Archives for category: Students

The New York Times has an interesting story today about the varied approaches to reopening schools in Europe. The common threads are testing, smaller classes, and social distancing.

NEUSTRELITZ, Germany — It was Lea Hammermeister’s first day back at school after almost two months at home and she was already preparing for a test.

Not a math or physics test. A coronavirus test — one she would administer herself.

Ms. Hammermeister, a 17-year-old high school junior, entered the tent erected in the schoolyard along with some classmates — all standing six feet apart — and picked up a test kit. She inserted the swab deep into her throat, gagging slightly as instructed, then closed and labeled the sample before returning to class.

It took less than three minutes. The results landed in her inbox overnight. A positive test would require staying home for two weeks. Ms. Hammermeister tested negative. She now wears a green sticker that allows her to move around the school without a mask — until the next test four days later.

“I was very relieved,” she said happily. In addition to feeling safe around her classmates and teachers, who all tested negative, she feels like less of a risk to her grandmother, who eats with the family every day.
The self-administered test at the high school in Neustrelitz, a small town in northern Germany, is one of the more intriguing efforts in Europe as countries embark on a giant experiment in how to reopen schools, which have been shuttered for weeks and which are now being radically transformed by strict hygiene and distancing rules.

Restarting schools is at the core of any plan to restart economies globally. If schools do not reopen, parents cannot go back to work. So how Germany and other countries that have led the way on many fronts handle this stage in the pandemic will provide an essential lesson for the rest of the world.

“Schools are the spine of our societies and economies,” said Henry Tesch, headmaster of the school in northern Germany that is piloting the student tests. “Without schools, parents can’t work and children are being robbed of precious learning time and, ultimately, a piece of their future.”

Countries across Asia have already been making the leap, experimenting with a variety of approaches. In China, students face temperature checks before they can enter schools, and cafeteria tables are outfitted with plastic dividers.

In Sydney, Australia, schools are opening in staggered stages, holding classes one day a week for a quarter of the students from each grade. Hong Kong and Japan are trying similar phased reopenings. In Taiwan, classes have been in session since late February, but assemblies have been canceled and students are ordered to wear masks.

For now, Europe is a patchwork of approaches and timetables — a vast laboratory for how to safely operate an institution that is central to any meaningful resumption of public life.

In Germany, which last week announced that it would reopen most aspects of its economy and allow all students back in coming weeks, class sizes have been cut in half. Hallways have become one-way systems. Breaks are staggered. Teachers wear masks and students are told to dress warmly because windows and doors are kept open for air circulation.

Germany is keeping a wary eye on the rate of virus spread as it moves to reopen.

Germany has been a leader in methodically slowing the spread of the virus and keeping the number of deaths relatively low. But that success is fragile, Chancellor Angela Merkel has warned.

On Saturday, the reproduction factor — the average number of people who get infected by every newly infected person — which the government wants to stay below 1, crept back up to 1.13.

With still so little known about the virus, many experts say mass testing is the only way to avoid the reopening of schools becoming a gamble.

The school in Neustrelitz is still an exception. But by offering everyone from teachers to students free tests twice a week, it is zeroing in on a central question haunting all countries at this stage in the pandemic: Just how infectious are children?

Evidence suggests that children are less likely to become seriously ill from Covid-19 than adults. But small numbers of children have become very sick and some have died, either from the respiratory failure that causes most adult deaths or from a newly recognized syndrome that causes acute inflammation in the heart.

An even greater blind spot is transmission. Children often do not have symptoms, making it less likely that they are tested and harder to see whether or how they spread the virus.

The prospect that schoolchildren, well-documented spreaders of the common flu, might also become super spreaders of the coronavirus, is the central dilemma for countries looking to reopen while avoiding a second wave of deadly infections. It means that school openings could pose real dangers.

“That’s my biggest fear,” said Prof. Michael Hoelscher, head of infectious diseases and tropical medicine at Munich University Hospital, who oversees a household study in Munich that hopes to shed light on transmission inside families.

Manfred Prenzel, a prominent educationalist and member of a panel advising the German government on its reopening, said children represent the most intractable aspect of this pandemic: asymptomatic transmission.

A study published in Germany last week by the country’s best-known virologist and coronavirus expert, found that infected children carried the same amount of the virus as adults, suggesting they might be as infectious as adults.

“In the current situation, we have to warn against an unlimited reopening of schools and nurseries,” concluded the study supervised by Christian Drosten at the Berlin-based Charite hospital.

The Robert Koch Institute of public health, Germany’s equivalent of the C.D.C. in the United States, found that children get infected in roughly equal proportions to adults.

Other studies, including two from China, suggest that children may be less contagious than adults, possibly because they often do not have the symptoms that help spread it, like a cough. Researchers in Iceland and the Netherlands did not identify a single case in which children brought the virus into their homes.

“The evidence is not yet conclusive,” said Richard Pebody, team leader for high threat pathogens at the World Health Organization. His advice on school openings: “Do it very gradually and monitor the ongoing epidemiology very closely.”

That is easier said than done.

For now, Europe’s school openings are as varied as its countries. Denmark opened primary schools and nurseries first, reasoning that young children are the least at risk and the most dependent on parents, who need to return to work. Germany allowed older children back to school first because they are better able to comply with rules on masks and distancing.

France is opening preschools on Monday before phasing in primary and middle school children later in the month. High school students will keep learning remotely for now.

Belgium, Greece and Austria are all resuming lessons for select grades in coming weeks. Sweden never closed its schools but has put in place distancing and hygiene rules. Some hard-hit countries like Spain and Italy are not confident enough to open schools until the fall.

One precondition for any country to open schools, epidemiologists say, is that community transmission rates be at manageable levels.

Early evidence from countries that have led the way in lowering community transmission and opening schools looks hopeful, said Flemming Konradsen, director of the School of Global Health at the University of Copenhagen.

Denmark, after letting younger children back more than three weeks ago, announced last week that the reproduction factor of the virus remained below 1. Older students will be allowed to return to school on Monday.

Germany, Europe’s biggest country, announced last week that all children would see the inside of a classroom again before the summer break after a two-week trial run in high schools had not stopped overall transmission numbers from falling. Officials hope the rise that was reported over the weekend was a blip instead of a sign that the loosening is already reviving the spread of the disease.

Many argue the benefits of opening schools — to economies, parents and the children themselves — far outweigh the costs so long as hygiene rules are put in place. Disadvantaged children in particular suffer from being out, said Sophie Luthe, a social worker at a Berlin high school.

“We have been losing children; they just drop off the radar,” Ms. Luthe said. “School is a control mechanism for everything from learning difficulties to child abuse.”

But teaching in the time of a pandemic comes with a host of challenges: In the high school in Neustrelitz, roughly a third of the teachers are out because they are older or at risk.

There are not enough classrooms to allow all 1,000 students to come to class and still keep six feet apart, which means at most a third can be in school at any one time. Teachers often shuttle between classrooms, teaching two groups at once.

At the same time, the virus is spurring innovation.

Teachers in Denmark have moved a lot of their teaching outdoors. German schools, long behind on digital learning, have seen their technology budgets increase overnight.

“Corona is exposing all our problems,” Mr. Tesch, the headmaster in Neustrelitz, said. “It’s an opportunity to rethink our schools and experiment.”

That’s why he did not hesitate when an old friend, who co-founded a local biotechnology company, offered the school free tests for a pilot. Mr. Tesch said he hoped the testing would allow him to increase class sizes safely and restart activities like sports and the orchestra.

Many experts advocate more testing in schools but so far it remains the exception. Luxembourg, tiny and wealthy, tested all 8,500 of its high school seniors before opening schools to them last Monday.

Some students and teachers in Neustrelitz were skeptical when they first heard that the school would offer voluntary biweekly tests.

“I didn’t want to do it at first,” recalled Kimberly Arndt. “I thought, ‘What if I test positive? I’d be pegged as the girl with corona.’”

The incentive to test is high: A negative result allows students to wash and disinfect hands in bathrooms where lines are much shorter. Corona-negative students do not have to wear masks, either.

Mr. Tesch, the headmaster, acknowledges that his school is able to test only because he was offered free kits. Normally they would cost around 40 euros, or $44, a piece. But the government, he said, should consider paying for similar testing at all schools.

“It’s a lot of money,” he said, “but it’s cheaper than shutting down your economy.”

Tom Ultican spent many years in Silicon Valley. Then he switched careers and became a teacher of advanced mathematics and physics. He frequently taught AP courses. He recently retired.

He explains in this article why he turned into a critic of AP classes. He engaged in a dialogue with Jay Mathews, the veteran education journalist at the Washington Post. Mathews creates a method for ranking high schools based in the proportion of students who took and passed AP courses.

Mathew’s methodology has now become the US News and World report ranking of “the best high schools” in the nation. Ultican shows why this list favors charter schools, which may have small numbers of graduates and high rates of attrition. It is biased against large high schools that educate all kinds of students, not just survivors.

It’s a great read.

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.

Steven Singer warns that public schools are facing deep cuts in state funding due to revenue losses caused by the pandemic.

Hey, it’s Teacher Appreciation Week, just the time to start mobilizing against cuts that could cause the layoff of nearly 300,000 teachers.

That means larger class sizes, fewer electives, cuts to the arts, to everything that is not tested.

Don’t expect Trump to stand up for teachers. He said famously in 2016 that he “loves the uneducated.” He wants more of them. They are the ones who march around with their weapons demanding freedom from public health measures to protect lives.

A society that is unwilling to invest in its children is sacrificing its future.

Andy Hargreaves consults with eight education ministries about education strategy, after a long career as professor and researcher at Boston College. He is currently working with Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia, Iceland, Finland, Ireland, Wales, Scotland and Uruguay. This article in The Conversation summarizes what schools have learned thus far in responding to the pandemic. What will schools look like when we someday emerge from the crisis?

One of my university projects connects and supports the education leaders of six countries and two Canadian provinces to advance humanitarian values, including in their responses to COVID-19.

From communication with these leaders, and drawing on my project team’s expertise in educational leadership and large-scale change, here are five big and lasting issues and opportunities that we anticipate will surface once school starts again.

Extra student support needed

Support will be needed for our weakest learners and most vulnerable children to settle down and catch up. (Shutterstock)
After weeks or months at home, students will have lost their teachers’ face-to-face support. Many young people will have experienced poverty and stress. They may have seen family members become ill, or worse. They might have had little chance to play outside.

Rates of domestic abuse and fights over custody arrangements have been on the rise during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Many children will have lost the habits that schools teach them — sitting in a circle, waiting your turn, knowing how to listen and co-operate. More than a few will exhibit the signs of post-traumatic stress.

A lot will have spent hours looking at smartphones or playing video games.

And the learning gaps will undoubtedly widen between children from poorer and better-off homes.

Although governments may be anticipating upcoming austerity, we’ll actually need additional resources. We’ll need counsellors, mental heath specialists and learning support teachers to help our weakest learners and most vulnerable children settle down and catch up.

Prioritizing well-being

Well-being will no longer be dismissed as a fad. Before this crisis, there were murmurings that student well-being was a distraction from proper learning basics. No more.

It’s now clear that without their teachers’ care and support it’s hard for many young people to stay well and focused. Being well, we’ll appreciate, isn’t an alternative to being successful. It’s an essential precondition for achievement, especially among our most vulnerable children.

More gratitude for teachers

Teacher Angie Stringer, with a ‘Stringer loves her students,’ at a car parade in March 2020, in Suwanee, Ga. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)
Teachers are among the unsung heroes of COVID-19: preparing resources and guidance for remote learning, dropping off school supplies in plastic boxes, connecting with kids and their parents to make sure they’re OK — even while many have kids of their own at home.

Parents are fast coming to appreciate everything their teachers do.

It’s hard enough when parents have two or three kids at home all day now. Many will surely realize just how hard it must be to have 25 to 30 or more in a class. Once the working world regains a degree of normality, we won’t take our essential workers for granted so much. Teachers will be among these.

Vocational skills and training

Trades before social distancing: The dignity and importance of vocational education, skills and training will be reflected in what we teach.

The pandemic has exposed the vulnerability of the global economy to collapses in essential supplies. So Canada will look to bring some of its essential manufacturing back home.

There will therefore have to be a related push for vocational skills and training, and higher status for schools and programs that provide it.

It’s now obvious how much we depend on and need to value all our essential workers like care home workers, construction workers and retail staff who serve us from behind plexi-glass. My widowed Mum raised three boys while she cleaned people’s homes, worked in local stores, and cared for other people’s children. There was nothing unskilled about what she did.

While no one quite agrees on what it means to be “working class,” what’s clear is it involves sectors of work, pay levels and a generational accumulation of cultural and social capital, dispositions and tastes.

When the regular economy starts up again, some people will feel proud to call themselves working class once more and insist on the financial and broader recognition that goes with it.

This also implies rethinking the gig economy and its impact on people’s lives, as well as what kinds of learning position people to survive tumultuous changes, experience mobility and build meaningful lives.

More and less tech for education

During COVID-19, there’s been a mad scramble to find technology to support learning at home. But in our ARC Education project network, the deputy minister of education in one provinces informed us that upwards of 30 per cent of students don’t have internet access or digital devices at home.

As money gets tighter, families on the edge of poverty may also have to choose between maintaining internet services or putting food on the table.

Student Jillian Reid, 9, works at a laptop in Cremona, Alta., in March 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Uruguay, one of the countries in our project, set up an arms’ length government innovation agency in 2007. Every child was given a personal device and an internet connection. This stimulated more than a third of the country’s schools to develop projects in which innovation and deeper learning, not just technology, are in the foreground.

In this pandemic, technology has supplemented teaching and teachers; not replaced them. During the first week of school closures in Uruguay, use of the agency’s platform increased by 1,100 per cent. Canada needs to develop a coherent and comprehensive national approach to tech connectivity and learning that will support all schools.

Conversely, there will also be less technology. We certainly need better digital resources. But anyone who thought that online learning can replace teachers will be rapidly disabused of the idea — especially parents stuck inside with children when kids can’t concentrate or self-regulate.

We’re in a long, dark tunnel at the moment. When we emerge, our challenge will be to not proceed exactly as before, but to reflect deeply on what we have experienced, and take a sharp turn in education and society for the better.

CNN reports that Trump urged the nation’s governors to give serious consideration to reopening schools.

Some of you might start thinking about school openings, because a lot of people are wanting to have school openings. It’s not a big subject, young children have done very well in this disaster that we’ve all gone through,” Trump told the governors on a teleconference call, according to audio of the call obtained by CNN.

He also asked the Governor of Nevada when he plans to reopen Las Vegas.

Trump owns a hotel in Las Vegas.

Carol Burris conducted a survey of teachers, parents, and principals on behalf of the Network for Public Education to learn about how this extended period of emergency remote learning is affecting them. The summary is reported in this article posted on Valerie Strauss’s Answer Sheet blog.

This period of emergency remote learning is taking an emotional toll on many.

Burris writes:

When I asked Bronx high school Principal Jeff Palladino to describe his day recently, he replied: “That is hard to do. I don’t know when it begins and when it ends.”

He starts his day, he said, by checking into Google Classroom to see if students turned in their work. “Many of our students live in crowded apartments with family members that are ill, so the only time it’s quiet enough for them to do their work is at night,” he said.

Jeff Palladino is the principal of Fannie Lou Hamer Freedom High School, located in the most impoverished congressional district in the United States. Sixty percent of Fannie Lou Hamer students are Latino, and 39 percent are black. Their parents are either workers declared essential or suffering from the worry of being laid off.

The Bronx community that the high school serves has been devastated by covid-19. “Since this began, our students are losing family members,” he said. “We lose two or three each week. We have lost an alumna. One of our students passed away, although we are not certain if the cause was covid-19. It is so hard because you cannot physically be there for them.” Palladino told me about a student whom they could not contact for two weeks. Both parents had the virus, and she was caring not only for them but for the rest of the family as well. Everyone was relieved when they got the message that she was okay and catching up on her work.

In a New York suburb in hard-hit Nassau County, South Side High School Principal John Murphy begins his workday at 7 a.m.

“The first thing we do is check-in with our at-risk kids — kids with emotional issues, health issues, kids who were at-risk before covid-19,” he said. “We call and make sure they are okay.”

His school has lost four parents to the disease to date. One teacher, who since has recovered, was hospitalized and on a ventilator.
School counselors follow up with students who are struggling, speaking with parents as well as kids.

Then Murphy moves on to supervising instruction by dropping in on online classes, with parent and teacher concerns, trouble-shooting software issues, and attending district meetings. Work moves into night and weekends, as crises pop up.
Murphy has high-praise for his teachers, who themselves are struggling to do the best they can. “Teachers and students miss each other desperately,” he said.

Meanwhile, Arthur Goldstein teaches his Francis Lewis High School students from his home on Long Island. His students are all beginning English Language learners. Some hide behind avatars in his virtual classroom. He worries about what is happening in their homes, which are often tiny apartments in Queens, New York, where covid-19 has taken a staggering toll.

In the Midwest, Fort Wayne elementary school teacher Eileen Doherty struggles to teach her inner-city students. She is dismayed by the differences between what her own children who attend a suburban school have when compared with those she teaches.

One mom explained to her why schoolwork was not her first priority: “I am just trying to feed my children.”

Between April 8 to April 13, 2020, the Network for Public Education surveyed teachers and educators across the United States to find out how they were responding to and coping with the emergency closing of school buildings due to covid-19. The survey was distributed to our mailing list of 350,000, shared online via social media, and then subsequently shared by teacher, administrator, and family groups.

Here’s who responded: 7,249 public school teachers, 5,536 public school parents, and 354 public school administrators responded.

About half of the educator respondents reported that their own children are remotely learning, therefore it is possible that approximately half of the parent respondents are educators themselves.

Responses came from every state.
In the educator surveys, urban, suburban, small city and rural districts were represented in proportions similar to the United States at large.

Suburban parents were over-represented in the parent survey; however, 33 percent of respondents lived in urban centers or small cities. A majority of teachers (56 percent) taught in schools in which over half of the students received free or reduced-price lunch. Thirty percent taught in schools where the proportion of low socio-economic status students exceeded 80 percent.

In addition to the surveys, we conducted nine in-depth interviews with educators and parents from around the country to gain insights into emergency remote learning during the covid-19 pandemic.

What follows is an account of what we found. You can find all three surveys and their results here.

A tough adjustment 

Only 19 percent of teachers reported having completely adjusted; over 50 percent said their adjustment was difficult, and nearly 31 percent were, at the time of their response to the survey, still struggling to adjust. While 41 percent of parents reported that their child had adjusted and was able to complete assignments, 22 percent reported that their child was still struggling to adjust.

Emily Sawyer is the mother of five in Austin, Texas. Each of her children has reacted differently; each has his or her own adjustment challenges. Ironically, the child she worries about the most is her son who has transitioned the best. “He is the one who needs the most socialization that physical school attendance provides.” She worries about his transition back to his brick and mortar school.

The difficulty of managing multiple children in a remote learning environment was echoed by Khanh-Lien Banko, who has four children in public schools in Alachua County, Florida. Both she and her husband are juggling to keep their children on task, while working remotely from home.
“We all have our devices in our home; however, it is still very, very difficult. Distance learning for middle-schoolers is probably the worst possible choice,” she said with a laugh.

The emotional toll 

Over 80 percent of parents reported that their child misses his/her classmates, and over 60 percent reported they miss their teacher. Fifty-eight percent of parents told us their child misses sports and extracurricular activities, and 39 percent said he or she regularly expresses feelings of loneliness. Almost 10 percent — 9.5 percent — said their child prefers remote learning to classroom learning. Reactions were generally consistent across grade levels.

Teachers and administrators were asked to select adjectives that described how they were feeling regarding distance instruction. Both administrators (43 percent) and teachers (57 percent) most frequently chose “overwhelmed.” Large shares of both groups also chose “anxious” and “struggling.”
While 37.5 percent of administrators felt supported, only 29 percent of teachers chose that adjective as a descriptor. Eight percent of teachers and 11 percent of administrators were “enthusiastic” about distance learning.
For some children, attending school at home, coupled with the uncertainty about when they will return, has been traumatic.

Khanh-Lien Banko’s youngest son “somehow got it in his head that he was going back in two weeks.”
”When he found out he was not, he was heartbroken., she said. “All of our children are grieving and miss going to school.”

New York City teacher Gary Rubinstein told me his son “has wonderful teachers who create a social, highly interactive classroom in which he thrives.” Absent the support provided by teachers and friends, his young son is struggling both academically and emotionally.

Superintendent Joe Roy of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, said he is proud of his teachers who are providing instruction; still, remote learning cannot begin to replace all of the socio-emotional benefits that learning with others offers.

He is acutely aware of the stress his families are going through as well. One father, a truck driver whose wife is a nurse, called to talk about how overwhelming it is as his family tries to balance work, health, and his children’s schoolwork. Roy’s message to his community is simple and straightforward: “Compassion before curriculum; grace before grades.” Roy uses self-produced videos to reassure his community, provide emotional support, and keep them informed.

Face-to-face contact, virtually

Sixty-four percent of teachers told us that they video-conference with their students at least once a week — 38 percent conference with students several times a week.

Conferencing rates were relatively stable across school type with one exception—rural teachers were less likely to video conference (60 percent) than colleagues in city and suburban centers.

Although everyone we interviewed highly valued visual contact via technology, there were concerns regarding privacy issues, especially in the context of streamed classroom instruction.

“Kids are used to saying whatever they want, whenever they want on social media, and there is a fear, especially among students who have been bullied, that harassment will take place in online classrooms — including harassment that can be recorded and then shared,” said Principal Murphy.
Incidences of classrooms being “crashed” by non-students, other family members being seen on camera, and even an instance when a parent recorded and critiqued a lesson, have been posted on administrator email lists, giving schools pause when it comes to the use of live, online lessons.

Online live classroom management can also be more difficult. Goldstein, the teacher on Long Island, lamented that he could not control student behavior online the way he can in his classroom, in which he can cajole reluctant learners to participate.
“When they hide behind avatars it is difficult to see if they are engaged or lying in bed during class,” he said. “But I have to respect their privacy, so I feel I have no right to tell them to come out from behind the avatar.”

Dual roles for teachers

Rubinstein teaches mathematics at New York City’s elite Stuyvesant High School. At the same time, he is taking care of two school-age children, one of whom has a learning disability.
Being isolated has taken a toll on his son, and hours of effort are required to help him do his work. He walked me through his exhausting daily schedule, explaining how he divides his time supporting his children and teaching his students. Rubinstein said he carefully crafts videos that students can watch on demand, posts assignments, and teaches a live class every day.

According to our survey, 76 percent of teachers work a minimum of five hours a day, with 20 percent logging in more than nine hours a day. Eighty-eight percent of administrators were working five or more hours a day, with more than 32 percent exceeding a nine-hour work day.

Half of all teacher and administrator respondents have school-age children at home.

The tools and online platforms that teachers and schools are using vary. Seventy-two percent of all teachers email students. Sixty-four percent use Google Classroom, and 32 percent use Google Meet to create classroom groups. Zoom, which has been hit with privacy and intrusion concerns, is also a frequently used platform for conferencing and instruction (40 percent).

Whatever the platform, the delivery of instruction is challenging, educators say.

Murphy of South Side High School quickly learned that trying to keep up the pace of the in-school curriculum is an impossibility. “Learning a topic takes twice as long online.”
Teachers and students were burning out. “I finally had to tell them to slow down,” he said.
Not only were his teachers and students overloading, so were the online platforms they were using. “Once schools on the West Coast came online, everything would slow to a crawl. Students became frustrated as they futilely attempted to submit their work,” he said.

Because Fannie Lou Hamer Freedom High School is a performance-based assessment school, free from the regulations that demand adherence to the New York State Regents curriculum, the transition to remote instruction has been easier.

“Project-based learning is the centerpiece of our instruction,” Palladino said. “A test is not our endpoint, so our work in many ways has not changed. Teachers do not have to redo the curriculum.”
The school will have its cumulative portfolio conferences virtually.

“Our teachers have been able to do office hours, small group conferencing, and one-on-one conferencing to support student work. It is a good match for what we do.”
Still, Palladino said, online learning is not optimal or a long-term strategy for the school. “What keeps remote learning going for us are the relationships we built before the building closed,” he said.

Fannie Lou Hamer is a full-service community school, with an 11-year relationship with The Children’s Aid Society.

Relationships with community organizations that continue to support students, as well as strong advisory groups, have helped keep afloat instruction in a community devastated by covid-19.
Palladino said he also worries that his staff is overly concerned about students falling behind. “My teachers are entirely too hard on themselves. I have to tell them not to worry,” he said. ” We will figure all of this out.”

Connectivity and instruction

One of the greatest challenges for schools in implementing distance learning is providing access to both devices and connectivity.

According to our survey, only 35 percent of administrators believe that all of their students have their own laptop or a tablet. Sixty-four percent of administrators reported some device distribution to fill the technology gap. Sixteen percent indicated that they had distributed laptops or tablets to all students before the covid-19 crisis began.

Fannie Lou Hamer Freedom High School modified and distributed 300 Chromebooks from their school supply. When 30 students were unable to pick them up, Palladino drove into the Bronx and distributed the laptops from his car window, he said. The school also distributed hot spots.
“Without connectivity, the laptop is just a paperweight,” he said.

Students in Grades 8-12 in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, had Chromebooks, but students in Grades K-7 did not. Roy loaned school-based laptops to families, with priority going to those who have no laptops at all.

In the Duarte Unified School District in California, where 78 percent of all students receive free or reduced-price lunch, middle and high school students already had a school-issued laptop, but elementary students did not.
Heather Messner, teacher and union president, said school-based laptops are being given out, and “hot-spots” are distributed to families without internet services. In addition, Duarte teachers create paper learning packets, which school principals copy and distribute at both food-distribution centers and schools, trying to leave no child without instruction.

In some places, devices and connectivity shortages are particularly severe.

Fort Wayne, Indiana teacher Eileen Doherty told us, “Some of my students wait for their mother to come home so that they can access her phone to do the work. About 20 percent of my students come to my class on Zoom each day, and it is not even the same 20 percent.”

Getting laptops to seniors who need them for credit recovery for graduation has been the first priority in Fort Wayne, she said.

Schools as centers of community

Nearly 95 percent of all school administrators reported that their school(s) were engaging in the distribution of food.

Roy runs eight support sites in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania — seven from his schools, and one in a low-income housing center. The sites distribute food at the rate of 3,000 meals a day to the families of public, charter, and parochial school students.

According to Florida parent and PTA advocate, Khanh-Lien Banko, the district’s food service is providing 20,000 meals a day at 76 locations.

Fannie Lou Hamer distributes “grab and go” breakfasts and lunches to any community member who walks through the door.

But schools are doing far more than just distributing food to the public. They are providing emotional support services as well as making connections between families and social services.
There is a worry about families who have slipped through the cracks.

Banko, who is a leader of the PTA in Florida and running for the school board in Alachua County, told us that despite outreach emails and phone calls, it has not been possible to contact every family. “School faculty and staff are now going door to door to check on kids and families in accordance with safety guidelines,” she said.

The first priority

Fifty-five percent of teachers and 59 percent of administrators believed that students are likely to fall academically behind. Parents are more optimistic — only 27 percent thought their child would lag academically, likely a reflection of the large share of teacher-parents who took the survey. Large proportions of all three surveyed groups believed that they could not come to a judgment regarding student progress at this time (34 percent of teachers, 30 of administrators of administrators, 29 percent of parents.)

In every interview, student academic performance came second to worry about the physical and emotional health of children.

Rubinstein said he worried about the health and safety of his predominantly Asian-American students, many of whom live in small, multi-generational apartments in Queens County of New York City. Not only are they living in one of the hardest-hit places in America, he told me, but they are also dealing with bias stemming from the origins of the disease.

Texas parent Emily Sawyer said she worried the most for the black and brown children of Austin, who had fewer resources and support than her five children. And the inability to physically see and support every child through the pandemic weighed deeply on everyone’s mind.

In an opinion piece in The Washington Post, Michael Petrilli, president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a conservative non-profit think-tank, suggested that one solution to academic loss was to have large shares of students, especially those in Title I Schools, repeat their present grade. I asked interviewees what they thought of that idea.
All strongly disagreed, saying it was an ineffective and punitive measure.

Goldstein, on Long Island, said, “That is heartless and cruel to punish kids for something they can’t control. We are through 70 percent of the school year … That is saying to kids. ‘You came for nothing.’”
Goldstein and a team of teachers from his school proposed a grading policy for students that would “do no harm,” with teachers not assigning grades lower than the grade the student had achieved when the school building closed.

In states further south and west of the New York metropolitan area, schools were even closer to the end of the year. Fort Wayne teacher Doherty noted that most of April would have been devoted to prepping for and taking state-wide tests, with schools then closing in May.

Banko told us there was one upside to remote learning. Since state tests were canceled, the assignments students were being given were far more interesting than the usual spring test prep. “I am seeing more creativity and collaboration than I have seen in years,” she said.

Once again, Peter Greene has done us a great favor by reading a tedious billionaire-funded report that tries to prove what we know to be absurd: that the students and teachers of these United States really really need standardized testing. Having taught for 39 years, Peter knows this is hogwash.

Somehow, the United States became the most prosperous nation in the world long before the Big Standardized Tests we’re mandated by federal law in 2001. Nearly 20 years of the BS Tests, billions paid to testing corporations, and what is there to show for all this time, money, and effort: NAEP scores in reading and math have been flat for at least a decade, history and geography scores have declined, and students have lost time for recess, play, the arts, and whatever else is not tested.

It bears mentioning that no high-performing nation in the world tests all children every year from grades 3-8 as we do.

The report that Greene reviews and found wanting was produced by a DC organization called FutureEd, which wants to preserve the status quo created by No Child Left Behind.

Greene writes:

Defending the Future of the Big Standardized Test

What has happened to our beloved Big Standardized Test? Why do people keep picking on it? And can we lift it back up to its hallowed heights of the past? I have a report sitting in one of my tabs here that wants to answer those questions, yet somehow falls short. It’s FutureEd’s report The Big Test, and it is yet another attempt to repackage reformster alternate earth history. It’s not super long, but I’ve read it so that you don’t have to. Thank goodness I took my blood pressure meds today. Buckle up and let’s go.

Who Are These People?

FutureEd is a project of the McCourt School of Public Policy at Georgetown University. It was founded by Thomas Toch, whose previous work included some edu-flavored thinky tanks and executive director of Independent Education, a private school network in DC, and an editor at US News. He is one more self-declared education policy expert who has apparently never taught in a K-12 classroom.

FutureEd launched a few years back, with declarations of independence and lack of bias; one more entry in the “new conversation” pageant. But its independence was all that one can expect from a group funded by the City Fund, the Waltons, and Bill and Melinda Gates. Their senior fellows are drawn from 50CAN, Bridge International Academies, Education Trust, the National Association of Charter School Authorizers, Alliance for Excellent Education, and NewSchools Venture Fund. It’s a whole blooming field of Reformsters without any traditional public education advocates anywhere in sight.


Andy Hargreaves recently retired from his position at Boston College, where he won international acclaim for his work supporting teachers and promoting excellence and equity in schooling. He has been a leader in researching and disseminating strategies for educational effectiveness.
In this article that was published on Valerie Strauss’s Answer Sheet blog in the Washington Post, Hargreaves offers sound advice to parents who are helping their children at home during the pandemic crisis.

He writes:

Educators are doing extraordinary things in the face of the coronavirus crisis. They are our invisible heroes, supporting health services and reinventing the way they provide education. They are achieving miracles in the most challenging circumstances.

I work with education ministers, secretaries of education and teacher-leaders around the globe (as president of the ARC Education Project), and in the continuous white-water world we are all navigating at the moment, it’s just not possible to see everything ourselves all at once, especially what’s ahead.

So here are 19 things for covid-19 that may have been overlooked by school districts and politicians in the rush to do the right thing by students and teachers.

Some will surely need to be revised as the crisis develops, and the list by no means covers everything. I’m in the white water, too, so please bear with me.

1. Don’t send parents heaps of worksheets.

Instead, encourage and support them to learn with what they have available — kitchens, gardens, paper, etc. Give them ideas on how to do this. The most important thing in the next two months is not keeping up, step-by-step, with a prescribed curriculum, but keeping kids engaged with learning and the idea of learning.

2. Treasure the fact that some kids are escaping from hours of test preparation each day.

This could be a chance to engage in wider learning, make up stories, memorize epic poems, sing karaoke with YouTube, make things, play outside, write letters (on paper) to grandparents, or friends they can’t have playdates or get-togethers with, etc. In other words, for these kids, this could now be a time for more learning, rather than less. They can try to learn a new skill — juggle, play a musical instrument, pick up a modern or classical language, knit, skip, bake, garden (including indoor plants), help parents hang pictures and fix things in the house. I’m at the end of two weeks of self-isolation, and I’ve just bought a set of clubs for juggling. Getting on to another level on a video game isn’t the best way for teenagers to occupy themselves. Starting another interest while they have time will not only occupy them now, it will impress their friends later.

3. Make covid-19 an opportunity for learning and not just an interruption of it.

Help parents to do science experiments with soap so kids can understand how it kills covid-19. Teach them all about germs. When you can make coronavirus an opportunity for learning and not just an obstruction to it, loads of work can be done in math with graphs, probabilities and equations of how it spreads under different conditions. Kids can study the history of polio, smallpox and the Spanish flu (including the fact that it started in Kansas).

Geography can examine the patterns of covid-19 spread and create hypotheses explaining those patterns. Social studies can look at the relationship between government anti-covid-19 measures and protecting the principles of democracy. Ethics and religion electives can consider the principles that should guide decisions about who should live or die, or get treatment first, when resources are scarce.

4. Distinguish between online learning and on-screen learning.

Online may sometimes be continuous on-screen interaction — a math game, or Minecraft, for example. But it could also be setting up an activity involving making collages from pasta, or models from mud, or doing origami, or constructing a robot from Lego. In fact, this is better viewed as distance learning. I started my university career at the Open University in England when it was the first distance learning institution in the world. We wrote materials by building in tasks and activities (think workbooks delivered to kids), and we also made TV programs on the BBC. (The BBC has now launched a whole new schedule specifically for kids in this crisis). Not all online learning is screen learning, and not all distance learning needs to be online.

5. Get materials to parents who don’t have them.

For some, this means digital tablets. But for many other families with few resources and no Internet connections, this could also mean pencils, coloring pens, Play-Doh, glue, paper, Scotch tape, books, magazines, etc. Some school districts are doing things like having teachers deliver materials in plastic boxes on families’ doorsteps, or having school bus drivers drop off stashes of materials instead.

6. Develop strategies for children who are just “above the line.”

These are children who are not vulnerable enough to have a formal special education identification, but are in the group just above. They are often most at risk as they are not explicitly targeted and don’t usually qualify for a lot of extra support. Such children may have parents who can’t or don’t read, parents whose first language is not English, separated parents in conflict, or families that live in cramped spaces with no room for outdoor play.

7. Concentrate teacher resources and time on children who need it most.

Many middle-class parents will be able to self-organize learning at home with some online help. As a middle-class grandparent for example, I can support my grandchildren and their parents with knowledge of where resources and platforms are, which ones are most relevant, and how to navigate them and make specific selections once they find the website. But many people don’t have this knowledge. So instead of always trying to do whole classes online, concentrate disproportionate amounts of teacher instructional time and support on smaller numbers of high-risk children who are struggling learners.

8. Target support for students with learning and emotional difficulties.

This can happen by teachers and special education resource teachers calling parents and students one-to-one, emailing, going through individual education plans, maintaining personal relationships by Skype or other platforms where possible (vital with vulnerable children), giving structured feedback on work done online (it can be handwritten, colored or constructed, then photographed on a smartphone and sent back where possible) to ensure these students don’t struggle more than they need to and don’t fall behind.

9. Think about how communications can be inclusive of all kinds of students and their families.

Canadian TV had an item on how parents are dealing with learning at home — the family was a mixed-race lesbian couple with a single child. Include students and student voice in communications on national TV — Norway, Canada and New Zealand have done this especially well. Don’t just pitch to the same median middle-class white students all the time. This is a time when our values come alive. Being inclusive in our communications isn’t just something we should do when things are going well and we have extra time, but it also should define how and to whom we communicate, all the time, unless it creates excessive delay regarding the urgency of the message itself.

10. Consider an early, phased start to the new school year.

Children will have had a long time away from classroom routines. Many will have forgotten how to line up, sit in a circle, listen to others and wait their turn. Some will have spent months in close quarters with parents and siblings plunged into poverty, hardship and stress. They will have had fewer learning supports than modal middle-class families. So, school may need to start a bit earlier in the calendar. Some “normal” professional development days may need to be sacrificed and the rest redirected to dealing practically with the issues of the vulnerable and the left behind. Students who are known to be more vulnerable (through contacts that teachers will have kept with families over the isolation period) may need to start school before the rest — as often happens when phasing in arrivals in kindergarten or junior-kindergarten. This will be hard on teachers, but for a few months they may need to be as turbocharged in their professional approach as health workers have had to be, because this will save a lot of disruption later on.

11. Promote positive family and friendship relationships

Part of being at school is feeling safe and being cared for. Socio-emotional learning is definitely looking like a need that’s fundamental right now; not an indulgent frill. The most important thing in stressed-out families, at this time, more than rushing through planned lessons, is making children feel loved, safe and reassured. So, communicate the importance of simply spending time with kids for part of the day, hugging them, talking and listening to them, enjoying some moments of silliness and laughter, and doing things together like cooking or reading. Remind parents and other caretakers about this on a regular basis. Help children communicate with their friends by writing them a postcard, Skyping or face-timing their grandparents and showing them what they’ve been doing, etc. Now, more than ever, kids, especially younger vulnerable kids with emotional or learning difficulties who are in stressed-out families, need to see and hear their teachers as part of their distance experience. Be empathetic about and supportive toward how parents themselves are feeling and about what they have to cope with, too. Understand they may be dealing with family illnesses, their own work demands, loss of income and other problems. Let them know it’s also okay to lower their standards a bit for their kids sometimes in terms of tidiness and other things.

12. Value play.

Play, especially outdoor play in the garden or the driveway (if families have them), is always a vital part of learning — a way to develop the imagination, engage in conversation, build relationships with others or work through anxieties. During nature study, for example, my grandchildren have named natural objects as their friends — like sticky and buddy — cute, of course, but also a possible sign they are missing their friends. Many education systems in the past few years have tended to play down “play” in favor of more work, test preparation and downloading serious study to younger and younger age groups. Older kids have also been spending more and more time indoors on their smartphones in a world where even before the crisis, that was already too much. This is actually an opportunity to reverse the cycle for some kids at least — to let them make up their own activities with perhaps just a few materials thrown their way, like balls of wool, or pebbles, or cardboard boxes, to get them started. Play can work for teenagers, too — singing online together, making up ridiculous skits, building things from junk around the house, and so on. More play, less work, might actually be a good direction to take in these unique circumstances.

13. Protect teacher well-being.

Teachers are under stress too. They’ll be worrying about how to prepare and deliver lessons at a distance. They’ll be anxious about those kids for whom home is not usually a safe haven. They’ll be uncertain sometimes about how much initiative they can take in communicating with homes and families without guidance from principals, school districts, governments and their unions, or without getting sued for failing to provide for every student equally. And this guidance may not always be clear or consistent. They’ll be working at full tilt but not always sure about the impact of what they are doing. They’ll be missing their kids and their colleagues. And many will be looking after kids of their own at home. Unlike health workers whose heroic efforts are publicly very visible, what they’re doing is less visible, and the public may start to wonder about and criticize what they’re actually (not) doing. So, supporting teachers now is critical — providing counseling to teachers who are stressed, anxious and depressed; ensuring there are virtual forums for teachers to collaborate — not just to plan and prepare but also to provide moral support; and communicating clearly, accessibly and transparently what it is that teachers are doing for parents and kids rather than disguising everything with bureaucratic edu-speak.

14. Underline the value of expertise.

This crisis has elevated the importance of expertise in the public imagination. After years when government has cast aspersions on professional expertise in favor of popular opinion and common sense, state and federal leaders are having public health professionals stand alongside them to explain and legitimize scientific expertise as a basis for decision-making. We need to ensure the same thing happens for teaching and learning. Many parents and other caretakers will do a heroic job with learning at home in the coming weeks and months. The task of teachers and leaders is to support and guide what parents are now doing based on the science and expertise of effective learning, and to communicate this when it is asked for and needed, clearly, without talking down to people. Teachers must be confident in their own professional expertise, share that collaboratively with other teachers to strengthen that confidence, and communicate it clearly to others.

15. Keep up collaborative professionalism

Working together collaboratively is always important and never more so than now. Try to ensure that time is built in for professional collaboration, department planning, learning teams and so on within the school. Also leverage networks of ideas and support across schools at this time, especially where those networks already exist. There will be a temptation to think there’s no time to collaborate with adults or engage in existing networks because everyone is too busy churning out stuff for their kids. The role of all kinds of leadership here is not to abandon networks and meetings but to ensure they are used to provide the best possible learning and caring at a distance for all students in these unprecedented circumstances.

16. Promote public professional leadership.

Many parents are unsure and unclear about so many issues concerning their children now. Will there be quality support, ideas and activities for them to help their children with? How long will this go on? Will their teenagers be able to graduate and get to college? Will their children fall behind in their reading, their mathematics and other areas? Many governments have provided excellent public communication about health and the economy, standing alongside experts in those fields as they do so. The same needs to happen in education — regular public announcements about education, and learning at home, and about what teachers are and will be doing. These announcements need to be made by state and federal leaders standing together with accredited education professionals from teacher unions, boards of professional standards, leadership organizations, and so on.

17. Applaud our educators.

Within a couple of weeks, after the initial scramble to get resources up and make connections with families, parents and the public will start to understand the many extra miles teachers have been going during lockdown — sometimes literally, door to door to give out and collect resources and paper — to keep their kids learning, engaged and well. Parents at home trying to fulfill their demanding job responsibilities while their kids run riot in the background will be figuring out pretty fast that online learning is often overrated, that it can’t keep the undivided attention of kids unable to self-regulate, or concentrate, and that those darned teachers go the extra mile all the time and deserve every cent they make — and then some. So by the time we hit May 1, the day the international community celebrates the value of people’s labor, let’s open our windows, and lean off our balconies, to give three cheers and three minutes of applause for all our teachers — in districts and charters, schools and colleges, public and private — for all the work they’ve been doing for all our students and their families.

18. Beware: perfect is the enemy of good.

One of my favorite books on school leadership is “Imperfect Leadership” by Steve Munby. Imperfect leadership, Munby says, is not the leadership of superheroes. It’s “messy leadership, trial and error leadership, butterflies in the stomach leadership.” It’s about stepping up to lead even when you feel completely out of your depth. It’s about being unafraid to admit you don’t know what to do sometimes. And it’s about being ever ready to ask for others’ help. In these times that are without parallel, imperfect leadership doesn’t and can’t wait until everything is perfectly mapped out, where all risks have been eliminated, and every student is guaranteed equal access to the same curriculum. Perfect is the enemy of good. Educators will make some mistakes right now. They won’t be perfect with everybody, all the time. But that is better than waiting for the perfect plan, holding off and doing nothing at all until it’s ready.

19. Let teachers take the lead.

In the early days of the pandemic, there has been a lot of unavoidable confusion about what kinds of online platforms and resources can be set up for all teachers to use in districts or entire state systems. This can be frustrating for teachers and for parents and kids, too. Let’s not show the worst face of school district and national bureaucracies. Let’s not have the teacher wait for the principal, and the principal for the state department, before anything gets done, in those outdated hierarchies of top-down control. Teachers need to be allowed to be the heroes of learning, like our health workers are being the heroes of combating infectious disease. Teachers are professionals. They know where they are in the curriculum. They know their kids, what point each of them is at, which ones have greater needs than others. So with just a few basic guidelines — keep kids learning and interested in learning, actively care for and support them, and communicate with them personally, individually and collectively, as often as possible — unleash teachers as professionals to use whatever platforms they can to get things started and get connected as fast as possible. And then give them ways to connect with each other as colleagues as they move forward together.

Don’t make teachers wait. Let them go, go, go.

The Boston Globe interviewed parents and discovered a groundswell of exhaustion and frustration caused by the closure of schools and their new roles at home. I don’t think these parents will want more of the same when school reopens. The kids and their parents will be thrilled to see their teachers and classmates again when that happy day arrives.

It was music class that finally drove Melissa Mawn over the edge.

She was already dutifully arranging her quarantine workdays around the expectations of her three children’s math, English, and science teachers, surrendering her work station to their Zoom meetings.

Now, the music teacher was proposing a “fun activity” and Mawn’s thoughts immediately turned to the recorder — the piercing woodwind instrument that her twin 10-year-old boys are learning to play this year.

“I mean, we’re stuck here in the house, and I cannot have recorder class for an hour,” said Mawn, who is working full time from the Wilmington home she shares with her three children, her husband, and her in-laws.

“We have to live here and, like, not kill each other,” said Mawn, “and the recorder is definitely going to knock one of us over the edge.”

Mark the fourth week of school closures as the moment when parents began to crack. The state’s experiment in home schooling may have been interesting for a week or two, but as social media rants reveal, many parents are now fed up. Managing their children and their anxieties amid a global pandemic, and working from home if they still have jobs, some parents have begun resisting the deluge of demands coming from their children’s teachers.

“It’s just overwhelming. Everybody’s overwhelmed,” said Mawn, who aired her frustrations last week on a Facebook page for Wilmington residents.

“I understand a love for the arts but in a state of emergency, I can’t teach music and gym,” she wrote. “My children can play outside, in their own backyard or ride their own bikes in our driveway. That will have to count for gym.”

Around the same time, Sarah Parcak, a renowned archeologist from Maine, was drafting a lengthy, expletive-filled Twitter thread reiterating what she’d already told her son’s teacher: First grade was officially over for the year.

“We cannot cope with this insanity,” Parcak wrote. “Survival and protecting his well being come first.”

The parent rebellion is not at all fun for teachers, who have found themselves in a no-win situation since schools were closed in mid-March. First, they were hounded by some hard-charging parents who expected more daily structure and an immediate and effortless switch to online instruction. Teachers had to quickly develop new coursework and ways of presenting it, and jet into families’ living rooms via video conferencing, where their every move would be scrutinized.

Now, with teachers more regularly holding classes online, parents are pushing back, saying the expectations are unmanageable — particularly for younger children who can’t handle the technology on their own and need a parent by their side.

One mother reported that her Dorchester nursery school is offering twice-a-day Zoom meetings for her toddler and preschooler — a gesture that she appreciates but that she considers more trouble than it’s worth.

The first time they participated, she said, “it was like a nightmare.” The 4-year-old did not understand: “Why can’t they hear me? Why can’t I talk?” she said. When the girl did get time to speak, she grew shy and clammed up.

“And five minutes later she wants to do it and the Zoom call is over and then she’s hysterical,” the woman said.

One irony is that many parents have been schooled to limit young children’s screen times; now they’re being steered to it by preschool teachers.

It feels like some weird science fiction story, said the Dorchester mother

The story them goes on to quote one parent at length, who happens to be the leader of the Walton-funded Massachusetts Parents Union. she is not exactly typical because the MPU pays her a salary of $172,500 to advocate for charter schools and against teachers’ unions. Professor Maurice Cunningham, a specialist in dark money who is featured in SLAYING GOLIATH, has the story and the tax returns here.