381 students; first-semester English I Honors, 55 students– both courses, one teacher.

First-semester Algebra I, 394 students assigned to one teacher, who also has another 125 students in 3 additional courses.

First-semester Government, 567 students. One teacher.

First-semester English II, 299 students; first-semester English II Honors, 68 students– same teacher.

Alg II, 220 students; Spanish II, 208 students; Spanish I, 193 students; Computer Science, 93 students; Pre-calculus, 81 students; Algebra III, 72 students; Algebra II Honors, 57 students; Pre-calculus Honors, 29 students; Spanish III, 3 students; Business Math, 49 students. All. Overseen. By. One. Teacher.

How thin can you spread your peanut butter and still call it a sandwich?

When a single teacher is responsible for tutoring and regularly communicating with 400, 500, 600, 700 students on a pre-fab curriculum that students are expected to primarily complete independently, you tell me how much quality education is transpiring here.

John Thompson, historian and retired teacher, writes in the Progressive about the epic failure of a for-profit virtual school in Oklahoma.

The Epic virtual charter school was well positioned to benefit from the demand for remote learning during the pandemic. But it just happened that its great moment was spoiled by the state’s discovery of financial irregularities.

On October 12, Oklahoma’s Board of Education demanded that Epic Charter Schools, a statewide online charter, refund $11 million to the state. The decision came after the first part of a state audit showed that Epic charged the school district for $8.4 million in improperly classified administrative costs between 2015 and 2019, as well as millions of dollars for violations that the state previously failed to address.

The second part of the audit will investigate the $79 million in public money that was directed to a “learning fund,” an $800 to $1,000 stipend for students enrolled in Epic’s “One-on-One” individual learning program. While the funds were intended to cover educational expenses, a search warrant issued by the Oklahoma State Board of Investigation found that they may have been used to entice “ghost students,” or students that were technically enrolled—and therefore counted in Epic’s per-pupil funding requests to the state—but received minimal instruction from teachers.

Despite the controversy surrounding Epic, the school has received a total of $458 million in state funds since 2015, according to the audit report. More than $125 million of this money went to Epic Youth Services, a for-profit management company owned by the school’s co-founders, David Chaney and Ben Harris. 

Following the audit’s release, the Oklahoma Virtual Charter School board began investigating forty-two potential violations that could lead to the termination of the contract allowing Epic’s One-on-One program to operate. 

The state money flowed freely to Epic at the same time that the state underfunded its public schools.

The state chose to fund a for-profit charter instead of trusting the advice of its educators about proper use of online learning:

Although Oklahoma’s education leaders couldn’t have foreseen that schools would be confronted with the coronavirus, they could have done a better job at creating the infrastructure for quality online learning. Rather than take the for-profit shortcut, they would have done better to follow the rubriclaid out in 2019 by the Cooperative Council for Oklahoma School Administration (CCOSA), which called for: 

Highly qualified teachers certified in the courses taught;

Virtual courses that supplement in-person learning once the school—working in cooperation with parents—identifies the options that are educationally appropriate and best fit each student’s needs;

Equity to ensure students have a “place” where they have opportunities for extracurricular activities, access to transportation, nutrition and counseling services, along with immediate remediation as soon as the teacher identifies that a student is struggling;

Transparency on financial and data reporting.

Following CCOSA’s advice would have provided more financial transparency, but the biggest advantage would have been in terms of the “people side” of education. 

CCOSA’s framework would have monitored students who were not attending or slipping further behind. It would have laid a foundation of trust and communication. Its system of using technology and teamwork to improve learning would have been invaluable when in-person instruction was shut down without warning. 

Several smaller districts had already made thoughtful efforts to provide holistic virtual instruction and blended learning, as they wrestled with corporate school reform mandates and budget cuts. 

If the state hadn’t gambled on Epic as the pioneer for online instruction, those efforts could have led to digital technology being used in a fairer and more equitable way.  

Why listen to respected educators when for-profit sharks are in the water?

Denisha Jones, an expert in early childhood education and a lawyer (and a member of the board of the Betwork for Public Education) has prepared an excellent report for Defending the Early Years.

DEY advocates for sound educational practices for young children, and their advice in this report is balanced and humane.

Be sure to read the recommendations at the end of the report.

It begins:

Though the push to online learning/remote schooling was necessary to deal with a global pandemic, it ushered in fundamental changes to the lives of young children, their families, and their teachers. The speed at which schools were closed and how quickly we expected children and families to learn online or at home made it difficult for parents and teachers to prepare children for this new reality adequately. Now that another school year has begun, time to adjust to hybrid or full online/remote schooling has slipped away. As children and families spent their summer trying to regain a sense of normalcy, they now face the reality that a return to schooling as we knew it might not happen for quite some time. Some families will send their children back to socially distant schooling while others will keep them home and hire tutors or teachers and replace traditional schooling with “pandemic pods.” We recognize that all families, regardless of the option they can choose, continue to want the best for their child’s education and health and need support, resources, and guidance. We propose the following recommendations to assist families of young children and their teachers to reap as many benefits from online learning/remote schooling as possible and mitigate the challenges.

1. Do not try to replicate school at home.
This might seem unrealistic faced with another quarter, semester, or year of online learning/remote schooling, but it is essential to recognize that we cannot do at home all the things we do at school. First, parents are not teachers and even if you are a teacher, teaching your child is different than teaching someone else’s child. If you are homeschooling your child during the 2020-2021 school year, then you are your child’s teacher, but if you are working from home, you should not expect to be a full-time teacher, full-time parent, and full-time or part-time employee. Online learning/remote schooling is not traditional schooling. It is a substitute for the educational environment we typically provide children and, just like when your child has a substitute teacher at school, things cannot be precisely the same. Traditional schooling is set up to function very differently than online teaching/ remote schooling. We expect children to spend an entire day in a room with many other children and at least one adult and to complete a variety of tasks in a variety of different formats. Teachers come prepared to facilitate this environment, and, over time, many children adjust to it. Online teaching/remote schooling should not have the same expectations. Yes, children are at home all day, and yes, parents who are working from home need to keep them engaged, but that does not mean we should sit them down in front of a computer or tablet and expect them to do the same things they would do in school. In-person instruction cannot transform into online teaching for young children. Remote schooling should not mean that we expect children to do the same things that they did in school at home. For children, their families, and their teachers to gain benefits from online learning/remote schooling, we must separate the functions of traditional schooling from the realities of online learning/remote schooling.

2. 2. Use screens and technology sparingly and wisely.
Many of us are aware that an increase in screen use can be harmful to young children. But we also know
that Zoom and other platforms provide valuable connections for children whose lives have been disrupted by COVID-19. Even before the pandemic, many families used technology-based communication platforms to stay connected when they lived in different geographical locations. Infants, toddlers, and preschoolers love seeing grandma and grandpa on the tablet, and many love seeing their teachers and peers as well. Thus, we must find ways to incorporate these platforms that maximize their benefits but also limit their exposure. We should
not expect young children to spend more than 30 minutes a day, a few days a week, on technology. Brief opportunities to connect with their teacher and classmates that are engaging and developmentally appropriate are crucial to maximizing the use of technology. Reading stories, sharing items from home, singing songs, watching a puppet show, and playing are good examples of how technology can bring young learners and their teachers together. However, we must keep these sessions brief and optional. We know not all children want or need to be on Zoom every day. Even if the teacher offers daily 30-minutes class meetings, families should be able to decide whether to attend as many or as few as their child can handle each week. We do not recommend longer remote schooling sessions that include online teaching for young children. Just as we did not (or should not) expect young children to sit still at a desk and listen to a teacher for extended periods of time in schools, we cannot expect them to do the same at home. Remote schooling does not mean that all teaching and learning has to happen through direct online instruction.

3. Prepare children to be s 2. Use screens and technology sparingly and wisely.
Many of us are aware that an increase in screen use can be harmful to young children. But we also know that Zoom and other platforms provide valuable connections for children whose lives have been disrupted by COVID-19. Even before the pandemic, many families used technology-based communication platforms to stay connected when they lived in different geographical locations. Infants, toddlers, and preschoolers love seeing grandma and grandpa on the tablet, and many love seeing their teachers and peers as well. Thus, we must find ways to incorporate these platforms that maximize their benefits but also limit their exposure. We should
not expect young children to spend more than 30 minutes a day, a few days a week, on technology. Brief opportunities to connect with their teacher and classmates that are engaging and developmentally appropriate are crucial to maximizing the use of technology. Reading stories, sharing items from home, singing songs, watching a puppet show, and playing are good examples of how technology can bring young learners and their teachers together. However, we must keep these sessions brief and optional. We know not all children want or need to be on Zoom every day. Even if the teacher offers daily 30-minutes class meetings, families should be able to decide whether to attend as many or as few as their child can handle each week. We do not recommend longer remote schooling sessions that include online teaching for young children. Just as we did not (or should not) expect young children to sit still at a desk and listen to a teacher for extended periods of time in schools, we cannot expect them to do the same at home. Remote schooling does not mean that all teaching and learning has to happen through direct online instruction.

The report goes on to identify ways that parents can best help their young children navigate these difficult times.

Frankly, it’s hard to understand why Miami public schools chose for-profit K12 Inc. as it’s provider of remote instruction. Ten minutes or less on google would have turned up multiple articles about its terrible track record: high attrition, poor curriculum, low test scores, low graduation rates. NCAA strips accreditation for 24 schools using K12.

Wired tells the story in Miami, which recently severed its contract with K12.

ON THE MORNING of August 31, the first day of school, the 345,000 students in Miami-Dade County’s public schools fired up their computers expecting to see the faces of their teachers and classmates. Instead a scruffy little dog in banana-print pajamas appeared on their screens, alongside an error message. “Oh bananas!” read one message from the district’s online learning platform. “Too many people are online right now.”

A rudimentary cyberattack had crippled the servers of the nation’s fourth-largest school district, preventing its 392 schools from starting the year online. But even once the district had quelled the distributed denial-of-service attack and a local teen had been arrested for the crime, “Banana Dog” didn’t go away. If anything, the security breach merely obscured for a few days the crippling weaknesses in the district’s plan to move every aspect of its schooling—including a revamped curriculum—onto a platform that had only ever supported half as many students (and never all at once).

The platform was built by virtual charter school company K12, backed by one-time junk bond king Michael Milken and US secretary of education Betsy DeVos. Doug Levin, an education tech consultant, calls the decision to use K12 “atypical.” Another ed tech analyst, Phil Hill, calls it “weird.”

The rapid pivot to, and even faster pivot away from, K12 amounts to a case study in how not to deploy a massive new software project. It also illustrates how, in a few intense weeks of summer decisionmaking, a charter-school curriculum written by a for-profit company was chosen and installed, with little scrutiny, across one of the largest districts in the country.

Alberto Carvalho made the decision on his own, without consulting the board. They trusted him.

It was a disaster from the start.

K12’s software promised to replace all the other apps that schools had been using. “It was billed to teachers as the Rolls-Royce of software,” says Karla Hernandez-Mats, president of the United Teachers of Dade. The district and the company rushed to implement it. At the end of August, all of Miami-Dade’s educators sat through six days of K12 training—and that’s when they started to panic.

The teachers received demo logins to try out the platform, but they didn’t work, and even the trainers struggled to access it, West says. From 8 am until 3:30 pm each day, teachers took notes without once trying the software themselves. “The training was make-believe, it was so, so complex,” says one teacher. “Even our techie teachers were lost.” On Facebook, teachers shared GIFs of dumpster fires and steaming poop emojis in response to the experience.

“That’s a very complex, aggressive undertaking. And to do it with 345,000 students and in less than a month? There’s a lot of hubris involved.”

PHIL HILL, EDUCATION TECHNOLOGY ANALYST
Once the school year began in earnest, technical challenges persisted. Some students struggled to log in. Uploads could be excruciatingly slow. A particular sore point was the platform’s unreliable built-in video conferencing tool, called NewRow. It had issues with sound and screen-sharing. After about 15 minutes, the video quality started to degrade. It didn’t work on iPads or iPhones.

And then there was the built-in curriculum. K12 provided content, though teachers could change or supplement it. The lessons had been devised for K12’s virtual charter schools: for-profit schools that are entirely online and receive taxpayer money for every student enrolled. When some Miami-Dade teachers examined K12’s materials, they were horrified by what they found. One teacher came across a quiz for second graders with one question: “Did you enjoy this course?” Clicking “yes” allowed the student to ace the test. Several classes relied on K12’s paper workbooks, which the students didn’t receive. “One thing our educators complained about was, the rigor was not there. It was a very watered-down curriculum,” Hernandez-Mats says.

Please read the articles in Capital & Main’s series on teaching in the age of COVID-19, which is titled “The Year of Teaching Dangerously.” They spell out the frustrations and the learning curve that teachers and students have coped with in these uncertain times. Routines went out the window. Teachers had to improvise, to be creative and innovative, and to learn to live with unprecedented challenges.

They are linked here:

Elementary School Students’ Uneasy Year Zero” by Sasha Abramsky.

Are High Schoolers Zoning Out on Zoom?” by Sasha Abramsky.

Middle School Teachers Face a Fall Term of Uncertainty,” by Sasha Abramsky.

Teachers Discover that Distance Learning is a Dance,” by Larry Buhl.

From the last article:

Imagine you’ve been cast in your school’s spring musical – in this case, High School Musical — and you’ve been rehearsing for months, but the COVID crisis closes everything a day before the show opens. Andrea Calvo, a teacher at Orange County’s Ladera Vista Junior High School of the Arts in Fullerton, was directing the show and said the performers, as well as students and in her guitar and choir classes, have been emotionally “all over the place” since March.

“Some days [they are] depressed, some days happy. They went through all the emotions and the ups and downs that teachers did,” Calvo said. There was so much confusion on how online instruction would go, and how long it would last. “We were grieving but didn’t know what we were grieving.”

In July the Orange County School Board stepped into the national spotlight by declaring its schools, unlike Los Angeles County to the north and San Diego County to the south, would open for fall classes – and without masks or social distancing. It would prove to be a moot point, because later that week Gov. Gavin Newsom mandated that all schools on the state COVID-19 monitoring list – including Orange County’s – be closed until they are off California’s monitoring list for 14 consecutive days.

A week before the fall term started, Calvo said that teachers’ stress levels have lowered somewhat since the March scramble to take learning online. Now there’s a plan to reopen schools – when the school meets the state criteria and not before – if not an exact date.

“Not knowing is stressful,” Calvo says. “Nobody thinks distance learning went well in the spring. We were in crisis mode.”

After a few months of trial and error, and a summer to connect with other music teachers nationwide on distance learning best practices, Calvo says she’s better equipped to teach online. She adds that the students at her school all had iPads, so they were already better poised for distance learning than students in other schools. Not that it made the switch easy. Nothing in her 20 years of teaching could prepare Calvo for Zoom meetings with choir students who appeared, singing, on 60 little video boxes on a computer monitor.

“We did warmups, they recorded themselves, and I hosted,” she said. “For musical theater, I demonstrate movement [in real time] and they follow.” There were too many students to fit on one computer screen, but fortunately Calvo had help from a student teacher, who monitored a second screen.

But Calvo says Orange County adopted what it calls a “Do no harm” grading policy during the crisis. The idea is that you can’t hold students to the same standards while schools are closed. “Some students were at home with family and quarantining there. Some may be at home all alone caring for siblings, some had sick parents. We don’t know what students are going through.”

But Calvo and fellow teachers and staff do want some idea of what students are going through, and they try to make sure everything is all right. “We make spreadsheets to see, ‘Oh this student didn’t log in for three days. So in that case we call and ask if everything is okay.’”

Not giving up on its plan to force everyone back into classrooms during the pandemic, the O.C. Board of Education last month vowed to sue Gov. Newsom over school closures, claiming that online instruction had been a “failure.”

Distance learning for the long haul
Calvo said that attitudes of parents and county residents have shifted over the past five months as more have accepted that the pandemic will change learning for the foreseeable future. “In May, Orange County posted photos of what classes would look like, with PPE and distancing, and people said, ‘Oh, that looks awful.’ Now, more people want schools to look like that when they open.”

“As a teacher and a parent I think distance learning is safest,” says Calvo. “But that is from a place of privilege, because I know I am able to stay home. A lot of parent friends feel the same way but I recognize we may be in a bubble.”

Calvo assumes distance learning will be the norm well into the new school year. That’s a challenge for any school, but for hers, which has 30 arts electives, it’s an even bigger challenge to maintain its culture. “There is a lot of creativity here. [Distance learning] is a dance.”

Capital & Main published a five-part series on teaching during the pandemic. The series is called “The Year of Teaching Dangerously.”

Sasha Abramsky launched the series with an article about how schools in California were adapting to the pandemic.

Abramsky writes about the uncertainty, confusion, and conflict that accompanied the shutdown, as teachers were required to address new realities and to confront stark inequities.

In March, when Northern California counties issued stay-at-home orders, followed shortly afterwards by a statewide shutdown, schools scrambled to improvise a pivot to online “distance learning.” Some were able to make the change within days; others took many weeks. Grading and assessment systems were largely put to one side, at least in the public school system. And school districts rushed – and in some cases struggled – to purchase and distribute Chromebooks or iPads to students who didn’t have them; to set up Wi-Fi hotspots for families lacking home Internet access; to work out how to keep distributing food to children from low-income families who relied on school breakfasts and lunches; and to set up methods of teaching online that wouldn’t leave out students who had special education plans, or who were English language learners.

Bureaucratic systems fabled for their inflexibility were, suddenly, tasked with finding kluge-like solutions, at speed, to meet these extraordinary challenges. Inevitably, the result was hit or miss.

The articles in this week’s new series, “The Year of Teaching Dangerously,” reflect the extraordinary challenges facing elementary, middle and high schools as the pandemic continues to wreak havoc on daily life.

What began as a temporary shutdown evolved into a new way of life, for teachers, students, and parents.