Search results for: "Stand for children"

Jan Resseger writes here about the absurdity of the demand by major editorial boards (the New York Times and the Washington Post) to resume standardized testing.

Under normal circumstances, without a pandemic, the tests are useless. As I have written before (and Jan quotes in her article), the tests do not provide teachers or parents with timely or useful information about students’ progress, as the editorial writers wrongly assume. The teachers typically are not allowed to see the questions on the tests, they are never allowed to discuss them with students or other teachers, and they never see how their own students responded (rightly or wrongly) to specific questions. The scores are reported 4-6 months after the tests were given. The scores become a way to tell students how they ranked, but not what they need to learn. They serve no diagnostic purpose. Imagine going to your doctor with a sharp pain in your stomach, taking a battery of tests, then learning that you will get the results in 4-6 months, but no prescriptions since you are not permitted to know how you did on the tests, just how you did in comparison to others of your age and weight.

Resseger writes that if parents want to know how their child is doing, they should rely on the professional teachers who see them every day:

The Post would appear to trust big data and distrust educational professionals.  As soon as schools can be opened in person, professionally educated and prepared teachers and public school staff will be assessing what students need, adapting curricula accordingly, and helping parents support their children’s learning. Teachers have been doing their best throughout this school year to meet children’s and parents’ needs, although the disruption of switching back and forth from online to in-person to on-line learning as COVID-19 infections have surged and abated and surged has made the year chaotic for families and for educators.

The standardized tests will tell the public what it already knows. Students in affluent districts will have higher scores than students who live in under-resourced districts. The scores will be highly correlated with family income.

Resseger writes:

Injustice in American public education has been defined for generations by what Jonathan Kozol in 1991 described as Savage Inequalities in investment between wealthy and poor school districts.  Programs like the federal Title I program for compensatory funding for schools serving concentrations of poor children as well the states’ school funding distribution formulas are intended, despite their inadequacy, to invest federal and state dollars in the school districts lacking local property taxing capacity.  Inequities will persist until our society finds a way, in the poorest school districts, to invest in pre-Kindergarten and wraparound Community Schools; small classes; plenty of counselors, nurses and librarians; and the kind of curricular enrichment children in wealthy exurbs take for granted.

This COVID-19 year is an excellent time for the federal government to invest in educational equity and to incentivize states to increase their investments in the poorest school districts. It is a bad time to relaunch the failed high-stakes testing regime of No Child Left Behind and the Every Student Succeeds Act.

The “reform” lobby, never content without testing and data, has argued in a host of opinion pieces that children really need to be tested this spring. The reformers believe that school is unthinkable and teachers won’t know what to do without annual standardized testing. They have completely imbibed the Texas Miracle That Wasn’t, the “miracle” that justified No Child Left Behind’s testing mandate. The achievement gaps remain large, with no sign of closing, but facts never got in the way of datamania.

Peter Greene wrote in Forbes in response to the reform clamor for more tests. He specifically responded to Aaron Churchill of the Thomas Fordham Institute, who wrote in the Columbus Dispatch about the importance of giving the annual tests this spring.

How can children possibly be educated if they aren’t taking tests and we don’t have data? If you can’t get enough of Peter Greene on the BS Test, here is more.

Greene rebuts each of six points.

The tests do not collect valuable information. They are not even useful, since teachers are not allowed to see the questions or the answers of individual students.

The results (scores) are reported 4-6 months after the tests. How is this information useful to teachers? (Hint: it is not.)

The data are used not to help students but to harm their teachers and their schools. Based on this useless data, states have closed schools and seized control of entire districts, to facilitate privatization of public funds.

The biggest beneficiaries of testing are the testing corporations, which pull in hundreds of millions each year for useless data.

The best response to the reformers’ urgent appeal for more testing came from Melissa Cropper, president of the Ohio Federation of Teachers. Unlike anyone at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, Melissa is a teacher who represents teachers. She and her colleagues deal every day with the real life problems of real life students and families. They do not live in a well-funded bubble inside the Beltway, where every education issue is theoretical.

Melissa Cropper wrote:

This isn’t the time for high-stakes testing

I’m writing in response to Aaron Churchill’s Thursday column, “Don’t cancel K-12 testing when we need data more than ever,” and his contention that testing is needed to “effectively target resources in recovery efforts.”

Our students are going through a school year like no other in history. They are adapting to remote learning and plowing through obstacles at every turn. They are doing remarkable work, but they are not receiving the support they need and they are not receiving the resources they are entitled to under Ohio’s constitution.

The Ohio House voted 87-9 recently to adopt the Fair School Funding Plan, a bipartisan 90% majority vote. However the Senate refused to even bring that bill up for a vote. That is the path forward for advocates who truly care about getting needed resources to Ohio students, not high-stakes testing during a pandemic that has interrupted the academic year in countless ways.

If you want to know how students are doing, ask their teachers. If you want to secure funding for students who need it most, support a school funding plan that meets our constitutional requirement to provide an adequate and equitable education for all Ohio students. If you want to be able to direct charitable organizations to support the students who need it, hire resource coordinators in every school district

We should not mandate testing until we can provide a stable and safe school environment for all students.

Melissa Cropper, President, Ohio Federation of Teachers

If I may, I would like to amend Melissa’s response. The best time to resume NCLB-style annual standardized testing is never. It is expensive and useless.

Andrea Gabor has some good ideas about what the new Secretary of Education must do.

President-elect Joe Biden’s nominee for education secretary, Miguel Cardona, will face a host of pandemic-related challenges that have disproportionately affected the nation’s neediest students. In addition to learning setbacks, the prolonged isolation has caused social and emotional trauma. 

The challenges will continue to mount once the Covid-19 crisis is over.

Government resources will be strained at all levels, and continued Republican control of the Senate would likely limit extra funding available for K-12 education. 

In the absence of significant support for state and local governments, beyond the money included in any year-end stimulus package, Cardona, who has been Connecticut’s education commissioner, will need to concentrate on closing funding inequities between poor and affluent school districts in order to avoid the kind of educational setbacks that followed the 2008 recession. 

Although recent data indicate that the learning losses this fall, compared with the same period last year, have not been as dire as predicted, those results likely mask high numbers of missing kids — children who lack technology for online learning or whose parents are unable to supervise their remote schooling. 

States and localities are responsible for the lion’s share of spending on public education; yet, as of 2015, only 11 states had funding formulas where high-poverty schools receive more funding per student than low-poverty schools, down from a high of 22 in 2008.

When states cut back on their share of aid during the Great Recession, school funding came to rely increasingly on local property tax revenue, benefiting districts with high property values and hurting those where the values are low. 

Though it may sound counterintuitive, an important first step the new administration can take to improve educational equity is to abandon the regimen of annual standardized tests that has dominated federal educational policy-making, especially under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. 

Under the best circumstances, standardized tests do little to measure actual achievement, let alone improve it; indeed, the relentless focus on English and math in every grade from third through eighth has shortchanged the teaching of science at the elementary level as well as civics. Given the difficulty of administering tests during a pandemic, any results obtained next spring are likely to be more flawed than ever.

Eliminating or sharply curtailing standardized tests would save states as much as $1.7 billion and allow districts to reallocate resources. For perspective, that is over 4% of the $39 billion the federal government spends on K-12 education, based on 2018 figures. 

Instead, districts could administer diagnostic tests developed by local educators that provide quick feedback for teachers. (The typically long lag time on standardized test results means teachers can’t easily tailor instruction to student needs.) Testing by the National Association of Educational Progress, which is considered the nation’s report card, provides “the ideal gauge” for measuring Covid-19’s impact on students and should not be canceled; NAEP provides state-by-state comparisons and takes demographic criteria like race, income and disability into account. 

Cardona should also see to it that the Education Department rewrites the eligibility rules for supplemental federal funds that are meant for the poorest schools. These so-called Title 1 funds constitute the largest share of federal education spending. One major flaw with the Title 1 formula is that under current rules, 20% of the money meant for poor students, or about $2.6 billion, ends up in districts with a higher proportion of wealthy families (partly because large, more affluent districts often have enough poor students to qualify for the aid). Changing the funding formulas could be politically difficult if it means taking money away from better-off districts — a problem that could be mitigated by stimulus funding now being debated in Congress. 

The new stimulus bill approved by Congress calls for about $54 billion in funding for K-12 schools. The Biden Education Department should ensure that it isn’t zeroed out for other uses by the states, as Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York did with $716.9 million in education benefits from federal stimulus aid last spring. Cuomo’s cuts shredded the part of the budget that provided extra funding to districts with comparatively low tax bases.

Instead, federal money should be used to reward states that promote funding equity, as well as local desegregation efforts — ideas Biden has endorsed. States that could benefit include California, which has a 10-year blueprint to expand early childhood programs and pre-K, and Arizona, where voters just approved a ballot measure to raise money for educator salaries by taxing the state’s highest earners.

Working with other government agencies, like Health and Human Services, and rewriting Title 1 rules could help tap additional funding for community schools, turning them into hubs that provide counseling, basic medical services and food. A recent study found that providing such “wraparound services” in New York City schools, for example, increased attendance and graduation rates, as well as some test scores. 

Similarly, by working with the Federal Communications Commission and advocating for changes in telecommunications tax policy, the Education Department could help improve the internet infrastructure in vast swaths of the country, urban and rural, where well over one-quarter of children live in households without web access. Poor internet service has proved an enormous educational liability during the pandemic. Government could raise $7 billion in additional revenue for improving broadband services if it reversed the prohibition on taxing existing internet services. 

Finally, Cardona’s department can offer states matching grants to shore up community colleges, which receive far less per-pupil funding than four-year colleges, yet serve as a stepping stone to the middle class for low-income students. This will be especially important during a post-pandemic downturn when community colleges are likely to face large cuts and would provide a much more targeted boost for poor students than a broad program of forgiving college loans. 

Just before the pandemic, at least a dozen states were still financing schools at well below pre-2008 levels; student test scores and graduation rates suffered as a result. The lessons from the 2008 recession, when high-poverty districts lost $1,500 in spending per pupil, three times the loss in affluent districts, suggest that unless both the Education Department and the states distribute money more equally, the damage to poor districts will be long-lasting.

Eve Blad wrote in Education Week about where Miguel Cardona, Biden’s choice for Secretary of Education, stands on the issues:

On reopening schools during the pandemic: He favors in-person instruction, but has not mandated it. He recommends face masks.

“We all know remote learning will never replace the classroom experience,” Cardona wrote in a November opinion piece published in the Connecticut Mirror. “We also know that the health and safety of our students, staff, and their families must be the primary consideration when making decisions about school operations. The two are not mutually exclusive.”

Charter Schools: He has not taken a strong position for or against charter schools, but the state board has not approved any new charters since he took office in August 2019.

“Charter schools provide choice for parents that are seeking choice, so I think it’s a viable option, but [neighborhood schools] that’s going to be the core work that not only myself but the people behind me in the agency that I represent will have while I’m commissioner,” he said during his state confirmation hearing.

During the campaign, Biden promised to stop federal funding of for-profit charters, a small segment of the industry. Charter advocates are pleased that he is not an opponent, but progressive groups are wary because charters drain funding from neighborhood schools. [My note: Connecticut has only 21 charter schools, including the no-excuses Achievement First, three of whose charters are on probation because of their harsh disciplinary methods. This action was taken last February, while Cardona was state chief.]

High-stakes testing: Before he was selected, Cardona made clear that he wants to resume annual testing this spring.

In a Dec. 7 memo, the agency said the state would conduct testing as planned this year, even as some schools remain closed for in-person learning and others are dealing with the fallout of interrupted schooling. 

State tests are the most accurate guideposts to our promise of equity for ALL,” that memo said.

The state plans to assess all students and report the data, but it will not use students’ test scores or to identify schools that need improvement, the guidance said.

[My note: Please, someone, tell Dr. Cardona that testing does not produce equity. Tell him about Finland, where there is no high-stakes standardized testing, and every school is a good school. Tell him that Finland aimed for equity and got excellence. Give him a copy of Pasi Sahlberg’s book Finnish Lessons 2.0, or the Doyle-Sahlberg book Let the Children Play. Tell him that test scores report gaps but do not close them. Tell him that the high-performing nations of the world do NOT test every student every year. Do not waste hundreds of millions of dollars on standardized testing. Teachers should write their own tests, because they can test what they taught and get rapid feedback about what students learned.]

English Learners and Students of Color:

Cardona wrote his doctoral dissertation on closing the achievement gap between English-language learner students and their peers.

As a Latino American and former English-language learner himself, he has said he relates to students of color and those who speak other languages at home.

(My note: These statements show he cares but it says nothing about what he will do.)

Teachers and Unions Cardona worked well with teachers and unions and will help Biden collaborate with the two big teachers’ unions, who were major supporters of his campaign. After four years of DeVos and eight contentious years with Arne Duncan and John King, the unions are looking forward to having a good relationship with Cardona.

The Pfizer vaccine was developed not by Pfizer but by a German company called BioNTech. There is an amazing story behind BioNTech, which was founded by a married couple, both of whom are children of Turkish immigrants to Germany. Thanks to the success of their vaccine, they are now billionaires but they don’t own a car. They are the kind of people that Trump’s strict bans on immigration would keep out of our country. The Washington Post profiled the couple.

BERLIN — At 8 p.m. Sunday ­evening, the phone rang with the call Ugur Sahin, chief executive of the German medical start-up ­BioNTech, had been anxiously awaiting.
“Are you sitting down?” Pfizer chief Albert Bourla asked him.


The news that followed was better than Sahin had hoped: Preliminary analysis from Phase 3 trials of his company’s coronavirus vaccine showed 90 percent protection.


“I was more than excited,” said Sahin, speaking to The Washington Post on a video call from his home in the western German city of Mainz.


The interim results put the 55-year-old and his co-founder wife, Ozlem Tureci, in the front of the pack racing for a safe and effective vaccine. Global markets rallied, and stock soared for ­BioNTech — a small-by-pharma-industry-standards company that has yet to see a vaccine using its technology brought to market. For the corona-weary masses, it was a much-needed glimpse of a potential end in sight...

The husband-and-wife team behind one of the world’s top coronavirus vaccine candidates are the sort of people who don’t own a car and who took the morning off for their wedding day in 2002 before returning to the lab. Half a day was “sufficient,” Tureci explained.

Sahin and Tureci, both children of Turkish immigrants to Germany, met while working on an oncology ward in the southwestern city of Homburg. They found they shared an interest in getting the body’s immune system to fight cancer.
Sahin was born in the Mediterranean city of Iskenderun and moved to Germany when he was 4. His father was a “Gastarbeiter,” or guest worker, at a Ford factory in Cologne.


Tureci’s family moved to Germany from Turkey before she was born, after her father finished medical school. “He schlepped me everywhere when I was young,” she said, “to the hospital and to see patients and such.”
In her studies, Tureci was surprised by the gap between advances in medical technology and what was available to doctors and patients. She and Sahin decided the best way to close that gap was to launch their own company.

Founded in 2008, BioNTech’s work focused primarily on cancer vaccines using what is known as messenger RNA technology. While traditional vaccines require labor-intensive production of ­viral proteins, mRNA vaccines deploy a piece of genetic code that instructs a person’s immune system to produce the proteins itself.



Sahin said he hadn’t closely followed the science of the novel coronavirus spreading in China, but on Jan. 24 he received a scientific paper that rang alarm bells. It described both serious cases and an asymptomatic carrier. He Googled “Wuhan” and saw it was a well-connected megacity with an international airport.


“That’s the full pattern you need for a pandemic virus,” he said.
It took a few days to talk others at the company into putting their resources behind a coronavirus vaccine, he said, as some experts were still dismissing the potential for a pandemic as hype. “In a company, it’s a matter of convincing people that they need to install a lot of energy,” he said. Energy is something Sahin exudes as he talks excitedly about the vaccine’s prospects.


It was a “snowball effect,” Tureci said. “He was very convincing that this kind of pandemic could develop.”


Within four weeks, the first wave of the epidemic in Europe was in full swing, and BioNTech had 20 vaccine candidates as part of what it dubbed project “Lightspeed” (no connection to the U.S. government’s “Operation Warp Speed”). With a team of more than 1,000 people in Mainz working “24-7,” Sahin said, the company narrowed its most promising candidates down to four. But it didn’t have the resources to conduct large-scale clinical trials or the production and distribution that would be necessary.


BioNTech approached Pfizer, with whom they had an existing relationship, working on influenza vaccines.
“The answer came immediately and was a yes,” said Tureci. In April, Pfizer invested an initial $185 million toward the vaccine development and said it would release up to $563 million more based on milestones in the development.
When the interim Phase 3 results came in, Tureci said, they took her by surprise. “As a scientist, I’m very cautious and tend to be a bit pessimistic,” she said.


Sahin said the news was “extremely relieving.”
The United States had already ordered 100 million doses, with an option for 500 million more. The European Union on Wednesday agreed on an order for an initial 200 million.
Amid the whirlwind of publicity, tweets from President Trump have brought some bemusement. “Complete nonsense” is how Sahin describes the accusation that the companies sat on the results until after the election.
And as for Trump’s claims of credit: “I’m not sure where the U.S. government would have had input in this,” Tureci said...

Sahin and Tureci are now a billionaire couple, numbering among the 100 richest Germans, according to the German paper Welt am Sonntag. Sahin said he can’t avoid watching the stock price go up — “but it doesn’t really matter that much.” He’s more concerned about getting his first product to the market.
“I don’t have a car. I’m not going to buy a plane,” said Sahin, who cycles to work every day. “What’s life-changing is to be able to impact something in the medical field.”

Peter Handel writes at Truthout that President-Elect Biden must change education policy if he wants to heal the nation. By his choice for Secretary of Education, Biden must acknowledge the damage done to America’s children by the high-stakes testing regime of No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top. Bush’s law and Obama’s program were kissing cousins; both were disasters that hurt the most vulnerable children.

Handel quotes Lee-Ann Gray, a clinical psychologist, who says that the American school system is nothing short of traumatic for many Black students and other students of color. In her book, Educational Trauma: Examples From Testing to the School-to-Prison Pipeline, she exposes how schooling in the U.S. routinely undermines students’ mental health, limits their potential, and, in the worst cases, causes lifelong harm.

As a new administration is poised to take the reins of government, Gray says it is time to demand both widespread changes to the U.S. education system and public measures to address the mental health crisis facing many marginalized students. She urges Joe Biden to start by re-examining Race to the Top, an Obama-era education program that ties funding to performance, and instead begin cultivating compassionate alternatives that promote learning and well-being.

Gray told Handel:

As a clinical psychologist, certified in treating trauma, I observed blatant and overt traumas in the youth presenting for care in California. It was especially evident to me when the prevalence rate of ADD/ADHD rose to the point that teachers were identifying it and referring students to psychiatrists for prescriptions. I saw that schools in America perpetrated little t traumas every day, everywhere. Francine Shapiro, the creator of EMDR, a trauma treatment, indicated that shame, slights, humiliation, embarrassments and failures are smaller traumas that can accumulate to critical symptoms. The rate of bullying and the negative effects of testing are riddled with little t traumas. Standard education protocol in the U.S., with its emphasis on testing, intense competition and conformity, is a breeding ground for little t trauma. This is particularly problematic in low-income schools where students are dehumanized and often face multiple oppressions before entering the classroom.

Finally, I knew I was seeing trauma when I stumbled across psychologist Alice Miller’s concept of “poisonous pedagogy,” which describes how harmful practices are perpetuated in the name of education. From high-stakes testing to harsh discipline to inadequate mental health support, poisonous pedagogy is rife in U.S. schools.

She added:

No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and Race to the Top (RTTT) are two federal reward programs offering schools extra funds for higher test scores. They essentially use a market demand model to demonstrate that students are learning, when, in fact, learning cannot be measured in this way. Testing is a very flawed measure of student success. Moreover, the model used to evaluate school scores is even more flawed in that teachers’ careers depend on the scores of students they’ve never taught. Ultimately, these two federal incentive funding programs bind teachers’ hands so that they aren’t able to employ their professional expertise.

There is more to this thoughtful interview. Open the link and read it.


The Network for Public Education is allied with Pastors for Texas Children. PTC has been a courageous leader in the fight for our public schools and against privatization.

The leader of PTC wrote the following statement:

Statement from Reverend Charles Foster Johnson on the 2020 Elections
Pastors for Texas Children extends a hearty congratulations to all those elected and re-elected to serve our children in the 87th Texas Legislature! Both incumbents and challengers fought hard and often confrontational, contentious campaigns that produced untold stress on them and their families. This is the messy price we pay for open and free elections, and we honor all candidates for serving the public in this important and sacrificial way. We have held every candidate in our prayers, and will continue to do so. We note with profound gratification the emphasis on public education in this electoral cycle. Virtually every incumbent and challenger ran on a strong public education platform. It is clear that the people of Texas want their House of Representatives to be fully affirming of great public schools for all 5.4 million Texas children, promote policies that protect and provide for them, and oppose policies that harm them.  It is crystal clear what public education support means:

*Opposition to any voucher proposal, regardless of its name, that diverts funding away from our neighborhood public schools to underwrite private and home schools.

 Support for budget plans that adequately fund our children’s public education, for a comprehensive study that determines what that education actually costs in current dollars, and for new sources of state revenue to sustain HB3.  

Opposition to charter school expansion that drains money away from public schools.

Support for charter school transparency and accountability.

Opposition to burdensome standardized testing that teachers and parents clearly abhor.

Support for teacher authority and compensation.  

We will be working closely with all 150 House members and 31 Senate members to make sure these promises are put into action in the 87th Legislature. 

Universal education, provided and protected by the public, is an expression of God’s Common Good as well as a Texas constitutional mandate.  Our children are counting on us all to advocate for it.

Apoorva Mandavilli is an award-winning science reporter for the New York Times. She is a mother of two children. She lives in Brooklyn. In this article, she thinks through the pros and cons of sending her children back to school. To read the links, open the story. Yesterday, Mayor de Blasio and UFT leader Michael Mulgrew announced that the city’s public schools would open for blended learning on September 21. Orientation will begin September 16. Teachers will report to their buildings on September 8.


All summer, as information about how the coronavirus affects children has trickled in, I’ve been updating a balance sheet in my head. Every study I read, every expert I talked to, was filling in columns on this sheet: reasons for and against sending my children back to school come September.

Into the con column went a study from Chicago that found children carry large amounts of virus in their noses and throats, maybe even more than adults do. Also in the con column: two South Korean studies, flawed as they were, which suggested children can spread the virus to others — and made me wonder whether my sixth-grader, at least, should stay home.

Reports from Europe hinting that it was possible to reopen schools safely dribbled onto the pro side of my ledger. But could we match those countries’ careful precautions, or their low community levels of virus?

I live in Brooklyn, where schools open after Labor Day (if they open this year at all), so my husband and I have had more time than most parents in the nation to make up our minds. We’re also privileged enough to have computers and reliable Wi-Fi for my children to learn remotely.

But as other parents called and texted to ask what I was planning to do, I turned to the real experts: What do we know about the coronavirus and children? And what should parents like me do?

The virus is so new that there are no definitive answers as yet, the experts told me. Dozens of coronavirus studies emerge every day, “but it is not all good literature, and sorting out the wheat from the chaff is challenging,” said Dr. Megan Ranney, an expert in adolescent health at Brown University.

But she and other experts were clear on one thing: Schools should only reopen if the level of virus circulating in the community is low — that is, if less than 5 percent of people tested have a positive result. By that measure, most school districts in the nation cannot reopen without problems.

“The No. 1 factor is what your local transmission is like,” said Helen Jenkins, an expert in infectious diseases and statistics at Boston University. “If you’re in a really hard-hit part of the country, it’s highly likely that somebody coming into the school will be infected at some point.”

On the questions of how often children become infected, how sick they get and how much they contribute to community spread, the answers were far more nuanced.

Fewer children than adults become infected. But childhood infection is not uncommon.

In the early days of the pandemic, there were so few reports of sick children that it was unclear whether they could be infected at all. Researchers guessed even then that younger children could probably catch the coronavirus, but were mostly spared severe symptoms.

That conjecture has proved correct. “There is very clear evidence at this point that kids can get infected,” Dr. Ranney said.

As the pandemic unfolded, it also appeared that younger children were less likely — perhaps only half as likely — to become infected, compared with adults, whereas older children had about the same risk as adults.

But it’s impossible to be sure. In most countries hit hard by the coronavirus, lockdowns and school shutdowns kept young children cloistered at home and away from sources of infection. And when most of those countries opened up, they did so with careful adherence to masks and physical distancing.

Children may turn out to be less at risk of becoming infected, “but not meaningfully different enough that I would take solace in it or use it for decision making,” said Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health.

In the United States, children under age 19 still represent just over 9 percent of all coronavirus cases. But the number of children infected rose sharply this summer to nearly half a million, and the incidence among children has risen much faster than it had been earlier this year.

“And those are just the kids that have been tested,” said Dr. Leana Wen, a former health commissioner of Baltimore. “It’s quite possible that we’re missing many cases of asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic children.”

In the two-week period between Aug. 6 and Aug. 20, for example, the number of children diagnosed in the United States jumped by 74,160, a 21 percent increase.

“Now that we’re doing more community testing, we’re seeing higher proportions of children who are infected,” Dr. Ranney said. “I think that our scientific knowledge on this is going to continue to shift.”

Children do become sick with the virus, but deaths are very rare.

Even with the rising number of infections, the possibility that panics parents the most — that their children could become seriously ill or even die from the virus — is still reassuringly slim.

Children and adolescents up to age 20 (definitions and statistics vary by state) represent less than 0.3 percent of deaths related to the coronavirus, and 21 states have reported no deaths at all among children.

“That remains the silver lining of this pandemic,” Dr. Jha said.

But reports in adults increasingly suggest that death is not the only severe outcome. Many adults seem to have debilitating symptoms for weeks or months after they first fall ill.

“What percentage of kids who are infected have those long-term consequences that we’re increasingly worried about with adults?” Dr. Ranney wondered.

Multisystem inflammatory syndrome, a mysterious condition that has been linked to the coronavirus, has also been reported in about 700 children and has caused 11 deaths as of Aug. 20. “That’s a very small percentage of children,” Dr. Ranney said. “But growing numbers of kids are getting hospitalized, period.”

Children can spread the virus to others. How often is still unknown.

Transmission has been the most challenging aspect of the coronavirus to discern in children, made even more difficult by the lockdowns that kept them at home.

Because most children are asymptomatic, for example, household surveys and studies that test people with symptoms often miss children who might have seeded infections. And when schools are closed, young children don’t venture out; they tend to catch the virus from adults, rather than the other way around.

To confirm the direction of spread, scientists ideally would genetically sequence viral samples obtained from children to understand where and when they were infected, and whether they passed it on.

New York City has delayed the opening of schools by 10 days to give teachers and principals more time to prepare and to avert a possible teachers’ strike.

Under pressure from schools and advocates, the federal government has agreed to make it easier for schools to feed poor children.

“I keep saying to people, ‘It’s so hard to study transmission — it’s just really, really hard,’” Dr. Jenkins said.

Still, based on studies so far, “I think it still appears that the younger children might be less likely to transmit than older ones, and older ones are probably more similar to adults in that regard,” she said.

Sadly, the high numbers of infected children in the United States may actually provide some real data on this question as schools reopen.

So what’s a parent to do?

That’s a tough one to answer, as parents everywhere now know. So much depends on the particular circumstances of your school district, your immediate community, your family and your child.

“I think it’s a really complex decision, and we need to do everything we can as a society to enable parents to make this type of decision,” Dr. Wen said.

There are some precautions everyone can take — beginning with doing as much outdoors as possible, maintaining physical distance and wearing masks.

“I will not send my children to school or to an indoor activity where the children are not all masked,” Dr. Ranney said.

Even if there is uncertainty about how often children become infected or spread the virus, “when you consider the risk versus benefit, the balance lies in assuming that kids can both get infected and can spread it,” Dr. Ranney said.

For schools, the decision will also come down to having good ventilation — even if that’s just windows that open — small pods that can limit how widely the virus might spread from an infected child, and frequent testing to cut transmission chains.

Teachers and school nurses will also need protective equipment, Dr. Jenkins said: “Good P.P.E. makes all the difference, and school districts must provide that for the teachers at an absolute minimum.”

As long as these right precautions are in place, “it’s better for kids to be in school than outside of school,” Dr. Jha said. “Teachers are reasonably safe in those environments, as well.”

But community transmission is the most important factor in deciding whether children should go back to school, researchers agreed. “We just can’t keep a school free from the coronavirus if the community is a hotbed of infection,” Dr. Wen said.

Walter Stroup is chair of the department of STEM education and teacher development and an associate professor at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. In 2014, as a professor at the University of Texas, he publicly testified that the state was wasting hundreds of millions of dollars on standardized testing because the only thing that was measured was skill at passing standardized tests. This was hugely embarrassing to Pearson, which had a $500 million contract with the state of Texas. Recently Professor Stroup sent a letter to the Houston Chronicle, supporting its editorial calling for a pause in standardized testing For 2020-21.

I asked if I could post his response here.

He wrote:

[Response to July 22, 2020 “Editorial: What Gov. Abbott should do about STAAR testing this year for Texas schools.”]

As researchers and longtime education advocates, we support the conclusions of the July 22, 2020 “Editorial: What Gov. Abbott should do about STAAR testing this year for Texas schools.” Before our school system can run as normal, it will need to learn to walk again. And we shouldn’t keep objects in its way that may make it stumble.

We agree that state-mandated standardized exams should be the “last thing” student and teachers need to worry about. But that’s not enough. To support our schools and teachers, the next question has to be: if not STAAR, then what?

There is indeed a substantial body of research showing that current tests are “invalid indicators of student progress and ineffective in closing the so-called educational achievement gap.” We also agree with Commissioner Morath that we need shared measures of student progress if we are all to be held accountable for the educational outcomes in our schools.

To start our thinking about what might come next, we should ask whether STAAR tests are useful to teachers – the first responders of our school system. For that matter, are the products from one of the largest non-high-stakes test vendors in Texas, Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA), useful to teachers?

We believe the answer is a resounding, No.

Although well intended, these tests measure the wrong kind of growth. Not only does this make them the wrong kind of tool to evaluate student achievement and institutional quality, it also means the tests themselves have become an instrument in preserving inequities in students’ educational outcomes.

When it comes to test development and scoring, two kinds of growth can be assessed.

“Growth” can be evaluated relative to achievement – how much students have learned. Or “growth” can be evaluated on a scale similar to measurements of height. Just as children get taller with age, they also get generally better at certain kinds of problem-solving tasks.

It makes a world of difference which kind we use if we want to help schools recover.

The first kind of growth – in achievement – is the only kind for which schools can, and should, be held accountable. We send children to school because we know that’s where we learned to read, write and do mathematics and we want the same for our children. Tests, to be useful in improving student outcomes, must be highly sensitive to differences in what schools do – sensitive to good teaching.

Unfortunately, current test development methodologies give us tests that behave, in almost every significant sense, like measures of biological growth, not measures of achievement.

If we buy a thermometer to measure temperature, put it in a pot of hot water, and the numbers barely change, that’s a problem. If we buy a box of these thermometers that all do the same thing, then that makes it a bigger problem. Our current box of tests has been shown to have very little sensitivity to temperature change — to differences in the quality of instruction.

When it comes to the issue of what kind of growth is being assessed by current tests, the evidence is equally clear. The grade-related growth curves the test vendor NWEA shares on its web site are remarkably similar to curves pediatricians use to chart children’s height.

Age-related or grade-related mental growth metrics can’t be used to improve educational outcomes – they simply aren’t meant to help us become mentally “taller.” Compounding the problem, they have a long history of lending support to oppressive ideologies and practices. In effect, tests fully intended to help address structural inequalities in our educational system end up having the opposite effect: keeping groups of students in the same relative position year-after-year, and across subject areas.

What are the alternatives?

Here are just some of the possibilities. Pattern-based items (PBIs) provide up to eight times more achievement-specific information per question than current items and have been deployed at scale across Texas. Performance-based assessments are being used in New Hampshire. “Badges” are being used in a number of industries as part of digital credentialing programs. Portfolio-based assessment has a long history of use in a wide array of educational settings.

The last time our legislators gathered in Austin, they passed a bill, HB-3906, directing the Texas Education Agency to “establish a pilot program” in which participating school districts would “administer to students integrated formative assessment instruments for subjects or courses for a grade level subject to assessment.” Now is the time to pilot alternative assessments that will help schools and teachers do what they do best – educate our children.

Walter Stroup has his home in Austin, Texas and is chair of the department of STEM education and teacher development and an associate professor at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth.

Anthony Petrosino is associate dean for research and outreach in Southern Methodist University’s Simmons School.
Link to Editorial we were responding to:

Related links (links are also in the text above):

What was published in the Houston Chronicle

An Op-Ed in Dallas Morning News discussing research on current tests

NWEA’s growth curve

CDC growth curves used by pediatricians

The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that states with private school scholarships must provide similar funding to religious schools. This was bizarre because the Montana Supreme Court had already banished the state’s private school scholarship program, which offered $150 to families that chose private schools and sought a state scholarship. So the state of Montana will not owe $150 to the Espinoza family.

Pastors for Texas Children criticized the ruling:

For Immediate Release June 30, 2020

Statement on the Supreme Court Decision in Espinoza

Contact Charlie Johnson, Executive Director charlie@pastorsfortexaschildren.com 210-379-1066 Cameron Vickrey, Associate Director cameron@pastorsfortexaschildren.com 704-962-5735

Fort Worth, TX – The Supreme Court decision today in Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue is an attack on God’s gift of religious liberty for all people.

In ruling that states must allow religious schools to take part in programs that provide state-sponsored scholarships, the freedom of religion for us all is jeopardized.

“For the State of Montana, or any governmental authority, to divert money from public schools to underwrite religious schools is patently wrong,” said the Rev. Charles Foster Johnson, executive director for Pastors for Children.

A tuition tax credit for religious school scholarships takes dollars away from the state treasury for public schools and diverts those dollars to subsidize private religious schools.

Why does the State of Montana, or any state, have any role or agency whatsoever in religious schools?

Public schools accept all children regardless of race, class, status, disability, sexual orientation, and religion. They are where students of all faiths and no faith encounter one another in mutual understanding, where our nation’s constitutional values of religious liberty and respect across lines of difference are lived every day. They protect marginalized students, especially poor students, disabled students, students of color, and LGBTQI+ students.

That’s why the taxing authority of state government supports them.

And why it should stay out of our church schools.

Will Montana religious schools now be required to accept all students who apply?

It is the very nature of a private school to be exclusive. Private religious schools were not formed to be religiously neutral. They are voluntary assemblies protected by the First Amendment to advance and establish religious conviction and teaching. These religious schools constitute a core religious mission. They should be protected from government intrusion.

Let private schools remain private, public schools remain public. Common sense Americans know this. Such wisdom that has sustained our country since its inception escaped the Supreme Court today.

###

About Pastors for Texas Children:
Pastors for Texas Children works to provide “wrap-around” care and ministry to local schools, principals, teachers, staff and schoolchildren, and to advocate for children by supporting our free, public education system, to promote social justice for children, and to advance legislation that enriches Texas children, families, and communities.