Posts Tagged ‘vouchers’

We Need a NATIONAL Declaration that ALL Schooling Will Be Remote and Grant Exceptions Based on Local Conditions

August 2, 2020 Comments off

Now that the pandemic has ebbed and flowed for months, four things are clear:

  1. COVID 19 does not care what state you live in or what town you live in or who you voted for, given the chance, it will spread. If Maine has a low incidence rate it does not mean that a town within Maine is immune from the disease emerging and spreading rapidly and, if it does, the entire State could eventually get it.
  2. There is no “settled science” on the cause of the disease. By that I mean we lack a vaccine to prevent it, we do not know its long term impact, we do not know the best treatment for it, and there are no proven “best practices” for re-gathering groups of individuals in a way that can prevent its spread.
  3. Social distancing and wearing masks limits the spread of the disease
  4. Those with underlying conditions and those who are elderly are at a higher risk of dying from the disease.

As I noted in a post yesterday, with all of these agreed upon realities, re-opening school in September to satisfy a sense that “things are returning to normal” seems foolhardy. The notion of reopening reflects the hopes of teachers, parents, students, and businesses that after a lockdown things WOULD return to “normal” and life and the economy would pick up where they left off in early March.

But those hopes are colliding with reality and the reality is that we lacked the NATIONAL discipline and NATIONAL faith in science needed to sustain the lockdown long enough to be able to return to “normal”. Instead of accepting the four facts listed above, our NATIONAL leaders politicized the disease, took advantage of the unsettled science to assert that ALL facts were suspect— including the need for social distancing and wearing masks– and seemed willing to accept some deaths because “x” thousand people die of the flu each year and “y” people die in car crashes.

MAYBE now that we’ve witnessed waves of COVID in Red States, we understand (I hope) that the scientific method is premised on trial and error, we understand that while social distancing and masks are not failsafe but ARE a necessary means of prevention, and that the needless deaths of ANYONE are unacceptable… MAYBE now is the time for a reset.

Here is the reset I propose, which, I realize, is predicated on the assumption of a functional Congress, a clear-eyed President, and competent US Department of Education and State education departments:

  • The President and Congress declare that all teaching will be remote through the end of this calendar year and X billion dollars will be allocated to states on a per-student basis to facilitate the rapid availability of internet access for students and improvements to air circulation in schools.
  • States will create standards for the use of school facilities to provide child care, social services, and instructional spaces for parents and children who need them. Those standards will be subject to approval by the USDOE.
  • A team of epidemiologists and school leaders will develop a set of school re-opening standards that will be adopted by Congress and put into effect no earlier than January 2021.

This broad outline assumes that COVID 19 will behave like the Spanish flu: a second wave will overtake the country in Fall when temperatures decline and people will be forced to spend more time indoors. When that happens there will be no need to waste time and energy on decisions about whether to close schools or not: that decision will already be rendered.

The outline also assumes that teachers and students will become more adept remote learning and, as a result, will be able to begin the design of a new model for schooling like the one I described in the outline I presented to the Vermont State Board in July. Time spent designing a new model for the post-pandemic schools using technology as the backbone would be better than spending time trying to figure out how to replicate the factory model using computer assisted instruction.

Finally, the outline assumes that epidemiologists will gain a better understanding of this disease in the months ahead and help design a way for larger gatherings to occur.

It IS possible that the pandemic may be creating a circumstance where it is possible to not only salvage public education but to strengthen it and make it more equitable. It is also possible that those who want to privatize schools will see this as an opportunity to savage public education and create a system that undercuts equity and opportunity. The next few months will decide.


The Other Shoe Just Dropped: President Trump is Seeking Millions for Private Scholarships

July 3, 2020 Comments off

It didn’t take long for the Supreme Court decision to impact public school funding! As Francesca Chambers of McClatchy News writes,  the POTUS wants to take 10% of the money earmarked for public education from any forthcoming stimulus bill and give it to private schools. To compound matters, he also wants to  allow $5,000,000,000 in tax credits for donations to these “scholarship funds”.

This is completely predictable and absolutely wrong. Now more than ever public schools need money to help make decisions for the future. Instead, huge sums that could make a difference when schools open will be siphoned off. And to put a cherry on the top of this sundae for private schools, any funds allocated to states for this purpose that are NOT spent would go to states where such spending is possible. Here’s a description of how that would work from Ms. Chambers’ article:

Eighteen states already have tax-credit scholarship programs, according to the school choice advocacy group EdChoice, including Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and Kansas. Funds are awarded to students in those states by nonprofit Scholarship Granting Organizations.

Draft legislation that White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadowshad ordered drawn up, according to the plan outline, would give every state the option of receiving federal funding for the scholarships if they choose to participate in the “Education Freedom Grant” program the Trump administration is proposing.

The proposal stipulates that states with existing tax-credit scholarship programs must give 50% of the grant funds to scholarship organizations within 30 days of receiving them. States that do not have established programs will have 60 days to distribute the money. States that have not distributed the money by March 30, 2021 will have their funding reallocated to states that do participate in the program.

This kind of program is beloved by the libertarians who see choice as the panacea for every problem and businesses as unselfish and capable of “efficiently” operating the public sector. The only hope is that the Democrats will block this at every turn and make certain that public schools get every dollar they need and deserve to operate effectively.

A ROUGH DRAFT FOR HS REFORM I: Blow Up High School by Offering Vouchers for Students…

May 26, 2020 Comments off

I’ve been spending a lot of time in the garden lately, and in doing so am spending a lot of time mulling over how to take advantage of the pandemic crisis to introduce some new ways of doing high school. Based on my personal and professional experience high schools are the worst part of the education system in our country. Here’s why:

  • TRACKING: High School drives the final nail into the equity coffin by segregating students into tracks based on how rapidly they’ve learned up to the point they enter ninth grade and how much control their parents wield.
  • COLLEGE OVER-VALUED: Students who aspire to college get 90% of the attention and time of guidance counselors and teachers because guidance counselors and teachers know how college works and see it as the only way to attain economic well-being.
  • CONTENT OVER-VALUED: There is an aphorism that elementary teachers teach children and secondary teachers teach subjects…. and high schools are set up to reinforce that aphorism. It is unrealistic for a high school teacher to know and care about the lives of 100+ students assigned to them in 4-5 classes but completely realistic for them to be well-versed in one subject area that they can teach to students and assess their progress using some kind of “objective test” that can be rapidly graded. This emphasis on content, in turn, can lead to a siloing whereby no single teacher gets to know and care about an individual student. And the cult of AP testing only exacerbates this emphasis on content over character development.
  • SOCIAL SKILLS UNDER-VALUED: Working on teams, getting along with people from other socio-economic, racial, and ethic groups, and developing healthy relationships with individuals are all part of the hidden curriculum in high schools… but, in many (if not most) cases, high schools are reinforcing tribalism instead of harmony.
  • PRACTICAL KNOWLEDGE UNDER-VALUED: There is a premium on the development of abstract skills like the ability to solve complex quadratic equations but no value placed on the ability to put together a nutritious meal from left-overs, to develop and manage a budget, or to complete the paperwork needed to buy a house, start a small business, or apply on-line for a job.

Here’s a solution to all of this: end high school once students pass a basic competency test and give them a voucher for education four the next four years or until the age of 20, whichever comes first. The competency test would be initially administered when teachers certify the student is ready, which ideally would be before the student’s 16ht birthday. The competency test would include:

  • The US Citizenship test: Clearly every graduate should know how the government works if they are to vote intelligently.
  • A Consumer Awareness test: A “consumer awareness” test could be developed by ETS– who would be happy to have a new assessment to replace the SAT which is being phased out. This test would help avoid the debt trap that currently ensnares millions in our country.
  • A Health and Nutrition test: Public schools ostensibly educate students about nutrition and health through the school lunch program and various mandated health courses but there are no high stakes tests associated with either area.

By giving STUDENTS the funds to pursue more education it will emphasize the importance of making prudent financial decisions and underscore the importance of developing a transition plan to go from a world where every hour is scheduled by adults to a world where the student is a self-regulated adult.

Two more elements of the blown up HS will follow in future posts:

  • Mandatory Community Service
  • The Development of a Individualized Post-Graduate Work Plan which includes a personal budget