Archive for November, 2020

COVID Cases and Quarantines Lead to Staffing Shortages… but UNIONS are the Problem!

November 28, 2020 Comments off

AP writer Kantele Franko reports that public schools in Kansas are facing staffing challenges because staff members are sidelined due to the contracting of and exposure to COVID. This reality is one of the reasons I ultimately changed my thinking about beginning with even a partial re-opening. While it would make sense epidemiologically to open all schools serving children up to age 12 it could pose a nightmare if a particular district did not have sufficient qualified staff to educate children in socially distanced classrooms. That, in turn, could lead to even more inequities than we are encountering now. I was also afraid that what HAS happened— an expanded breakout due to colder weather– COULD happen which would lead to yet another reversal from the parents’ perspective.

Unfortunately, rather than committing to the provision of the best possible remote learning programs, many of the districts and States facing staffing challenges are instead asking that the quarantine rules be changed. I’m not an epidemiologist… but it strikes me that COVID thus far has not changed its pattern of transmission to make life easier for school administrators, teachers, or parents. It may be wishful thinking to believe that shortening the quarantine period is a solution.

President-Elect Biden Can EASILY Defend Waiving Two Forms of Student Debt

November 27, 2020 Comments off

One campaign promise that President-elect Biden made, to waive all student debt, seems fraught with divisiveness and full of holes. Many Trump voters are resentful of those who went off to college in the 60s and 70s while they toiled in factories that are now closed because the college educated elites outsourced their jobs in the name of efficiency. Many of those who voted for Trump also know of recent college students who never graduated from college because they never applied themselves and have behaved irresponsibly since and they question the government forgiving their loans. Any effort has to address these visceral issues and also issues of equity in cases where some affluent loan holders can readily afford to pay their loans while others cannot.

It strikes me that there are two classes of loans that are easy to forgive: loans given to those who have sacrificed wages that they would earn in the private sector by working in public service jobs; and those who were bilked by con artist who operated fly-by-night post secondary institutions.

There are tens of thousands of individuals who were promised loan forgiveness if they entered work in the public sector, a promise that was embedded in legislation but never widely promulgated. Once President Trump took office, the waiving of these debts became a virtual impossibility and the distribution of the funds was more a function of debtor awareness than legislative intent. President Elect Biden has pledged to waive $10,000 per year for every year of community serve for up to five years— jobs that include teaching in public school, working directly for the government, or working for a non-profit.

There are even more debtors who were bilked by fly-by-night profiteers, individuals whose debts were supposed to be forgiven, debts that, in fact, have been forgiven at a 1% rate under the Trump-DeVos regime.

By forgiving these debts President elect Biden will be sending a powerful message to prospective students: commit to public service for five years and $50,000 of your college debt will be forgiven… and if you operate a for-profit post-secondary institution you better get results or you will lose your revenue.  I see both of these messages as difficult to distort… and powerful.

DeVos Cancels NAEP, the Gold Standard, but Urges Far Less Valid State Tests to Persist

November 27, 2020 Comments off

Perry Stein of the Washington Post offered this short article yesterday:

The national standardized test regarded as a crucial barometer of student achievement could be postponed until 2022 due to the coronavirus, the Education Department announced Wednesday.

Federal officials said that too many students are participating in virtual learning or are attending schools that prohibit outside visitors, making it impossible to effectively administer the exam.

The article doesn’t say so… but Ms. DeVos has already insisted that STATES continue with their tests, because, presumably, some states are keeping schools open and not doing remote learning.

So here’s a conundrum for me, someone who is opposed to the widespread use of test-based accountability: should I be happy this is happening or not? Surprisingly, I am disappointed to see the NAEP fall by the wayside because I feel it is the most valid means of determining which states are performing the best. When States design tests and set cut scores they can do so in a way that makes them appear better than they are by dumbing the tests down or setting low cut scores for proficiency… but the NAEP serves as a fair and impartial yardstick of progress at the state level. Where psychometrics go wrong is when they try to draw conclusions about schools— or even worse— TEACHERS based on test scores.

If Ms. DeVos were insisting that ALL standardized tests go on hiatus I would be applauding the decision. Cancelling NAEP seems wrongheaded to me.