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Pawan Dhingra, a Professor of American Studies at Amherst College, writes about what he calls “hyper education,” the stress that parents apply to get their children to become high achievers. In this article, he writes about the phenomenon of Indian American students dominating spelling bees.

He begins:

Succeeding in the Spelling Bee for Indian Americans is more than a family affair

Growing up in the 1970s and 1980s, my parents insisted on me receiving good grades in school. They were eligible to immigrate from India in large part due to their advanced educational attainment, which helped earn them work visas. As long as I attained good grades, they did not worry about what activities I chose after-school. If I was a child today, that would probably be very different. I would likely be enrolled in some after-school scholastic activity to supplement my schoolwork. And as a family of Indian origin, there is a good chance that would have been a spelling bee or some other academic competition.

Over the past 20 years, Indian Americans have come to dominate the Scripps National Spelling Bee. The last Scripps Bee without an Indian American champion was 2007. In 2019, the last time a Scripps Bee was held, there were eight co-champions, seven of whom were Indian American. There is even a documentary on this trend, Spelling the Dream. What’s more, they have over-achieved in National Geography Bees, MATHCOUNTS, and other academic competitions.

I spent years with families engaged in spelling bees, math competitions, and other forms of after-school academics for my book, Hyper Education: Why Good Schools, Good Grades, and Good Behavior Are Not Enough. In part, I explain why Indian Americans have come to dominate them, which has to do with their own ethnic circuits of academic competitions, their command of the English knowledge, the family commitment of support and time, and the financial resources necessary to prepare.

Why care about academics in the first place?

But there is a more fundamental question I focus on, which is what motivates Indian Americans’ and others’ interest in after-school academics (e.g. learning centers, competitions) in the first place? Most other parents have their young children in sports, the arts, religious, or civic extracurricular activities. Indian immigrant parents do all of these as well. But they also put their children in extracurricular academics and, in particular, competitive ones.

As immigrant minorities, parents believed college entry would depend on having an undeniably strong academic record to compensate for a lack of networks, college legacy status, or athletic recruitment. They worried about being held to a higher standard in college admissions as Asian Americans. As one father told me, “The college admission system is that we need to be one step up. From what I’ve read, we have to have 130 points above others. That is how admissions are determined. Spelling bee will help with the SAT.”

Parents were not narrowly focused on spelling as how to boost their children’s competitiveness. I shared with a mother at a bee that my son enjoyed U.S. history but was not much into spelling. She excitedly shared that there is a national history bee I should enroll him in. The important point was to enroll the child into something academic.

It is indeed interesting to wonder why some immigrants are super strivers, others are not. Some see education as a route to success, others do not. In my own family, with an immigrant mother and eight children, we ran the gamut. I was focused on education, along with at least one other, but most were not.

K.A. Dilday is a parent and journalist who lives in Central Harlem.

She wrote critically about efforts to integrate the selective high schools. Putting your child into an academic pressure-cooker is the wrong definition of success, she believes. She wants something better for her child.

She writes:

This weekend, nearly 30,000 eighth graders in New York City will take the Specialized High School Admission test (SHSAT). About 5,000 of them will score high enough to get an offer to attend one of eight of the city’s prestigious specialized high schools.

When the classes are compiled, the demographics at these schools do not resemble New York City, and they certainly do not mirror the demographics of its public-school students. The three schools that serve the bulk of SHSAT-admitted specialized high-school students have populations that are disproportionately Asian, white, and male.
For 50 years, admission to this trio (The Bronx High School of Science and Stuyvesant and Brooklyn Technical high schools) has been determined by this test. The five other specialized schools were created in the 2000s; together, these eight institutions serve about 6 percent of the city’s high school population. There’s been a fierce debate locally about whether the specialized schools should look more like the city’s general population, and if you agree with that (some don’t), how to accomplish that.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio unveiled his own plan to diversify them, which involves admitting the top students from every city middle school, and expanding the 50-year-old Discovery program, which is designed to prepare low-income students to gain admission. (So far, that program has primarily benefitted low-income Asian and white students). Some have pushed back, arguing that such reforms will unfairly penalize Asian students, and that the schools will change if admission methods are altered.
But there is a disturbing acceptance by all sides in this debate that there is one form of success and achievement, of happiness and fulfillment—that there is a “best” defined by a conventional measure. Admission to these schools unlocks it, and we all want it, or should.

I can’t get behind this: It affirms a supremacist mentality. I thought we were done propping that up.

As a New York City parent and a journalist, I have been closely following this debate, and many studies about the systemic exclusion from success, and a good life, for blacks and Latinos in the United States. The people who fight to change the admissions believe they are fighting for the cause of black and brown children, including my 9-year old daughter. In reading these debates and studies, I’ve learned a few things. First and foremost: I am a failure, and I am setting my daughter up to be a failure.

Just by living in this neighborhood—one which has about the same ratio of blacks and whites as the one I grew up in—I’ve knocked two points off my daughter’s IQ score, as a cute little graphic in this Vox article shows.

Oh, wait: There was a murder within seven blocks of our home. This same article relies on NYU research to tell me that my choice of apartment knocked seven more points off my daughter’s IQ. (Although I do wonder if there is a neighborhood anywhere in Manhattan where there hasn’t been a murder within seven blocks during a five-year period.)

In other words, I started off strong as a child but I am a failure who is failing my daughter, and here’s the kicker: Despite the studies that tell me that I live here because racism did the dirty to me, I claim agency in this. I chose it all. I chose not to have my daughter tested to enter kindergarten in the gifted and talented programs that feed to specialized high schools. Nor do I want her to attend a specialized high school. I am choosing for my daughter to be “left behind.”

With her father, I made these choices in location and education because we find beauty and value in our neighborhood, and reward in schools where students leave with a broad idea of what achievement looks like, an expansive idea of the path to happiness, success, societal contribution, and fulfillment—and the capacity to choose their path.

The Times offers a few clues to the criteria they use. “These schools have a vital mission, to challenge the city’s sharpest young minds.” Referring to the criticism of the mayor’s plan from alumni, the op-ed concludes that “the very intensity of the response underscores how formative an experience it is to attend a specialized high school.”

The first criterion I understand but disagree with; the second makes little sense. Passion about changing admissions indicates that it is such a formative experience? I think it’s more that admission confers bragging rights, something very important in highly competitive New York City.

“They all but shut out black and Latino students,” the article states, “leaving untold numbers of New York’s brightest children behind.” The Times seems to know who is “bright” and who isn’t: Like the SHSAT, they feel confident this can be assessed. And where is this “behind?” Those “shut out” students are left to attend many other good schools in New York. “Behind” implies that the specialized high schools are in front, and that schools that don’t earn that honorific by choosing a student body based on that narrow form of achievement are lesser.

Let’s dial back a bit. As I said, I grew up in a middle-class neighborhood, but I didn’t mention that it was in Jackson, Mississippi, 1972 to ’87. I fully understand that my parents—first-generation college attendees—gave me choice. My background and private-college degree helped open up a world of opportunity. I was able to choose a rewarding but not well-remunerated (compared to working graduates of a university like mine) job. I was able to choose where I lived, and I knew I didn’t want to live in a keeping-up-with-the-Joneses neighborhood, whether it was mostly white or brown, or Asian. I chose my neighborhood because of its mixed-up income and mixed-up races.

So why do so many people who lament what is called white supremacy—and who hate the fact that it is guarded so jealously—reaffirm its values? Our lives are diminished because we are “shut out” of specialized high schools; our lives are limited because we live in majority black and brown neighborhoods. Our proximity to too many poor people, after having started life in middle-class communities, is evidence of slippage.

Until I read all of these school debates and articles about the drawbacks of my area, I was happy and pleased with the life I was providing my child. I thought that, through her neighborhood and education, she’d have what I had wanted from mine: familiarity, ease, and appreciation of an incredibly wide range of people; capacity for hard work; intellectual and moral rigor; and a desire to do something good in the world. But to academics and reporters, black, white, Latino, etc., my child and I are tragic: We are black American retrogression.

Jason Warwin, a New Yorker who came through the New York City public school system, graduated from Central Park East Secondary School, a small progressive 7-12 school in East Harlem. I met him while fighting to preserve my daughter’s progressive public elementary school when the New York City Department of Education was insisting that a more rigid form of education was the only one suitable for brown children in Harlem.

Warwin recalls being set extra work at Central Park East Secondary and being annoyed sometimes when he was asked to work with other students to teach them something he had already mastered. But it didn’t take him long to appreciate what the teachers and administration wanted him to realize.

Warwin went on to an Ivy League university, Brown, where he met a fellow student from New York City, Khary Lazarre-White. As undergrads, they created an organization they still direct called Brotherhood Sister Sol, a mentoring, academic, and social support organization primarily for black and brown students in Harlem. When we spoke this fall, Warwin was only slightly aware of the current demographics of the specialized schools. I can only guess that this is because it is marginal to his students’ experience, and to what he hopes for them.

“Supporting people who are trying to live moral lives is not something you hear as a focus of these [specialized] schools,” Warwin told me. “Of course, we [at Brotherhood Sister Sol] are very happy when a young person gets into an Ivy League college. But our primary objective isn’t to get them into elite schools. We want them to develop in a positive direction in how they interact with the people in their lives.” He said he’d rather see the city develop more consortium high schools, similar to the one he attended, and particularly in low-income neighborhoods like West Harlem where Brotherhood Sister Sol is located.

And I myself, can get only so enthused about discussing initiatives to diversify these schools: To me, the families who want the brand enough to submit their children to the hours and hours of homework and intensely competitive environmentof these specialized school hothouses and send their children for hundreds of hours of test prep(and many of the families who do are of modest income) are welcome to it. I lump these schools in the same category as I put Gucci handbags and Patek Philippe watches: expensive trophies for the status conscious. I can get something that does as good a job or better, for a fraction of the monetary or human cost.

The parent of one of my daughter’s school friends disagrees with me. He’s a black man who attended one of the big three and went on to earn Ivy undergraduate and graduate degrees. He says that this fight is important because any chance people get, they will discredit the intellect and achievement of people of color: More of us need degrees from these institutions because they serve as irrefutable counter to such claims. But I wonder: If the admissions processes are changed, will it continue to have that validating power?

Ani also went to Brown. She was ashamed that she wasn’t accepted to Harvard; her father, who immigrated to New York from China, always wanted her to go to whatever he thought people perceived as “the best.” She became an M.D.; only now, after her father and his parents have died, has she begun to retrain as a teacher. “I had told my dad that I wanted to teach young children, and he said, ‘Well, if you want to work with young children you should become a pediatrician.’” She also asked that her full name not be used, because “my father’s family still don’t know that I’m leaving medicine.”

Ani also chose not to have her children tested to enter the city’s gifted and talented (called G&T) program in kindergarten. Instead, she enrolled them in a progressive, non-test-focused public elementary school. “Kids bring all different kinds of things to school and that those are equally valuable,” she says. “In G&T, they are only kids who do well on a test.”

Schools in high-poverty neighborhoods would be remade and neighborhoods recast. Perhaps this long-standing idea that the specialized schools serve the city’s best and brightest would retreat. (It’s happened before: As The Atlantic recently pointed out, the number of white students dropped at the specialized schools as good alternatives emerged around the city.) Most important, these children would not only be surrounded by highly academic peers, but others from whom they might learn other, perhaps equally important, lessons.

My wan support for the quest to diversify New York City’s specialized high schools is not because I don’t believe that there is racism and inequity in the design and implementation of the New York City Public school system. I do. But the battles that are fought and the studies that are published in our names constantly affirm institutions and ideals that affirm hierarchy, convey a narrow definition of worth and success, and, by exclusion, diminish other values.

There is more honor and civic value in fighting to create graduating classes of youth whose focus is co-existing, supporting and contributing, than in facilitating the entry of more black and brown youth to a school of competitors driven to win and dominate.

It’s time for everyone—but particularly people of color and poor people—to stop directing this fight against racism and inequity toward equal access to what conventional wisdom says is most worth having.

David Dayen explains why Florida’s teachers are suing to block Governor DeSantis’ order to reopen all public schools for full in-person instruction.

The short version:

1) Florida is in the midst of a surge in the pandemic.
2) Neither the state nor the federal government has put up the money to provide even minimal safety for students and adults.

First Response
Last Friday the governor of Missouri, Mike Parson, told a right-wing radio host that coronavirus would infect children and we all just have to put up with it. “If they do get COVID-19, which they will,” Parson said, “they’re going to go home and they’re going to get over it.”

The nonchalance of this comment reinforces the impression of the Republican Party as a literal death cult. Not only do children suffer serious injury, and yes, die, from the virus, but as Parson appears not entirely aware, kids don’t teach themselves. And teachers and school personnel aren’t as sanguine as the Governor of Missouri of being marched into a contagious environment and playing the equivalent of Russian roulette.

The flashpoint for this is Florida, where yesterday state and national teachers unions filed suit to block Governor Ron DeSantis’ executive order reopening public schools. School districts in the state begin classes as early as August 10, and teachers must report a week earlier. So this is a last-minute effort to prevent a public health disaster.

“Teachers are scared, they have a high trepidation of going back into school buildings, given that Florida is the epicenter,” said Fedrick Ingram, president of the Florida Education Association, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit. “We can’t make our schools vectors for the virus, infecting parents and multi-generational families at home. Our goal is to not open schools, it’s to keep schools open.”
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Florida educators have a leg up in this case, because the state Constitution states explicitly that “[a]dequate provision shall be made by law for a uniform, efficient, safe, secure, and high quality system of free public schools.” The words “safe and secure” are paramount here, requiring the Governor and the Commissioner of Education institute policies meet that standard, the lawsuit explains. And they have not done anything close to that.

“The only thing the [DeSantis] executive order says is that there will be a brick-and-mortar option five days a week,” Ingram told the Prospect. No guidelines and certainly no money for social distancing policies have been included. If you need to cut class sizes in half to allow children to be separated from teachers, will there be money to hire twice as many teachers? Or give overtime to the existing ones to double their workday?

That’s just the beginning. No testing and tracing regime has been instituted. No money for PPE has been allotted. No decisions have been made on band or chorus rehearsals, recess, or assemblies. If a teacher gets sick and needs to quarantine for 14 days, there’s no understanding of whether they would get their job back. Air conditioning within the schools, a critical issue in Florida, that recirculate air would need to be altered. Buses would either have to run twice as much or with twice as many drivers hired. “I can go through a myriad of issues and we can talk into tomorrow,” Ingram said. Yet no money has been put toward this purpose, in a state that has historically underfunded its schools.

Reopened schools in several countries around the world have generally led to decent results, although that’s not universal. In Israel, schools had to be shut two weeks after opening after outbreaks raged through them, and new studies show children over age 10 can spread the virus as efficiently as adults. Critically, most countries getting back to school have low and decreasing levels of the virus, the opposite of what we see in Florida, which has registered 10,000 new cases every day for the last two weeks. The initial CDC guidelines on reopening generally call for a 14-day drop in cases.

The case, which has the support of the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association, includes several Florida teachers. One, Ladara Royal, is a young African American man with asthma, who according to Ingram would leave the profession if forced to go back to work. Another, Stefanie Beth Miller, spent 21 days on a ventilator in a medically induced coma from COVID-19. A third, Mindy Festge, has an immunosuppressed son that she’s keeping out of high school, and doesn’t want to bring the virus home to him.

“We’re forcing these parents and teachers to make lifelong decisions,” Ingram said. “We have other teachers making out their wills because they have to go back to school.” He noted that the state started last academic year with over 3,000 classrooms without a certified teacher. That shortage is sure to increase at a time when more would be needed to properly social distance.

The lawsuit calls for emergency relief to protect the first wave of teachers and students set to enter schools in just a couple weeks. A state where over 17,000 children have already contracted the virus would be home to a grisly and uncertain experiment unless the DeSantis order is stopped. The consequences of not opening schools are tragic for students who might fall behind and parents needing to concentrate on work during the day. But the consequences of creating thousands of death traps is worse.

Public Education Partners is the leading volunteer advocacy group for public schools in Ohio.

They issued this statement last night.

We are public education experts.

Public Education Partners (PEP) is a statewide, grassroots public education advocacy group whose mission is to preserve, protect, and strengthen Ohio’s public schools. Public Education Partners is an integral part of education policy deliberations through legislative consultation, Statehouse testimony, and community forums, among other actions. Over 90% of Ohio’s children attend public schools, and Ohio’s public-school system is the largest employer in the state.

The PEP Board is an entirely volunteer group comprised of:
active and retired educators and administrators with a collective total of over 350 years of teaching experience in Ohio’s public schools’ urban, suburban and rural districts;
public school board members;
city council members;
parents and grandparents of Ohio Public School students

PEP is a nonprofit organization that does not endorse political candidates. Public Education Partners has no paid members.

We believe district-sourced remote learning is warranted for the opening of the 2020-2021 school year across Ohio.

PEP believes that opening the school year with full-time remote learning, sourced within school districts, is the best approach to keeping children, school staff and their families safe from the public health crisis of coronavirus infection and spread.

As much as we know teachers miss face-to-face teaching and students miss their school communities and activities, PEP urges Ohio to embrace a statewide commitment to remote learning until the pandemic is brought under control. Returning to school buildings for on-site teaching and learning should be reassessed quarterly following science-based evaluations of the containment of the virus.

The recent rise in coronavirus cases in Ohio is cause for extreme caution. Subsequent to the gradual reopening of Ohio’s economy beginning in mid-May, coronavirus cases dropped 40% until mid-June; after June 21 the number of cases in Ohio has more than doubled through Sunday, July 19.

During the past four weeks, Ohio has recorded twelve of the fourteen highest daily case totals of the entire pandemic, including a record 1,679 cases Friday July 17, another 1,542 cases Saturday July 18, the third-highest number reported since March, and an additional 1,110 cases Sunday July 19.

Currently, more than 60% of Ohioans are living in counties declared a Level 3 Public Emergency: very high exposure and spread. Governor DeWine’s state orders for Level 3 counties call for limiting activities outside the home as much as possible and wearing face coverings inside all public buildings.

A full 36% of total cases throughout the four months of the pandemic have come in the past twenty-five days. The total number of confirmed and probable cases as of Sunday July 19 is 74,932. A record 9,555 Ohioans have been hospitalized, and 3,174 Ohioans have died of COVID-19.

While we all share the goal of returning to school buildings as soon as possible, experimenting with our children’s health and safety does not reflect a society where we put children first.

Given the rise in coronavirus cases, any full-time or “hybrid” plan to reopen school buildings for on-site teaching and learning puts the lives of Ohio’s children, teachers, administration, school staff, and their families at risk.

Our recommendations are rooted in Science.

School districts should reopen according to evidence-based research from scientists, public health experts, and educators. Because children’s welfare relies on schools’ decisions, neither political expediency nor profit motives should be given priority over science.

According to health experts, COVID-19 is a highly contagious, deadly disease and the role of children in the transmission of COVID-19 is currently unknown. Health experts fear it can cause potential lifelong damage in children and emphasize that the long-term consequences of coronavirus in children are unknown.

A troubling trend concerning children and the virus is the recent report that children in Florida are showing a 31.1 percent positivity rate for COVID-19 infections based on state testing data. Children in Florida are testing positive for the virus at a 20 percent higher rate than adults who have about an 11 percent positivity rate.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recently declared that it was not confident that reopening schools in the middle of this public health crisis is the best option for children. This reversal of its earlier statement exemplifies the speed with which schools continue to receive vague and conflicting information from the medical and scientific communities.

This is a novel and evolving virus. There is emerging evidence that airborne transmission is a significant factor in the virus spread. Scientists continue to discover new symptoms, risk factors, and methods of virus transmission. The long-term effects of the disease to Covid-19 survivors are yet unknown.

Ohio is not ready to open schools.

PEP believes that in order for a county to safely reopen its school buildings, the coronavirus transmission rate needs to be scientifically demonstrated to be near zero. Our conviction is consistent with the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and ongoing reports from Dr. Anthony Fauci (Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases) that the United States remains in the first of what will most likely be a series of viral waves.

In Ohio and most of the United States, there has been no flattening of the curve. The data cited above regarding these continuing spikes in infection rates in July is clear evidence the pandemic is not under control.

Other countries, such as New Zealand, Vietnam, and Germany, have responsibly reopened schools but did so only after they flattened the curve and drastically reduced infection rates through rapid case identification, contact tracing, and isolation.

Our recommendations are rooted in our deep commitment to the role of public schools.

Always, our number one priority in public schools is to keep our school communities safe.

The reopening of schools must be primarily about the health and safety of the learning environment, for the sake of students, faculty, support staff, and their families.

Despite exhaustive efforts throughout the state and the country to safeguard a return to school,
there is currently no tenable plan for keeping children infection-free in our schools,
there is currently no tenable plan for keeping adults infection-free in our schools.

The realities of education budgets must be considered in any discussion about this pandemic.

State funding:

Ohio’s K-12 public school budget has been slashed by $330 million as an emergency measure to cope with Ohio’s collapsing economy. Financially strapped taxpayers are not able to make up the school funding shortfall with additional school levies bringing higher property taxes for homeowners. Schools would be challenged without a pandemic to make the reduced budget work—in the midst of this global pandemic, unprecedented help is needed.

Pandemic-related expenses:
Neither the state of Ohio nor the federal government has provided adequate resources for increased health and safety precautions in school buildings.

Similarly, increased technological needs necessitated by the pandemic and increased distance learning, such as internet infrastructure and personal computers for all students, have not been met.

School buildings with aging heating and cooling systems lack the filtration features that reduce viral transmissions, and windows that do not open properly to promote air circulation will further increase the chance of pandemic spread.

Following CDC recommendations of keeping schools clean and maintaining six-foot physical distances between people, even in makeshift fashion or reduced capacity, is unrealistic. However careful teachers are to facilitate social distancing, mask wearing, and hand washing, students are active social beings who are used to learning and playing close together.

Teacher and staff substitution potential:

Consider some basic facts about Ohio’s teaching workforce-

25% of the teacher workforce is over the age of fifty, which by definition puts them at higher risk of suffering serious illness from Covid-19.

Most schools do not have full-time nurses in their buildings.

The anticipated medical exemptions for teachers who are immunocompromised or have high-risk health conditions will be significant in number.

A shortage of both long-term teachers and substitute teachers that pre-dates the pandemic will only make the infection rates and coverage of teacher absences more difficult for students.

Virus testing is neither universally reliable and timely, nor universally available in Ohio.

Already during the pandemic, mental health issues have escalated in a significant proportion of the population from anxiety and fear of exposure to the virus. The trauma associated with rapid unexpected change will be exacerbated by every known case of viral spread within schools.

The idea of quarantining entire groups of teachers and students upon the discovery of a confirmed case of Covid-19 is untenable, and such disruption compromises the effectiveness of on-site teaching and learning for everyone.

We categorically reject the idea that schools must reopen on behalf of the struggling economy.

PEP believes that federal mismanagement of the Covid-19 pandemic in the United States is the cause of the extreme economic upset that has ensued. It is neither the schools’ responsibility, nor sound policy, to attempt to remedy the situation by reopening school buildings at high risk to the school communities. The health and safety of Ohio’s students, staff, and families must remain our top priority.

Conclusion:

Ohio’s K-12 public school district communities share in the suffering caused by this coronavirus pandemic. Lives have been turned upside down, and the uncertainty of this evolving global crisis causes loss, disequilibrium, and anxiety. PEP believes that moving into the upcoming school year with calm and resolve is the best way to maximize the effectiveness of Ohio’s system of public education.

Public Education Partners continues to be an educational resource for school districts and local communities across Ohio. PEP proposes pooling our collective community resources to keep our public schools safe. Shared responsibility in creating a risk-free school reopening plan will allow us to emerge stronger together in our commitment to public education and the children and families we serve.

Sources

Home


https://coronavirus.ohio.gov/wps/portal/gov/covid-19/public-health-advisory-system/
https://www.dispatch.com/news/20200715/watch-pandemic-path-leads-dewine-to-heart-to-heart-talk-with-ohioans

https://thehill.com/changing-america/well-being/prevention-cures/507442-almost-one-third-of-florida-children-tested-are
https://www.aappublications.org/news/2020/07/10/schoolreentrysafety071020
https://www.educationdive.com/news/more-robust-coronavirus-guidelines-needed-to-protect-high-risk-educators/581711/

http://digital.olivesoftware.com/olive/ODN/ColumbusDispatch/shared/ShowArticle.aspx?doc=TCD%2F2020%2F07%2F19&entity=Ar00303&sk=E4AD08E3&mode=text
http://digital.olivesoftware.com/olive/ODN/ColumbusDispatch/shared/ShowArticle.aspx?doc=TCD%2F2020%2F07%2F19&entity=Ar02301&sk=94FADAE9&mode=text

Click to access summary1_page_.pdf


Click to access samestormdiffboats_final.pdf


https://www.wbur.org/hereandnow/2020/07/14/covid-19-online-school-los-angeles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A group of New York City teachers argue in The New York Daily News that the best way to restart the schools, especially for young children, is to hold classes outdoors. They do not address the problems of rain and freezing weather.

Liat Olenick, Darcy Whittwmore, and Heather Costanza see many virtues in outdoor learning.

Holding classes indoors in a city with over one million students, they write, will create dangerous and unhealthy conditions. Why not grab this opportunity for creative solutions?

Move the younger children outdoors, they say, while keeping high school students online.

Outdoor learning is a tried and tested fit for early childhood. There are all-day outdoor kindergartens in wintery Maine and Vermont, in which children dress for the weather and learn outside nearly every day. Vaunted models of early childhood education like Reggio-Emilia emphasize outdoor exploration because ages 4-8 comprise the crucial stage in which multisensory, interactive learning is essential for children’s cognitive growth. Outdoor learning offers children authentic, stimulating experiences that foster skills like creative problem solving, independence, flexibility and resiliency as they form a deep connection to the natural world. Learning outdoors also offers possibilities for culturally responsive, place-based learning, giving students hands-on, meaningful opportunities to engage and connect with their communities.

In the context of COVID, outdoor learning becomes even more appealing. Elementary students are more likely to live near school, making finding a space that works for families without needing public transit more feasible.

And per current guidelines, the requirements of indoor learning — sitting six feet apart, no contact, no sharing materials, and staying in one enclosed space for hours on end — are not developmentally appropriate for young children.

If we move outdoors, kids will have room to be kids without fear of punishment or infecting someone they love. Given the ongoing criminalization of students of color in schools, we fear the consequences of imposing new, high stakes social-distancing rules on all, but particularly on our youngest students.

We have the space to make outdoor learning work. New York City is home to 28,000 acres of public parkland, more than 1,100 school and community gardens, plus schoolyards, rooftops, cemeteries, beaches, private outdoor space and even parking lots or closeable neighborhood streets which could be spruced up with benches and planters.

These investments in public space might even foster greater equity in our city; experiences in nature are essential for children’s mental health, but green space is often concentrated in wealthier, whiter neighborhoods.

Transforming our streets and playgrounds into possibility-rich outdoor classrooms could be a way to equalize access to nature at a time when many outdoor programs serving children of color have been shuttered.

Outdoor learning will not be perfect. It will require support from schools, parks, neighborhood institutions and families to plan for site-specific challenges. But compare that with our other two options: Fully remote learning, which means zero childcare for caregivers and especially fails our young students, or a blended, classroom model for 1.1 million students that is likely to put our most vulnerable communities in grave danger.

This is our clarion call. We hope it spurs intrepid leaders to consider outdoor learning as a viable option for all of our youngest students during COVID and beyond. Organizations around the country, including New York private schools, are already developing proposals to take learning outside. With a little imagination and support from our city, we could make it happen here — not just for the privileged few, but for all.

Olenick, Whittemore and Costanza are public elementary school teachers in Brooklyn.

This is worrisome. Those demanding the speedy and full reopening of schools have taken for granted that children are unlikely to become infected with coronavirus.

But the latest data from Florida show that complacency is unwarranted. 

Those localities where the pandemic is growing and out of control should be cautious and aware of the risk to children.

The Huffington Post reports:

Nearly one-third of children who have been tested for the coronavirus in Florida have tested positive, according to data from the state’s Department of Health that comes amid ongoing debate and uncertainty over whether schools will reopen this fall.

Of the 54,022 people under the age of 18 who have been tested for COVID-19 in Florida, 16,797 of them, or roughly 31%, have tested positive, data released Friday shows. In comparison, roughly 11% of everyone in the state who has been tested for the virus — roughly 2.8 million people — has tested positive.

Nearly half of the state’s positive cases among children were in the counties of Broward, Dade, Hillsborough and Palm Beach.

Cases throughout the Sunshine State have risen at alarming rates in recent weeks. On Thursday the state set a new one-day coronavirus death record while also reporting nearly 14,000 new cases of COVID-19 ― the second-highest daily total that the state has seen. Its highest total reported last weekend set a national record.

Amid this growth, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) has continued to push for schools to reopen this fall, with him on Tuesday telling mayors in south Florida — the state’s hardest-hit area for cases — that doing so is low-risk.

Black students/staff at charter schools fight back on Instagram. Lots of
amazing stuff here.

@blackatuncommon
@_theuncommontruth
@dearcharterschool
@truecolorsofcharter
@blackandbrownatdp
@defundcharterschools
@beingblackatkipp
@survivors_of_successacademy
@sa.vanguards

Last night the Detroit Board of Education, which opened for summer school Monday, voted to unanimously reopen school on the regular first day in August. This happened despite three hours of unified testimony by teachers, parents, and community organizers that the schools should not be reopened until minimum conditions are met. We held a state wide Press conference this morning calling on schools not to open until a set of health conditions have been met. Here is some remarkable testimony given by one teacher to the board last night. 

.https://www.facebook.com/30308059/posts/10107099891572474/?d=n

Here is our archived press conference from this morning:

https://www.facebook.com/38514087/posts/10104168872243786/?d=n

Here are the demands:

https://mailchi.mp/afbe6d675b55/press-release-on-school-reopenings-5033109?e=71d7c71fdb

Best, Tom

Thomas C. Pedroni

Associate Professor, Curriculum Studies
Wayne State University