Of all the elements of American society disrupted by the Coronavirus pandemic, the delivery of education, both higher and K-12, might be the most damaged. Why? Because, particularly in K-12, our kids have been totally ripped from whatever passed as the continuity of their pathway to post-secondary readiness. The well endowed college and universities will suffer some disruption in delivery systems, but most of that has an opportunity to be productive in the sense of exploring the relative efficacy of online variations, i. e., a little “creative destruction”, if you will. And as for K-12, the top quartile of students will be fine and will no doubt make up for lost ground fairly readily. The brunt of the damage will be with the at-risk kids, primarily low income and minority, who have much less margin of error in their pursuit of post-secondary success. These students need to be back on track as soon as possible in order to avoid a slide in progress, and for this reason they need to be tested to determine where they are academically as they resume school and where and what methods are needed for remediation.
The suspension of spring assessments and accountability was the right thing to do, but the tests that measure accountability also are used for diagnostics and are a major component of teaching and learning. Some would abandon standardized testing altogether, but this would be a huge mistake. In Texas, the education agency released an optional end-of-year version of the state’s annual assessment, which is aligned to the state’s standards. Hopefully, the large majority of the districts and students will take advantage of them to help define the needs of instruction. And as soon as possible, the assessments and the related accountability should be returned to the system. There are probably many who would continue to defer on accountable scores, but this also would be a mistake. The sooner we return to mandatory assessments of progress and accountability for results by students and educators, the better for the kids, particularly those who are at-risk.
James Windham says
Update: Since my original post here, much of what I feared is being validated. The Wall Street Journal has reported that based on preliminary evidence, the results are clear that the remote learning efforts of this spring simply did not work. Problems abound: students with no access to online programs, teachers with no experience in online instruction, parents unable to help, and in many places students simply didn’t show up for whatever reason. And according to preliminary research by NWEA, an Oregon-based nonprofit that provides research to help educators tailor instruction, students nationwide will return to school in the fall with roughly 70% of learning gains in reading relative to a typical school year and less than 50% in math, and of course even greater losses for minority and low-income students. Some of these deficiencies will never be repaired without an aggressive remediation campaign including intensive testing for diagnostics and a quick return to accountability for results. A greatly expanded system of school choice in all of its manifestations across the country would also help by opening more remediation solutions to parents.
Dr Tom says
What many do not realize is the decisions to shut everything down to “flatten the curve” will do nothing to reduce the total # of COVID deaths, just distribute them more widely over time, and so not “overwhelm” our hospitals.
Well, our hospitals are in terrible shape as a result of not doing “inessential” work like breast cancer lumpectomies, hip replacements, and on and on. The ventilator hysteria was just that; almost all COVID patients died on ventilators. C-PAP or Bi-PAP , much cheaper machines that left patients conscious, are better. Many hospitals are in terrible financial shape, and some have closed permanently.
Kids should have gone to school, unabatedly. Their risk of serious COVID illness is trivial (stop it about Kawasaki-very rare!) and if they transmit the virus to their young adult patients, their risk of serious illness is also small.
The shutdown was primarily an exercise in tyranny, primarily by Democratic governors. And Dr. Fauci, a career Deep-Stater, led the way. His only two years of patient care were his internship. He is Board-certified in Nothing, and there does exist Board certification in infectious disease! Church services were “non-essential” and thus banned, but liquor stores and abortion centers were “essential”. So much for your First Amendment, baby!
As to minority and low-income students, putting an end to conventional public education would be our greatest service. Charter schools, yes! But nothing can offset the damage of teachers’ unions, single parenthood, or of negligent parenting. We have thrown much money at the problem, with zip for results.
Jim Windham says
We’ve certainly learned a lot about how government has worked over the past several decades—I just hope we have the political will to properly use it!
James Windham says
June 22 Update: The Wall Street Journal reports that we have just received further validation that this pandemic-induced remote learning experiment has failed. The University of Washington’s Center on Reinventing Public Education published a report looking at how 477 school districts nationwide responded to the Covid-19 crisis. The report found only 27% of districts required teachers to record whether students participate in remote classes and remote attendance has been abysmal. Only 58% of school districts do any progress monitoring; the rest haven’t even set the minimal expectation that teachers review or keep track of the work their students turn in. In fact, most have lobbied to ensure a lack of accountability and assessment during the shutdown, having dressed up this demand in the language of social justice–because the pandemic has not visited the same hardships on all families, the only equitable solution is to deprive all students of for-credit instruction!
As we know, the reality is that this “equitable” treatment dooms poor and minority students to a lasting educational disadvantage. Rich parents have other choices and learning continues; the least privileged will be stuck and most will be “socially promoted” to the next grade regardless of whether they are ready. When will this injustice make the headlines?
Gregory Stachura says
Look for such headlines only on blogs and essays written by those who are honest.