Posts Tagged ‘Administrative Leadership’

The NYTimes Thomas Friedman Offers a Bold Vision for the Future of Education… But Neither Political Party is On Board

October 21, 2020 Leave a comment

In his op ed column “After the Pandemic, a Revolution in Education and Work Awaits”, Thomas Friedman describes his and Ravi Kumar’s vision for the future of the workplace and education… and it is nothing like what we have in place today. Instead of valuing the accumulation of static information, Mr. Friedman’s future schools will inculcate a joy for learning. Instead of preparing students for a specific strand of work, they will prepare students who are flexible and who can change quickly.

I was heartened to see Mr. Friedman advocating a shift to experiential learning, but I don’t see either political party advocating the kinds of structural changes to schools that are needed to make this kind of change a reality. The GOP wants to gut funding for “government schools” and the Democrats want to provide more robust funding for the paradigm we have in place— the paradigm that Mr. Kumar righty sees as outmoded. If our country is to move in the direction Mr. Friedman and Mr. Kumar describe we need to stop measuring K-12 schooling based on standardized tests that compel teachers to focus on a narrow curriculum and stop measuring post-secondary schools based on ROI. We need to use technology to restore the joy for learning described in A.S. Neill’s Summerhill and to create the links to mentors described in Ivan Illich’s Deschooling Society. Instead we are using technology to replicate traditional instruction on platforms like Zoom, to gather meaningless test data, and, most chillingly, to monitor students 24/7.

I tend to disagree with many of Mr. Friedman’s methods for implementing changes. He ascribes to the neoliberal notion that the global marketplace will ultimately sort out the best way forward while I believe enlightened leadership in the government is often needed to set a direction and tone and put safeguards in place. But I do share his optimism that we will eventually muddle our way forward… and I DO see the possibility for the kind of positive outcomes both he and Mr. Kumar envision for the future.

Appalling Reality: COVID Cases Covered Up for Political Purposes

August 22, 2020 Comments off

Today’s NYTimes reports that in some school districts COVID-19 cases are not being reported to parents, presumably in the name of privacy… but ultimately in the name of politics. And, as a result, parents, teachers, and public health officials are distraught. As Times reporter Dan Levin writes:

As schools in parts of the country have reopened classrooms amid a still-raging pandemic, some districts have been open about coronavirus cases in their buildings. They send weekly — and in some cases, daily — reports to families and updating online dashboards with the latest positive test results and quarantine counts.

But others districts have been silent, sometimes citing privacy concerns to withhold information, to the dismay of some anxious parents, concerned educators and public health experts trying to combat the pandemic.

If schools don’t notify, it actually can make disease control more difficult,” said Dr. Ashish Jha, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute. “And it’s not like no one will know. Word will get out through a rumor mill. You don’t scare people by telling them what’s going on. You scare them by hiding information.”

What is particularly frustrating is that the ultimate rationale for withholding the information from teachers, parents, and students is not based on their health and well being or the health and well being of their communities: it’s based on politics at the state and national level.

In many places, reopening schools has taken on a distinctly partisan bent, with President Trump and Republican governors such as Ron DeSantis of Florida urging in-person instruction. A constant flow of information about positive cases in classrooms and quarantined students could hinder those efforts, experts said.

When schools have to shut down after students test positive, that doesn’t look good politically on governors and lawmakers who have advocated for opening up,” said Clay Calvert, director of the Marion B. Brechner First Amendment Project at the University of Florida. “So the potential is there to hide behind privacy laws.

“There are definitely battle lines drawn, and the release of information can sway public opinion.”

After reading the article, I could only conclude that the administrators citing privacy laws as the rationale for withholding information about active cases in their schools are either misinformed or disingenuous. Indeed, the US Department of Education and Health Department issued statements clarifying that in a pandemic releasing such information was permitted and helpful in stopping the spread of the disease. And school districts in Florida are effectively discouraging remote learning by denying access to some advanced courses to those who opt out of in person attendance.

As noted repeatedly in this blog since facts about this disease became clearer over the course of the summer, reopening under the circumstances we face today with the pandemic makes no sense. Articles like this, which indicate that many districts are reopening with weak reporting protocols, underscore that stance. We will not be able to shake this pandemic until we uniformly and completely shut down for a more extended period than we have thus far. The disease cannot be wished away or denied.


At LEAST 97,000 Children Tested Positive for COVID in the last 2 Weeks of July. My Question Remains? Why Even Consider Opening

August 10, 2020 Comments off

Here’s the headline from the NYTimes latest coronavirus story:

Positive in Last 2 Weeks of July

I can hear the response now from the White House: “Well of COURSE they fond lots of positives! They did lots of tests and when you do lots of tests you find lots of positives!”

Meanwhile, school districts need to figure out whether to open, where the $$$ will come from to do so, and whether anyone will show up if they do. Parents, in the meantime, are in limbo waiting to see IF schools will open and, if they do, whether to send their children and, if they don’t, how to work from home or go to work if their children are not in school. Hobson’s choices all the way around.

My question from a week or so ago remains: “Why Even Consider Reopening?”

And that question should have even more traction now that it is clear that additional federal funding is highly unlikely…. and leads to another question: “Why spend any more money or any more time making reopening plans that require MORE spending when those plans may go out the window if COVID continues to spread in your school district?”