Posts Tagged ‘Parent engagement’

Results of National On-Line Learning Experiment are Trickling In… and they are BAD

April 7, 2020 Leave a comment

Today’s NYTimes article by a team of reporters headlines one problem with universal on-line learning: the national “attendance rates” are plummeting. But a closer look at the data indicate that something even more devastating is occurring: the on-line “attendance rates” in affluent districts are sky high while those in economically challenged districts are extraordinarily low. This is so for several reasons:

  • Affluent parents can work from home and are, therefore, able to closely monitor their child’s school work. Working class parents, those “ fields like sanitation, health and food service” are not at home and given the lack of supervision their children are not spending as much time— if any— on school work. This quote from a Los Angeles HS English teacher explains the reality faced by the children of parents who go to work outside the home: “A lot of our students have siblings they have to take care of, and their parents are still going out and working. It makes it very difficult to log on at the same time as feeding breakfast to their siblings or helping with chores.
  • High school students in competitive high schools, i.e. self-motivated students, are spending time online while those who are indifferent to schooling and attending only out of compulsion are avoiding school altogether.
  • Students with NO access to high speed internet are completely incapable of learning and, consequently, are missing school altogether

But here’s what the article neglects to point out. ALL of these circumstances existed BEFORE the pandemic and ALL of these circumstances seemed to be acceptable.BEFORE the pandemic attendance was a problem. BEFORE the pandemic schools struggled to engage low income parents. BEFORE the pandemic schools struggled to engage students, particularly at the middle and high school levels. BEFORE the pandemic some children were expected to take care of younger siblings and do chores wile others burnished their resumes by participating in after school activities. BEFORE the pandemic tens of thousands of students could not access the internet, denying them of the same learning opportunities a their cohorts. All of these problems existed BEFORE the pandemic and we accepted them as a “given”. Maybe a gift of the pandemic will be the revelation that our system as it exists now is inherently inequitable and THAT problem needs to be addressed.

And how could that problem be addressed? Maybe some of the billions we are spending to subsidize banks, Big Oil, health insurance companies, and arms manufacturers could be directed to under resourced schools.

Wide Open Schools Platform Looks Promising: It COULD be the Framework for Network Schools

April 1, 2020 Leave a comment

Forbes contributor Kristen Moon’s article, Homeschooling Amid the Coronavirus Just Got Easier, describes the expanded services offered by Wide Open Schools, a platform that aggregates various education resources that has formed a partnership with Zoom and Comcast in an effort to provide parents of children with a means of providing a sequence of studies that meets the unique needs of their children. The description of the platform indicates that it could provide a backbone for the kind of schools I described in The Networked School article I wrote for Education Week nearly two decades ago.  Here’s what I like about this initiative:

  • It provides a wide array of resources from partners like “...Mind in the Making, Google, Khan Academy, Boys & Girls Clubs of America, PBS, Head Start, and YouTube“.
  • While “…the material is separated by grade and subject” and students are afforded the opportunity to “...follow a daily schedule, which lays out lessons for the morning, mid-day, afternoon, and evening“, Wide Open Schools also makes it possible for students to “...access individual categories like science, life skills, social studies, math, arts, music, DIY and emotional well-being“. The consequence of this format: it is possible for self-directed learners to dig deeply into content that interests them while providing many different ways for less interested students to master those topics that are essential for them to understand.
  • It is an open source system… which means that as the partners who provide content expand the resources Wide Open will grow organically and expand the different ways students can learn and master the materials.
  • It secured expanded services from Zoom and Comcast to help expand the opportunities for ALL children to gain access to the resources cited above. My thought: if Zoom and Comcast can do this in an emergency they can do it any time— and given the detrimental impact of our existing unequal system of learning opportunities an emergency has existing for a long time.

Given the creation of this wide array of easily accessible and cheap content now available to students in every place the Comcast reaches there is only one thing missing in order to turn our current system of schooling inside out: connectivity and widespread availability of laptops. If we are about to spend another trillion dollars on infrastructure, both of these problems could be solved.

The only thing I don’t like about this alliance of content and service providers: it took a pandemic to make it possible. Let’s NOT go back to “normal” once this school year is over. Let’s explore a new and better way to provide equal educational opportunities to all children.

Homeschooling Vs. Unschooling Explained

March 27, 2020 Leave a comment

This article provides a good overview of the difference between homeschooling and unschooling noting that those who adopt the former are required to effectively replicate the traditional schooling model at home while the latter tend to allow their child’s interest to determine how, when, and where learning takes place.

Another Positive Outcome of Covid 19 Outbreak: Internet Inequality in the Limelight

March 24, 2020 Comments off

Over the past several days i’ve read countless articles on the impact of internet access inequities on student learning during the time interval when schools are closed. One of the best articles is an interview with MIT’s Justin Reich by Sarah Kleiner of the Center for Public Integrity titled “Yawning Gaps in Learning Expected During Pandemic“.  The reason for these gaps is explained in the Mr. Reich’s response to Ms. Kleiner’s first question, which was whether schools were prepared for this shift:

Schools use all kinds of technology to varying degrees, but the technologies to support in-class learning only partially overlap with the technologies needed to support distance learning. But certainly our schools, especially urban and rural schools, are dreadfully underfunded, and that insufficient investment will be increasingly revealed in the weeks ahead. Schools were not only unready in the sense of not having enough technology, but unready in the sense of having been woefully underfunded at least since the growth of 1970s era anti-government, austerity policies.

The greatest gap will be in K-12 education, where parents play a key role in educating the child even if the child’s education is on-line. Ms. Reich notes that the parents who will suffer most are those who will be laid off from work who will be under severe stress and looking desperately for some means to provide food, clothing ad shelter for their children. Those parents will be hard pressed to serve as the “coach and teacher” an online learner requires at home, for that is an essential element for success:

Most K-12 virtual schools are what we might call “coached homeschooling.” They depend upon a full-time parent as a coach and teacher. There is no viable model for elementary schools to provide remote instruction without every child having a parent, sibling or other guardian to instruct, assess and coach them.

In most cases, affluent parents have the wherewithal to provide that kind of support and to have the online tools available in their houses. Children of hourly employees are not so fortunate.

Reich… points out that internet access is a scarce commodity for many Americans. Just 56 percent of adults in households earning below $30,000 have broadband internet at home, and about 17 percent of adults access the internet at home through a smartphone only.

And so… as always seems to be the case, the rich get richer and the poor fall further behind. MAYBE the widening technology disparity will become clearer and get the attention it deserves.

We’re Witnessing a Huge Experiment that is Doomed to Fail

March 17, 2020 1 comment

This Forbes article provided studies to support the flowing two facts about online learning:

It doesn’t work and it requires LOTS of parental oversight, oversight that will be lacking and fruitless even if it is present.

When No Community Exists a School Bus Can Be a Hub

February 11, 2020 Comments off

This idea for providing Pre-K programs to remote rural families, or more accurately, child-rearers, touches all the bases. It offers literacy, support services for children, and a wide array of social services for adults… and it is inexpensive. This makes much more sense than trying to get 3 year olds to use computers to learn how to read.

Right Wing Perspective on Purpose of Public Education Replaces Mann’s Utopia with Friedman’s

February 1, 2020 Comments off

My phone feeds me articles on public education that come from a wide range of sources, which gives me a window into the rationale of those who favor simplistic right wing solutions to complex social problems. Readers of this blog know that I see the notion of “choice” as a implausible if not disingenuous solution to the major problems that lead to the “failure” of public education: poverty, racism, and parent indifference. A recent National Interest article by Neal McCluskey, “Why Utopian Promises on Public Education are a Bad Idea to Abandon School Choice” didn’t change my thinking on “choice”, but it did make me appreciate the broken promises voters and taxpayers made and the impact of those broken promises on children…. and on the strength of our democracy. Mr. McCluskey opens his article with this:

I recently read Democracy’s Schools: The Rise of Public Education in America by Johann Neem, which in its title delivers the bedrock myth of public schooling: that it is essential to building harmonious, well‐​informed, citizens of a democracy. And it’s not just in the title that Neem waxes poetic about the public schools. In his preface he briefly recounts his experience as an immigrant child in Bay Area, California public schools, concluding that “by democratizing access to the kind of liberal arts education that was once reserved for the few, the common schools prepare all young people to take part in the shared life of our democracy.” Neem echoes the rhetoric of Horace Mann, the “father of the common school,” who in the 1830s and 40s brought a missionary zeal to promoting largely uniform, free public schools in Massachusetts.

I bristled at the use of the word “myth” because, like Horace Mann and Johann Neem, I do believe that “…by democratizing access to the kind of liberal arts education that was once reserved for the few, the common schools prepare all young people to take part in the shared life of our democracy.” To justify his use of the word “myth” to describe public education’s purpose, Mr. McCluskey offers ample evidence that public schools have fallen short of achieving its ambitious goal. He is particularly concerned with the mistreatment of “religious Americans”. He writes:

Public schools were not forging unified, enlightened citizens, as was the goal, but were largely just a mundane part of life. Which would be fine, except that taxpayer support of uniform public schooling is compelled on the grounds that it is so much more than what it actually is—it is essential for “democracy,” right?—and in that privileged position it has often been worse than just ineffectual at its professed purpose. It has imposed or reinforced inequality and injustice.

I won’t go over all the injustice in detail—you can see where I’ve discussed it in more depth—but remember that for much of its history public schooling often discriminated against minority religions, most notably Roman Catholics. It often either completely barred or segregated African Americans—not just in the South—and in some places Mexican and Asian Americans. It attacked the culturally unifying language of German immigrant communities. It now systematically treats religious Americans as second‐​class citizens. And it forces people with different values, cultures, and identities to fight to see which “equal” people win, and which lose.

This is all true historically… blacks were and are still forced to attend segregated schools, foreign language students are compelled to learn in English, and those who speak a “culturally unifying language” are ofter forced to abandon it in order to succeed in school. The discrimination against Roman Catholics within public schools is debatable, but the government’s unwillingness to provide tax dollars to education children in schools that teach Catholicism as part of the curriculum is irrefutable and completely aligned with the Constitution.

The historic part of that paragraph may be largely accurate, but the idea that public schools now treat “…religious Americans as second‐​class citizens” is preposterous given that there is no way for public schools to identify “religious” students thereby making it possible for them to discriminate against them as a finite group.  And the idea that it “…forces people with different values, cultures, and identities to fight to see which “equal” people win, and which lose” also lacks credibility. The link associated with the statement regarding these identities fighting against each other for power leads to a Cato Institute “battle map” that highlights culture wars such as:

…pitting educational effectiveness, basic rights, moral values, or individual identities against each other. Think creationism versus evolution, or assigned readings containing racial slurs. The conflicts are often intensely personal, and guarantee if one fundamental value wins, another loses.

If “creationism versus evolution” is a battle between “cultures, values, cultures, and identities” it is clear to me that rigorous science should win over religious superstition.

There is a battle going on between Utopian visions… but it’s not even mentioned in Mr. McCluskey’s article: it’s the battle between the Democratic Utopia where every child has an equal opportunity for success no matter where they were born and raised and no matter how well off their parents were and the Darwinian Utopia where every child can buy whatever kind of education their parents want for them. The first Utopia requires a common agreement on truth, justice, and values. The second Utopia believes in the magic of the marketplace.

The market Utopia seems to be prevailing… and the planet and our freedom are being compromised as a result. There is still time to salvage the Democratic Utopia… but the time is getting very short.