“I’m Bored:” Parenting in the Age of Remote Learning

My grand daughter gobbles down her PBN (peanut butter and Nutella) sandwich and runs to be on time for school, well, she slides over to the computer, puts on her earphones and joins her class.

I interview her.  She misses her classmates; she says it’s hard to concentrate. What does she like best: soccer practice in the evening, following a video of practicing her dribbling skills, and, she complains, “I’m bored.”

How often have you heard that from your kids?

For the last few weeks parents have been in a unique position; they have been able to both observe the behavior of their children: their mood swings, frustration, anger, the impact of remote learning and “sheltering in place.”

Websites are offering advice on how to assist your kids and yourself in this new world (See NYTimes article here.)

Down the road researchers and journalists will be taking a deep dive into this unparalleled piece of history.

Some of the research is straightforward, comparing data from 2019 and 2021,

  • Grades 3-8 standardized test scores
  • Grades on Regents Examinations, SAT, ACT
  • Number of students who logged in per day
  • Attendance
  • Availability of online devices

At the end of the day I suspect the data points, those above and others will expose what we already know: you can track student achievement by parent income and education, although schools with similar levels of poverty indices may experience differing levels of success. What did they do differently from similar schools?

At the teacher side of the teaching/learning continuum

  • Age of the teacher
  • Experience of the teacher

Are younger teachers, who we expect to be more facile with technology more effective?  Are experienced teachers better able to connect with students?

When the “all clear” sounds remote learning or whatever we choose to call it will not disappear, schools will begin to embed a continuum of traditional classroom instruction with iterations of remote learning.

Research should not be based solely on data points; parents are participant-observers in the process.

In the field of sociology the term participant-observer means a method in which the observer participates in the daily life of the people under study. Parents are not sociologists or researchers; however, they are participating intimately with the subjects of the students: their children.

While kids are bored parents are frustrated, combining work from home and “participating” in remote learning is overwhelming.

This is really hard.

What’s amazing to me is how consistent this struggle is among every parent I talk to. The texts and social media posts bouncing around my circle all echo each other. We feel like we’re failing at both. Our kids don’t just need us — they need more of us. Our kids are acting out; abandoning the routines they already had, dropping naps, sleeping less, doing less — except for jumping on top of their parents, which is happening much more. We’re letting them watch far greater amounts of screen time than we ever thought we’d tolerate. Forget homeschooling success — most of us are struggling to get our kids to do the basics that would have accounted for a Saturday-morning routine before this pandemic.

Are some parents more effective in merging work and their child’s remote learning?

While it’s only been three or so weeks why haven’t so many parents been able to merge work and school?

What’s working and not working?

Are you able to connect and share with other parents?

Are the remote lessons from your child’ school effective? What suggestions would you make to make the lessons more engaging for your children?

As a parent: what are you learning?

The journalists and researchers shouldn’t base their studies solely on data points; they must include parents, who are fully engaged in the process.

If we are to learn from crises we have to move foreword, not return to the past, and parents must play a role in shaping the future of teaching and learning in school  and remotely.

When Can We Re-Open Schools? Re-Open the Nation? Has Teaching and Learning Changed (Forever)? A New Normal?

UPDATE (2 pm): Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the mayor had been premature,  the city’s  move needs to be coordinated across the metro area …It’s likely the mayor’s decision will ultimately stick, as public health officials and the governor himself have warned against rushing back to normal before it is safe to do so.

UPDATE (10 am): Mayor deBlasio announces NYC schools will be closed for the remainder of the school year

Should your child start college in September? Or take a gap year? Do you want to spend tens of thousands in tuition for an online college experience from your kid’s bedroom?  Will school become “alternate week” to keep distancing?

Will the NFL season begin with empty stadiums? Will subway cars be limited to ten people each? Will people over 65 be required to continue to “stay in place,” to self-quarantine while under 65s can go back to work?

The NY Philharmonic has cancelled their summer concerts, colleges are planning for online summer sessions; will the fall bring any kind of normalcy? How would we define normalcy?

The questions greatly outnumber the answers.

I limit myself to “trusted” sources, I avoid “talking heads” and the endless babble that flits across the screen. I suggest:

John Hopkins Center for Health Security https://myemail.constantcontact.com/COVID-19-Updates—April-10.html?soid=1107826135286&aid=JWQ5mEne1Zc

Center for Disease Control and Prevention https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/communication/guidance-list.html?Sort=Date%3A%3Adesc

I read through as much as I can find each day, and, I recommend:

How Will We Know When We Can Reopen the Nation? (NY Times)

The Four Possible Timelines for Life Returning to Normal (The Atlantic)

Cuomo: Economic reboot must account for second wave of coronavirus cases (Politico)

The conclusions from the “trusted” sources above;

  • Until there is widely available testing we will be living in the current alternate universe. A simple question: would you go to a Yankee game? To the theater? To a restaurant, without some assurance that you snd your family were safe.
  • We need medication that counters the impact of the disease if we’re infected.
  • Finally, a vaccine available to all and, perhaps laws requiring the vaccination in schools or work places.

We also have to rethink the delivery of remote learning.

Tons of homework delivered online is unacceptable.

A library of U-Tube lessons should be available; lessons for kids and tutorials for parents on how to reinforce lessons. Kids can watch the lesson as often as necessary, and, the presenters can be master teachers not the classroom teacher. Lessons can be discussions of the U-Tube.

Teachers should consider projects built around the concept being taught.

Grades should be pass/no grade; maybe a “pass with excellence.”

While the new world is tortuous for parents the lack of interactions with friends is difficult for kids.

A schedule is crucial: my grand daughter has to end the school day by posting her schedule for the next day on the refrigerator door.

Parent online Town Halls are a way of connecting to the school, a place to blow off steam, a place to give feedback to the school leaders and teachers.

Scheduled parent-to-parent online forums, a chance to share what appears to be working (and not working).

In New York City this is the end of week three of remote learning. Most teachers are getting better at “it,” kids are getting used to “it.”  Yes, too many kids are not connecting everyday, and some not connecting at all.

I was speaking with a forward thinking school leader. He’s planning how to assess where kids are at in September, he’s assessing the strength and weaknesses of the staff in this new delivery system; he’s thinking how to reconfigure the staff into teams so that every teacher will have access to a more tech-savvy fellow teacher. He’s thinking about grade appropriate projects in as many subjects as possible. He’s wondering whether he’ll have budget to pay teachers over the summer to create online resources for the 20-21  school year. I said thinking because these decisions, as sensible as they seem, may be at odds with the edicts from the aeries of the district.

As a classroom teacher I always wanted to be over prepared: when a kid left the room and commented to me, “That was really hard,” I knew I was doing my job. I wasn’t an ogre. I differentiated instruction, meaning I gave different assignments to different kids, extra credit questions on exams; if we’re not constantly raising the bar we disadvantaging our students.

Can we continue the same level of instruction in this new world?

School staffs have been pushed off the end of a diving board, an unprecedented “instantaneous” personal and organizational change event.

Change over time is hard, change foisted upon parents and schools overnight, incredibly difficult.

Let’s end the week on a sweet note with “If I Loved You” from Carousel

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iuHAh-2xGxw

Stay Safe

Regents Cancelled, Budgets Gloomy, School Re-Opening In Question, Planning for an Uncertain Future

Kudos to Chancellor Rosa, Acting Commissioner Tahoe and the members of the Board of Regents; in these chaotic and stressful times they have addressed the range of troubling questions.

The detailed, very detailed, Q & A addresses most of the questions that were swirling in the education stratosphere.

All Regents examinations scheduled for June are cancelled.

 Students, who, during the June 2020 examination period would have taken one or more Regents examinations, will be exempted from passing the assessments in order to be issued a diploma.  To qualify for the exemption, students must meet one of the following eligibility requirements:

  • The student is currently enrolled in a course of study culminating in a Regents examination and will have earned credit in such course of study by the end of the 2019-20 school year; or
  • The student is in grade 7, is enrolled in a course of study culminating in a Regents examination and will have passed such course of study by the end of the 2019-20 school year; or
  • The student is currently enrolled in a course of study culminating in a Regents examination and has failed to earn credit by the end of the school year. Such student returns for summer instruction to make up the failed course and earn the course credit and is subsequently granted diploma credit in August 2020; or
  • The student was previously enrolled in the course of study leading to an applicable Regents examination, has achieved course credit, and has not yet passed the associated Regents examination but intended to take the test in June 2020 to achieve a passing score.

The guidance from State Ed includes a Q & A addressing the many, many issues that were hanging loose (See here) as well as a link to submit additional questions.

Any additional questions about the exemptions from examination requirements or the effect of such exemptions on student qualification for a diploma should be directed to emscgradreq@nysed.gov.

While Board of Regents/State Ed has clarified many of the outstanding issues the elephants in the room are dollars. As the budget dance was prancing towards the April 1 deadline the apocalypse descended. The process in New York State is driven by the Governor (See an earlier blog for an explanation of the arcane process). The Board of Regents asked for a $2 billion increase, the Governor offered $800 million, the final enacted budget – $0 – the same budget as last year, and, the Governor will have the authority to increase or decrease the budget, the legislature will have 10 days to turn down the Governor’s actions, highly unlikely.

The New York City budgeting process is beginning, the City Council and the Mayor usually agree on the budget by mid-June.

The Mayor released his proposal with $221 million in education reductions; the largest cut will directly impact school budgets.

The biggest single cut to the education department’s budget will take effect next fiscal year: $100 million will come out of the “fair student funding” formula, a city funding stream that directly finances school budgets and is designed to funnel more money to the highest-need schools. That represents a roughly 1.6% reduction to that funding stream.

 Additionally plans to expand the Pre-K for All (3-Year olds) will be halted, other initiatives in the Equity and Excellence agenda, including a program that pairs middle school students with one-on-one counselors, and another aimed at setting students on a path to college and a summer program that provides hands-on activities for students and visits to cultural institutions is also being scaled back.

The budget proposal also eliminates the Summer Youth Employment Program; the program, pays about 75,000 young people minimum wage for jobs at nonprofits, in government, and at private companies.

Each year the Council and the Mayor negotiate, add this, delete that, and, by mid-June a budget is agreed upon. This will be an especially trying year. The city budget must be balanced, and, if no budget is agreed upon the city cannot expend dollars; obviously there will be a budget; however, with future revenue unknown, the city budget, as the state budget, may be subject to modifications throughout the year.

I’m just off a Zoom call with a CUNY college president:  summer school could be in-person, could be online, have to plan for both; will regular classes be resumed in September?  Could the fall/winter bring another round of the virus?  We will have to plan for in-person classes and a resumption of online classes; and, the budget implications could continue to get worse.

Seders and Easter festivities at a distance, “virtual” hugs are essential …. take a deep breath, continue to exercise, yoga, eat healthy … this too will pass.

It’s time for all of us to stand together …

.Listen to Pete Seeger, “This Land is Your Land,” on January 21, 2009

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HE4H0k8TDgw

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

UPDATED: ((4/6/20 – 3:10 PM) See the detailed, very detailed Q & A explaining how the State is treating the cancellation of Regents Exams, grading, the earning of course credits and impact on graduation. (http://www.nysed.gov/news/2020/state-education-department-issues-guidance-graduation-and-course-requirement-changes-due)

UPDATED: (4/6/20 – 11:40 am): Chancellor Rosa announces Regents Exams will be cancelled (only for June? August?) – details about implications for graduation released tomorrow (47/20) in the PM

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