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Pandemic Ed: What If the Wireless Is Out?

Interesting situation today.

I have been creating assignments suited to online learning, which basically means that I have to rethink my teaching and create an entirely new, pandemic-adjusted, English IV course. I am trying to get a number of such assignments ready to go prior to my return to school on August 20, 2020. Since students are not slated to return until September 08, 2020, I will have theoretically have some time to work on this online-based curriculum for some weeks prior to hving students. However, I am not sure what to expect between August 20 and September 08, so I do not want to count on having that time to work on assignments.

Today, I decided that it flexible due dates will have to be the “new normal.”

My phone line was dead, which meant I had no internet in my home.

This is the third time such has happened in the past year, but it is the first time since the pandemic hit.

I can’t just walk into Starbucks and settle in for several hours. Needless to say, now, it’s much more complicated.

I drove to a Starbucks near me, and I planned to sit in my car and tap into their wireless. Nope. Even though Starbucks is allowing customers to enter the store to purchase coffee, apparently, they have shut off their wireless (likely in an effort to discourage congregating in their shops).

So, I tried a nearby McDonalds. It worked, sort of. I was able to access the free wireless from my car (and I am glad to have a car to safely sit in because it started raining), but I could not access my school email because my browser did not like McDonalds’ unsecured wireless, and I could not reply to email from my personal account for the same reason, but I could access my Google Classroom assignments and work on them.

It was hard to position myself to work on my laptop in my car, but I did so for about an hour and a half. I am glad I was able to intermittently run my car’s AC (despite the previous rain shower, it was really hot).

I thought about how difficult it would be for one of my students to manage completing my assignments under such conditions, especially if the student had no car.

I also thought about how much more complicated the issue would have been for me if I were trying to conduct class online from my home under order of quarantine. How could I let my students know that I had no internet at my house and that that is why they could not reach me (or I them)?

When I reported the outage to ATT (using my cell phone, which was charged and working), I was told that the problem would be fixed by 7 p.m. the next day.

An eternity given the amount of work I need to do for my class.

I saw a tech working outside on the line, and he said that about 10 residences lost phone usage because the equipment “is about a hundred years old.”

Again I thought of my students.

After my hour-and-a-half McDonalds parking lot stint, I took a break. Later that afternoon, with phone still dead (I checked), I decided to try my gym, which has wireless.

Now, pre-COVID, my gym would have been a go-to place for Plan B wireless, for it has numerous comfortable seating areas. However, the problem now is that I did not know if I could socially distance from others (who would socially distance from me and keep their masks on). As it turns out, in late afternoon, relatively few people were on the premises, and I was able to find a space and to work (masked) for a couple of hours.

And my computer did not block any website access using the gym’s wireless as it did using McDonalds’ wireless.

I thought about returning to the gym (which closes at 9 p.m.) for more wireless time after dinner– an inconvenient prospect, but one must work with what one has.

Yet again, I thought of my students and the difficulty of finishing assignments before wireless access shuts down at close of business.

However, by dinnertime, ATT had fixed the problem, so I did not have to return to my gym for after-dinner wireless access.

Even so, flexible assignment due dates, definitely.

Definitely, definitely.

nowireless

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No time like the present to sharpen your digital research skills!  See my latest book, A Practical Guide to Digital Research: Getting the Facts and Rejecting the Lies, available for purchase on Amazon and via Garn Press!

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I Bought HEPA Air Filtration for My Classroom

As part of my effort to control what I can in the face of so much COVID-19 unknown, today I purchased two HEPA (“high efficiency particulate air”) filtration machines for my classroom (I chose Okaysou AirMax8L for its reasonable price and for the square footage a single machine is able to filter multiple times per hour.)

Given the squre footage of my room (roughly 600 sq ft), the two units should be able to filter the entire room four to five times per hour.

My classroom has windows, but they do not open. Besides, the Louisiana climate does not often lend itself to comfortable, non-AC living. (I attended high school in Louisiana without AC, and we often had to move to an abbreviated, 7 a.m. – 1 p.m. school day because of the sweltering afternoon heat and humidity.) Too, even though my classroom has a back door that I could leave open, doing so introduces safety concerns associated with a campus comprised of multiple buildings (and therefore, multiple entrances).

I do have two wall AC units, but these are not equiped with HEPA filtration.

I feel relief because of this purchase. Let me tell you why.

First of all, if it is safer to be outdoors during this pandemic, then quality filtering of indoor indoor air makes sense.

Second, even though my district is mandating that my high school students wear masks in class (exceptions must be approved by administration on a case-by-case basis), and since I am grounded in K12-teacher reality, I anticipate that I will encounter varied student resistance to doing so (i.e., masks under chin; masks over mouth but not nose; full-on mask defiance that requires disciplinary action). Having HEPA-filtered air in my room will lower the risk of viral spread as I contend with the inevitable degrees of noncompliant mask-wearing.

Third, knowing the air in my room is being filtered gives me confidence to remove my mask and face shield in order to eat lunch, which I usually do when I am alone in my classroom. (My plan prior to purchasing the air filtration was to leave my room and possibly eat lunch in my car out of concern for remaining in my room with my face unprotected.)

Yes, this air filtration is an expense out of my own pocket (and subsidized by my aunt and uncle, who are concerned about my return to school). But it does leave me feeling notably more comfortable about being in my own classroom, both for my sake and the sake of my students.

A notch on the side of confidence during COVID-19:

I’ll take it.

okaysouairmax8l

__________________________________________________________________

No time like the present to sharpen your digital research skills!  See my latest book, A Practical Guide to Digital Research: Getting the Facts and Rejecting the Lies, available for purchase on Amazon and via Garn Press!

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The COVID Classroom: Anything But Normal

Last week, I went to my classroom to begin preparing it for teaching COVID-style.

I was fortunate enough to be able to pack up my classroom once our governor declared in April 2020 that students would not be returning in person to school for the remainder of the 2020-21 school year. So, in some respects, preparing my room for pandemic teaching was rather easy since my personal possessions will remain packed away.

My desk is bare except for my roll book, my plexiglass clipboard (which may prove useful as a barrier) and my hand sanitizer.

No Kleenex on the desk since an open box of tissue could become contaminated by COVID-19.

No classroom set of books, either, so I dissembled the bookshelf to make room for socially-distanced student desks.

No need for my podium for student presentations, so I moved that further back and put my reading stool behind it. (To leave my stool in its usual place at the front of the room would have me too close to my students, who will also not be allowed to move to front of room to take turns leading the class. Too much movement; not enough space.)

The podium and stool are crowded at front of room near my projector cart and TV/DVD cart. To use projector, I need to set it up and adjust, which will put me close to my students. So, if I use it, I have to try to set up and adjust before students enter room, which is the time I need to also use to clean the room between classes.

As for the socially-distanced student desks: I usually have 29 student desks in my room. However, in order to meet the six-feet-distancing requirement (and with the only bookshelf in the room dissembled), I can fit 14 desks without blocking doorways or withoutn having to pass through the rows in order to reach my desk from the hallway entrance into my room.

In order to be creative with storing the remaining 15 desks, I first thought of simply facing them backwards between the forward-facing, socially-distanced desks. However, I know that students will try to sit in those stored desks, or prop their feet up on them. Moreover, if the unused desk surfaces are facing up, then I will need to clean all 29 desks between classes. So, I decided that I will turn the surplus desks upside down, making them stored but not an issue for students to try to utilize– and not an issue for extra, between-class sanitizing for me.

My mother offered to buy me a face shield for use at school. Although I am the teacher in my classroom, to my mother, I am her child who must attend school during a pandemic, and she is concerned.

I told her I have already purchased two face shields, and two washable masks, and two pairs of goggles. I will rely upon my school for gloves.

I also purchased three sets of scrubs to wear in lieu of my usual professional clothes. Our superintendent notified teachers that as per frequent teacher request, wearing scrubs will be allowed. (They are easy to wash.)

If and when we return in person.

Faculty was supposed to return on August 03, 2020, my 53rd birthday. However, COVID-19 cases in Louisiana are notably high, so our school board voted to delay school for four more weeks and to cut a number of holidays from the school calendar.

As of this writing, Louisiana’s positivity rate in 14 percent.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) actually has a document for school administrators in which the CDC feels it must spell out the importance of attending school in person, as though administrators are ignorant of such fundamentals (“In-person instruction may be particularly beneficial for students with additional learning needs”; “In-person classroom instruction has the added benefit for many students of interpersonal interaction between the student and the teacher and the student and peers”; “Schools are an important venue for students to receive emotional and psychological support from friends, teachers, and other staff members”).

The CDC assumes that these benefits somehow transcend pandemic reality. They do not, and the CDC should know better.

Interpersonal interaction in the school setting will be seriously curtailed during this pandemic. I cannot assist students by speaking with them in close proximity, one-on-one. I cannot assign group work without serious (stifling) restrictions. I cannot encourage any unnecessary movement.

I am limited on the materials I can use (i.e., distributing papers, and certainly not swapping or sharing papers), and I cannot offer my student the chance to take turns at the front of the room leading the class (it’s that unneccesary movement issue).

I am even limited as to my movement in my own room; in addition to separating students by six feet, I am supposed to have my own teacher area and to leave that area as little as possible.

So, no circulating around my own room.

I am the teacher, and I am supposed to limit my movement in my own classroom. Is every conversation with a student to be said loud enough for all to hear? Am I to teach without being able to walk up to my students or have them walk up to me? Apparently that is the expectation. But let’s not pretend that what I will be able to do for my students in my COVID-era classroom is remotely on par with normal teacher-student and student-student interaction.

In short, what I will be offering in my room is a form of distance learning to students who happen to be seated in a space in which they can see me and I can see them.

I am fortunate that my district will mandate masks, with individual exceptions requiring administrative clearance. However, given what I know about the spread in a restaurant in China, one with AC units much like those in my classroom, I will have to strategically seat any students excused for wearing masks so as to minimize circulation of respiratory droplets from those students. And I must tell you, even with all of us (including me) wearing masks, I am still concerned about encouraging too much talking in my enclosed classroom with its recirculating air.

I’m not sure just how “emotionally and psychologically supported” any of us will feel given that I will be masked, goggled, face-shielded, gloved, and wearing scrubs, all of which says, “I am concerned that my students will give me COVID-19,” and I will be purposely distanced from my students, who themselves will be masked and purposely-distanced from one another.

I haven’t even hit upon the oppressive absence of all of the extracurricular activities that will be shut down due to coronavirus and how every in-normal-life, casual move (walking with a friend to lunch; improptu restroom visits) can no longer be casual and must instead be planned, scheduled, and executed with unnatural attention to the ubiquitous safety protocols that will be, must be, the true center of our in-person school days.

I also haven’t discussed the fear that returning to school presents for many students and faculty.  I have had three anxiety attacks already in which my heart was notably racing at the thought of returning to school in person, and I am not prone to anxiety attacks.

In the era of COVID-19, and in a state in which the positivity rate is currently 14 percent, remote learning offers more emotional and psychological ease than does in-person learning: No masks, no goggles, no face shields, no gloves, no regimented, stifled movement, no concerns about recirculating air; no need to schedule bathroom breaks, and no ever-present, looming fear of catching, spreading– or super-spreading– COVID-19.

squareapple

_________________________________________________________

No time like the present to sharpen your digital research skills!  See my latest book, A Practical Guide to Digital Research: Getting the Facts and Rejecting the Lies, available for purchase on Amazon and via Garn Press!

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NPE Publishes Comprehensive, State-by-State Listing of PPP Money to Charter Schools

The Network for Public Education (NPE) has composed a state-by-state listing of charter schools, charer management orgs (CMOs), and education management orgs (EMOs) that have received Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans impacting small businesses and nonprofits as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

The looming question is whether charter schools– which receive public funding– suffered any reduction in funding as a result of the pandemic– or whether charter schools see PPP’s likely-forgivable loans as an opportunistic grab.

Indeed, a June 25, 2020, Utah Military Academy board meeting discussion has found its way into the Utah news for such an opportunitsic view. KUTV.com offers this segment of Utah Military Academy discussion of its planned PPP loan exploitation:

“So we take this money to pay the salaries, and the money we were going to pay salaries is going to go into our accounts to help flush up our funds,” said the board member.

“Can I ask a question?” a female voice said. “My understanding was that this money is for businesses who, because of the drop in business, were having trouble keeping all their employees. How do we qualify for that? Because our funding wasn’t cut at all.”

She also notes that no employees have been laid off by the school because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Two more voices interject, “We’re a business,” and, “We’re a nonprofit.”

A third voice is heard saying, “It’s some of that good free government money!”

KUTV.com notes that it was able to access the Utah Military Academy board meeting “thanks to recordings of board meetings that the state requires charter schools to post publicly.” However, as of this writing, the Utah Military Academy board meeting archives ends at May 2020 and does not include the June 2020 meeting referenced above.

The February 15, 2020, Daily Herald reports that the Utah Military Academy was placed on warning in December 2019 by the state’s charter school board, for issues including “he school’s precarious financial situation and its mismanagement of a variety of other issues, including forgeries of signatures and dates on special education documentation, grade inflation to help a student gain admission to West Point and the school’s continuation of an online program not approved under the school’s charter.”

Four days later, on June 29, 2020, Utah Milirary Academy received a PPP loan of $1M – $2M.

Also according to KUTV.com, another Utah charter school, Frnaklin Discovery Academy, discussed on April 23, 2020, discussed “unexpected free money” at is board meeting (the school offers audio copies of its meetings by request):

“We unexpectedly got free money!” a voice exclaims. She goes on to say, “We would like to do a few fun things with it,” and “That particular bucket of money, we do need to somehow, remotely tie to expenses related to coronavirus.”

Earlier in the same meeting, a board member noted that the school was on stable ground financially: “Almost a million dollars in the bank. Doing really well financially, so.”

Two weeks prior to that board meeting, on April 09, 2020, Franklin Discovery Academy received a PPP loan in the amount of $100K – $350K.

Exploitation.

As NPE executive director, Carol Burris, observes in the July 27, 2020, Washington Post, the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools (NAPCS) encouraged charter schools to apply for PPP loans– and NAPCS applied for its own PPP loan, as well:

The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools informed its members via email in March that it had successfully lobbied for charter schools to receive PPP funds and provided instructions on how such funding could be obtained. The blog that contained the contents of that email has been removed, but you can find it in the Internet archives here. Not only did the charter school alliance encourage its members to apply, but the organization received its own PPP forgivable loan in the range of $350,000 to $1 million.

On July 24, 2020, I posted about ProPublica’s PPP loan search engine, which allows the public to easily investigate PPP loans disbursed to any small business or nonprofit, including scores of charter schools, private schools, and other education-related businesses and nonprofits.

NPE’s comprehensive listing of charter schools, charter management orgs (CMOs), and education management orgs (EMOs) receiving PPP money adds to the public’s ability to investigate potential exploitation of PPP loans.

Check out NPE’s listing in your state, and consider whether you need to further invstigate some board meeting discussions surrounding the money.

PPP loans are meant to help small businesses and nonprofits negatively impacted by the coronavirus crisis.

PPP loans are not “free money” meant to “flush up our funds.”

Keep your eyes on the money, America. The last thing cheaters want is publicity.

money tree

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No time like the present to sharpen your digital research skills!  See my latest book, A Practical Guide to Digital Research: Getting the Facts and Rejecting the Lies, available for purchase on Amazon and via Garn Press!

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Who Got the Money? See for Yourself: ProPublica’s COVID-19 PPP Loan Search

To view recipients of the federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans to businesses and nonprofit organizations during the coronavirus pandemic, use ProPublica’s marvelous search engine.

***

In researching nonprofits, I find ProPublica’s nonprofit search engines to be incredibly resourceful. For example, ProPublica offers a full text keyword search of thousands of nonprofit tax forms.

Often when I am researching nonprofit organizations related to education reform, including charter schools, I begin by Googling the name of the organization and including the term, “propublica” with the name, to immediately locate ProPublica’s concisely organized tax forms for the organization.

During the coronavirus pandemic, with the federal government offering Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans to businesses and nonprofit organizations, ProPublica has once again delivered a marvelous search engine enabling the public to easily investigate which companies and nonprofits have received federal money in the form of loans ranging from $150K to $10M, including charter and private schools and other education organizations.

ProPublica offers this summary of PPP loan criteria:

Companies and nonprofit organizations that receive PPP loans may have the loans forgiven if they meet certain criteria, including not laying off employees during an 8-week period covered by the loan. Applicants must attest in their application that the loans are necessary for their continuing operation. Note: This data includes loan applications approved by banks and submitted to the SBA. It may not reflect money distributed to, or credit used by, a given company.

One controversy surrounding the issuance of PPP money to charter schools concerns whether charters– with their quasi, public-school/-business categorizations– “double-dipped into funds intended for public schools (via funding earmarked for K12 schools in the CARES Act) and/or federal money explicitly offered to charter schools, as well as PPP money– as noted in the July 10, 2020, Salon article, “Charter Schools May Have Double-Dipped As Much As $1 Billion in Small PPP Loans.” An excerpt:

One network alone, the Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP), appears to have pulled somewhere between $28 million and $69 million in taxpayer dollars.

Another network of publicly-funded, privately-run schools, Achievement First, appears to have taken in between $7 million and $17 million in PPP loans. The network also received $3.5 million from a special $65 million federal grant that Education Secretary Betsy DeVos awarded to 10 charter management organizations in April, weeks after the PPP was passed, to “fund the creation and expansion of more than 100 high-quality public charter schools in underserved communities across the country.

Regarding the number of employees allegedly retained by receipt of PPP money, Salon also notes the following:

At least 15 charter schools that reported receiving more than $1 million in payroll protection from the government reported putting that money towards zero jobs. At least seven of the schools left the field blank.

One can use the ProPublica PPP search engine to verify, for example, that Democracy Prep Louisiana Charter School received between $350K and $1M on April 28, 2020, from Sterling National Bank in order to retain zero jobs.

One can also see that four Democracy Prep charter schools (Louisiana, Texas, Nevada and New York) received between $3.7M and $9M in potentially-forgivable PPP loans. In addition to whether Democrcay Prep also received CARES Act funds, the question looms as to what revenue the school actually lost due to COVID-19. Was state-level, per-pupil funding revoked? Not likely. Did philanthropic funders suddenly pull out? Unknown.

What is known is that according to Democracy Prep New York’s FY2017 tax filing, the charter management org had spent beyond its means for two years in a row, leaving Democracy Prep New York with negative end-of-year net assets in FY2016 (-$369K) and FY2017 (-$1.7M).

Democracy Prep New York also ended in the red in FY2015 (end-of year net assets -$712K).

Is Democracy Prep using PPP money as an opportunity to recover from its pre-COVID fiscal struggles?

Good question.

As for private schools utilizing PPP money: It is possible that private schools also received CARES Act funding for K12 schools. Too, the question arises as to whether private schools actually suffered from revenue (i.e., tuition) losses due to COVID. (Just because a private school ended its year via distance learning does not necessarily mean that the school reduced tuition.) Finally, private schools receiving federal funds must also follow the federal government’s anti-discrimination requirements and procedures, which are concisely summarized in this Shipman and Goodwin FAQs on the subject.

It is als possible that high-end private schools used PPP loans as a fiscal opportunity.

Consider DC-based, five-acre-campus Sidwell Friends, which has set its 2020-21 tuition at $45K-$46K per year. Tuition for 2019-10 was $44,280.

Now, Sidwell Friends does offer financial aid to 23 percent of its students, with the average aid offered at $28,300. So, even with financial aid, that 23 percent of students still pay out-of-pocket $16K per year.

Sidwell Friends reports 1,155 students enrolled for 2019-20. With 77 percent (890 students) paying $44,280 and the remaining 23 percent (265 students) paying $15,980, that means that Sidwell Friends garnered $4.4M from tuition in 2019-20.

Sidwell Friends also advertises a variety of ways to donate to the school. Donors giving $50K or more are designated as members of Sidwell Society.

And yet, Sidwell Friends received a possibly-forgivable PPP loan of $5M to $10M (the maximum amount) from CRF Small Business Loan Co. (which advertises maximum Small Business Association, or SBA, loans of $4M) on April 14, 2020.

Did the Sidwell Society clear out due to COVID-19? Was tuition refunded?

More questions, indeed.

Since ProPublica makes the searching easy, members of the public can examine how PPP money has been disbursed to charter schools, private schools, other education entities, and to businesses in general, in their communities and states. For example, Louisiana retired teacher and education advocate, Lee Barrios, used the ProPublica PPP loan search engine to compose lists of Louisiana charter schools and Louisiana private Schools that received PPP money.

To view PPP loans disbursed in a given state, use this link to simply click on “location” to sort alphebetically by state (and cities within states) and use the page number options at the bottom of the page to locate the page range for a given state. (Louisiana falls on ascending-state-sorted pages 30 and 31.)

Thank you, ProPublica, for your invaluable efforts to keep public money in the public eye.

magnifying glass money

_____________________________________________________________________

No time like the present to sharpen your digital research skills!  See my latest book, A Practical Guide to Digital Research: Getting the Facts and Rejecting the Lies, available for purchase on Amazon and via Garn Press!

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No State Has Met CDC Guidelines for Steadily-Decreasing COVID Cases, So Let’s Open Schools.

Opening school buildings at this point nationwide represents different levels of crazy across the country.

Coronavirus is on the rise across the nation, and it is certainly more than “just the flu.” The virus is a crap shoot for those who contract it. Maybe they will show no symptoms. Maybe they will be mildly ill. Maybe they will suffer with it for a month or more or have to live with some sort of diminished capacity (see here and here and here, also. Or maybe they will die.

The flu kills between 12K and 61K Americans annually. COVID-19 has already killed over 140K Americans in roughly five months (March to July 2020).

Teachers are Americans.

As of this writing, no state has met the May 2020 Center for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines for moving into Phase 1 (“Downward trajectory or near-zero incidence of documented cases over a 14-day period) muct less the additional criteria for entering Phase 2 (“Downward trajectory or near-zero incidence of documented cases for at least 14 days after entering Phase 1).

That’s 28 days of supposed “downward trajectory” prior to entering Phase 2, and that assumes increased testing.

Also in phase 2, COVID-19 test results are supposed to be available in three days or less. That is not happening. (See here and here, also, for more examples.)

According to the July 18, 2020, USA Today, no state is currently even in Phase 1 (“stay-st-home order”). Yet the artcle also shows that in most states and DC (46), “new cases are growing.”

And yet, the push to reopen schools is on, ever-increasing cases be damned.

In Florida, school boards have pushed back on the governor’s pressure to reopen school buildings for business as usual for all children, five days a week. The Florida Education Association (FEA) has filed a lawsuit to block Governor DeSantis’ reopening declaration.

In Missouri, governor Mike Parson says sure, kids will get coronavirus at school, but “they’re going to get over it.”

Not all. It is possible for children to die from COVID-19, even this infant with no preexisting conditions.

And children can spread COVID-19.

In Arizona, 87 doctors have signed a letter to governor Doug Ducey to keep school buildings closed for at least the first quarter of the school year, calling opening school facilities in August “ill advised and dangerous given the uncontrolled spread of Covid-19.”

In Louisiana, governor John Bel Edwards conforms that school buildings will open in the fall despite his decision to delay moving Louisiana to Phase 3 (note that COVID-19 cases in Louisiana have not seen even a single, two-week steady decline necessary to enter PHase 1, much less any six-week steady decline necessary to enter Phase 3).

Americans are against the push to open school facilities for on-campus learning 3-to-1, according to a July 2020 Yahoo/YouGov polling. On July 20, 2020, EdWeek asks the question, “Teachers are scared to go back to school. Will they strike?”

And yet, schools across the nation are moving forward with plans to open their campuses in the fall of 2020.

What are we doing, really?

Talk about “high-stakes testing.”

Returning to school in 2020-21 and staying healthy (and alive) is the highest-stakes “test” I will have faced to date in my teaching career.

poison apple

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My latest book, A Practical Guide to Digital Research: Getting the Facts and Rejecting the Lies, is now available for purchase on Amazon and via Garn Press!

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Yahoo/YouGov Poll: A Quick View of Results Related to Mask Wearing and to K12 Education

On July 16, 2020, Yahoo News and YouGov released results of this 159-page poll, conducted on a variety of issues of immediate public concern, including coronavirus, the economy, the direction of the country. Some backgroud on the survey, as reported by Yahoo News:

The Yahoo News survey was conducted by YouGov using a nationally representative sample of 1,504 U.S. adult residents interviewed online between July 11 and 14, 2020. This sample was weighted according to gender, age, race and education, as well as 2016 presidential vote, registration status, geographic region and news interest. Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel to be representative of all U.S residents. The margin of error is approximately 3.2 percent.

Note that a margin of error of 3.2 percent means that the true value of a given finding for the entire population, based on this sample of 1,504 respondents, is likely “give or take 3.2 percent.” (With error larger for items with fewer than 1,504 respondents, though such increased error is not reported.)

Given the extent ot the survey, I have decided to offer overall survey responses for questions focused in two areas: Mask wearing and the return to K12 school during the pandemic.

Space limitations preclude my including response breakdowns according to gender, age, race, political party affiliation, 2020 presidential candidate vote intention (Biden or Trump), residency geography (city, suburb, town, rural), and income. In order to examine such breakdowns of responses, open the survey responses to the page number(s) of interest (which I provide below for each item) to view details.

And now, for the Yahoo News/ YouGov poll overall findings related to mask wearing and K12 education during coronavirus. Item wording and response choices are as they appear in the survey findings report. (Note that there may be some rounding error to percentage totals for  given item and that not all respondents have apparently answered all questions.)

  • The U.S. is now reporting about 60,000 new coronavirus cases per day, more than ever before. What is the main reason for this? (1,475 respondents) (pages 110-11)
    • 66%: The virus is spreading more because people are taking fewer precautions.
    • 34%: The virus isn’t spreading more — we are finding more cases because we are testing more people.
  • What do you think states with large numbers of new COVID-19 cases should do? Check all that apply. (1,504 respondents) (pages 112-13)
    • 46%: Issue a stay-at-home order.
    • 70%: Require masks to be worn in public places.
    • 59%: Close bars.
    • 50%: Close restaurants.
    • 51%: Close public schools.
    • 15%: None of the above.
  • Which of the following things do you think President Trump should or should not be doing? Personally wear a face mask to set an example. (1,477 respondents) (page 119)
    • 73% Should be doing.
    • 16% Should not be doing.
    • 10% Not sure.
  • Which of the following things do you think President Trump should or should not be doing? Encourage others to wear a face mask. (1,482 respondents) (page 120)
    • 75% Should be doing.
    • 13% Should not be doing.
    • 11% Not sure.
  • Which of the following things do you think President Trump should or should not be doing? Pressure schools to reopen. (1,476 respondents) (page 123)
    • 25% Should be doing.
    • 63% Should not be doing.
    • 12% Not sure.
  • Do you support or oppose a return to in-person schooling for children in places where there are large numbers of new COVID-19 cases? (1,468 respondents) (page 127)
    • 23%: Yes.
    • 52% No.
    • 25% Not sure.
  • Given the current coronavirus situation in your community, should your local schools have in-person or online classes? (1,472 respondents) (pages 128-29)
    • 42% No in-person classes (all classes online).
    • 43%: A mixture of in-person and online classes.
    • 15%: All classes in-person.
  • Do you have any children who will be in K-12 (kindergarten through 12th grade) in the fall? (1,478 respondents) (page 130)
    • 24%: Yes.
    • 76%: No. 
  • Compared to attending in-person classes, do children learn more or less in online classes? (Among those who have children in grades K-12 this fall, 318 respondents.) (pages 131-32)
    • 7%: Learn more online.
    • 37%: About the same.
    • 47%: Learn less online.
    • 9%: Not sure.
  • Do you have the technology necessary to ensure that all students in your household can access online classes — reliable high-speed internet, multiple computers, etc.? (Among those who have children in grades K-12 this fall, 312 respondents.) (page 133)
    • 73%: Yes.
    • 20%: No.
    • 6%: Not sure.
  • Do you have the time and resources needed to supervise your children’s online learning experience? (Among those who have children in grades K-12 this fall, 314 respondents.) (page 134)
    • 55%: Yes.
    • 36%: No.
    • 9%: Not sure.
  • How concerned are you that children are falling behind in school because of the pandemic? (Among those who have children in grades K-12 this fall, 316 respondents.) (pages 135-36)
    • 36%: Very concerned.
    • 35%: Somewhat concerned.
    • 18%: Not very concerned.
    • 9%: Not at all concerned.
    • 3%: Not sure.
  • Which comes closer to your view: (1,460 respondents) (page 137-38)
    • 23%: America’s priority should be to fully reopen schools this fall, even if it increases the risk to public health.
    • 76%: American’s priority should be to limit the spread of the coronavirus, even if it means students can’t physically return to school this fall.
  • Will you send your children to in-person classes this fall, if available? (Among those who have children in grades K-12 this fall, 315 respondents.) (page 139)
    • 39%: Yes.
    • 32%: No.
    • 29%: Not sure.
  • CDC guidelines call for schools to stagger schedules, clean surfaces, ensure proper ventilation, spread out desks and provide isolation rooms for sick students. Do these guidelines seem: (1,480 respondents) (pages 140-41)
    • 9%: Too strict.
    • 51%: About right.
    • 28%: Not strict enough.
    • 12%: Not sure.
  • Do you support cutting federal funding for schools that don’t fully reopen for in-person classes this fall? (1,478 respondents) (page 142)
    • 19%: Yes.
    • 62%: No.
    • 19%: Not sure.
  • Do schools have the money and resources necessary to keep students and staff safe from the coronavirus this fall? (1,469 respondents) (page 143)
    • 17%: Yes.
    • 54%: No.
    • 29% Not sure.
  • Would you support increased federal aid to public schools to keep students and staff safe from the coronavirus this fall? (1,474 respondents) (page 144)
    • 67%: Yes.
    • 16%: No.
    • 17%: Not sure.
  • Why do you believe some officials do not yet support fully reopening schools? (1,462 respondents) (page 145)
    • 62%: Health reasons.
    • 38%: Political reasons.

Again, space limitations preclude my including response breakdowns according to gender, age, race, political party affiliation, 2020 presidential candidate vote intention (Biden or Trump), residency geography (city, suburb, town, rural), and income. In order to examine such breakdowns of responses, open the survey responses to the page number(s) of interest (which I provide below for each item) to view details.

Some of those breakdowns are fascinating, an education in and of themselves.

You might want to take a look.

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My School District’s 2020-21 Planning, Including Surveying Employees and Parents

In this post, I offer info on what my school district is doing in its efforts to plan for the 2020-21 school year, with the goals of informing individuals in my district as well as offering ideas to other schools and districts.

A critical point is that my school district did what I see parents and teachers from other districts and states asking for: input into the decision making process.

I teach in southern Louisiana for St. Tammany Parish Public Schools. The day my district emailed its survey to teachers and staff (July 06, 2020), it also informed us via robocall to help ensure participation.

My sister told me of the parent survey, which touches on issues of transportation, mask-wearing, and need for access to school meals, among other issues.

The district reminded employees of the survey opportunity in this July 08, 2020, email:

Dear STPPS Employees,

I know that many of you have questions about the 2020-2021 school year, and I appreciate your patience during this time as we continuously work together to develop plans for the upcoming school year.

We are receiving good feedback from employees and parents from the surveys we opened this week. We ask that anyone who has not filled out the employee survey do so by Friday at 5 PM. It is important for us to have input as we make plans.

In addition to getting input through the surveys, our district leadership team has held video conferences with school administrators to discuss tentative plans and determine the unique needs of all 55 of our schools. Once these needs are determined and the survey results are collected, we will be able to develop more details about how our schools can safely open to students and employees.

At this time, our general plans include multiple phases and options pending policies that may be put in place by the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) and recommended guidelines from the Louisiana Department of Education, Louisiana Department of Health and the Governor’s Office. We’re having frequent Zoom meetings and conference calls and are in consultation with representatives from a variety of health and government organizations to ensure we have the proper safety protocols and procedures in place.

We are planning for a variety of scenarios to adhere to the recommendations and guidelines that may be in place when school begins.

Phase 1: A distance learning experience would likely be implemented.

Phase 2: Students would attend school in person to the greatest extent possible with modifications for class sizes, social distancing, and other safety guidelines. A hybrid learning experience with a combination of traditional and distance learning, block schedules, and various other options based on grade level are being considered.

Phase 3: Students would likely attend school in person with recommended safety protocols and social distancing provisions in place.

Although these plans are tentative, we are preparing to implement any of them quickly as the situation evolves. Some of the things we are doing to get ready for the start of school are holding virtual professional development and training in Google Classroom over the summer and are planning additional professional development before school begins, Chromebooks have been ordered for students and teachers, a new online student registration portal was launched, and our curriculum team is developing distance learning curriculum in Google Classroom for teachers to use if distance learning is required again. We are working with administrators to develop school-level facility plans and ordering necessary supplies for a safe return to school. We are excited to announce our new STPPS Virtual School will be launched soon.

As the COVID-19 situation evolves, and as additional guidance is issued, our plan will be updated on our website at www.stpsb.org/coronavirus.

We appreciate the patience of our STPPS family as we continue to carefully make decisions in the best interest of our students, families, employees, and community. We understand the importance of communication with our employees, so we will continue to update you as the plans are updated.

Pete Jabbia

Interim Superintendent

On July 15, 2020, the district sent this email informing us of the results and linking to the report:

Dear Employees,

I want to thank you for your patience as we work through guidance and feedback from our employees and parents/caregivers to make the best decisions for our School System. I’d like to share the results of our recent 2020-2021 planning surveys with you.

We had an extremely positive response to our recent surveys with 5,566 employee responses and 29,234 parent/caregiver responses. This is a testament to the collaboration it takes to begin the school year safely. We hear the ideas, concerns, and feedback of our stakeholders, and we are taking them into consideration as we move forward with making plans. Our takeaways from the employee survey are that 78.9% of you feel comfortable returning to work but 28.2% would be considered high risk and 27.7% have concerns about childcare or other personal situations that would make reporting to work a challenge. Those are things we are looking at and working to address. View survey results.

We will continue to share updates with you when new information is available. I appreciate your ongoing support.

Pete Jabbia

Interim Superintendent

Based upon survey results, also on July 15, 2020, the district announced the launch of the district’s virtual school:

Dear Employees,

I’m happy to share information about our new STPPS Virtual School with you and let you know registration is now open.

The STPPS Virtual School is a full-time virtual school open to students in grades K-12 who live in St. Tammany Parish. It will provide the flexibility to learn anytime, anywhere through online courses while still receiving the support of certified teachers and district resources. The recent parent/caregiver survey indicated many families are considering this option for their children. Once we get a better idea of how many students will enroll, we will evaluate staffing needs. More information is available at www.stpsb.org/virtual.

Thank you for taking the time to stay informed as we continue planning for a safe return to school. As STPPS employees, you are a trusted source of information about our district for families and community members, and we want you to have the most up-to-date and accurate information to share.

I appreciate your ongoing support.

Pete Jabbia

Interim Superintendent

Two points that I noticed concerning the district’s virtual school is that in signing up for this online option, parents commit to having their children enrolled for at least a semester and must withdraw from their current district school in order to enroll in the virtual school. Both of these conditions will help prevent an unanticipated influx of students who change their minds into in-person classrooms, a concern I had about the district offering an online school option.

Finally, on July 13, 2020, the district informed employees of 2020-21 calendar revisions that allow teachers more planning time prior to start of school and stagger student attendance for the first week. (“Attendance” might be in person, hybrid, or completely online; decision not yet finalized):

Dear Employees,

In a continued effort to keep you informed of our plans for the 2020-2021 school year, I want to update you on changes to our school calendar.

Teachers and school support employees will have additional days to prepare for students before they report to school without requiring additional work time. Students will return to school in a staggered approach in small groups to provide a safe and productive re-entry to school.

All employees will report to work on their regular scheduled date. Teachers will return to school August 3-7 for professional development; Teachers Day will be August 10. August 11-14 will be “Safe Start Days” where one-quarter of students will report to school each day. This will be based on the first letter of their last name. On August 17, students will begin their regular school schedule, whether it is distance learning, hybrid, or in-person at that time.

As part of the revisions to the calendar, students will now report to school October 9 and March 12 for a half-day on the previously scheduled Professional Development/Record Keeping Days. All holidays remain intact and unchanged.

View the revised 2020-2021 Calendar.

Thanks for your continued patience and support as we work together for a safe start for the 2020-2021 school year.

Pete Jabbia

The 2020-21 school year will be “challenging,” indeed. We need to help each other out where we can. My hope is that readers will find this information useful. Too, feel free to share additional ideas and suggestions in the comments section of this post.

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New Orleans High School Parent: “My Son Is Being Socially Promoted.”

EL is the father of a student at New Orleans-based Sophie B. Wright (SBW) charter school. L resides in Washington, DC, and shares custody of a son who has attended SBW since he was a seventh grader in the 2015-16 school year. In 2019-20, L’s son was a high school junior.

L’s first communication with SBW occured on July 28, 2015, in which L was assuming a proactive role in being involved in his son’s education at SBW by emailing SBW principal, Sharon Clark:

Good morning Principal Clark.

My wife, V, and I are the parents of an incoming seventh grader (student name). We will be leaving Nashville soon to visit New Orleans for a few days. Is it possible to meet briefly with [son’s] teachers this Friday, July 31st?

Regards,
EL

L was not able to meet with his son’s teachers because of summer break. On August 13, 2015, again as a proactive step taken by an involved parent, L emailed Clark, as follows:

Good afternoon Ms. Clark,
When possible, would you provide us with [son]’s schedule for the fall so that we can introduce ourselves via e-mail to his teachers.  Thank you.

Sincerely,
E and VL

Given that L has already established himself as an involved father who is eager to support his son’s teachers in their efforts to educate his son, it should come as no surprise that months into the 2015-16 school year, L contacted Clark about taking action to confront the situation of his son’s poor grades. In this case, L asked Clark to curtail his son’s extracurricular band involvement until the son’s grades improved. From November 09, 2015:

Good morning Ms. Clark,

Is there a minimum GPA required to participate in extracurricular activities?  Based on my conversation with my son, he has two “D’s” on his report card.  Certainly, he should not be participating in extracurricular activities if he is failing his classes and not turning in homework?

We have attached the child custody judgement.   Would you or Mr. Williams provide us with access to Power School login?  If [son] is struggling in school as we suspect, we ask that he be immediately removed from the band and not allowed to participate in any activities until he has improved his grades.  We are terribly concerned that our son is being allowed to ignore his school work for the sake of extracurricular activities.  Thank you for addressing this matter.

Sincerely,

E and VL

“We ask that he be immediately removed from the band and not allowed to participate in any activities until he has improved his grades.” A simple request, and a seemingly logical one, especially since the 2017-18 SBW Extracurricular Activities Handbook includes the following stipulation as its first, bolded, point regarding student involvement in its marching units:

MARCHING UNITS

SBWCS offers students the opportunity to participate in the following marching units: Marching Band, Dance Team, Flag Twirlers, Majorettes and Cheerleaders. The purpose of the marching units is to promote school spirit and a positive school climate through approved performances and activities at the school and throughout the community. 

ELIGIBILITY RULES AND GUIDELINES

Students must maintain a 2.5 GPA the entire school year. If a student does not have a 2.5 GPA, he/she will be placed on probation for one grading period. The student cannot participate in any activities while on probation. If the student does not achieve a 2.5 the next grading period, he/she will be taken off the team for the rest of the school year. Students will have to try out again, and may not participate in any activities while on probation.

According to L, the situation transpired as follows, across years:

My son began his seventh grade year at Sophie B. Wright in 2015.  He began performing poorly due to a lack of effort.  When I asked Principal Sharon Clark to remove him from the band, Principal Clark offered a compromise.  If he continues to do poorly, he will be automatically removed from the band as a result of his GPA not meeting the minimum requirement to participate in extracurricular activities (2.5 GPA).

My son had a 1.78 GPA average at the end of his eighth grade year (2016 – 2017).  He was allowed to remain in the band despite not meeting the 2.5 GPA requirement.  Both Principal Clark and the Sophie B. Wright board violated school policy by allowing my son to place an extracurricular activity ahead of his education.

At the end of the fall semester (2017 – 2018 school year), my son’s GPA dropped to a 1.71.  He was neither removed from his extracurricular activity nor placed on probation (required by school policy).

Two other issues also happened across the years. First of all, SBW diluted its (non-adhered-to) academic requirement for extracurricular involvement. From the 2018-19 SBW Extracurricular Handbook:

MARCHING UNITS

SBWCS offers students the opportunity to participate in the following marching units: Marching Band, Dance Team, Flag Twirlers, Majorettes and Cheerleaders. The purpose of the marching units is to promote school spirit and a positive school climate through approved performances and activities at the school and throughout the community.

ELIGIBILITY RULES AND GUIDELINES

1. Students must maintain a 2.3 GPA for each marking period. If a student
does not have a 2.3 GPA, he/she will be placed on probation for one grading period. The student cannot participate in selected activities while on probation. If the student does not achieve a 2.3 the next grading period, he/she will be taken off the team for the rest of the school year. Students will have to try out again and may not participate in any activities while on probation. Any student playing sports must be in compliance with LHSAA academic requirements.

Down from a 2.5 GPA requirement for the entire year to a 2.3 GPA requirement for each marking period. Then, in 2019-20, yet another dilution, as noted in the 2019-20 SBW Extracurricular Activities Handbook:

MARCHING UNITS

SBWCS offers students the opportunity to participate in the following marching units: Marching Band, Dance Team, Flag Twirlers, Majorettes and Cheerleaders. The purpose of the marching units is to promote school spirit and a positive school climate through approved performances and activities at the school and throughout the community.

ELIGIBILITY RULES AND GUIDELINES

1. Students must maintain a 2.0 GPA the entire school year. If a student does not have a 2.0 GPA, he/she will be placed on probation for one grading period. The student can participate in selected activities while on probation. If the student does not achieve a 2.0 the next grading period, he/she will be taken off the team for the
rest of the school year. Students will have to try out again and may not participate in any activities while on probation.

Thus, across three school years (2017-18 to 2019-20), SBW has gone from a 2.5 GPA requirement (entire school year) to participate in marching band, with no participation while on probation, to a softwer, 2.0 GPA requirement (also entire school year) and *participation in selected activities* while on probation.

On July 09, 2020, I emailed SBW principal, Sharon Clark, regarding the easing of the GPA needed for marching unit participation:

Good morning, Principal Clark.

My name is Mercedes Schneider; I am a Louisiana teacher, researcher, and writer (bio: https://deutsch29.wordpress.com/about/). I am writing a piece that references Sophie B Wright’s (SBW) changes over time in the GPA required to participate in SBW’s marching units. According to the 2017-18 Extracurricular Activities Handbook, a 2.5 GPA was required. Then, in 2018-19, the GPA requirement was lowered to 2.3. In 2019-20 the requirement was lowered yet again, to 2.0. Also in 2019-20, the handbook language was changed to indicate that students with a GPA lower than 2.0 would not automatically be prohibited from all participation, in contrast to such language in the 2017-18 and 2018-19 handbooks.

Would you care to comment on

1) The decision of the SBW board to lower the marching units participation GPA from 2.5 to 2.0 over the course of three school years, and

2) the impact that such a softening of GPA standards has had or could have on the academic rigor of student achievement (i.e., grades) at SBW?

Thank you.

–Mercedes Schneider

Clark has not responded as of this writing.

A 2.0 GPA represents a C average across all classes. However, hidden in SBW’s lowered, 2.0 GPA is the issue that one of the classes is band, a class in which L’s son consistently scores an A. What this means is that since band is an A, then one other class can be an F– which averages out to a 2.0 C. Therefore, in lowering its GPA requirement from 2.5 to 2.0, SBW has effectively allowed students like L’s son the possibility to fail an academic class for full year and still escape even the most tepid probation.

Even still, L’s son’s grades have dropped below a 2.0 GPA even with band as his A-grade class for consecutive semesters, and L’s son has never been removed from the privilege of participating in marching activities. On the contrary, as noted in this April 10, 2018, email from a frustrated L to the SBW music director:

My son is currently failing Math and English.  Despite that tragedy, he was allowed to miss a week of school prior to Mardi Gras week so that he could march in parades.  When I brought this problem to your attention, you responded by allowing him to miss another day of school so that he could perform in Lake Charles the evening of March 7th.  Early this morning, April 9th, I explained to you that [son] had a paper due this evening and he has a paper due on Thursday.  I asked that he not be allowed to attend band practice.  Your response: Allow him to practice with the brass band which cut into his time to complete his homework and focus on his paper.  We finished the paper after 10:30 pm cst.  What is your priority at Sophie B. Wright, the band or the students?

EL

Based on L’s experience, the priority at SBW is not the student earning his/her own grades.

That doesn’t mean students cannot somehow get better grades in short order, which is the second other issue happening across the years at SBW.

Consider these two grade reports for L’s son.  (For the sake of divulging a minimum of personal information on L’s son, I abbreviated the images.)

The first is dated May 18, 2020.

IMG_1833

Note that the only class in which L’s son has consistently performed well is band, and those A’s have prevented his GPA from being lower than the overall 1.8938 that is.

The remainder of his classes are sprinkled with F’s and D’s across grading terms (T1, T2, etc., which seem to be roughly 5- to 6-week intervals), semesters (S1, S2), and, finally, the grades for year’s end (Y1).

Three weeks later, on June 08, 2020, L’s son’s grades had experienced some puzzling alterations:

IMG_1835

First of all, his annual grade in psychology has risen from 68D to 75C, despite only term grade change: for T3, the F actually is lower in June (a 60F) than it was in May (a 64F).

Too, the 64F in Algebra II B has morphed into a 78C, with grade changes made to terms T2 from the first semester (which would have been Algebra II A) and T5 from the second semester.

In Chemistry B and English III B, grade changes go back to F’s from T1 (which would have been Chemistry A and English III A). Some serious Chemistry B F’s (one as low as 17F) were also taken care of, as were the F’s (including a 16F) for Spanish II B.

Thus, in three weeks’ time, L’s son’s annual GPA suspiciously rose from 1.9 to 2.3.

In his July 06, 2020, email to me, L summarizes this fast-tracked GPA improvement experience as follows:

My son earned a 32 in Algebra II after Term 2. He was allowed to continue marching during football season, was not asked to catch up on the missing work over Christmas break, took a band trip to Cuba, marched during parade season and had a peaceful spring break.  Then, Credit Recovery was offered and my son was able to make up months of academic neglect within weeks.

I have asked to see the work that was completed, but no teacher has shown me any completed assignments although FERPA requires that custodial parents be provided educational documents within 45 days.

I have visited my son’s Google Classroom only to find the words “Missing” in red where a submitted assignment should be.

When I ask my son where an electronic copy of the submitted work is, he offers a gumbo of explanations that are nonsensical.  Do I believe he turned something in?  Yes.  Do I believe it would earn him the grade that he was given if graded by a teacher outside of Sophie B. Wright? Absolutely not!

After credit recovery, my son’s grade changed from three F’s and three D’s to two D’s and Four Cs.

*After credit recovery.*

According to this March 2018 US Department of Education issue brief, “credit recovery” is defined as follows:

The U.S. Department of Education (Department) sponsored the National Survey on High School Strategies Designed to Help At-Risk Students Graduate (HSS), which aimed to provide descriptive information on the prevalence and characteristics of dropout prevention strategies for at-risk students. …

The HSS defined credit recovery as a strategy that encourages at-risk students to re-take a previously failed course required for high school graduation and earn credit if the student successfully completes the course requirements. The strategy was designed to provide a pathway for high school students who have a history of course failure and help them avoid falling further behind in school (U.S. Department of
Education 2015b). Credit recovery courses may be available online or in alternative settings and can be scheduled at different times to suit the needs of the student.

Credit recovery occurs in the form of formal, distinct courses, to be completed after a student fails a course, not a some quick means of raising grades in current courses by completing last-minute, thrown-together “work” used to alter any term grades that administrators wish.

What the SBW administration allowed L’s son to do was not credit recovery, and if SBW admin is allowing this to pass as credit recovery, they are abusing the credit recovery program.

In late 2019, New Orleans Public Schools (NOLA-PS) conducted a compliance review of all high schools after the Class of 2019 at another New Orleans high school, Kennedy High, found itself embroiled in scandal for graduating half of its senior class despite students not meeting academic criteria for graduation eligibility.

I gained access of SBW’s credit accumulation compliance review report, dated December 18, 2019, by filing a public records request with NOLA-PS superintendent, Henderson Lewis.

SBW was found “not in compliance” concerning an aspect of credit recovery, which the report defines as “applicable to courses student has been unsuccessful in passing, not the initial attempt.”

Specifically, for students’ individual graduation plans (IGP), SBG was found “not in compliance” for the criteria, “IGP includes all credit recovery courses listed.” The note clarifying this noncompliance is as follows: “Files for four Credit Recovery students were reviewed. 0/4 files correctly denoted Credit Recovery Courses on the student’s IGP.”

If L’s son had been taking credit recovery courses, such courses should have been added as part of his graduation plan, which would have been modified to include credit recovery for specific courses once L’s son had failed his initial attempt at passing said specific courses.

Thus, L’s observation about credit recovery being “offered” to “make up months of academic neglect in weeks” illustrates misuse of credit recovery, an issue with which NOLA-PS identified SBW as exhibiting compliance issues in December 2019– the semester prior to L’s son’s May-to-June 2020, fast-tracked, mystery grade clean-up.

I have filed another records request for “any documentation (i.e., letters of response from the SBW board or other related individuals or entities; a formal remediation plan devised and submitted by the SBW board or other related individuals or entities) related to addressing areas rated “not in compliance” in the audit findings for Sophie B Wright High School,” the fulfillment of which is pending.

In his initial, July 06, 2020, email to me, L wrote in the subject line, “Three Fs and Three Ds Changed to Two Ds and Four Cs: My Son is Being Socially Promoted at Sophie B. Wright.”

“My son is being socially promoted.”

“I have asked to see the [alleged credit recovery] work that was completed, but no teacher has shown me any completed assignments.”

Given SBW’s increasingly-diluted GPA criteria for marching unit participation coupled with a muddied “grade recovery” that allows a student’s annual GPA to incredulously jump .4 in the final weeks of the school year, the term, *social promotion* certainly– and sadly– fits, making an SBW high school education a college-and-career-prep house of cards.

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COVID School: Breathing the Air, Staying Apart, and Shortening the Day

As one might expect, since I am a classroom teacher, I have been thinking a lot about the COVID-19 school day.

In this post, I offer a number of thoughts on physically returning to school during this coronavirus pandemic.

To begin, I have been thinking about how children may not be manifesting COVID symptoms and still have the virus. Too, it is possible that even though these children actually have coronavirus, their parents and guardians are not ill.

Some would like to take this as proof that such children will not infect their teachers.

But here is a thought:

What happens when several such children are together in the same classroom for at least one class period multiple days per week? The presence of COVID-19 is concentrated in the classroom, and the teacher is regularly exposed to this concentrated COVID-19 in a manner that parents and guardians with a single child carrying COVID-19 are not.

The potential for COVID-19 concentration matters, and I am concerned that even if I have only 10 students in my room at any given time, other students and I, who may fall ill from the virus, are being repeatedly exposed to a coronavirus concentration.

This brings me to my next thought:

Fresh air circulation matters.

Given that COVID-19 is airborne, recirculated air only aids that potential virus concentration in its ability to infect.

I am fortunate to have a back door to my room, which means that I could aid air circulation by opening those doors. (If allowed, since I am required by law to keep my doors locked to prevent intruders from entering.)

A third thought is that in the push to promote masks, even as a self-protective measure, no one seems to be discussing protection for a person’s eyes. COVID-19 can enter through mouth, nose, and eyes.

Shielding against COVID-19 requires protective eyewear as well as masks.

A fourth thought is that a completely, socially-distanced school day is impossible right from the start of that school day. When those buses arrive before school starts, students need a place to go, and single-file exiting of those buses into some area in which students sit six feet apart and wait for school to start would require a rigidity and personnel enforcement of prison.

For students of all ages (and their teachers, admin, and staff, no doubt), this social distancing will be like a prison sentence.

Can you imagine a first-grade class in which students must remain six feet apart all day? No free play? No hands-on, physically-close assistance or encouragement at all from the teacher?

Not possible, and not healthy.

In many schools, in-person teaching and learning will take a distant back seat to managing the COVID-19 school day.

And for my final thought of this post:

It might seem counterintuitive, but if students and teachers must be subjected to heightened, state-of-emergency attention to coronavirus safety protocols, then in addition to having fewer students on campus at any one time, the in-person school day must be shortened. In the face of intense attention to personal safety, teaching and learning can happen, but only in spurts lest students and teachers burn out due to prolonged, intense attention to safety protocols– protocols that limit or prohibit physical contact between classmates one to another; between students and their teachers, and among teaching colleagues.

It is also physically safer for those involved– and for the people we live with and care for– to limit time together on campus.

One possibility is for schools to have students on campus for half of the day and to use the second half of the day for remote learning, with the students on campus present every secod of third day in rotating groups (that is, dividing the total student population into two or three groups). Teachers could remain on campus in their classrooms for the second half of the school day and be available online for students not physically present on a given day.

Not a solution for all contingiencies.

Just an idea to consider.

Just a thought.

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