Parents and Teachers Are Asking: Should We Be Grading Students? Regents Examinations? Graduation Requirements?

School leaders and teachers in New York City and across the state have been struggling to set up routines for remote learning; finding schedules that can be replicated and bring continuity to lessons, coordinating with teachers on their grade, conferencing with the school leader; it s been challenging and schools are slowly working out the kinks, until the decision to cancel the Spring recess and in New York City to cancel closing schools on Holy Thursday and Good Friday and move from Zoom to Microsoft Teams, a totally different platform  (See Chalkbeat article here  with the Department explanation).  The teacher union, the UFT sharply disagreed   with the decision to cancel the spring recess, to no avail, the Department did agree to add four days to each teachers’ cumulative absence reserve (“sick days”) and allow the days to be used for religious observance.

What exactly is supposed to happen instructionally next week is unclear. Principals and teachers are angry and frustrated, and, for good reason. Next week could have been used to clarify the many complexx questions as well as contunie upgrading teacher remote learning challenges.

UFT President Mulgrew’s letter,

 Dear XXXX

 The schools chancellor has informed me that Mayor Bill de Blasio has decided to keep New York City public schools open on Thursday, April 9, and Friday, April 10, even though those days are major religious holidays.

I told him flat out that I disagreed with that decision, but the city is going ahead with it anyway. Under the state of emergency he declared in New York City, the mayor has the authority to do that.

With this step, Mayor de Blasio shows that he does not recognize just how hard you have been working during these stressful and anxiety-filled times. I know how seriously you take the role you are playing in this pandemic. You have kept learning alive and been a social and emotional lifeline for 1.1 million students and their families. You met this challenge head-on while taking care of your own families and no one can question your results.

I can assure you that there has been an outpouring of thanks from parents and from first responders and health care workers. Meanwhile, the silence from City Hall has been deafening. Never once during this crisis has the mayor thanked you for your service. Instead, he diminishes your work by describing it only as a vehicle to keep children at home. 

I warned the chancellor that since so many members and the families we serve observe those two days, it will cause disruption. New York City schools have always been closed for the start of Passover and Good Friday, which are among the most important religious holidays of the calendar year.

On Monday the Board of Regents will have their monthly meeting, by phone conference.  The posted agenda does not contain any information in regard to whether school will be resumed or any of the myriad questions  regarding grading, Regents Examinations, high school graduation requirements, and others.

The State Education Department did provide guidance for teacher preparation programs modifying the requirements so that no prospective teacher will be harmed by school closings; Regents Cashin and Collins responded admirably.

Hopefully there will be further guidance provided at the meeting,

Item # 1 on the agenda for Monday’s Meeting.

Department Response to Coronavirus (COVID-19) – Department staff will provide an update on guidance issued to schools and institutes of higher education regarding COVID-19.

Other states   have published specific guidelines,

 How many hours of instruction should we expect each day?

Continuous learning focuses on critical standards and the skills needed for grade advancement. Our recommended guidelines for maximum student commitment in terms of direct instruction each day are as follows. Additional reading time or storytelling is always encouraged.

  • Pre-K : 30 minutes
  • Grades K-1: 45 minutes
  • Grades 2-3: 60 minutes
  • Grades 4-5: 90 minutes
  • Grades 6-12: 30 minutes per teacher (3 hours max in a day 
  1. How will this work for students who receive special education services?

Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) may NOT be universally modified. There is no waiver from IDEA requirements, including IEP and eligibility timelines. Schools should take into consideration alternate methods for providing educational services to children with disabilities age 3-21 who are receiving IEP services, such as, teleservices, learning packets, or virtual/online lessons.

Special education teachers and related service providers will continue to work on IEP and evaluation paperwork within required timelines. IEP meetings may be held via phone or in another video conferencing format such as Zoom or Google Hangouts as appropriate. LEAs must ensure that, to the greatest extent possible, each student with a disability can be provided the special education and related services identified in the student’s IEP.

  1. What does this mean for high school seniors?

High school seniors will earn credits and achieve eligibility for graduation by completing a locally designed demonstration of competency, which may include:

  • Passing a locally designed test,
  • Completing a locally designed series of assignments,
  • Achieving a set cut score on a college entrance exam,
  • Demonstrating applied work experience.

 

  1. Will high school graduation requirements be waived?

The SED waiver will remove the requirements for seniors to attend a minimum of … hours of instruction. All students are still required to complete at least 24 credits of required and elective coursework. End of semester final grades should be calculated, reported and transcripted. SED is encouraging schools and districts to adopt a pass/no credit grading system for the last grading period.

  1. What do I tell my senior who is concerned about meeting graduation requirements?

Schools must identify students in danger of not being able to demonstrate course completion and focus support on them. Students will have an extension until June 19 to demonstrate competency. Those who fail to do so will be offered credit recovery in the summer and will have the ability to appeal to the local school board and to the Secretary. No student can be denied graduation due to lack of access to demonstrate competency.

The guidance above was released on March 26th, from New Mexico, and, the sooner guidance is provided to local school districts the sooner the districts can target their remote instruction models to meet the needs of their students.

Districts should be given latitude, our 700 plus districts range from the Big Five (including NYC) to high tax suburban districts to hundreds of low tax rural districts, one size, this time, does not fit all.

Grading should be pass or no grade.

There is no way a school or school district can provide a classic grade, and, providing any grade would be enormously challenging. No student should fail; if a student, for whatever reason, does not complete work a “no grade” would be sufficient

Graduation Requirements for High School Seniors

The only Regents examinations required for graduation should be Algebra 1 and English. Students usually take Algebra 1 in the 8th or 9th grade and the English Regents in the 11th grade. I suspect the vast percentage of high school seniors have passed both exams; if a student has not passed both exams and is a Student with a Disability the safety nets can be applied, a passing grade of 55 or if the student cannot achieve a 55 the superintendent determination  can apply.

Districts should be given wide discretion in determining attendance and grading procedures

Once again, the technology challenges among districts and schools are enormous, allow districts to establish policies under the general guidance of the state, which means the policies do not require approval; however, the state can intervene if required.

Inclusive Planning Moving Forward

We have no idea what the future holds, it is essential that all stakeholders are in the loop. I suggest that the Board of Regents immediately convene a council of stakeholders, the teacher and supervisory unions, the school board association, the superintendents association and state and regional parent bodies. Weekly meetings of the council with weekly updates, an ongoing “conversation” among the representatives of the most concerned with schools and students.

I’m sure you could add to the items I addressed above, you should have a portal to ask questions and suggest policies.

And, of course, the unanswerable question: When will the “All Clear” sound? If there is an “All Clear.”

Let’s finish with Rhiannon Giddens, “Come Love Come”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W-DTNHh-iA0&list=RDW-DTNHh-iA0&start_radio=1

How Disastrous is the NYS Budget? Why Can’t the Governor/Legislature Follow the Federal Model?

If this was a normal year the education community would be focused on the race to the April 1 budget deadline. For months advocates and legislators have been dueling with the governor: Will the Foundation Aid formula be adjusted to benefit the lowest wealth aka, the poorest districts? Will the governor acknowledge the $3 billion plus dollars owed to school districts as a result of the CFE lawsuit decision? How will the differences in proposed school aid (governor: 800M, the Board of Regents 2B) be resolved?

Additionally, non-budgetary items may or may not have been added to the budget by the governor: possibly legalization of marijuana, rolling back bail reforms, easing the voting restrictions, etc.

We’re in a new world.

This year’s budget is unique: the governor will have almost total authority to allocate the budget dollars in slices, “tranches,” monthly or perhaps quarterly; as the year progresses slices of budget dollars may increase or decrease.

As I write, midday on April 1 the governor and the legislative leaders are still entangled in creating a budget.

The impact could be drastic cuts in school funding, perhaps layoffs.

Why can’t the state allocate endless dollars to avert economic calamities as the federal government has done?

Washington can issue as many dollars as they please, through the Federal Reserve they can raise or lower interest rates and increase and decrease the amount of currency in circulation. Federal debts are backed by the “full faith and credit” of the government. In other words the feds can print money and borrow money (selling bonds); there are no constitutional limits on federal debt.

States cannot issue currency and must have a balanced budget; they can only borrow dollars for capital projects.

For centuries governments abided by a “laissez faire” economic policy. Depressions and prosperity, booms and busts, were guided by an “invisible hand,” an almost religious belief in the power of the marketplace.

Adam Smith (1776), wrote,

Every individual necessarily labors to render the annual revenue of the society as great as he can … He intends only his own gain, and he is in this, as in many other cases, led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention … By pursuing his own interests, he frequently promotes that of the society more effectually than when he really intends to promote it. I have never known much good done by those who affected to trade for the public good.

 Milton Freedman, a Nobel Prize economist moved the marketplace model to education, schools should compete, the origin of the belief in charter schools and vouchers. Adam Smith lives on in the minds of far right and a few of the wealthiest.

Beginning with FDR’s response to the Great Depression John Maynard Keynes has been the guiding force driving economies.

 Keynesian theory allows for increased government spending during recessionary times, it also calls for government restraint in a rapidly growing economy. This prevents the increase in demand that spurs inflation. It also forces the government to cut deficits and save for the next down cycle in the economy.

 In our neo-Keynesian world even Republicans, well, most Republicans, follow Keynes’ philosophy, as evidenced by the $2 trillion pushed into the economy, cash payments, enhanced unemployment insurance, delayed mortgage payments, small business grants and loans, dollars that will be spent; hopefully, to kick start the faltering economy.

Until the coronavirus pandemic is stabilized the economy is unlikely to resuscitate in the short run and it may continue to deteriorate. Unemployment may reach levels unknown since the Great Depression, airlines grounded, hotels and restaurants empty. Once a treatment and vaccine is created the economy, the world’s economy will be revived; it may take years to return to pre-pandemic levels.

Why does Cuomo have almost total control over the New York State budget?

 The reasons are two-fold, the state constitution and the judiciary.

 The New York State constitution was amended in 1927 giving the governor responsibility for submitting an annual comprehensive and balanced plan of revenues and expenditures, and, prohibits the Legislature from acting on other spending measures before acting on the Executive Budget.

 The legislature may not alter an appropriation bill submitted by the governor except to strike out or reduce items therein, but it may add thereto items of appropriation provided that such additions are stated separately and distinctly from the original items of the bill and refer each to a single object or purpose.

In January the governor submits a budget with a set amount; the legislative can “strike out or reduce items” and can only add items “separately or distinctly” from the governor’s budget.

In the 90’s Assembly speaker Silver challenged the application of the amended section of the constitution; if you want to go into the weeds read a discussion here.

The Court of Appeals, the highest court in the state, in a convoluted decision (Pataki v Silver) denied the appellants and upheld the budgetary power of the governor. In 2005 voters turned down an attempt to amend the constitution and restore equality to the process.

Critics of the executive budget system point to a fundamental imbalance between the governor and the Legislature. They’re right: when it comes to shaping the annual state budget, the executive and legislative branches are not co-equal.  In financial terms, the budget is supposed to be balanced—but the budget-making process decidedly is not.

 The budgets are no longer fought out on the floor of the legislative bodies; they are fought out in the media as advocates appeal to voters. In a normal year lobbyists would be pounding hallways of the Legislative Office Building (LOB), on Tuesdays, hundreds of advocates would flood into to Albany to plead their case to local legislators. E-Mails would fill legislators’ e-files by the hundreds.

The governor would weigh the impact of the opinion of the public, not the views of the legislative bodies. Governor Cuomo became an artist at balancing the needs of communities across the state. In some ways a modern day Machiavellian figure, more feared than loved.

The coronavirus crisis has brought out the best in Cuomo, as Trump spins the crisis, appealing to his tribe, Cuomo has been straightforward, portraying the crisis as a threat to humanity and truly taking charge; his daily briefings are spellbinding, frightening in painting a possible dystopian future and warm in his portrayal of his family.

More on the impact of the budget after final passage.

Signup for the John Hopkins Center for Health Security daily updates here, the best source for expert analysis and facts.

Exercise, meditate, communicate with friends and family (at a distance), the dangers are not only the virus; the dangers are your own mental health.

Listen to Carole King, “You’ve Got a Friend”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qde5NMy7WTU

Sheltering in Place: Children, Parents and Teachers Coping With (What Could Be) the New Normal

My phone “pinged,” time to confirm my reservation for the April Board of Regents meeting: not this month. Governor Cuomo just extended the state-wide school closing until April 15th, and probably for a lot longer.

Online, or remote learning, has completed its first week in New York City. The enormous undertaking is incredibly complex. I spoke with a supervisor, Zoom meetings with teachers, with the school leadership team, with the superintendent, checking on teacher lessons, contacting parents; the city is using Google Classroom. I asked a teacher: who are the kids who are participating?  S/he said, “About half the kids, others are having trouble getting online, and the kids were a cross section, the high achievers and others.” A start: hopefully it will improve over the weeks or months ahead. Not surprisingly, in addition to an opportunity gap there is a technology gap, the NY Times has a scathing article. (“Locked Out of the Virtual Classroom”)

In one online fifth grade class the teacher began with a yoga session and moved on to research assignments, “What is an endangered species?”  “How do species become endangered?” “How can we protect endangered species?”  How many students are fully engaged?  How long should the kids be online? How much homework? We’re all exploring a new world.

The questions from teachers and parents keep rolling in,

Will Regents Exams be cancelled?

How will grades be determined?

How will schools determine high school graduation?

Is the State waiving student teaching requirements?

Others states set out detailed guidelines, New Mexico.

High school seniors will earn credits and achieve eligibility for graduation by completing a locally designed demonstration of competency, which may include:

  • Passing a locally designed test,
  • Completing a locally designed series of assignments,
  • Achieving a set cut score on a college entrance exam,
  • Demonstrating applied work experience.

The UFT, the NYC teacher union and the Department of Education issued roles and responsibilities “remote learning,”

New York State hasn’t sent out any guidance, one reason, the state budget is due April 1.  What were the major issues a few weeks ago are gone: changes in Foundation Aid, the funding of the CFE lawsuit, state aid; all overwhelmed by an anticipated 15 billion dollar budget shortfall.

The NYS budget will be in the hands of the governor and he will allocate dollars: perhaps monthly or quarterly:  school districts creating tentative budgets.

Will the school districts hold budget votes in early May?

High wealth school district receive dollars primarily from property taxes, low wealth from state aid: how will the state reduce these glaring disparities?

Will school districts face teacher layoffs in September?

Is a billionaires’ tax on the table?

The questions of the moment may be overshadowed by the larger questions; questions that are frightening, while the president talks about “opening” by Easter, world class scientists see a troublesome scenario.

Looking … into the future, what do you anticipate? Will COVID-19 ever disappear?

What it looks like is that we’re going to have a substantial wave of this disease right through basically the globe ….

 And the question then is: What’s going to happen? Is this going to disappear completely? Are we going to get into a period of cyclical waves? Or are we going to end up with low level endemic disease that we have to deal with?

  Most people believe that that first scenario where this might disappear completely is very, very unlikely, it just transmits too easily in the human population, so more likely waves or low level disease.

 A lot of that is going to depend on what we as countries, as societies, do. If we do the testing of every single case, rapid isolation of the cases, you should be able to keep cases down low. If you simply rely on the big shut down measures without finding every case, then every time you take the brakes off, it could come back in waves. So that future frankly, may be determined by us and our response as much as the virus.

Every morning I jump on my bike and take a long, lonely ride, the birds chirping, the wind blowing in my face, in late afternoon, back on the bike, zipping along empty roads, watching the sun glint off the bay ….  spending the day “sheltering in place,” at least I’m getting into better and better shape.

Listen to Rhiannon Giddens, “We Could Fly”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5KhzRgqcBBc

Stay Safe

Searching for Normalcy in a Chaotic World: Teaching, Learning and Living at a Distance

We have routines, our early morning ablutions, our route to work, shopping, job responsibilities, family responsibilities, now, remote working, remote interactions, and for children the abnormality is unsettling.

Being cooped up in an apartment, not being able to visit friends, not being able to interact with my teachers, “I feel like I’m being punished.”

From a teacher’s perspective: how do I connect with my kids, how can my “teaching” be engaging?  I can’t look over Juan’s shoulder and whisper, “…try that again … how did you get that answer?” You can’t see that light bulb going off, “Oh, yes, I see now,” you can’t give a thumbs up at just the right time, or, a frown.

Is Maria drifting off, is her attention wandering, I don’t know.

Remote learning is remote, it’s far away and it lacks the emotional connection.

The standardized grades 3 – 8 tests are gone, no more test prep, you can follow the curriculum: Is there curriculum to follow? Or, are we talking about the reading and math “packages” that your school is using?

Can you switch to a curriculum designed for online use?

An online source from Finland gets high marks:  https://koulu.me/.

EngageNY.org provides curriculum modules for every grade and every topic on the grade.

Randi Weingarten, the President of the American Federation of Teachers, suggests capstone projects, a project-based learning approach,

“There is a way teachers can help students sum up their academic progress, help kids focus, and bring closure to the year.”

“Our capstone plan gives teachers the option and latitude to work with their students on a specific project alongside other activities and assessments to create engagement and demonstrate learning. https://www.aft.org/press-release/afts-weingarten-launches-capstone-proposal-complete-school-year-amid”

On the other hand maybe we should keep everything as simple as possible, for students as well as teachers.

While we worry about our students we worry about ourselves and our families.

We’re told to close our doors, hunker down and wait for the “all clear.”  Should we shop online?  Make quick trips to the super market or pharmacy?  Do we have an exercise regimen?  Is it safe to take long walks? To walk up and down the staircases in my building?  Do I take alcohol wipes wherever I go?

Who do I listen to?

If you’re an avid consumer of the news, the visual representations are frightening

Is density deadly?

Concerns about density were … at the forefront as New York officials discussed the spread of the virus in increasingly alarmed tones. New York City is now among the worst hot spots in the world: The city now has more coronavirus cases per capita than Italy, the world’s epicenter of the virus outside of China, where it originated.

 In the midst of anxiety in some and fear in others teachers and school leaders try and support students and each other. A principal began the day with an online school leadership team meeting; each has received over 100 emails from teachers with questions, especially from teachers of students with disabilities.

Education Next  gives straightforward suggestions to school leaders,

How should school leaders think about the massive task they’re facing?

  There are three overriding principles that can help school leaders as they figure this out, and they’re really super simple.

 The first is to just be calm and pause. That sounds like a simple recommendation, but we all understand that school’s not the most important thing right now, safety is.

 The second is to be straightforward and clear. People have heightened same way that they might otherwise be able to. So the more that school leaders can be straightforward and clear with their guidance and recommendations for families, it’s going to be helpful.

 And the third is to try to create simple solutions. In a crisis situation, simple technology is the best technology. So be careful in trying to teach faculty new skills during a time of crisis. They’ll be less able to adapt and less able to process information themselves.

 Principals are struggling to find online tools to track teacher work, some teachers are creative, some waiting for instructions, are teachers interacting on a grade, interacting with all other teachers interacting with their students?

We are tip-toeing into a new world, a world that may be with us for weeks, or months, it may be the new normal for many months.

Remember: exercise, yoga, meditation, if you’re religious attends online services; the psychological toll can be devastating.

Stay Safe

Coronavirus, School Closings and Remote Learning: Teaching and Learning in the New World

Schools in 44 states are closed and school districts are scrambling to put some sort of remote learning in place: challenging.

State standardized tests have been cancelled.

The school closings could last for months, and, perhaps into the next school year. No one knows.

We’re currently in the “spiking phase,” every day, as testing increases, more cases are identified. (See “Flattening the Curve” data here).

In New York City schools closed a week ago and this week teachers spent three days learning school specific online instructional models from a Department designed template.

The UFT, the teacher union, distributed a detailed memorandum describing the responsibilities of all school titles, teachers, paraprofessionals, special education teachers, related-service providers, (Read here).

 The leaders of the UFT and the CSA (Supervisors Union) sent supportive messages to members (Read here).

Models of online learning are not encouraging.

 The online charter school models are worrying, online charter schools are a disaster,

When you compare the math progress of students from traditional and online facilities, those who attend online charter schools perform much worse than those who go to public schools. In fact, when the Center for Research on Education Outcomes carried out a comparative study, the math performance of students from online schools was so poor that it looked as if they’d missed 180 days of learning

 The Christensen Institute, an advocate of online learning, supports a blended learning model, a combination of online and classroom instruction.

Online learning is clearly a stopgap measure.

The crisis is also a crisis of equity.

Many of the schools in the Affinity District, schools working with not-for-profits, (for example, New Visions for Public Schools, the Internationals Network) have sophisticated online networks, they look like Charter Management Organizations; however they are public schools.

Most schools are in traditional school districts within the vast bureaucracy, messages trickle down, the typical paramilitary structure.

Teachers, as they gain experience, develop their own tool kits, their own instructional strategies; the sudden movement to remote platforms is a huge leap.

First year teachers are mentoring grizzled veterans, teachers vary widely, extremely widely, in their knowledge of basic computer skills.

Questions, questions …

Can you set up a Zoom  classroom? A Zoom staff meeting?

How can you create online engaging lessons? Not simply expanded daily homework assignments.

This is an opportunity to personalize instruction to the individual student level: what are the barriers?

Randi Weingarten, the Presdient of the American Federation of Teachers, suggests  capstone projects, a project-based learning approach,

“There is a way teachers can help students sum up their academic progress, help kids focus, and bring closure to the year.

Our capstone plan gives teachers the option and latitude to work with their students on a specific project alongside other activities and assessments to create engagement and demonstrate learning. https://www.aft.org/press-release/afts-weingarten-launches-capstone-proposal-complete-school-year-amid”

A sound idea that is inclusive of all students, students at all levels incluing students with disabilities.

Is the Department or, anyone setting up an e-bulletin board to allow teachers to collaborate and share?

The questions far outnumber the answers.

The equity issue: the Department has announced they will distribute 30,000 online devices to students with WiFi connections; a beginning.

How many students will be signing in each day: will the Department have the ability to identify log-ins, by school? by class? by student?  If the log-ins are low, how will the Department respond?

The overriding problem: Social Emotional Learning.

Teachers establish emotional relationships with students: are they sad, angry, hungry, depressed; it’s a skill that comes with experience. In addition to the teaching-learning process, teachers are surrogate parents, social workers and therapists. As the human to human relationship is pushed online how will the emotional link to students be impacted?

As unemployment skyrockets the unemployed will be the parents of our students, the fear in households will resonate among our children.

Teachers are also stressed, worrying about their students, worrying about themselves and their own families.

The UFT supports a Membership Assistance Program (MAP), confidential sessions with a certified psychologist, unions do far more than negotiate contracts and endorse candidates, unions are sum total of their members, and caring for the needs of their membership is at the core of trade unionism.

Sometimes disagreeing with management, other times agreeing and at times agreeing to disagree.

The union “respectfully” disagreed with the mayor over his initial decision not to close schools and closely collaborated when he decided to close schools and establish an online platform.

We are at the beginning of a perilous journey.

Stay Safe ….

Maybe time for Woody Guthrie, “Old Man Trump”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jANuVKeYezs&list=PLRw6OZZufk59Xy7qXNCZ4kVD19H7wNsVS

The Coronavirus Crisis: Are We On the Same Page?  What Aren’t We Doing? When Will the “All Clear” Sound?

There are moments that are embedded our memories.

The morning of Tuesday, September 11th I turned on the tube, a plane had crashed into one of the Twin Towers. I raced to my window; smoke was trailing across the sky. Were we at war? What was next?

We can divide our world, pre and post 9/11.

Two decades later: another catastrophic event.

The coronavirus exploded in China, raced along to South Korea, to Italy, to Iran and moved to France and Spain and the number of cases rapidly increasing.

Social media, electeds and candidates are all offering “advice.”

The best sources of information:

John Hopkins Coronavirus Updates:  http://www.centerforhealthsecurity.org/newsroom/newsletters/e-newsletter-sign-up.html

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html

World Health Organization: https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public

Nations were ill-prepared and most reacted too slowly; we waited two months and even now our reactions appear haphazard.

Italy and Spain are in total lockdowns, only food outlets and pharmacies open.

Unfortunately we seem to having a state-by-state approach, watch the President and his closest advisors huddled on a stage, not practicing social distancing.

The epidemiologists, the virologists are clear, the more you test the more cases you will find, without identifying you can’t treat. New York State is setting up mobile testing sites.

The number of cases will continue to spike until ….?  The Imperial College (UK) Report predicts 2.2 million deaths in the US.

Fourteen days, forty-five days … July or August?  Dr, Fauci, the head of the CDC says we have no way to know, this is a unique situation. “Mitigate and contain” complements testing, the more data the more models can be built.

In New York City schools, restaurants, bars, all meetings, concerts, theaters, gyms closed: “social distancing” is the rule.

I live next to an NYU site and a School of Visual Arts dormitory, the plaza in front of my abode usually filled with students, today, empty.

I’m an avid bike rider, a lonely ride this morning along the East River around the Battery and up the West Side.

Schools are closed; teachers are being trained to use the online learning links. Needless to say there is an enormous equity issue. Most of the schools in the Affinity District, schools supported by not-for-profits (for example, (see The Internationals Network site) already have online capability. In the highest poverty districts many households do not have online capacity.

The Department of Education Learn at Home site provides grade-by-grade, subject-by-subject activities, the question: how many families will utilize?  We know from the online Charter Schools debacle that online learning has minimal effectiveness, a stopgap measure.

I’m bombarded with questions:

“I’m a student teacher, schools are closed, how can I meet my required number of student teaching hours?”

“The required edTPA test requires video-taping a lesson and writing a detailed self-analysis of the lesson: how can I meet the requirement if schools are closed?”

“Will the grades 3-8 standardized tests be cancelled or postponed?”

“Will Regents exams be given?”

“Will the school year be extended into the summer?”

and on and on ….

Everyone is asking the experts, when this crisis will end, and, as the experts respond: this is a unique situation, we simply don’t know.

The 1918-19 Influenza Pandemic, in era before vaccines and before antibiotics killed 50 million people.

One one hand Governor Cuomo is painting a bleak picture, overflowing hospitals, lack of supplies, lack of faculties, and bluntly saying only federal government has the resources to respond.

President Trump and his team paint a far brighter picture (with the exception of Dr. Fauci)

The economic impact is another story completely, President Trump predicts a rapid bounce back; others see a depression paralleling the Great Depression.

I’m not in an upbeat frame of mind: listen to Leonard Cohen, “You Want It Darker”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v0nmHymgM7Y

Updated: NYC Schools Will Close Effective Monday (3/17) Until April 20th (or later)

Updated (3/15 – 5;30): de Blasio announces school will close tomorrow through April 20th, at least. Centers for children of health care workers will be announced. This coming week schools will be open for “grab and go” meals to take home.

Training for teachers for online teaching Tuesday through Thursday. Remote learning will begin Monday, 3/23 on Department website.

Number of confirmed cases 329 and increasing rapidly, five deaths,

 

In the last few days the calls for school closings have accelerated, the President of the American Federation of Teachers, Randi Weingarten (Watch MSNBC interview here), Michael Mulgrew, the President of the United Federation of Teachers (Read statement here), the Los Angeles School District (Read statement here) all support closing schools.

Tens of thousands of page views quoted Diane Ravitch as supporting school closing, Diane responded, she was misquoted.

Most of the thirty largest school districts will be closed this week.

An op ed in the New York Times, “We Do Not Need to Close School to Fight the Coronavirus” argues “shutdowns could likely do more harm than good, since there’s little evidence that children are a major source of the spread.”

Mayor de Blasio, who has been holding lengthy press briefing every day, has resisted closing schools at this time.

What does “trusted expert advice” say:  the latest bulletin from the Center of Disease Control (CDC)?

There is a role for school closure in response to school-based cases of COVID-19

 … for decontamination and contact tracing (few days of closure),

 … in response to significant absenteeism of staff and students (short to medium length, i.e. 2-4 weeks of closure),

  … or as part of a larger community mitigation strategy for jurisdictions with substantial community spread* (medium to long length, i.e. 4-8 weeks or more of closure).

   Available modeling data indicate that early, short to medium closures do not impact the epi curve of COVID-19 or available health care measures (e.g., hospitalizations). There may be some impact of much longer closures (8 weeks, 20 weeks) further into community spread, but that modelling also shows that other mitigation efforts (e.g., handwashing, home isolation) have more impact on both spread of disease and health care measures. In other countries, those places who closed school (e.g., Hong Kong) have not had more success in reducing spread than those that did not (e.g., Singapore).

 The CDC does not make a  specific recommendation.

 Governor Cuomo has been brutally honest; it’s going to get worse before its get better.

China, South Korea were slow to respond, catastrophic results, vigorous responses including widespread testing.reducing the spread.

Italy, Spain and France, also slow to respond and are seeing rapid increases in coronavirus infections; Italy overwhelmed.

In the New York Metropolitan area the number of cases identified is increasing on daily basis. Cuomo’s response is “reducing density,” reducing the number of non essential personnel is a crucial response as well as “social distancing.” and frequent handwashing.

Cuomo’s answer to school closings, “…not so easy … most families don’t have a caregiver and parents would have to stay home, some are essential,  i.e.,  nurses, healthcare workers, cops, etc., How do you feed the children who are dependent on breakfast and lunch programs?  Can school districts address these issues, closing the schools is up to local governments …. Can you ‘reduce the negatives?’”

In other words, different responses in different school districts,  rural, suburban as well as densely populated cities.

Coronavirus testing in NYS is ramping up, as of Sunday at 1 pm, number tested so far, (5272), newly tested (442), total number of infected (729), newly identified (69), 3 deaths, 119 hospitalized 46 in ICU.

The best source of up-to-date data is the John Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center: https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/

In an open letter Cuomo asked the President to “Mobilize the Military” to build up the response, Cuomo, “You can’t leave it to the states … there’s no way we can manage the mobilization … We have no options …We will be sitting here eight ten, twelve week from now wondering why we didn’t respond earlier.” Thousands of New Yorkers requiring intensive care would overload our medical resources.

The unasked and unanswerable question: if you close schools, how long do you keep them closed?  Do you extend the school year into July/August to make up for missed work?

Will the Grades 3 – 8 state tests be postponed? cancelled” How about the Regents Exams?

Many of the “experts” say the spread of the COVID-19 will get worse, much worse.

How do you determine the end date for the virus pandemic?  Around the world we have rapid increases and decreases in the infection curve depending on intervention strategies  (see the John Hopkins site referenced above).

I know I haven’t answered the question, some questions create other questions, the discussions must continue, with a realization that the crisis may exist for months, many months.

UPDATE (Sunday – 5:11 PM)

Andrew Cuomo
@NYGovCuomo
NYC must have a plan in place in the next 24 hours for childcare for essential workers and a plan to make sure kids will continue to get the meals they need. NYC schools will close early this week. This action is necessary to reduce density and mitigate the spread of #COVID19.