Archives for category: Teachers

Mitchell Robinson is a professor at Michigan State University.

In this post, he reviews the issues involved in reopening schools in the fall.

Teachers should not be expected to return unless conditions are safe for both students and adults.

That means more resources, not budget cuts.

Harvey Litzelman, a teacher in California, explains why police don’t make schools safe.

When he first entered teaching, before he ever got any lessons about teaching, he was shown a video about how to handle a school shooter. The video was called “Run Hide Defend.” It made clear that the teacher was the first line of defense for students.

He writes:

Having taught in Oakland for several years after watching that video, I’ve seen very clearly how cycles of poverty, violence, and trauma manifest on my campus. I’ve seen students brutally attack one another; I’ve seen their adult family members join in. I’ve heard rumors and reports of weapons changing hands and threats of school shootings. And in every single instance, I’ve seen unarmed professionals trained to work with young people leverage the relationships they have with students to deescalate tense situations and repair harm after violent ones. Never have I seen a situation that would have been better handled by an officer of the Oakland School Police Department (OSPD) or the city’s Oakland Police Department.

The police do not keep kids (or adults) safe at school, whether from school shootings or any lesser offense. Teachers, support staff, and students themselves do. This is an argument that requires us to challenge the basic premises of modern policing. It is an argument that borrows from the long intellectual tradition of police and prison abolition, developed largely by Black women like Angela Davis, Ruth Wilson Gilmore, Mariame Kaba, and many others. But it is also an argument grounded in the lived reality of schools.

We must follow the lead of local organizers in Minneapolis, MN; Portland, OR; Denver, CO; Milwaukee, WI, Richmond, CA; and Hayward, CA, who have already convinced their school districts to cut ties with the police. We must unpack the privileges that let many of us feel safe around the police while many of our students do not. And we must do the creative work of abolition: building the institutions that keep us safe while dismantling those that do not.

Read the rest of this interesting article.

Nancy Bailey reminds us that a decade ago, we were allegedly “Waiting for Superman” to save us, but that was a hoax because the film was propaganda for charter schools and privatization.

Today, as our nation fights a deadly pandemic, we know that the genuine superheroes, the ones who protect our children, are teachers.

Every state faces a budget shortfall because of the pandemic and its effect on the economy.

Projected job losses for teachers are huge.

Bailey advises: Don’t fire our superheroes.

Our children need smaller classes.

Hire more teachers.

How to pay for it?

Raise taxes on those with the greatest income and wealth.

Yesterday, the United Teachers of Los Angeles scores a big victory, and so did the teachers in five charter schools, who won the right to unionize.

For Immediate Release

May 22, 2020

Media Contact:

Anna Bakalis, 213-305-9654

PERB rules in UTLA’s favor, the union will now represent all educators at five Alliance charter schools

After a two-year legal battle, on Thursday, May 21, the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) certified UTLA as the exclusive collective bargaining representative of educators at the five Alliance charter schools that filed for union recognition:

Alliance College-Ready Middle Academy 5
Alliance Judy Ivie Burton Technology Academy High School
Alliance Gertz-Ressler/Richard Merkin 6-12 Complex
Alliance Leichtman Levine Family Foundation Environmental Science High School
Alliance Morgan McKinzie High School…

“Now that PERB has made it clear that we filed appropriately at our schools, we’re ready to sit down at the bargaining table,” said Kemberlee Hooper, a Physical Education teacher at Gertz-Merkin. “ I’m excited that we’ll have an equal voice in decision making, and I look forward to bargaining over issues like professional developments and a fair and meaningful evaluation process.”

Alliance has been fighting PERB certification since educators at three schools filed for union recognition in May 2018, with two more filing in 2019. But now with this decision, Alliance educators have prevailed after a two-year legal delay intended by Alliance to deny educators their right to bargain and to organize with UTLA. Alliance educators are ready to move forward. They urge Alliance to start setting a better example for their students and the Alliance community by respecting PERB’s decision and its own educators.

Particularly in this unprecedented time, it’s more important than ever that educators have an equal voice in decisions impacting their students, their schools, and their profession. Alliance educators simply want to sit down with Alliance as real decision-making partners and together decide what will make their schools the best place to work and learn.

Alliance educators look forward to bargaining at five union schools and are committed to organizing at all Alliance schools.

Only days ago, Mercedes Schneider wrote about major layoffs at Success Academy, which seemed to be belt-tightening.

But the belt will not actually be tightened because Success Academy is now hiring 1,000 new staff.

What’s the story with the revolving door?

Schneider looks at Glassdoor reviews, where employees write anonymously about their workplace.

SA burns through employees at a rapid clip. Turnover is high. The demands are so intense on students and staff that the staff churns and lagging students leave.

Schneider concludes that if you are one of the new hires, keep your bags packed.

Eric (Chaz) Chasanoff died of COVID-19 at the age of 69. He was a greatly admired high school teacher and blogger. He started his blog “Chaz’s School Daze” in 2006 in response to the oppressive policies of the Bloomberg-Klein regime. He was an inspiration to other teachers and bloggers, including me.

The UFT honored him as a teacher and a fearless activist.

This was his assessment of the legacy of Joel Klein.

Here are his prescient thoughts on the failure of de Blasio’s chancellor to clean house and get rid of the Klein hires.

Here he is on Bloomberg’s failed policies.

He wrote this post a few weeks before he died.

I urge you to browse his blog. His was a strong, fearless, independent voice. He will be missed.

Sadly, with condolences to his family, friends and former colleagues, I add Chaz Chasanoff to this blog’s honor roll. A teacher who loved teaching, a fearless and relentless advocate for students and teachers. A teacher who spoke truth to power. A man of principle.

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.”

Andrew Cuomo has a longstanding dislike for teachers and public schools.

He made his disdain clear when he failed to appoint any current New York City educators to his “reimagine education” task force.

Why should he listen to teachers and principals when he can call Bill Gates, Michael Bloomberg, Eric Schmidt and other billionaires and CEOs to decide what schools should look like when they reopen?

If there is any consolation to this malign neglect, it is important to remember that Cuomo has no role in setting education policy. That job belongs to the New York State Board of Regents. According to the state constitution, the governor does not appoint either the state commissioner or the Board of Regents.

He is a kibitzer.

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.