Archives for category: Students

William Doyle and Pasi Sahlberg have a proposal for what children should do after the pandemic: Play.

They write at CNN.com:

When the novel coronavirus is no longer as great a threat and schools finally reopen, we should give children the one thing they will need most after enduring months of isolation, stress, physical restraint and woefully inadequate, screen-based remote learning. We should give them playtime — and lots of it.William Doyle William Doyle Pasi SahlbergPasi SahlbergAs in-person classes begin, education administrators will presumably follow the safety guidelines of health authorities for smaller classes, staggered schedules, closing or regularly cleaning communal spaces with shared equipment, regular health checks and other precautions. But despite the limitations this may place on the students’ physical environment, schools should look for safe ways to supercharge children’s learning and well-being.We propose that schools adopt a 90-day “golden age of play,” our term for a transitional period when traditional academic education.

Play gives children a wide range of critical cognitive, physical, emotional and social benefits. The American Academy of Pediatrics, representing the nation’s 67,000 children’s doctors, stated in a 2012 clinical report that “play, in all its forms, needs to be considered as the ideal educational and developmental milieu for children,” including for children in poverty, and noted that “the lifelong success of children is based on their ability to be creative and to apply the lessons learned from playing.

“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has also reported “substantial evidence that physical activity can help improve academic achievement,” and “can have an impact on cognitive skills and attitudes and academic behavior,” including concentration and attention. Regular physical activity like recess and physical education, the CDC researchers noted, also “improves self-esteem, and reduces stress and anxiety.”

This is especially relevant for a student population that may face a tidal wave of mental health challenges in the wake of the pandemic. Data from the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report detailed that, as of 2016, 1 in 6 children ages 2 to 8 years of age had a diagnosed mental, behavioral or developmental disorder. And a study in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology revealed that from 2009 to 2017, depression surged 69% among 16- to 17-year-olds.

A 90-day “golden age of play” school re-entry period would help ease children back into the school setting, while providing physical and creative outlets to allow them to calm their stress and thrive with their peers and teachers. But what exactly would this program look like?It should look like a child’s dreams. A time of joy, movement, discovery and experimentation without fear of failure; a time when every student should enjoy comfort, safety, and socialization with peers and warm, caring adults.

Open the link and read the rest.


Teresa Thayer Snyder was superintendent of the Voorheesville district in upstate New York. She wrote this wise and insightful essay on her Facebook page. A friend sent it to me.

Dear Friends and Colleagues:

I am writing today about the children of this pandemic. After a lifetime of working among the young, I feel compelled to address the concerns that are being expressed by so many of my peers about the deficits the children will demonstrate when they finally return to school. My goodness, what a disconcerting thing to be concerned about in the face of a pandemic which is affecting millions of people around the country and the world. It speaks to one of my biggest fears for the children when they return. In our determination to “catch them up,” I fear that we will lose who they are and what they have learned during this unprecedented era. What on earth are we trying to catch them up on? The models no longer apply, the benchmarks are no longer valid, the trend analyses have been interrupted. We must not forget that those arbitrary measures were established by people, not ordained by God. We can make those invalid measures as obsolete as a crank up telephone! They simply do not apply. 

When the children return to school, they will have returned with a new history that we will need to help them identify and make sense of. When the children return to school, we will need to listen to them. Let their stories be told. They have endured a year that has no parallel in modern times. There is no assessment that applies to who they are or what they have learned. Remember, their brains did not go into hibernation during this year. Their brains may not have been focused on traditional school material, but they did not stop either. Their brains may have been focused on where their next meal is coming from, or how to care for a younger sibling, or how to deal with missing grandma, or how it feels to have to surrender a beloved pet, or how to deal with death. Our job is to welcome them back and help them write that history.

I sincerely plead with my colleagues, to surrender the artificial constructs that measure achievement and greet the children where they are, not where we think they “should be.” Greet them with art supplies and writing materials, and music and dance and so many other avenues to help them express what has happened to them in their lives during this horrific year. Greet them with stories and books that will help them make sense of an upside-down world. They missed you. They did not miss the test prep. They did not miss the worksheets. They did not miss the reading groups. They did not miss the homework. They missed you.

Resist the pressure from whatever ‘powers that be’ who are in a hurry to “fix” kids and make up for the “lost” time. The time was not lost, it was invested in surviving an historic period of time in their lives—in our lives. The children do not need to be fixed. They are not broken. They need to be heard. They need be given as many tools as we can provide to nurture resilience and help them adjust to a post pandemic world.

Being a teacher is an essential connection between what is and what can be. Please, let what can be demonstrate that our children have so much to share about the world they live in and in helping them make sense of what, for all of us has been unimaginable. This will help them– and us– achieve a lot more than can be measured by any assessment tool ever devised. Peace to all who work with the children!

Nancy Bailey writes here about the stress on children that is contributing to alarming rates of stress, anxiety and depression.

Certainly the anxiety caused by the pandemic causes stress. And many children have experienced deaths among those in their family or among friends.

But there are longer term causes of the mental health problems among children, such as the absurd pressure to get ever higher test scores and the withdrawal of time for recess and play.

One of the blog’s readers left the following wise comment in response to the organizations who support the resumption of standardized testing as soon as possible:


I was a principal in Alabama for 8 years. In that time there were 4 different state tests administered with little in common. Meanwhile, our district gave 3 different tests that they used to judge the schools. The preponderance of standardized testing over the last 3 decades has done nothing to improve the public schools. While the education establishment uses above grade level instruments to incorrectly measure student performance at grade level we continue to serve the needs of the testing industrial complex over the developmental needs of students. In too many cases, states aspire to “rigorous” standards for students while setting no real standards for assessment quality. Floundering test results have been used as an excuse to defund education rather than a justification to garner more resources for the classroom. Yes, the pandemic is a good reason to delay testing. The failure of the Standards Movement is a good reason to end punitive state tests altogether.

Arnold and Carol Hillman were educators in Pennsylvania. They retired to South Carolina and, instead of golfing and relaxing, they became involved with rural public schools. They created clubs for high school boys and girls and helped steer their kids towards college. I wrote about their work with students in rural schools several times. See here. Arnold wrote me recently to tell me about the devastating impact of the pandemic on rural students, and I asked him to write it up for the blog. He wrote the section about Rasheem, and Carol wrote about LaRonda.

They wrote:

Rasheem and LaRonda are two students in a rural South Carolina county. A review of county statistics will show that the county is 700 square miles. It is one of the poorest counties in the state. Over the past five years, the education system has declined in quality. The ACT scores have descended 15.8%. Even the state’s average ACT scores have gone down from 18.6 to 18.1. 

When you travel around the county, you are struck by the endless roads that seem to include only a forested area on both sides and a town or two with some stores and maybe a gas station. You must travel to the county seat to go shopping at a supermarket or travel to the other urban center at the bottom of the county.

Choices in any aspect of normal life are limited. There is one dentist in the area. He is a homer, comes from one of the towns. Other medical facilities such as a hospital are close to Route 95 near the bottom of the county. The rural districts that occupy both sides of Route 95 have been dubbed, “The Corridor of Shame.” That was also a documentary film done in 2007 to describe the area and the public schools.

We have visited 21 of the 41 (will be 37 districts when certain consolidations take place) rural school districts in the state. There are many Rasheem’s and Laronda’s in those areas. Having traveled to see away basketball games, we can also point out that there are many similarities up and down these counties.

The school district personnel are well aware of the problems of both of these students. Rasheem lives with his grandmother. His parents have had other children and could not handle Rasheem too. So, when he turned seven, they transferred responsibility for raising Rasheem to his maternal grandmother. Zelda provides all of the necessities of life, as much as she can, to Rasheem. She lives on a pension and social security.

Rasheem’s parents were divorced sometime after Rasheem went to live with his grandmother. They both have new families with new spouses or live-ins. Rasheem is a senior in high school and like many kids his age, has dreams of getting away from home and making a better life for himself. He wants to go to college or join the air force or maybe become a racecar driver. He works part-time at a local Piggy Wiggly and has a used car he bought from an uncle. His earnings cover his car insurance, gas, and the $200 he must pay in South Carolina annual car tax. Anything left over covers his school clothes, which he keeps outgrowing. He plays basketball and hopes to win a scholarship. The coach thinks he’s good enough for a Division I1 school. 

However, his dreams may not come true. This Covid-19 year, a number of schools have cancelled football and other fall sports, as well as the winter sports seasons Therefore, as hard as it was for scouts to come down to see him and others playing, it is now just a dream.

Rasheem has a 3.4 GPA (Grade Point Average) and he works hard to keep his grades up, so he has become pretty good at time management. The one subject he struggles with is math. It’s not really the math that is so hard, it’s that he can’t always understand his math teacher. Rasheem’s school, like many South Carolina rural schools, is very isolated and very poor. They can’t afford to pay teachers well and there are no places for teachers from outside of the county to live. So, when the high school principal tries to fill vacancies with certified teachers, she often needs to recruit teachers from India or South America, people looking for any job they can find in America. These teachers may know their subject matter, but their grasp of American English and even their understanding of American students is often lacking. 

When Covid-19 appeared last March, schools in South Carolina closed. Everything went virtual. This fall there has been a back and forth between virtual and in-person education. Because of senior students wanting to play some kind of ball, both girls and boys, some of them have transferred to private schools. 

Rasheem’s guidance counselor has been trying to talk to him about his future plans since he was a junior, but it wasn’t until he hit his senior year that he paid much attention. The guidance counselor has a big case load. She has students with many different and sometimes pressing problems.  She tries to remind her seniors about college applications and financial aid forms. The burden of staying on top of all this is up to the students. Rasheem does not have anyone in his family who has been to college, in fact, his grandma did not graduate from high school.

Neither Rasheem nor his grandma are familiar with anything to do with college, but among the good choices he has made are his decisions to join the basketball team and ROTC. Colonel Manning and Coach Phillips are both very caring, capable individuals who have Rasheem’s best interest in mind. They have been trying to talk to him about what he needs to do to realize his dreams. 

Working with the group that I have been mentoring for 5 years has become almost impossible. Many of the students have gotten jobs and are really not calling or Zooming with me. When I do hear from them, it is a short call with me asking them if they have filled out their FAFSA forms, if they have any intent of going to college. 

Rasheem is planning to take the ASVAB. The Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery is a test you must take to get into the armed services. You need a score of 31 out of 99 to get into the Army and a 36 for the Air Force. He took the ACTs (American College Testing) last year and scored a 16 out of 36 on the test. He will need to bring that score up to somewhere in the mid 20’s, which is not a score that many students get in rural South Carolina. While students from some of the advantaged districts come from families that prepare them for college, most rural parents are not aware of steps to take to help their children. Many of the parents have not gone to college and are not familiar with FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) forms. 

Students from families with college experience have been preparing for the transition from high school to college from the time their children were born. Their children have visited colleges and taken practice tests of both the ACTs and the SATs. Rasheem has done none of that because he didn’t have a family helping him. This is only one challenge Rasheem is facing.

Other challenges are the fact that his high school does not have a high rating on the South Carolina state tests. They do not have a high graduation rate. Many of Rasheem’s classmates do not see education as a priority and so he competes for his teachers’ attention with disruptive students. Some of his teachers are burnt out from dealing with the Covid -19 problems and don’t provide the best possible instruction. 

On days when school is in session, Rasheem eats a free breakfast and lunch at school. When he gets home, after school and before work, his grandma gives him supper. On weekends and over vacation breaks Rasheem doesn’t always get three meals a day. Even working in a grocery store does not entitle him to free food.

His family has been generous enough to help him pay for senior pictures and the prom (if they have one), but he will not be attending the senior class trip (if there is one) because he can’t afford it.

LaRonda is a junior at the same high school.  She is smart, quick with a quip and talented in art and writing. Last year, LaRonda played on the basketball team. She is skilled, agile and has a burning competitive spirit. She has a 4.0 Grade Point Average and has taken all the AP (Advanced Placement) Courses the school offers.

Her family situation is not the same as Rasheem’s. LaRonda has a mom and dad. She has two brothers and a new baby sister. She is responsible for taking care of her younger brothers, as well as helping with the baby. This restricts her from getting a job or having any social life.

Transportation is a real problem. LaRonda’s family has one car and it serves Mom, Dad, Grandma and LaRonda.. She has started a small business of her own “doing hair.” Because of COVID and the baby sister, she cannot do hair at home. She needs to travel to clients. Again, the problem of sharing the car.

LaRonda is angry. She resents her mother for having more children whom LaRonda needs to care for. Her friends advise her to “have it out” with her mother and say she is going to get an after-school job so she can have her own money. LaRonda really wants to do that, but then she thinks, “what will happen to my baby sister”?

LaRonda is in the gifted program She has taken Algebra I three times. The first time was when she was in 7th grade. She was in the gifted program so she, along with other gifted 7th graders, was put in Algebra 1 (usually given in 9th grade). You only get credit for a course if you pass the final exam. She and her friends got all “A’s” in the class but were told that because they were only in 7th grade, they could not take the test. In 8th grade they took Algebra I, again getting “A’s”, but were not allowed to take the final exam because, “since you took Algebra 1 before it’s not fair to the other students who were taking Algebra 1 for the first time.” In 9th grade, when the non-gifted students had gone on to Geometry, LaRonda and her cohorts were taking Algebra 1 for the third and final time. They all passed the final exam with flying colors! 

Before COVID-19 made meeting in-person impossible, Carol and Lynn met with the 10 girls they mentored weekly. They shared lunch, laughter, sometimes tears and always hello and goodbye hugs. Together the group has mentored younger students and run fundraisers that have enabled them to go on trips and exciting overnight adventures. All that is missing now. 

Carol and Lynn try to stay in touch with the girls they have been mentoring, but, like Rasheem and his friends, COVID is making that difficult. Carol and Lynn call the girls individually. That works sometimes. When LaRonda desperately needed a computer, Lynn found a computer and printer for her that had been refurbished by a friend. 

LaRonda has always said she wants to go to college to become a pediatrician, but her older friends who were in college are now dropping out. They loved college in person – spending time with friends on campus, but they are so turned off by the virtual learning and so unsure of their futures that they are no longer willing to scrimp and save to pay for college. That makes LaRonda think maybe she should go into the military.

She told Carol, “I wanted to be the first to tell you I might not go to college, because I thought you’d be disappointed in me. I took the ASVAB test and got a 56. Is that good? My friends are going into the Army so I might do that too.” Carol reminded LaRonda that she would never be disappointed in her, that it was her life and she needs to make her own decisions, but that she should keep up her schoolwork and take the ACTs so she has options. She asked LaRonda, “What does your mom say?” LaRonda, “She says, ‘Whatever you think, is fine with me.’ “

When they talk about the future, LaRonda is not the only one who says, “I pray every day that I can get out of here and not end up like my mom, but I love my mom. It’s in God’s hands and whatever happens will be for the best.

Through no fault of their own, Rasheem and LaRonda have very uncertain futures.

​​​

A reader who is a scientist wrote to ask why I posted the views of an economist about children and COVID instead of those of a medical researcher. She sent me this interview of Angela Rasmussen that appeared in Science Friday. Rasmussen is a professor at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health.

In the interview, she says:

ANGELA RASMUSSEN: Well, teachers and parents should definitely not think that children are immune or more resistant to the virus. Just because they don’t develop a severe of disease [sic], that doesn’t mean that they can’t be infected and it doesn’t mean that they can’t bring the virus home with them to transmit to other people in their household. It also doesn’t mean that they would be incapable of transmitting it to faculty and staff in schools.

And in general, we– I think a lot of the discussion about schools has assumed that schools are an isolated bubble that is separate from the rest of the community, and they’re really not. If children are getting infected, whether outside of school or in school, those children are still part of the same community and they’re capable of spreading the virus within that community.

So we need to stop thinking of schools as a separate space or children as a special population of people who are less susceptible. We need to take the same precautions with preventing transmission in schools as we do within the rest of the community.

The full interview is worth reading.

A regular reader who uses the name “Retired Teacher” posted this wise comment. I couldn’t agree more.


So-called choice is mostly a marketing scheme designed to make parents believe they are getting a better school for their children. Research has shown that choice generally does not improve education, and in many cases the quality of education is worse. Choice is a way for corporations to gain access to public dollars at the expense of public schools. It makes the wants of a few take priority over the needs of many. It is impossible to fund parallel systems and a public system for the same dollar. More underfunded schools are not a way to improve education.

The privatization of education has failed. It is time to consolidate resources and invest in quality education with supports and services designed to address the needs of poor students. A well resourced public school can offer wrap around services including medical, dental, mental health and social services that provide resources and guidance for struggling poor students and their families. With greater efficiency built in, community schools can do a much more effective addressing the needs of students that live in poverty. It is only when primary needs are met can we begin to address students’ academic needs.

Public schools bring people together. Our society is more fragmented than ever, and privatization further erodes the bonds of community. Well funded public schools that professionally serve all students help to build unity and connection within the school community and the community at large. We need to learn to appreciate each other and work together for the betterment of all our people. We do not need “islands of opportunity” for a few. We need investment in all our young people.

Since we first learned about the pandemic in mid-March, we have gotten mixed signals from the federal government. The president said it was a hoax, said it would magically disappear. He mocked mask-wearing. Mike Pence said it would be over by Memorial Day. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) changed its guidelines, bending to the White House. Then Bob Woodward released interviews with the president, and it turns out he has known since January that COVID is deadly serious, and it is airborne.

Now Trump has COVID. Will his base start wearing masks? Will they stop demonstrating for their freedom to ignore public health regulations?

Steven Singer writes here about Trump’s illness and what it might mean for the schools.

He begins:

It had to happen eventually.

Donald Trump, the ultimate science denier, got bit in the butt by science.

He’s got Coronavirus, and is in Walter Reed National Medical Center fighting for his life.

Apparently the virus isn’t a hoax.

You don’t catch it by testing for it.

You don’t treat it with hydroxychloroquine.

It’s a global pandemic, and the only way to fight something like that is with rationality and logic.

You have to wear a face mask, dumb-ass.

You have to practice social distancing.

You can’t just reopen the economy and pretend that this won’t cost hundreds of thousands of lives.

You can’t steamroll over more than 200,000 Americans lost simply because most are elderly, poor and/or brown skinned. And they don’t matter to you…

Long before Trump went from being a clown to a contender, policymakers tried reforming our schools with only wishful thinking and a marketing plan.

High stakes testing, charter schools, voucher plans, value added measures, Teach for America – whether proposed by Democrats or Republicans, it is all nothing but science denial wrapped in a stock portfolio.

These are the ways Wall Street has cashed in on schools pretending to be saviors while hiding the reality of their vulture capitalism.

And Trump has been no different.

Except that his instrument – billionaire heiress Betsy DeVos – made it harder to deny.

She barely even tried to pretend to be anything other than what she is – an unimaginative opportunist dead set on destroying the public in public schools.

Now that her spray tanned master has – through inaction and ineptitude – unleashed a plague upon the nation, our students are suffering worse than ever.

Many schools are shuttered from sea to shining sea, their students forced to learn via the Internet.

Open the link and read it all.

John Thompson, historian and retired teacher in Oklahoma, read the New York Times Magazine’s report on the possibility of a “Lost Year” and wrote these reflections:

Three times, I had to take a break from reading the New York Times Magazine’s special education issue, “The Lost Year.” The Magazine’s powerful reporting delivered gut punch after gut punch, forcing me to put the magazine down, calm myself, and contemplate the suffering our children are enduring.

Three times, as these compelling and emotionally overwhelming student stories hit home, I would get sick at my stomach. I’d sense anxiety growing to the point where it hit as hard as when ideology-driven, Trumpian policies are announced. As these tragedies unfolded over recent months, I got into the habit of taking a break, breathing heavily, and relaxing, resulting in naps to calm my nerves.

The anecdotes in “The Lost Year” illustrating the damage being done to our most vulnerable children hit me especially hard because of decades working in the inner city and our most disadvantaged schools. But I must warn readers who may not have been covered by so many students’ blood or worried over as many traumatized kids that The Lost Year will not be an easy read for them either.

Samantha Shapiro’s “The Children in the Shadows” describes the “nomadism” perpetuated by the New York City homeless shelter system 3-1/2 decades after the Reagan Administration sparked the housing crisis by decimating social services (as his Supply Side Economics destroyed blue collar jobs.) The cruelty was continued in the 1990s as neoliberals tried to show that they could be just as tough as the rightwingers.

Shapiro starts with the obstacles faced by the parents of several elementary students with histories of rising to excellence but who are suffering through The Lost Year. A 2nd grade child of an immigrant, Prince, has been homeless for years (prompted by his mother enduring severe domestic abuse) but who seemed to be headed for magnet or gifted programs before the pandemic. After wasting hours after hours, days after days, accompanying his mother through the bureaucracy, he gets an 84 on a test, and tells her, “I’m sorry, Mama. I’ll do better next time.”

The father of another outstanding 2nd grader worries that her ability to read is being lost, “I’ve seen her watch YouTube 24 hours a day.” Shapiro then describes another second grader, who was very competitive and earned good grades but, before the shutdown, she had a disagreement with a classmate. After being asked to come into the hall to discuss it, the girl screamed piercingly, ripped down bulletin boards, threw things. As she deescalated, the girl asked her social worker to hold her, saying “Are you still proud of me? Do you still love me?

Shapiro also describes J, her son’s best friend, and his wonderful people skills. Despite having dyslexia, J had been doing well in school. His mother, Mae, repeatedly cried through entire nights during an intense effort to avoid eviction. J cried at the loss of his dog due to their eviction. Mae kept him away from her encounter with the marshals, but his sister was too anxious to be separated from her. So, her daughter whistled at birds, and zipped her favorite stuffed animal into her hoodie, as they were evicted.

Nicole Chung’s “A Broken Link” explores the new challenges facing special education students. Chung draws upon her experience as the mother of a 9-year old child with autism to illustrate the obstacles facing kids in good schools, even when they have the advantages of families who can go the extra mile in helping to implement Individual Education Plans. During last spring’s school closures, a “multitude” of children, “many of them disabled,” “‘just fell off the grid.’” This year, with so many schools starting the year online, meaning that they likely begin without personal connections between students and educators, the challenges are likely to be much worse.

By sharing her family’s frustrations, Chung helps make the case presented by Julia Bascom, executive director of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, that “The pandemic has magnified these huge structural issues. Ultimately, it’s going to be disabled and marginalized students bearing the burden, being delayed, losing time and progress.”

Then, Paul Tough addresses the costs to upwardly striving, low-income students from a high school that had been making progress helping its students succeed in higher education. Disadvantaged students tend to be hurt by the “summer slide,” or the loss of learning gains over summer vacation. Tough focuses on Richmond Hill H.S.’s efforts to prevent “summer melt,” or the loss of students who had intended to go straight to college but don’t enroll in the fall.

Richmond Hill uses “bridge coaches,” who are “near peers” or recent graduates that serve as mentors, and other personalized efforts to help students transition to higher education. This requires “a lot of hand-holding,” and other guidance, and not enough of those personalized contacts are possible during the pandemic. Richmond Hill’s students lost more than 30 parents to the coronavirus, as hundreds of their providers lost their jobs. This means the losses of The Lost Year will be reverberating for years to come.

And that leads to the ways that each story in The Lost Year returns to social and emotional connections, as well as the need to tackle structural issues outside the four walls of classrooms. And that is why the failure of urban schools to reopen has been so tragic.

At times, a discussion moderated by Emily Bazelon, featuring Denver Superintendent Susana Cordova, the Times’ Nikole Hannah-Jones, former Education Secretary John King, the University of Southern California Dean Pedro Noguera, and middle school teacher Shana White, seemed likely to veer off into the blame game. My sense, however, was that they intentionally avoided opportunities to refight the battles of the last two decades. They wisely limited most criticism for the inability of schools to serve at-risk kids to the malpractice of the Trump administration and a lack of resources and time.

For instance, Hannah-Jones pushed the question of why Denver’s low-wage childcare workers were back in class, but not the higher-paid teachers. But Bazelon shifted gears and asked her about other inequities she had seen. This brought the discussion back to big-picture inequities. Hannah-Jones then focused on affluent families who can afford private schools, adding, “I have this deep pit in my stomach about the disparities and really the devastating impact that this period is going to have.”

This also foreshadowed Bazelon’s worries that an increase in private schools and vouchers will worsen segregation.

Hannah-Jones rightly warned that last spring her daughter’s online class of 33 only had about 10 students logged in. Since the discussants also had justifiable complaints about the flawed preparations for this fall’s virtual learning, it could have led to another round of attacking the education “status quo.” But Hannah-Jones explained how she mistakenly believed her daughter had turned in all of her assignments. This candor also encouraged a discussion of the structural problems that make the transition to online learning so daunting.

When asked about the big picture issues and solutions, the discussion remained constructive. Hannah-Jones brought up the opportunity for rejecting high-stakes testing. Bazelon asked if the crisis could promote outdoors learning and flipped classrooms (for older students) where tapes of “star lecturers” free teachers for the people-side of classroom learning. She also asked whether schools should be focusing on emotional health, hoping students will catch up on academic content over time. Noguera largely agreed, and replied with a call for “a national push to get kids reading. Low-tech. Actual books. And writing.”

John King then praised online curriculum provided by organizations like Edutopia. More importantly, he then declined that opportunity to repeat the corporate reform attacks on teachers, who supposedly could have singlehandedly overcome the legacies of segregation, poverty, and trauma if they had “High Expectations!” Contradicting the company line he had long espoused, King called for more counselors, mental health professionals, “high-dosage” tutoring, the expansion of AmeriCorp programs, and full-year instruction.

Superintendent Cordova then called for a new type of summer program where kids “engaged in learning for learning’s sake – not ‘third grade is about multiplication tables…” Instead of mere remediation, she would motivate kids by exposing them to the larger world. This is consistent with Corova’s hope that schools will be able to “try to go deeper as opposed to broader” in teaching and learning.

Shana White, the Georgia teacher, wished that districts had planned for “worst-case scenarios.” That should seem obvious given the state “leadership” coming from Trump loyalists. It sounds like White teaches in a worst possible scenario where teachers must do both – conduct in-person and virtual instruction using Zoom at the same time.

I’m an optimist who believed that data-driven, competition-driven reformers would have recognized what our poorest students would lose if their test-driven reforms were mandated. I wrongly believed that if accountability-driven reformers had known more about real-world schools, and shared experiences with flesh-and-blood students, that they would seek better levers for changing schools. But, it is possible that the pandemic has revealed both the complexity of our intertwined problems, and how there are no shortcuts for bringing true equity to high-poverty schools. It’s a shame that students had to lose so much this year in order to bring an opportunity for adults to come together for real, structural solutions.

It’s also a shame that Trumpian campaigns to deny the reality of “community-spread” of viruses and ideology-driven mandates to hurriedly reopen schools have guaranteed The Lost Year for our most vulnerable children. But maybe we can all unite in a fact-based campaign against Trump and then learn the lessons of The Lost Year, and engage in holistic, meaningful education reforms.

Mercedes Schneider is back to work teaching high school English in Louisiana. She is doing her best to keep her students socially distanced, though she hasn’t figured out how that will be possible when her class size reaches 24.

But the silver lining is that her students are wearing masks! They are not acting stupid and refusing to protect themselves and others! That’s good news for them and for her.