Note: This blog post was edited, honed down, and generally made better in the latest newsletter.
Ian’s school, like almost all schools in NJ and nearly half the schools in the country, is hybrid. Students attend school for in-person instruction every other day; one week they have two mornings (over at 12:45), the next week, it’s three days. When they are not in school, students watch their teacher and fellow students in little boxes on a Zoom call. Students also have one 30-minute remote class in the afternoon, which is optional — there’s a 50/50 chance that nothing will happen after 12:45.
Because Ian’s an IEP student, Ian gets a little more school than the other kids; he attends school five mornings per week. But he is often the only student in the room. His school is a ghost town.
Ian’s pre-calc math class normally has 30 students. With hybrid instruction, the number of students in the classroom is cut in half to 15 students. But those students aren’t showing up. The state has said that any student can opt to do their classes remotely, never stepping foot inside a school. Since last fall, more and more students are opting to stay home, doing their classes in the PJs, rather than showing up to school.
Parents tell me that they allow their students to stay home, because the kids would rather do their classes in the PJs. It’s comfy and easy. Sometimes it takes the school bus forty minutes to pick up all the kids and snake through local traffic, so the kids have decided to skip their commute. They don’t want to go to school, when their friends aren’t there.
Many teachers are working remotely full time. So, students say that it’s dumb to go into school to watch a teacher on a Zoom call. Why go through the bother of dressing up, commuting, working in a harsh workplace of plastic barriers and masks, when the teacher is only talking to them on their Chromebook? They could do that at home.
In these sporty suburbs, the parents tell me that their kids socialize with friends then, rather than the lunchroom. The kids are also worried about the hair-trigger quarantine requirements that could sideline them from their sports for two weeks. For some parents, it’s more important that their child play in the basketball tournament than learn anything in an English class.
Others tell me that kids are staying home, because it is extremely easy to cheat on tests at home. The kids have got their math book open just outside the Zoom video camera, if it’s even on, and they’re texting answers to their friends. This can’t happen in the school. So, kids who go to school are at a big disadvantage.
If my son was one of those other kids, with sports and friends, I might make the same decision and let him work remotely. It’s the rational decision. And who wants to hear a teenager whine? Cringe.
But I don’t have one of those other kids. My son doesn’t have any friends. He is not able to play a sport. I have a kid who desperately needs to be around other human beings and to get out of his bedroom. So, I send him to school faithfully every day even though his teachers are busy talking to a couple dozen boxes on his laptop and not to him. Ian might be the only person physically in the classroom at that moment. But, like I said, we are desperate.
I just can’t see how this is going to change. Our district has recognized that the lack of students physically in the classroom is a problem, but they have no tools to force students to go. Now that students have gotten the option to dial it in, to do pretend school, they aren’t going back. And can you blame them? How many teenagers voluntarily chose to work hard?
Public schools in New Jersey are not committing to opening up regularly anytime soon. Our superintendent has refused to say if schools will open full time, even when the teachers are vaccinated. They aren’t going to force students to get vaccinated, so that means they will have to continue to offer them the option of cheating and sleeping at home all next year.
I have been very unhappy with how schools have dealt with this pandemic, since everything shut down last spring. At that time, my kid didn’t even have remote education — his classes consisted of worksheets and YouTube videos for the entire spring. I thought that shutting schools was appropriate at that time, but I expected more Zoom stuff. (Evidence: a list of all the newsletters from this year.)
While my kid has Zoom classes now, he needs more. My kid needs teachers and school and classmates. If restaurants in Manhattan are open and have figured out how to feed people in 20 degree weather, why can’t schools figure this out? If our school can offer basketball tournaments for unmasked players and parents in the stands, why can’t they have a math class? I just don’t get it.
And those other kids, even those with friends and sports, need to be in school. They are getting lazy. They aren’t learning. They are developing bad habits. Parents need to kick those kids out of the house. And schools need to offer sticks and carrots to get those kids back. If this doesn’t happen, public education is over. Just over.
70 thoughts on “Ghost Town Schools”
That’s some fancy ductwork going there.
Right? It’s piping out hot air to keep the outdoor diners warm.
I had thought it was a school lunch room.
It should be.
I agree about the teenage mindset. It takes a *lot* of self-direction and self-motivation for the average teen to push themselves over their education. If minimal levels of engagement and delivery is all that’s required, then that’s all most will deliver. And most teens don’t have the forward-thinking part of the brain operational (read a really good article about this – it’s one of the last parts of the brain to be re-wired during the teen years) – so truly don’t understand they may be depth-charging their careers.
We’re back in lockdown (sigh!) for another 7 days at least [due to the stupid selfish short-sightedness of one family who decided not to obey the quarantine rules – and have potentially spread Covid across the whole of the southern part of the city – kindness and toleration have just about worn out, here].
So back to remote learning. The school has been a bit better about actually scheduling some face-to-face interaction. But it’s only about 15 minutes (just about a roll call, and an overview of what they’re supposed to be working on – no actual teaching).
The kids who have parents who are essential workers (doctors, police, supermarket workers, etc.) – are in person at school – but doing remote learning there – so a parallel experience to Ian’s.
Anecdotally, they hate it, too.
I would be expecting many of these kids to get a sharp shock when it comes to exams.
Although, when it comes to motivation – my kid has just voluntarily left the house to ride his bike to the dairy to get some cream. Their homework for science is to make icecream — now that’s what I call an incentive!
I was reading this week about a CA district whose big concession was going to be one whole hour per week of in-person instruction.
“How many teenagers voluntarily chose to work hard?”
A fair number in my experience, which further increases iniquity. My kid is working really hard and so does his GF. Parents of kids like mine are worrying that they’ll be thrown into classes with kids who haven’t learned all this year (and making plans).
And — re New Zealand and the wake up call of exams, especially ones where cheating isn’t easy, we probably won’t have those. I really don’t know what happens next, or what the kids will know at the end of this.
And I really don’t know when we’ll be able to force kids to come back to school. A hope might be virtual academy options for remote kids/school for the others. But no hybrid depends on changing the distancing recommendations.
bj said, “which further increases iniquity.”
I kind of love your typos!
“Parents of kids like mine are worrying that they’ll be thrown into classes with kids who haven’t learned all this year (and making plans).”
It’s especially problematic for high school. You reach the point where the curriculum gets brutally cumulative, and what happens if a kid has a prerequisite on their 2020-2021 transcript but they were doing all the stuff Laura describes?
There’s going to be a lot of “bad paper” going forward, where kids’ transcripts don’t really reflect where they are. Placement testing is going to be unavoidable as part of the clean-up and people are going to hate it.
“But no hybrid depends on changing the distancing recommendations.”
It’s also eventually going to be absurd to have schools closed with sustained <1% positivity, no or minimal hospitalizations, all willing adults having been vaccinated, and COVID deaths being extremely uncommon.
There's also the rather dark possibility that the COVID school funding is largely being used to do bad things educationally–hiring classroom monitors, having teachers work remote, etc.
BJ said: ” My kid is working really hard and so does his GF. Parents of kids like mine are worrying that they’ll be thrown into classes with kids who haven’t learned all this year (and making plans). ”
Our experience of this, was that the teachers spent the first 6 weeks out of lockdown, repeating everything that they’d ‘taught’ in lockdown.
Which, of course, reinforced for the kids, that learning in lockdown was optional – and that all the content would just be repeated for them.
So much emphasis on ‘nice’ – no one should be left behind, because they didn’t have access to computers, or didn’t have parents who supported learning, etc. No consideration for the kids who have worked hard – either because they’re self-starters, or they have parents who crack the whip (putting my hand up here).
Surely exams have to kick in at *some* point – even if it’s a whole tranche of kids failing at college – because they don’t have the required entry-level knowledge.
Our govt floated the concept of dumbing down the HS exams (called NCEA, here – 3 levels & you need L3 in a certain number of credits to go to university).
To their credit, the universities said nix – the credits are an entry-level requirement – and you won’t succeed at uni if you don’t have the required base knowledge. They have relaxed the levels required for some courses which are typically capped at a higher level (not for educational reasons, but rather number restrictions – e.g. law & medicine).
Interestingly, we have had a record number of kids opting for vocational career paths (apprenticeships, technical institutes, etc.) rather than traditional universities. The pandemic seems to have crystalized thinking that it’s better to have a guaranteed meal ticket (electrician, plumber, builder, etc.), rather than a generic degree. And, of course, all of the tourism courses/qualifications are dead in the water.
Universities aren’t very happy. They have lower local enrolments, and their overseas students (who pay a whopping premium to study here), aren’t able to get into the country, so aren’t coming. They’ve taken a big financial hit.
“Surely exams have to kick in at *some* point – even if it’s a whole tranche of kids failing at college – because they don’t have the required entry-level knowledge. ”
You’d be surprised. We don’t have national exams in the US in any formal sense. The exams that we do have were waived last year. I think there’s a movement afoot not to waive them this year, but, honestly, I don’t think they will happen, because I don’t think they can without opening buildings, which is not happening.
I do think there will be kids failing at college (as well as kids just not going to college). Community college enrollment is way down in the US for 20-21 and we’ll see what happens in 21-22. But, the failure will be disconnected in time enough that those who advocated for year long school closure won’t take responsibility (and, will blame the general stress of the pandemic, rather than the closures).
We are unlikely to see a return to open buildings in high school, and your assessment that “Our experience of this, was that the teachers spent the first 6 weeks out of lockdown, repeating everything that they’d ‘taught’ in lockdown.”, suggests my kid might actually loose out if they did bring students back and teachers did reteach what wasn’t learned. Right now, it appears that everyone is either learning, or that everyone is pretending to learn.
I was confident enough that my own child was learning not to imagine the scenarios Laura describes here, except for the one class he actually complains about (his language arts class which is a general ed class — the others are, mostly, electives that require per-requisites). But, now I’m not sure. I honestly didn’t really consider cheating (I’m naive that way — have always believed that cheating on test is cheating yourself of an opportunity to learn and lived in worlds where that wasn’t crazy talk).
Mind you, I did decide to thin about whether kiddo is learning — he admits he’s not learning as much as he thinks he’d learn with a full set of classes (rather than the 2/5 that he’s getting now). He’s getting good grades, but I don’t really trust them entirely — because as you say, there’s an emphasis on “nice” (which also conveniently hides any lack of learning). I rely mostly on the idea that he is working and that he does bring up learning in some of his classes (US history, for example) and that some classes (physics, math) an answer is either right or wrong, and thus there’s only so much pretend learning that can be done (less learning, maybe, but some must be happening).
bj said, “We don’t have national exams in the US in any formal sense. The exams that we do have were waived last year.”
There’s also been a lot of movement over the past year toward suspending mandatory submission of SATs/ACTs for college admissions, either temporarily or potentially permanently.
We do have the AP exams (Ann: high school classes with a final standardized exam that can yield college credit). Last year, they were given online to kids at home and that kinda-sorta worked. They gave a shorter version of the tests, with tests specially designed to punish anybody who needed to look anything up, because there was so little time available to do the work. I haven’t heard yet what the AP people are doing for 2021. But you do wonder if the 2020 and 2021 exam results don’t need an asterisk.
I also wonder how well online versions of lab science classes are going.
College boars says they’ll have regular length AP exams this year. Digital will be available for most exams, but not language or music theory. Some schools will administer paper exams, probably the ones that are open in person.
bj said, “College boars says they’ll have regular length AP exams this year. Digital will be available for most exams, but not language or music theory. Some schools will administer paper exams, probably the ones that are open in person.”
Good to know! I have one kid taking one exam this spring.
“College board, but that’s a kind of funny typo, top.”
College board, but that’s a kind of funny typo, top.
So – in today’s paper, an acknowledgement that NCEA results would have taken a significant nose-dive without the bump in credits the government awarded.
[NB: some schools (south Auckland – poorer and more disadvantaged area) wanted to remove all exams and only have internal assessment – so this credit boost was a compromise]
“The changes include the opportunity for students to earn an additional one “learning recognition” NCEA credit for every five credits they earn, as well as reductions in the number of credits needed to obtain UE and/or receive a merit or excellence endorsement.Twelve NCEA credits in three UE approved subjects will now be required to gain University Entrance, down two per subject from the original 14. Forty-six credits is the magic number for getting a merit or excellence endorsement, four less than the previous 50, and 12 merit or excellence credits in a particular subject will earn an endorsement in that subject, two less than the previous 14″
Without this boost, the numbers qualifying for UE (University Entrance) would have dropped by 8%.
[Uni’s backpedalled on their initial refusal to accept the boost – they wanted the bums on seats for funding purposes! However, I’d expect a fair few of the kids who just scraped in will seriously struggle in their first year at university]
So, a really significant indication that remote learning (even for the relatively short time – roughly 2 months in NZ) – has a severe impact on some HS student’s ability to learn (or possibly their teacher’s ability to teach).
Interestingly, students from schools with an excellent learning reputation sailed through the lockdown with little or no impact on their results, and therefore those schools had a bumper year for pass figures (i.e. the credit boost inflated their already successful results)
Which says to me that Covid-related remote schooling will have greater effects on kids who are struggling and on kids from poorer quality schools and/or teachers who can’t teach effectively online.
That isn’t news to me – or probably to you, either – but it’s interesting to have it show up in statistics.
Laura retweeted Hamilton Nolan who said, “texas and mississippi acting like the runner who starts celebrating too early and then gets passed right before the finish line by their rival The Grim Reaper.”
If I had my druthers, this would have been pushed off 2-3 more weeks. It’s pretty gutsy to do this after the big February interruption in vaccine administration and TX still has relatively low vaccination numbers (20.54 doses per 100), but my bet is that it’s not going to make a big difference. Some reasons:
1. A lot of businesses and individuals are going to continue with restrictions, particularly masking. (I personally have no intention of going to a restaurant or travelling until I get my shot and it starts working.)
2. Some large cities (Houston and Austin come to mind) are going to fight to keep restrictions.
3. The state doesn’t lift restrictions for another week–this is not happening immediately.
4. It’s an open question how much enforcement there actually was.
5. Occupancy restrictions are currently at 75%, so 100% isn’t necessarily a huge jump. (75% occupancy was recently automatically triggered by COVID hospitalizations being below 15% of hospital capacity for a full week. Before that, the occupancy level had been 50% for much of the winter.)
6. We are headed into pleasant spring weather right now.
7. It’s about to start raining vaccine this month. It’s going to be like Oprah–YOU get a vaccine and YOU get a vaccine and YOU get a vaccine!
8. The most vulnerable members of the public have had a chance to get a shot or will soon.
It’s true there’s what looks like a plateau (rather than a continuing drop) in new COVID cases, but the hospitalization graph continues to drop in a very satisfyingly symmetrical way.
The state’s hospitalization level is better than it has been in 2.5 months. Furthermore, local school COVID is looking fantastic.
I feel a little uncomfortable, but if I had to bet money, I would bet that it’s not going to matter a lot.
“I feel a little uncomfortable, but if I had to bet money, I would bet that it’s not going to matter a lot.“
Boy I hope you are right. Our official county indicator is at 87/14 days/100K which would be the CDC’s yellow zone, if divided by two to get a 7 day total. But I’m seeing the rate of drop stabilize.
Nationwide, folks are saying it’s a battle between the variants and vaccines and restrictions. UK seemed to come out of it but their restrictions were much stricter and they vaccinated faster.
bj said, “But I’m seeing the rate of drop stabilize.”
Yeah, there is a flattening out that I don’t like.
“Nationwide, folks are saying it’s a battle between the variants and vaccines and restrictions. UK seemed to come out of it but their restrictions were much stricter and they vaccinated faster.”
The US is starting to gain a bit on the UK with regard to vaccination speed. They were 50% faster for quite a while, but the gap has tightened up. I believe the UK is currently about 33% faster than the US.
In other happy news, I was looking at my local paper, and it looks like this week the county managed to give both the normal weekly shots plus the ones delayed by the storm, which is more than they’ve ever managed to do.
If restaurants in Manhattan are open and have figured out how to feed people in 20 degree weather, why can’t schools figure this out?
You are asking the question that you already know the answer to. Our schools are closed because we have insisted on our restaurants staying open. Not the choice I would have made, but others made it for me. We now have to sleep in the bed we made.
Jay said, “Our schools are closed because we have insisted on our restaurants staying open.”
How do you explain California, then? They’ve had both closed.
Our schools went back to hybrid in a phased return starting this week. They went against their will since they were basically (I think) planning to finish the year virtual at the HS level and put all their energy into going back full in person for primary/SPED in the spring and in person for everyone else in the summer or fall. They made a choice earlier than most systems last summer that they were going to commit to going virtual and go all-out to make it as good as they can. They went hybrid after he governor basically forced them to by threatening to yank a bunch of funding. I actually think that the quality of education is going to go down because (1) our county put a lot of effort into virtual and was actually doing a decent job of it at the high school level (less so at the primary) but is going to be forced to scrap all that on the fly and do this half-assed hybrid for all levels and (2) hybrid is just terrible.
We were given a choice to continue virtual or to do hybrid. We chose hybrid because it is easier to drop to virtual than to go the other way but we are already thinking about whether to stay virtual (before our phases even start) because hybrid just doesn’t seem to work.
Interestingly, students from schools with an excellent learning reputation sailed through the lockdown with little or no impact on their results, and therefore those schools had a bumper year for pass figures (i.e. the credit boost inflated their already successful results).
Selection effect. Unless families are assigned to schools at random, the schools with excellent results will tend to draw the families most interested in education. That doesn’t mean that the other schools, with different populations, are doing a bad job.
I gather that a fair amount of any year’s instruction tends to be review of topics that should have been learned the previous year. It’s a constant complaint from parents of gifted children that the children spend months in classrooms listening to the repetition of things they’ve already mastered.
I’ve had a number of glitches on zoom calls recently, where speakers have frozen in mid-sentence. We have very good internet service here. I cannot imagine how difficult it would be to learn more advanced topics if you don’t hear every 6th sentence. If students and their family members are not quite literate, using the internet, or troubleshooting internet connection issues, are like trying to climb a mountain with one leg.
Now that students have gotten the option to dial it in, to do pretend school, they aren’t going back. And can you blame them? How many teenagers voluntarily chose to work hard?
Denise Pope, in _Doing School_, pointed out that students in drama productions work hard. Students on robotics teams work hard. Students on sports teams work hard. Students in choirs and musical groups work hard. Students actually do want to learn. They can work hard. Unfortunately, much of the normal K-12 school apparatus functions as a set, rote exercise, which babysits some children and ranks everyone else. That ranking is gamed mercilessly by invested parents.
Cranberry said, “Selection effect. Unless families are assigned to schools at random, the schools with excellent results will tend to draw the families most interested in education. That doesn’t mean that the other schools, with different populations, are doing a bad job.”
Cranberry said “Selection effect. Unless families are assigned to schools at random, the schools with excellent results will tend to draw the families most interested in education. That doesn’t mean that the other schools, with different populations, are doing a bad job. ”
Not really. The selection effect is already in operation. The families have already ‘selected’ the school (by buying overpriced property within the school zone). These are all public schools (though religious schools and private schools almost all would fit in the ‘excellent results’ box as well – and have an even greater selection effect). None of these kids changed school during the pandemic.
The interesting point is that the Covid-inspired experiment with remote teaching/learning has *exacerbated* the difference.
Overall, across the whole country, pass-rates would have dropped by 12% without the boost in credits given by the government. Excellent schools are reporting that their pass-rates are as high as ever *without* the boost (with the boost, they have achieved even greater results – more students with excellence endorsements, etc).
Which means that the lower ranked schools will have had a drop in pass rates, *exceeding* 12% (before the bonus credits), and almost certainly an actual drop even when the bonus credits are taken into account.
So, kids who attend lower ranked schools (frequently poorer kids, with less parental involvement in their education) – have suffered to a greater extent, educationally, than kids attending higher ranked schools.
The drop is measured against the pass-rates which would have been expected *at that school* without Covid. So definitely measuring apples with apples.
I have no way of teasing out how much of this is down to the school (teachers ability to teach effectively online, etc), and how much down to the individual circumstance (lack of devices, lack of bandwidth, crowded living conditions, etc.).
Cranberry said: “Students actually do want to learn. They can work hard. Unfortunately, much of the normal K-12 school apparatus functions as a set, rote exercise, which babysits some children and ranks everyone else.”
Unfortunately, you can’t learn everything in drama (or choir, or sports, or whatever your passion is).
And kids (especially teens) have little ability to foresee consequences of their actions [yes, I am generalizing, but there’s lots of neuro-developmental data supporting this]
Which means that they can’t forsee that the maths that they’re complaining about having to learn, now, is an essential requirement for the science courses they want to take in 2 years time (taking a not-so-random example from our home-life).
No, maths isn’t ‘fun’ (or, at least not fun for my kid and the majority of his classmates) – but it’s essential. And, sitting at home, googling the answers (or with the book open in front of you) isn’t learning. But, it is an enormously tempting ‘opportunity’ – if you don’t have parents rigorously overseeing online school.
We are nearly fully virtual with only 140 of 50000 students being served in person (a tiny number with intensive special needs). HS students have six classes each of which meet two times a week (100 minutes of sync instruction per week). The rest is homework (I’m not seeing much of small groups or collaborative work).
The school board told the district to bring pre k through 1 back by March 1 and did not successfully negotiate with the teachers and asked for mediations, which was refused by the union. Then the school board authorized the district to designate certain SpEd educators essential and require them to return to serve the 600 SpEd students who were deemed eligible for in person services and want to return. The teachers union is alleging unfair labor practices.
At the state level, the state has made vague requests for districts to file plans for reopening (with vague threats of loss in funding). The governor is doing a press tour of schools that are open in person and just added K-12 teachers to the current vaccination group. The teachers union is aggressively promoting testimonials arguing schools are unsafe spaces in ways that go far beyond covid risks.
I was just asking my cleaning lady whether her daughter had gone back to school. (School had been open, but the mom was worried about sending her, as the daughter is tiny and has a lot of trouble keeping on weight.)
The daughter has gone back to her public school, BUT the school is (for no reason either of us could understand) doing in-person 4 days a week and online 1 day a week. The mom (who works a lot) is pretty ticked off.
I had no idea that the 4-1 schedule was happening.
“ Our schools are closed because we have insisted on our restaurants staying open.”
Schools are necessary, and they are certainly necessary over the period of time we’ve let them stay closed. So, this is not a bed we can sleep in. It was a seductive myth that zoom could replace school. Schools provide academics, but also care, socialization, and services. I think we’re getting half the education and half the services and none of the other two. So, 25%.
bj said “I think what is being cited is the exacerbation of differences in learning and performance between the haves and have nots being consistently found in every study.”
Yes, and it’s a particularly ‘hard’ result because it’s measuring the results from external nation-wide exams. This report doesn’t give the data – but schools will be able to contrast the expected outcome (based on their past history with this set of exams) with the actual results.
So, not relying on a small set of participants, or self-selected exam particpation, or an estimation of learning and achievement from teachers.
Also, this is after only about 2 months of remote learning (kids were back in class for the majority of the 2nd half of the year) AND, exams were delayed for 2 weeks to give more catch-up-in-class time.
” Interestingly, students from schools with an excellent learning reputation sailed through the lockdown with little or no impact on their results, and therefore those schools had a bumper year for pass figures (i.e. the credit boost inflated their already successful results).
Selection effect. Unless families are assigned to schools at random, the schools with excellent results will tend to draw the families most interested in education. That doesn’t mean that the other schools, with different populations, are doing a bad job.”
I think what is being cited is the exacerbation of differences in learning and performance between the haves and have nots being consistently found in every study.
“ Students in choirs and musical groups work hard. Students actually do want to learn.”
Yes, I think children might work hard when they want. The question is what happens when work is really hard and not something they are interested in. We can’t teach everything in choir.
It’s interesting to read the discussion. Our experience has been positive both in in person, hybrid and in virtual. Our school board created Virtual Schools, so for the most part (my high schooler is an exception because of his specialized program) if you’re in fully-virtual, you have a teacher dedicated to that, who is looking at the Zoom and not at a classroom.
I do think my high school kid is largely still motivated though because he is in a specialized program (visual arts) and his school has been amazing at connecting, but also if his grades drop he will have to leave the program, so there’s a pretty strong line in the sand there. He’s really missing out on the set design work he was hoping to do, and the performing arts kids are beside themselves.
I like the idea of a virtual academy where all students are virtual and prefer it to a hybrid model. Since my child is only getting 2 days of instruction for each class, I feel like he could have some classes in a fully virtual environment and others fully in person.
And if a virtual model remains a part of the system into the future, it should be offered as an option school.
bj said, “And if a virtual model remains a part of the system into the future, it should be offered as an option school.”
I believe that even pre-COVID there were online charters. I don’t know how good they were, though.
Some of them might have even had a hybrid structure with 2-3 days in-person.
Are we not discussing Biden’s directive to prioritize K-12 teachers to get the vaccine? It’s big news in my media market as CVS (HQ located in nearby RI) is offering the vax to K-12 teachers now. All the local teachers on my various social media feeds are thrilled. *This* is what needed to be done (and is it coincidence that it happened within 24 hours of the new Secretary of Education finally being confirmed?).
I also saved this tweet a couple of days ago:
This is why I always push back at anti-teacher/anti-teachers union complaints about closed schools.
Schools in Jersey refuse to say that they will open when teachers get vaccinated. They are starting to say that they won’t open until the little kids get vaccinated a year from now.
Open fully, right, since at least some NJ schools are open in a hybrid model?
But yes, I am seeing nothing that suggests that teacher vaccines are a game changer in our city.
Laura wrote, “Schools in Jersey refuse to say that they will open when teachers get vaccinated. They are starting to say that they won’t open until the little kids get vaccinated a year from now.”
Our teachers union’s official statement on our governor adding all teachers and childcare workers to the current vax pool was “[vaccines] makes it so much easier to imagine a broad reopening of schools in the fall as we know that availability of vaccines for all families (and eventually students) will make next year much easier”.
Of course, there is no need to add teachers to the current vax pool (pushing those with health conditions down the line) for the fall. Vaccines in May would suffice.
I would listen to arguments by the teachers union for why developing complicated hybrid systems is problematic for high schools isn’t worth it if the union didn’t seem to be adding continually increasing barriers to serving almost any children with intensive special needs in person. As far as I can see right now, the unions goal is to serve no one in person until fall and to negotiate for who gets served then.
Wendy said, “Are we not discussing Biden’s directive to prioritize K-12 teachers to get the vaccine? It’s big news in my media market as CVS (HQ located in nearby RI) is offering the vax to K-12 teachers now.”
Maybe because (as with a lot of his other COVID moves) it’s mostly just Biden asking the governors nicely?
Not that it isn’t a good time for this, what with the vaccine supply growing a lot this month and there having been 2+ months of priority for the elderly in many states.
A lot of school staff are already in priority categories, either due to age, medical condition, or weight.
“If your body mass index is over 30, you now qualify for a coronavirus vaccine in a growing number of states like New York and Texas. That’s because obesity has been found to increase the risk of severe COVID-19 illness.”
For the folks at home, a 180 pound 5’4″ woman has a BMI of 31.
Given that (as of 2016) the average US woman was 5’4″ and 170.6 pounds, a heck of a lot of American women (including public school teachers) already qualify for vaccination.
“Maybe because (as with a lot of his other COVID moves) it’s mostly just Biden asking the governors nicely?”
Whatever the case, it’s working. I got an appointment for a vax this morning after 2 months of Massachusetts dithering and a week of checking for appointments. I go next Thursday. I could have gone Wednesday, but I teach Wednesday afternoons. I figured it was better to have my teaching day over with (as it is now).
Our governor expanded eligibility for teachers within 24 hours of the Biden directive (he was also getting instigation from local lawmakers and parents — though, notably, not teachers).
Our eligibility is still health care personnel & 65+ year olds, and 50+ living in multigenerational households (and now, teachers/school staff and child care workers). Next will be +50 w/ 2 comorbidity. So, the increase in eligibility for childcare workers + teachers is real.
My kiddo’s physics teacher said that he volunteered at a vax site to increase his chance of getting a vaccine and got his first shot last week. He told the class because he thought there might be 18yo in the class who wanted to try for a volunteer vaccine.
I should mention that our county public schools are looking really good right now.
We had a good run from August to the end of October with school opening, and then things fell apart in November/December. The elementary schools were basically OK (although things did get hairy toward the end of the year), but there were at least several short closures for specific city schools, especially middle and high schools. Meanwhile, the 2400 kid suburban high school stayed open the whole time (as far as I know), even when they hit 40 simultaneous active cases.
Then in Feb., my 10th grader’s private school class got sent into quarantine and the whole upper school (7th-12th) got sent home for about a week, because so many teachers were going to be in quarantine that the school couldn’t function. (That’s usually what happened with our city school closures, too–they didn’t have the manpower to stay open.) The big TX storm happened on the following week, and the whole school (upper and lower) was closed for another week.
Oh, yes, and Texas lost about a week of vaccinations.
A week and a half later, I’m looking at the local public school COVID dashboards and seeing the following:
–The city school district (nearly 15k kids plus staff) is currently reporting 2 cases total across about two dozen school campuses.
–The suburban school district (8k students plus staff) has 2 cases across 6 elementary schools, 1 case across 2 intermediate schools, 0 cases at the middle school, and 5 cases at the high school. The 10 schools have a total of 8 cases, most of which are at the high school. The dashboard says the current prevalence on their campuses is 0.08%.
(I know the suburban district has a rapid testing programs, so they may be catching more cases than the city schools.)
I see that Texas has now given vaccine priority to the following: teachers (including pre-primary, primary, secondary, Early Head Start, Head Start) school staff and bus drivers and licensed childcare providers (both center and home-based).
Meanwhile, Hometown U. had a nasty spike right after the storm. (They try to test everybody once a week, but testing shut down for about a week due to the storm.) They’re using over 1/3 of their isolation beds right now. Aside from that, though, county cases look better (NYT says 20 cases per 100k, down from a peak of 80), active cases are way down, only about 8% of hospital beds are COVID (down from around 33% at peak), 7-day positivity 7% (the best since Nov. 1) and possibly still falling, two weeks of vaccine given in a single week after the storm–all of the trends are very positive.
I’m happy at the increasing number of districts offering hybrid. My son could theoretically start hybrid next week, but we are reluctantly turning it down. If he stays virtual he keeps his excellent teacher. If he goes hybrid he only gets 2.5 hours per day in person and will have two new teachers, one for in person and a different one for afternoon zoom classes. He would also have to take the bus home midday because both parents work. The potential for awful disruptions and behavior issues for my anxious change resistant autistic second grader just don’t seem worth it. Sigh.
I guess I’m saying the logistical challenges of hybrid are real and significant! I teach high school and it’s even worse there. When you have only one French teacher how do you accommodate virtual and hybrid learners? At least for elementary school there are theoretically lots of teachers at the same grade that can be switched around as needed. Our unions are strong enough that no one has to teach students both at home and in the classroom simultaneously and I’m not sorry about that. That’s a recipe for burnout and poor education for all the kids.
I’m happy that we quit messing around about getting teachers vaccines but since I’m teaching from home I won’t race out to get a spot.
I do see that the logistical challenges of hybrid are significant. It’s being managed in well resourced private schools but I can see why one would reject the hybrid instruction as providing too little in return for the logistics. Hybrid instruction models might be necessary if in person is only opt-in or if schools need to reduce density. I can imagine creative solutions, but what I see in my district is that there was no willingness to devote any energy to creative solutions. And, we have nothing, no hybrid, no in person instruction even for a significant number of children with intensive special needs who are clearly not learning with virtual instruction.
I really can’t imagine having had my young child doing school through a zoom screen (of course, the technology didn’t exist then). I have a HS student and though he hates the screen based interaction, it’s bearable. It is interesting to hear that with an excellent teacher the screen model is better for your child than the disruptions of hybrid. They didn’t poll 2nd graders in our district, but the 3-5th graders were more approving of the zoom classes than the HS students were. Now mind you, the 3rd graders might not have been as demanding or have as good memories of what they were missing, or just be kinder. But, it was an interesting difference. HS students also thought the virtual instruction was substantively worse than their parents thought it was.
And, I think it too depends on what ‘in person’ actually means.
Here (during a lockdown), it means sitting in a supervised auditorium (with 2 metre separation between desks) and doing zoom classes with your (remote) teacher.
It’s effectively baby-sitting students whose parents are essential workers and need to have the kids supervised (i.e. don’t have access to live-in grandparents or older siblings).
Even if hybrid means actual in-person education 1 or 2 days a week. If that teacher is different to the one teaching online, that’s a big issue for many K-12 kids. Kids form a bond with a teacher, and we all know the disruption to learning caused when a teacher leaves during the year, and they need to bond to the new one.
At higher levels I can see a hybrid model working much like a seminar. Kids attend the in-person teaching, then spend the next two days working on related material, solo, then submitting their work. But I don’t see any schools doing this. And question whether it would work for all subjects (or all students, for that matter). And, if you split the class, you double the amount of teaching required (or at least the time taken to teach – I’m assuming the prep and marking time won’t change). Where are those extra teachers going to come from?
I truly don’t think that the results of ‘hybrid’ models are worth the trouble. Kids need to be back in school. And therefore so do teachers.
NB: this doom and gloom analysis may be the result of another 7 day lockdown – and being at day 4 of Mr 13 learning from home. We’ve had one donnybrook over maths, one yelling match over a missed GoogleClass meeting, and 4 instances (that I know of), of gaming instead of working. He can’t go back to school soon enough, as far as I’m concerned! [I’m almost certainly being unfair, he *has* actually completed a lot of work – but the mental disruption while *I’m* trying to work is significant]
Yes, hybrid isn’t working at all. Interesting that people in different countries have the same experiences. Get those kids back in school, pronto!
bj wrote, “I really can’t imagine having had my young child doing school through a zoom screen (of course, the technology didn’t exist then). I have a HS student and though he hates the screen based interaction, it’s bearable. It is interesting to hear that with an excellent teacher the screen model is better for your child than the disruptions of hybrid. They didn’t poll 2nd graders in our district, but the 3-5th graders were more approving of the zoom classes than the HS students were. Now mind you, the 3rd graders might not have been as demanding or have as good memories of what they were missing, or just be kinder. But, it was an interesting difference. HS students also thought the virtual instruction was substantively worse than their parents thought it was.”
–If I had a little kid (or even a middle schooler) in public school that was full-remote, I’d be tempted to just homeschool for the year.
–Schools have been holding out the carrot of possible reopening real soon–even the schools that haven’t opened yet. (@politicalmath has described that happening in his WA district.)
–On the other hand, I’d probably suck it up and do full-remote for a high schooler, if that was all that was available.
–It’s true that high schoolers are a harder-to-please crowd.
–In a good district, the 3rd graders’ parents are probably nearby offering encouragement, so it’s a less solitary educational experience than it is for a high schooler.
–My 10th grader has had a couple of remote weeks of Zoom remote for 2020-2021 (in addition to 9 weeks of a streamlined synchronous school March-May 2020) and he says that Zoom school is much less engaging.
Small Nephew in WA has been doing Zoom kindergarten all year. Sis had the opportunity to send him to in-person this spring, but she didn’t do it. They have a job change in the works and they have some businesses to manage several hours away, so they want to preserve their mobility. Sis owns a couple of businesses, so I think she’s just been taking Small Nephew to work with her at least part of the time. I also saw a news story about a doctor mom who was taking her kid to work at her clinic. So that ought to be part of the public health analysis for school reopening: kids aren’t necessarily tucked away at home if they aren’t going to school. Some kids may have the same or even higher COVID exposure opportunities than they would have if they were podded up in elementary school.
“Kids attend the in-person teaching, then spend the next two days working on related material, solo, then submitting their work. ”
This is the model that I could imagine working with my kiddo’s schedule. But, it would require that the “seminar” be all in person, which, in turn, might not be possible if there is only one teacher who can teach the subject but students are still permitted to opt out of in person.
Right now, of course, my kiddo has the zoom + next two days working on related material (rather than in person + related material).
Any idea in our district seems like pie in the sky dreams and if anyone in our district (except potentially SpEd & K-1 parents) is sticking with their model with the belief that in person will be available any time soon I think they are misleading themselves.
I do believe that our teachers union is firmly committed to no in person instruction, might be leveraged or pushed or forced into providing limited in person instruction but will not provide any creative interaction beyond that. I like testing myself on predictions and I think we may get SpEd (though it might be with substitutes/contract workers/others hired rather than existing union members). I suspect we won’t get K-1 this year.
What’s your fall forecast?
“What’s your fall forecast?”
Mostly to clutch my head and scream. A new contract has to be negotiated for fall, so the default will be different — that is the district hasn’t signed a MOU that outlines remote teaching as the default.
There was a teacher’s strike in 2016 that was largely seen as having a positive effect (i.e. “galvanized parents” in support of the schools and teachers). There have been short term contracts since then, with agreements signed right before school started. The parents/public fairly strongly bought into the idea that “Kids first means teachers first.” and the teachers had a lot of support through the strike (including from me, looking back at what I wrote in 2016). One of our current school board members ran a FB page in 2016 to support the teacher’s strike (“Soup for teachers”). But, she voted in favor of the “essential” designation that tries to bring SpEd educators back (which the union considers a betrayal). So there are cracks in the general attitude in the city that strongly supports the teacher’s union.
And, of course, we can’t know what the public health situation will be then though we are all hoping we’ll be on the other side. There’s a proposal in the WA Senate to require schools to open in 10 days unless the governor (or local public health official) says they must be closed. It won’t go anywhere and I can’t support it because of the examples of state governors who demand schools open without following public health guidelines. But, a system where schools can be ordered closed and then reopen on the whims of the district, school board, teacher’s union is proving untenable.
bj said, ” A new contract has to be negotiated for fall.”
Wow, there are so many ways that could go wrong.
“There’s a proposal in the WA Senate to require schools to open in 10 days unless the governor (or local public health official) says they must be closed. It won’t go anywhere and I can’t support it because of the examples of state governors who demand schools open without following public health guidelines.”
I don’t think it’s mean or unreasonable to say that once all teachers have had a chance to get a shot and the shot has had a chance to start working, school needs to reopen.
There’s been such a through-the-looking-glass quality to all the recent discussions that seem built on the assumption that a) there’s no acceptable level of COVID risk other than zero and b) vaccination changes nothing.
“But, a system where schools can be ordered closed and then reopen on the whims of the district, school board, teacher’s union is proving untenable.”
“Get those kids back in school, pronto! ” I don’t think this will fly if families can’t opt out of in person education.
bj said, ” I don’t think this will fly if families can’t opt out of in person education.”
For the foreseeable future, I think schools ought to keep offering a remote option. However, people need to be aware that some parents never really cared about educating their kids, and the only thing that kept their kids in school was the fear of the truant officer and child protective services.
bj said: “Get those kids back in school, pronto! ” I don’t think this will fly if families can’t opt out of in person education.”
I disagree. If you want to keep your kids at home, once schools are operating in-person classes, then homeschool.
Trying to do both remote and in-person at the same time is an unreasonable expectation on teachers. And schools simply don’t have the additional teaching staff to pour into remote options.
Ann said, “I disagree. If you want to keep your kids at home, once schools are operating in-person classes, then homeschool. Trying to do both remote and in-person at the same time is an unreasonable expectation on teachers. And schools simply don’t have the additional teaching staff to pour into remote options.”
In the US, there were pre-COVID online public school options. I don’t know know much of anything about them, but I know they existed. There were also online charters.
If you mean a totally online school option – then yes that could work.
We have something similar here with our Correspondence School (for kids in truly remote areas, and kids who’ve been excluded from normal schools).
That could be on a state-wide (or even city-wide in some of the big cities) basis.
But I can’t see a hybrid model (some kids in class, and some kids remote at the same school), working.
As a counter-point to the hybrid systems that don’t seem to be working in the comments here, I’m not hating my kids’ middle school hybrid experience (I have a 6th and 8th grader). The teachers are teaching to half the kids in the classroom and half the kids at home, and the kids in the classroom are on zoom along with all the kids at home. At first the thought of this was horrific to me (as I was frantically trying to learn how I could hyflex my college classes in rooms not set up to do this) but aside from some kinks early in the year (a teacher forgetting to stay with their mic so everyone could hear, that kind of thing) it has worked well. My kids have liked getting to be in school and have some interaction with their friends, along with some low-risk sports experiences, massively spaced out band and instrument practice, and a virtual play experience. They go to school on Mondays and Thursdays, they are virtual on Tuesdays and Fridays, and Wednesday they log in at the start of the day and have independent work and can meeting with their teachers during office hours. They follow the regular bell schedule and have all their classes with just slightly less time than normal in order to provide the in school kids with enough time to get from class to class in the one-way hallways. It has actually worked out about as well as I could imagine, and I feel a lot of gratitude for just happening to be in a system that seemed to have figured out what would work for their teachers and create what seems to be a reasonable system for the kids.
Are they learning quite as much? Probably not, but my eldest just had her HS orientation and they are talking explicitly about taking 2, 3, 4 years to gradually bring everyone back up to where they should be. I’m also personally less bothered by my kids not being where they “should be” but I know I can supplement if needed.
It has been hard on me – I largely single-parent (other parent lives in a different state, my wife lives in a different city) and trying to work with the kids home 3 days a week isn’t fun (I also get basically no breaks since out of state travel, which they would normally do every other weekend for visitation, requires a quarantine). But they are luckily old enough to be able to mostly keep them out of my office (really my bedroom) when necessary, so I’ve been just barely managing.
We were lucky to have pretty low rates at the start of the school year (under 1% in August/September), and given that I was alone in the house I opted to send them to school despite being nervous about it. School went totally remote in November for a couple of weeks when the rates started rising. Then the governor changed the system and they were able to open back up again; the rules might change again (3′ distancing instead of 6′) and they might end up full time in person before the school year ends, who knows. Our school has had much lower infection rates than the community. I basically do nothing outside the house (except for outdoor activities) with my kids so that their only exposure risk is school.
Is this a public school? Your description seems like the private school in the US I now — hybrid with 1/2 the kids coming in two days a week and the other half on zoom. The teachers all have swivl cameras and smart boards and the zoom kids can see the board, participate with it, and the teacher can walk around the room. The school also has an assistant helping managing the remote kids. In some cases, the teacher is remote and the assistant is managing the kids in the classroom as well as facilitating the teacher interaction (for teachers who are at higher risk).
So, I see how it can work with sufficient resources (and, I think the private school would have rejected the model where only one student came for live instruction and told that student they couldn’t).
Yes, this is a public school. It doesn’t feel like babysitting – the kids are with their regular teacher, and they are interacting with their regular teacher in the classroom, it is just mediated by the zoom windows. The teacher does move around the room sometimes too.
I hear you about the solo parenting, and the challenges of working from home.
Your hybrid model sounds like the model we have here in lockdown, when only the kids of essential workers can attend in-person school.
It’s effectively baby-sitting, at the school site, while they continue to learn remotely. They don’t get any actual face-to-face teaching.
But, as you say, it does have the benefit of some face-to-face (if appropriately distanced) interaction with friends.
I think, that those of us with younger kids, can afford to wait for a year or even 18-months for some form of normality to return. When you have another 5 or 6 years of schooling, then you can make it up little-by-little.
But it’s much more of a challenge for kids with only 1 or 2 years of schooling remaining. Unless schools are prepared to repeat whole grades, and extend the time kids can remain at school (which has its own challenges for teens eager to leave, and having been put off learning), I can’t see any way they can effectively make up what, for many, is a whole lost year.
Ann said, “But it’s much more of a challenge for kids with only 1 or 2 years of schooling remaining. Unless schools are prepared to repeat whole grades, and extend the time kids can remain at school (which has its own challenges for teens eager to leave, and having been put off learning), I can’t see any way they can effectively make up what, for many, is a whole lost year.”
Yes, the number of high schoolers who feel done with high school (even after missing 1+ years of it) is going to be huge.
I can’t imagine a regular ‘nother year of school, but I am seriously thinking about gap years. Kiddo has been so limited compared to what a year would have looked like (even not thinking about school). We haven’t traveled, he hasn’t traveled for sports, no restaurants, . . . . A year to be out and about in the world before being limited to a college campus might be the right thing.
This is similar to our high school hybrid experience which was really good. We only moved to fully virtual due to two health scares.
1. They divided the terms into quadrimesters which is how they created enough teachers – 1 teacher teaching two classes four times a year rather than teaching 4 classes two times a year. Each class was divided into two pods of 15, to reduce numbers.
2. Each teacher taught every morning in person. So say they had class A1 and A2, and class B1 and B2.
So for two classes the teachers’ MORNING in person schedule looked like: A1 B1 A2 B2 A1 // C1 D1 C2 D2 C1 and the kids’ MORNING schedule if they were in A1 and C2 was at school, home, at school, home.
All the afternoons were synchronous in-person learning, so then you put the As Bs Cs Ds together in full classes and so the teachers’ AFTERNON schedule would be B A B A B // D C D C D and the kids’ would be B C B C B (I may have a few details wrong but it all worked, our schedulers are genius.)
3. They “flipped” the classroom so the asynchronous learning at home was the basic lecture/readings, the synchronous Zoom parts in the afternoon were either continuing that or coaching, and the in-person parts were “come in and show me you can do what we are talking about.”
The weakness for us is that math in the quadrimester was way too short, and loss of lab time/activities due to Covid and timing.
I should add the schedule rotated on a 4-day basis, so the next week the kids who had fewer classes would have more etc.
And oops sorry all the afternoons were synchronous VIRTUAL learning
Our private school has been running simultaneous remote and in-person, according to what people want and everybody’s quarantine situation. It’s gone pretty seamlessly (the class sizes are about 15-16 kids), but with occasional bloopers like a teacher forgetting the existence of the remote kid, especially if there’s only one.
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