May 4, 2020

Are Kids Super Spreaders? The Evidence So Far Says No

I highly recommend this short piece from Emily Oster. She looks at what we know so far about whether kids are likely to catch and transmit COVID-19. We already have good evidence that kids are less likely to get sick and die from the virus than older adults.

But does that mean kids just aren’t getting sick, or are they asymptomatic carriers of the virus? Oster suggests the evidence so far is tilting toward the former:

However, in practice it seems that infection among kids is simply very unlikely.  It’s not that they are infected and don’t know it, it seems like they are just not infected very often.  And when they are, it may be that the mild symptoms limit their viral spreading….

What does this mean for policy, and for families? Opening schools and day cares and camps (PLEASE!!!) is still very complicated since these all involve congregations of adults. But on the plus side, these results indicate that in those contexts they suggest our primary concern should be adult-to-adult transmission, which may be easier to limit.

Read the full thing here.

–Guest post by Chad Aldeman 

April 30, 2020

How Will COVID-19 Affect the Teacher Labor Market?

In a new column at The 74, Lauren Dachille and I offer five predictions, and four suggestions, for school districts struggling with hiring uncertainty in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. We write:

Ultimately, while this crisis presents many challenges for districts, it may also provide an opportunity. Those places that are able to adapt to the changing teacher labor market now can have a lasting positive impact on student learning in years to come.

Read our predictions and suggestions in the full piece.

–Guest post by Chad Aldeman 

April 29, 2020

Joan Baratz Snowden

Joan Baratz Snowden passed earlier this week after a battle with cancer. Joan was a fixture at the AFT for more than a decade, helped get NBPTS going, and was a presence on the ed scene in Washington.

But those are resume items. More importantly she was a lot of fun, intense, not shy to fight, interesting to talk with, and one of those people you always learn something from. I remember once in response to something I said she responded that I must read Wittgenstein’s Poker, an episode I was vaguely aware of but an account I’d never read. She always had gems like that, read broadly and liked ideas but also liked action.

She was also full of her own big ideas about education and frustrated with the pace of progress and micro focus of so much of our sector’s work given the scale of our problems. Righteous in her politics in the good sense of that term she was not a reflexive partisan or a reactionary – rather an independent thinker of the kind we need more of.

Here’s Ed Week.

April 18, 2020

Abigail Thernstrom

Abigail Thernstrom passed way earlier this month. Among other issues she was active and influential on education and a member of the State Board of Education in Massachusetts. A very good Washington Post obituary gives a sense of how complicated she was. In her own words:

I just have problems with ideologically coercive environments — I get claustrophobic.”

April 16, 2020

April 10, 2020

Bellwether Covid-19 Response Webinar

Yesterday Bellwether hosted a webinar with with four pivotal sector leaders — Dan Domenech, American Association of School Administrators; Eva Moskowitz, Success Academy Charter Schools; Nina Rees, National Alliance for Public Charter Schools; and Sonja Santelises, Baltimore City Public Schools,.

They shared challenges, lessons and successes, and discussed what’s next. If you missed you can watch or listen here, closed captioning available.

More via this Ahead of the Heard post. 

April 9, 2020

April 7, 2020

Bellwether & Covid-19

A few resources from Bellwether to share.

On Thursday we have a webinar featuring Dan Domenech of AASA, Nina Rees of NACPS, and Eva Moskowitz and Sonja Santelises for on-the-ground district and charter perspectives. Pre-registration required. And it is filling up so don’t delay if you want to join.

Today we released this toolkit for school and non-profit leaders.

And (like everyone else it seems) we have a resource page with a lot of free resources.

Here are a few looks at various issues. I think school districts and charters should consider providing instruction this summer. Hailly Korman thinks there are some empathy lessons bound up in what’s happening. And at our blog Ahead of the Heard you will find a variety of resources on organizational and educational issues that the sector is facing.

April 6, 2020

Competency-Based Instruction, Now More Than Ever

My wife and I are privileged in lots of ways. We have books around the house, Wi-Fi, multiple connected devices, and a printer. We have flexible jobs that allow for remote work. We have a steady income and health care benefits.

Still, as the parents of two elementary-age kids in the midst of the coronavirus lockdown, we were thrown into this new homeschooling experiment abruptly, as of 11:41pm on Thursday, March 12th. Two weeks later, the governor of Virginia closed schools for the rest of the year. We’re now starting week four.

Our school district has given us little more than links to the state’s grade-level standards plus some old YouTube videos. They are supposedly going to start mailing out instructional packets next week (this week is technically Spring Break from the district’s perspective.) That feels lackadaisical and insufficient, especially compared to some of the more organized responses I’ve seen elsewhere.

While I’m bitter about how little our district is doing, I want to be clear this is about district policy. My kids’ teachers have signaled that they’d like to do more but they’re being prevented from doing so.

To fill the void, my wife and I created one of those daily schedules going around social media, and we’ve been giving the kids workbooks, other printouts we find online, plus some “educational” videos like Bill Nye The Science Guy and the Mo Willems Lunch Doodles.

While there are more resources out there, particularly for online instruction, we are not anxious to plop our kids in front of a device or ask them to join Zoom meetings all day. Our priority has been keeping the kids safe and healthy, with structure and any educational benefits as secondary. Still, for my kids at least, they’re running ahead on the things they like and stagnating on things they don’t like. My second-grader, for instance, is doing fourth- or fifth-grade level work on some things while struggling with grade-level content in other areas. 

If this type of dispersion is happening among individual students, I can only imagine what it will look like at the classroom- or school-level. How will teachers handle these challenges? What systems and supports will districts put in place to identify student competencies and tailor their instruction accordingly? Will they assess students in the fall to know where they’re strong and identify areas where they need more support?

I continue to suspect that districts are mostly just trying to get through this. They’re hoping planning to re-open as normal in the fall. But if my family’s experience is any indication, we’re going to need something different. If anything, this experiment has made me much more interested in competency-based instruction, however that might be delivered.

–Guest post by Chad Aldeman 

April 1, 2020

The COVID-19 Learning Loss

I’ve been thinking lately about this Paul von Hippel piece  for Education Next on summer learning loss. After looking closely at the data, he does not find evidence for the idea of a “summer learning loss” that particularly hinders low-income students. 

While perhaps not as compelling, von Hippel writes that there is one finding that continues to stand up:

There is one result that replicates consistently across every test that I’ve ever looked at. It’s so obvious that it’s easy to overlook, but it’s still important: nearly all children, no matter how advantaged, learn much more slowly during summer vacations than they do during the school years. That means that every summer offers children who are behind a chance to catch up. In other words, even if gaps don’t grow much during summer vacations, summer vacations still offer a chance to shrink them.

What does this mean for the extended break remote learning experiment being forced on us by COVID-19? My fear is that most education leaders will be content to take a breather this summer in the hopes that everything can resume as normal in the fall.

I think that would be a mistake on two levels. First, from a logistical standpoint, schools and districts should be preparing now for a potential second wave of outbreaks. Those outbreaks may not be as intense or as widespread, but school and district leaders have no way of knowing how bad it might be in their particular communities, and whether the coronavirus will again force them to close schools for extended periods of time. Regardless, given what we know, it would be irresponsible to blindly assume everything will be back to normal for the 2020-21 school year.

And second are the equity implications. Regardless of exactly how large the COVID-19 learning slide is going to be, there’s no question that students are losing precious learning time that will affect them for the rest of their lives. Education leaders should be thinking NOW about how they will make that up. Will they extend the current school year into the summer? Will they start the next school year early, or extend it somehow? Districts should be starting that planning process now.

–Guest post by Chad Aldeman 

Posted on Apr 1, 2020 @ 5:19pm