“This is our Happy place.” It’s even posted on the wall. And usually from August through May, it is our happy place. But today, when I walk into the classroom, I see those words and it doesn’t seem happy. I feel like I’m in a movie and the past few months replay in my mind.
I remember the lost teeth, watching the students working together. I remember the smiles on their face when they figured out the math problem or finally got the shoelace tied. The spring is usually the most exciting time of year. This is what we have all worked so hard for since August. This is the time of year when the “light bulb” starts to go off and all of the boring lessons we have been doing, come together to make sense.
We won’t be building robots this year, we won’t have our Mother’s Day Tea Party, we won’t be publishing our story book, we won’t have any more field trips, or the end of the year awards ceremony.
Instead, I stand here looking at the calendar that still says March 13—the day time froze. I think that’s what hurts the most. I don’t feel like I have had enough time with these children. These beautiful faces come into my room in August, with an imaginary note that says, “I’m only here for a year. But in that short amount of time, I promise to fill your heart, make you laugh and love you forever.”
I love my job because of these amazing faces. They are the reasons why I have never felt like work was work. Not seeing them each day is tough. Knowing that when we go back to school, these babies won’t be my babies. They will be months older, wiser and I’m sure an inch or two taller but I hope they know they will always be welcomed back into OUR happy place.
The truth is that distance does make the heart grow fonder but time has to move forward. I know I will see them around school and on the playground, so that helps heal the heartache of this year. I just hope they know they will forever be in my heart.
I am a former school leader and a current educational strategist who works with charter leaders from all across New Orleans. Together, we have been thinking about the intersection of educational inequity and the disparate impact of COVID-19. With so much instability in our children’s educational experience, we know that high-quality curriculum matters more than ever before. We are considering what to do now to support our children, as well as what comes next.
WE WILL STILL FACE THE REVERBERATING IMPACTS THAT ARE COMING FROM THIS CRISIS, ESPECIALLY IN OUR MINORITY COMMUNITIES.
Scientists continue to work on ways to stop this pandemic—and when they finally do, we will turn the page and look to the future. It’s hard to believe now, but folks will get back to work, restart the economy, and begin to see past this horrifying time in our nation’s history. When we rush back to our lives, however, we will still face the reverberating impacts that are coming from this crisis, especially in our minority communities.
Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley said it best in a recent tweet—“Our Black and brown communities face a crisis within a crisis.” In Louisiana, for instance, while Black residents make up around 30% of the state’s population, as of April 20, 56% of Louisianans who have died from COVID-19 have been Black.
That inequity is not only found in the toll of the virus itself. We will also see an impact on those people of color who faced insecurity in jobs, food or housing even before this moment. And we will see an impact in our education system, too. In Louisiana, as in many states, school buildings will be closed through the end of the school year; the learning loss that normally occurs during the summer is now a real risk even before summer begins. The cost of a slow rollout of distance learning could be significant, and take the greatest toll on children of color.
MANY CHILDREN LACKED THE TECHNOLOGY NEEDED TO CONNECT.
When the virus hit, schools and districts with mostly White and affluent students could have the confidence that most of their students would be able to fully engage with online distance learning right away. For districts like New Orleans, with mostly students of color and students who are economically disadvantaged, quick efforts to roll out online distance learning faced a significant barrier: Many children lacked the technology needed to connect.
TAKING ACTION TO KEEP KIDS CONNECTED AND LEARNING
Our district leadership took immediate action to purchase the materials those students needed, but it takes time to procure, safeguard and distribute technology citywide. Many of our students were—and are—also dealing with housing and food insecurity that makes it more difficult to launch and maintain an at-home learning environment.
DISTRICTS THAT SERVE MOSTLY STUDENTS OF COLOR, AND THOSE WITH HIGH RATES OF ECONOMICALLY DISADVANTAGED STUDENTS, WILL FACE A STEEPER CLIMB THAN OTHERS WHEN IT COMES TO DISTANCE LEARNING.
This is not unique to New Orleans. Across our nation, districts that serve mostly students of color, and those with high rates of economically disadvantaged students, will face a steeper climb than others when it comes to distance learning. But by having a strong, clear distance learning plan, we can make sure closed buildings do not mean closed schools and drastic educational losses.
This means connecting students with technology, if at all possible. It also means continuous engagement with students and families, through the phone, the internet, or both. And it remains as important as ever to provide a high-quality, standards-aligned curriculum. We cannot fully control that students may take in less material than usual right now. We can control whether or not that material is the highest quality it can be.
Many Tier-1 curriculum vendors are providing updated materials for a distance learning context online. Schools can take advantage of this, lowering the lift of translating existing materials for a new kind of delivery. Schools can also continue to provide their teachers with (virtual) professional development around their Tier-1 curriculum, so they can better adjust to this “new normal.”
ACADEMICS ARE ONLY ONE PART OF THE RESPONSE
Academics are just one part of this, though. A strong distance learning plan also takes students’ basic needs and mental health into account. During this pandemic, Black and Brown children will lose loved ones at a disproportionate rate compared to their White peers; this will take a deep emotional toll. An incredibly high number of New Orleans’ children had already experienced trauma prior to this event, and this horrible crisis could cause those numbers to increase.
RESOURCES FOR PHYSICAL HEALTH CARE, FOOD, SHELTER, AND MORE REMAIN CRITICAL
It is imperative, then, that our distance learning plans involve connecting mental health experts, like social workers, to provide support to students, families, and school staff members who have been heavily impacted by this crisis. Resources for physical health care, food, shelter, and more remain critical as well. We can leverage external partnerships to help do so—they are more important than ever. Making certain that students receive vital supports is key to the strength of our community and the growth and health of our students.
WE CAN REIMAGINE WHAT SCHOOL LOOKS LIKE
We must maintain our focus on the present moment and through the close of the school year. But we must also look even further ahead. There is much we will learn from this crisis—from how to support students experiencing trauma, to how to connect children to local resources, to how to best leverage technology. We can take what we have learned to reimagine what school will look like in the next two, five, or even fifteen years. We can also join in conversations with our families, community members, fellow educators and students themselves about what we will need from federal, state, and local officials as we re-open schools.
Together, we can keep this crisis from digging even wider educational divides. Our children of color already face great inequities. If we focus on distance learning and whole-child support, and keep an eye on the future, we can help keep them safe and learning today and expand their opportunities tomorrow.
This article was first posted on educationpost.org
Once again, the FCC and the Trump administration are sacrificing underserved children on the altar of corporate profits. If there was any question who the FCC works for it was answered this week with another timid and industry-favoring response to the pandemic.
Yesterday, with ample self-promoted fanfare and self-congratulations, the FCC pulled in their pal Betsy DeVos from the Department of Education to tout their latest puff of smoke, in a press release titled, “FCC and U.S. Department of Education Promote Remote Education So Students Can Continue Learning.”
At first, you might think this is a good thing. After all, everyone agrees that right now every child needs internet access, otherwise they cannot attend school. And just because a child was born to a parent with an old debt should not lock them out of the virtual schoolhouse. That’s why thousands of parents, educators and activists have been imploring the FCC to force cable companies and broadband providers to put the pandemic and the country ahead of their own profits. But the FCC won’t do it.
Instead, the FCC used yesterday’s press release to throw up a smokescreen, and not actually solve this problem—a problem it could fix with one stroke of a pen.
What a joke. And by the way that joke is on you, as a taxpayer. But it weighs most heavily on the 12 million students in the U.S. without reliable access to internet.
First of all, the press release literally has nothing new to offer. It’s essentially a summary of the money already allocated for education in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act that was enacted more than a month ago. And by the way, that $16 billion is not nearly enough to deal with the sudden and unimaginable body blow the entire education sector has been dealt.
Worse, the FCC is basically saying that the way they’re going to “help” is by telling states and schools to deal with the problem themselves. Insult, meet injury.
I reached out to an expert who has worked for over a decade with the FCC’s E-Rate program, which is intended to make internet more affordable for schools and libraries. Here is how he described the “news” from DeVos and the FCC: “It’s still wholly incomplete. Block grants and optional choices still doesn’t include fucking internet.”
If you want to bore yourself with the details you can check out what they are promising. But the bottom line is that kids don’t need some block grants, with no promise they get connected, or some optional choices, publicity efforts, or partnerships with internet companies, who may offer you grace or they may not.
And that’s the rub. We don’t need a program that relies on the kindness of internet companies or states. The FCC needs to guarantee an individual right for every low-income child to internet that allows them to fully participate in school. At a minimum they need to state this as the goal and use the pressure of their federal regulatory authority to hold the feet of these profit-driven, broadband goliaths to the fire.
The FCC and particularly its chairman Ajit Pai could do this, and the fact they don’t says a lot about who they serve and who they don’t.
Don’t be bamboozled, the current “news” from the FCC will have all our underserved families right back where they are now, in 6 months, probably less. Sitting outside the virtual schoolhouse door, relegated to a second-class internet, or begging for kindness from fickle and greedy cable companies, who hold the key to the schoolhouse door.Our babies deserve better. Please sign and share the petition, and join Arne Duncan, Jeb Bush and nearly 15,000 others who believe that internet should be a right for low-income children, and that the FCC should demand that any internet company that wants to use the nation’s airwaves provide free service with no strings attached for the most vulnerable families.
This article was first posted on citizen.education
As with any natural disaster, catastrophic event, or unforeseen change, the impact on marginalized communities and communities of color is multiplied due to centuries of subjugation and oppression which has led to lasting inequities in our society. This time with the onset of the coronavirus (COVID-19) is, unfortunately, no different.
If we take New Orleans as an example and look at the data that our Data Center provides, you can see that the hospitality and tourism industry is our number one industry. You can also see that the income disparities amongst folks that work in that industry are tied to race, with white people vastly outpacing people of color in income. Our hospitality industry is getting hit hard at this time, with several restaurants closing and therefore laying off their workforce, which in New Orleans means Black and Brown folks.
What happens when our service industry workers of color have lost their jobs and are now balancing that stress on top of caring for children who would otherwise be in school with meals and technology provided for them? Unfortunately, we’re living in that reality right now.
Several folks in the education and activism space have written pieces about how COVID-19 is illuminating disparities. Others have curated resources for parents and schools on how to make the most of this transition.
Digging through resources is a job on its own so below I’ve done some of the work for you and provided brief summaries of a few I’ve found helpful.
Covid 19 Response Strategy-Mini Equity Audit: Beloved Community’s free webinar assists organizations and schools in assessing their Covid 19 response strategies to ensure their strategies are centering equity in their plans and decision-making, especially during moments of crisis and uncertainty.
Schoolrunner Webinar – Learning While Schools Are Closed: Resources for Distance Learning: Three New Orleans schools outline how they moved quickly to serve students and families in transitioning to virtual classrooms.
Equity Isn’t Just About Technology. It’s About Supporting Students and Families: Here’s what drew me into this interview piece: “Nearly 30 million low-income students rely on schools for breakfast or lunch, leaving schools scrambling to make new plans. Fourteen percent of households with school-age children do not have internet access, most of which earn less than $50,000 a year. And research indicates that students from low-income backgrounds could fall further behind their peers if learning stops too long and the country sinks into recession.”
Raising Race Conscious Children: This website has amazing resources for adults and parents seeking ways to talk about race and identity with youth. Now is a great time to lean into these conversations with your children, as Covid-19 is highlighting how identities impact experiences and disparities.
Supporting Families During COVID-19: A great place for daily videos and free resources for parents. Parents can even sign up for daily email tips for parenting through Covid 19.
Tips for handling work and kids during COVID-19 isolation: This article shares tips for how to explain the pandemic to your children, and how to create stability during this time.
Liberate Meditation App: This is the only meditation app by and for the Black and African Diaspora. They offer free guided meditations, organized by topic and how you’re feeling. Many are kid-friendly, too!
I urge you at this time to lean into empathy for your neighbors, youth and colleagues who are experiencing multiple intersections of oppression during this time. Lead with love and grace in this moment, and if you’re a leader of a school or organization, please continue to prioritize equity and inclusion in your policies and practices. Now is not the time to sweep those initiatives to the side in exchange for quick fixes and urgency. Be kind, practice gratitude, stay inside, and we’ll all get through this together.
While privileged parents and pundits have the luxury of debating whether to prioritize academic or social-emotional learning, those on the front lines of exposure to the virus and job loss have little mental energy left to ponder how to keep education on the radar for their children at all.
Nonetheless, some leaders are showing the way forward, whether by borrowing established best practices from the homeschool community, bringing personalized attention to each student into remote learning or helping parents support young learners with disabilities at home. Education visionaries, brightbeam and 4.0 Schools, are teaming up to open a conversation on these practices and shine a light on students and families who might otherwise be left behind.
Join us on Thursday, April 23, at 5 p.m. Central Time, for our inaugural Zoom web chat, #PostCovEd: How the Pandemic Is Changing Schooling Now and for the Future. Our panelists include:
Scott Frauenheim, CEO, Distinctive Schools
LeeAndra Khan, CEO, Civitas Education Partners
Christina Laster, Parent and Civil Rights Leader
Olivia Mulcahy, Parent and Educational Consultant
Travis Pillow, Editorial Director, Center on Reinventing Public Education
TO REGISTER, CLICK HERE. SPACE IS LIMITED.
We invite you to start the conversation in advance, here on the blog. What are you doing to prepare your students, kids, family members, or your community for an extended period of remote learning? What should happen when students return to school?
Or, jumpstart the discussion on social media. Use the hashtag #PostCovEd on Twitter to share your thoughts on what systems, teachers and parents can learn from adapting to extended school closures.
MEET OUR SPONSORS
Brightbeam is a nonprofit network of education activists demanding a better education and a brighter future for every child. Brightbeam serves as the umbrella organization for Education Post, Citizen Education, Project Forever Free, Chicago Unheard and more than 20 local digital platforms that spotlight education issues around the country. Learn more at brightbeamnetwork.org.
4.0 is the largest and earliest first check investor in the next generation of education innovators. Through two fellowships, we invest coaching, community, curriculum, and cash in promising leaders to test tomorrow’s learning models with students and families in their local communities. Today, our 1,000+ alumni have impacted the lives of over a million students nationwide. Learn more at 4pt0.org
This article was first posted on chicagounheard.org
Last week our Louisiana government officials announced that the likelihood of students returning back to school this school year was unlikely. I immediately felt for the parents and teachers who are struggling through this time with school work from schools as well as the task of working from home. Though it is without a doubt the best choice made in order to keep us all safe, the realistic demands of what it looks like for children to be home for the next four months are tough.
Here are a few tips for parents to help prepare you function a little bit better all while facing the realities of what is ahead this upcoming school year.
- Creating a Schedule: I am almost sure that summer camp will not be an option so the first thing you want to get around to is creating a schedule. Children may not love school but they love structure. And this does not have to be such a rigid thing. Plan your days around when you can give them time to support their studies as well as your own work demands. Now this may mean you needing to wake up earlier to have a few hours of silence but trust me, it is worth it. You will not be able to run an operation just like school and you don’t have to try. Do the best you can with school demands and do not be afraid to say, “I need help” to your school provider.
- Virtual Learning: This practice may become a part of your child’s life. If possible, when you can, please invest in a computer. Even if/when our students are able to go back to school, online assignments will still be given.
- Prepare for Learning Gaps: There will be gaps in learning. Remember students are missing one on one instruction especially the little ones. Grades K-3 spend much time teaching the foundational skills that need to be taught in order for students to do more complex learning. During the summer, utilize the free resources to help support your child. I have some on my page. If you aren’t into looking online, do the basics. Reading, writing, multiplication facts. You can even add arts and crafts. The local dollar stores have small canvases and water paint. There are also puzzles. Kids like those. Even the big ones.
- Parental Involvement: More parental involvement will be needed more than ever when school returns. Proper planning will be a must. As soon as the school calendar becomes available, you want to make arrangements to be present at all school events.
- Summer Professional Development: Please, please, please professionally develop yourselves to use technology as you continue on. If in the event, resources become available for students to have one to one computer access, you want to be prepared. You do have some time to accept the new normal, but not too much. There are some schools who are requesting teaching samples via Zoom. Learn to use technology to work with you and not against you.
- Prepare for Learning Gaps: Just as parents should prepare for learning gaps remember they are headed your way to fix them in no time. Prepare for remediation. Create your scope and sequence for those gaps. Familiarize yourself with previous grade level standards for coherence and utilize the Louisiana Department of Education website for resources when planning.
- Parental Involvement System: You have some time to get creative with this one. Think of times, events, opportunities for you to create an automatic system of parental involvement. Weave it into your plans for the year.
That’s all for now my friends. If you need help with any of these parts, parents or teachers, I am here.
This article was first posted on askmissheard.com
I Just Found Out Millions of Children Are Being Denied Access to an Education And I Helped Do Something About It
Much to my surprise, I recently learned that even though Internet providers have signed the FCC’s Keep Americans Connected Pledge, promising to provide internet to low-income families, there are still millions being rejected from these free internet offers.
Why do you ask?
Well, because they might have prior debts or have applied for service before all of this hit, and because our country has centuries-worth of history connected to ignoring those most in need, namely people of color and those who are categorized as low socioeconomic status (aka the poor). (If you need further proof, check out the 1619 Podcast which outlines how the enslavement of Africans in this country built the fabric and structures of these United States, which are designed to benefit very few of us.)
This pandemic continues to highlight deeply embedded inequities in our society that have previously been ignored by the general public and our leaders, and not having access to education is one of these inequities.
Children being denied access to education is a civil rights issue, but what can you do about it? Sign this petition, as I did.
If you’re ready to support you can visit this link to read more, share it with your friends, make a donation, and spread the word. As the writers of the petition state, “Millions of families across the country who are facing the most economic hardship are being rejected from these free internet offers. We all need to come together to bridge the digital divide, and corporations should not be allowed to block access to the schoolhouse door in pursuit of profit.”
In the hopes of stopping the spread of coronavirus, many schools around the nation are closing for the remainder of the school year. Many K-12 schools are focused on helping families navigate this new landscape by ensuring access to online instruction and that meals for vulnerable children continue. But what about commitments to equity? In this challenging time, school leaders must envision a new urgency to attend to the equity and inclusion needs of students, too. Using leadership frameworks from education scholars Muhammad Khalifa and George Theoharis, I recommend a road map of three key actions that school leaders can take to advance equity and promote inclusion during extended school closures.
Define your school climate. The work of an equity-oriented school leader has always meant prioritizing the work that centers the lived realities of students. Begin by reflecting upon the beliefs and practices of your school that foster belonging. Consider how your school has sought to establish equitable access and treatment for all students in a climate that marginalizes many of us by our race, ethnicity, faith, language, ability, class, immigration status, and other identity markers. Then operationalize those beliefs and practices as tangible expectations for teachers, staff, students, and family members.
Young students enjoy the routine of Morning Meetings where they can share moments about their lives and build community across differences. Leaders can mobilize class parents to build phone trees and plan routine phone conversations among pairs or triads of students. With a little creativity, the phone calls can have active agendas that students complete together by solving a riddle, sharing a personal experience, or playing a game over the phone. Older students tend to be a part of groups through classes, clubs, or sports that rely on the direction of teachers to establish equity. Educators can access free videoconferencing resources and facilitate online community time for existing school groups and open opportunities for individual students to be in community with others.
School leaders should be included in government planning meetings to advocate for open access to local parks for youth who practice social distancing, consider making unused school space available for urgent local needs, and ensure that human services administered by the school can be delegated to local nonprofits. If you come up against inequities in the larger community, call upon the teachers and staff to join you in challenging health, economic, and social injustices so the climate of belonging that resonates within your school can echo across the larger community.
Affirm inclusion. Educators recognize the best practices for fostering inclusion in our diverse classrooms. We affirm students’ identities, we add diverse perspectives to the curriculum, and we teach content with multiple strategies to advance all students’ achievement. But during a time of extended school closures, teachers and leaders must collaborate to redefine inclusion to center students’ socio-emotional needs. Using the tenets of trauma-informed school leadership, school leaders can plan how to address the complex fears, tension, confusion, isolation, and frustration of the whole school community.
Many notices are being sent from school leaders that detail issues of operations during an extended closure. In this public health crisis, leaders can address the emotional complexity of the moment in addition to logistics. By relying upon the existing support teams at your school, identify the students and families who need direct assistance. Connect virtually with families across differences and strategize how to center their child’s socio-emotional needs with reminders of inclusive practices that teachers employ when school is in session. Enlist local media outlets to broadcast socio-emotional guidance and resources from school counselors.
Engage parents. Parents are under enormous stress and tension. Many school leaders oversee schools with families who were already impacted by trauma, housing insecurity, food insecurity, tension, or illness. School leaders can help empower marginalized parents to advocate for their children’s needs by creating accessible lines of communication between them and parent liaisons, familiar teachers and counselors and community leaders. Again, virtual spaces can be used, but just for parents to congregate and build consensus around the needs of their children. School leaders can mobilize local resources that parents may need, such as safe school-age day care, access to books and manipulatives, youth recreation that instills social distancing, or equipment for students with special needs.
Failure to enact equity-oriented school leadership during an extended school closure has the potential to put our children and youth at risk in their communities. Marginalized youth are at risk of disproportionately harsh responses by public officials and community members if they gather together, unaccompanied, in public spaces, for example. Children and teens are susceptible to mental illness if their socio-emotional needs go unaddressed. The stability of the family home is at risk if parents are unable to meet the physical, emotional, or academic needs of their children. When schools close, we risk losing much more than academics—we risk losing our direction to advance equity and foster inclusion. School leaders are passionate about education and devoted to student success. With planning, communication and online tools, they can stay the course and continue to work for equity and inclusion, the principles of community and the heart of every great school.
This article was first published on citizen.education