The CDC’s new guidelines for reopening schools

The CDC recently posted new guidelines for schools reopening in the wake of COVID-19, whether in the next few weeks or few months, and the reactions are overwhelmingly negative.

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“It sounds like prison!” many parents angrily comment on social media. “No way am I allowing my child access to that kind of socialist control!”

That is what makes your child’s school sound like prison? Not the forced isolation in rooms, and limited socialization? Not the penalization for talking out of turn? Not the mediocre food served on styrofoam trays? Not the complete elimination of constitutional rights once enrolled?

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No one knows just how much schools will be expected to observe these guidelines as they reopen. No one knows what it will look like, but it’s sure to be different across states (Wyoming schools, for instance, will implement things far differently than, say, New York), and even across counties. But if these guidelines are what convinces parents that schools are indeed prisons for children, they’ve served an even greater purpose than promoting social distancing.

Considerations for Schools – CDC

CDC Activities and Initiatives Supporting theCOVID-19 Response and the President’s Plan for Opening America Up Again, May 2020

CDC quietly releases detailed guidelines for reopening America

Pennsylvania principal loses appeal, remains convicted in cheating scandal

We’ve all heard the miracle stories about tough-as-nails principals taking the reins at a failing public school and turning it around in a matter of a few short years. How did they do it? we ask, amazed, and they respond with something akin to “hard work, and perseverance, and appealing to the kids, they’re our future,” etc. They cover all the talking points, mention all the buzzwords, tug at all the heartstrings, and we “aww” and give ourselves a collective pat on the back, because gosh darn it, inner city schools can be helped, after all.

Unless, of course, that principal is full of crap.

Arthur Melton, now in his 70’s, is just one of over a dozen Philadelphia-area principals caught in a test cheating scandal in 2014. The Pennsylvania System of School Assessment, otherwise known as PSSA, measures individual school success through the testing of students in language arts, math, and science.

When Melton took the helm at Edward W. Bok Technical High School (known simply as “Bok” to locals) in 2005, the school was vastly underperforming, with less than 5 percent of students attaining grade-level proficiency in the above-mentioned subjects. In 2010 – a mere 5 years later – 71.1 percent of students met math proficiency standards, and 53.1 percent met language arts standards as measured by the PSSA. Turns out it was Melton’s tweaking that was responsible.

During an interview, Melton confessed to using an answer key to personally alter test results among students that were, prior to testing, determined to be “on the cusp” of passing. Later at his trial, he insisted this was not true. Witnesses never testified to have seen Melton tampering with exams, so he was convicted on “mere speculation,” which is appeal argued, but the conviction was upheld Monday, along with 12 months’ probation and the revocation of his teaching and administrator credentials.

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Bok’s math scores returning to “normal,” image courtesy Public School Review

Upon removing these practices from the school, Bok’s test scores predictably were back down close to where they’d been before Melton’s interference. Edward W. Bok Technical High School was finally closed in 2013, leaving its nearly 900 students, 96% of whom were minorities, to find elsewhere to attend school.

While more than 12 Philadelphia principals have been implicated, there is evidence to suggest that this is way more widespread, with more than 50 schools across Philly alone that have been flagged for cheating on standardized tests.

Principal of failing high school deserves conviction in PSSA test cheating scandal: Pa. court

Fallout of Pa. cheating scandal continues with charges against two Philly principals

2 former Philadelphia School District principals charged with PSSA cheating

Pennsylvania Department of Education — PSSA

Public School Review – Bok Edw W Technical High School (Closed 2014)

How COVID-19 has transformed the way children are “educated”

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No matter where you stand on the topic of coronavirus and its infiltration into our way of life, and life itself, there is no question that it has dramatically changed the way America is living, working, and schooling.

With the push to shut down all non-essential services, schools were among the first to close (perhaps, as many have claimed, signifying that they aren’t as “essential” as originally perceived), with the exception of New York City, which held out as long as possible even as the world around them burned, not because schools were providing for the education of children, but because many underprivileged in New York practically live there and depend upon them for nearly everything.  But even New York eventually capitulated, and the country, for better or for worse, has gotten a taste of what home education looks like.

Or do they?

While it’s true that many families are being forced to “homeschool” in the most literal sense of the word, what many people are calling “crisis schooling” or at the very least “public school at home” does not in any way resemble what most true homeschools do on a daily basis when not confronted with a pandemic. The stress of constantly being at home, coupled with deadlines, new apps to master, meetings, and countless assignments presided over by harried parents who are juggling childcare, work responsibilities, and other household tasks has left many families feeling burned out before they have even really begun, and one has to wonder how much learning is actually taking place at all. It’s no wonder that President Trump is asking states to consider reopening schools before summer, and the economy is only half of the argument.

With every family struggling to hang on and continue schooling during the pandemic, there’s another family that is giving up. “I’d rather have him watch classic Godzilla movies and play in the yard and pretend to be a Jedi rather than figure out basic math,” one mother said of her frustrated kindergartener (most long-term homeschoolers agree that formal schooling for kindergarten is unnecessary and that play is precisely what they need at that age). Many school districts are implementing a lax grading policy, exercising leniency with assignments and deadlines. California is considering beginning the new school year as early as July to help make up for lost time.

But despite what The Washington Post and Harvard have to say, true homeschooling does not have to equal deprivation, for children or their parents, and certainly not for society. Homeschooled children consistently outperform their peers in academics and social situations. Universities are by-and-large happy to have homeschoolers join their ranks, and many have alternate pathways to admission, for those who don’t have an accredited diploma or traditional transcript. Homeschoolers are used to free-time (it’s amazing what can be accomplished without all the needless busywork, and pandering to political correctness), and many can use it wisely in the pursuit of valuable hobbies or skills that could be used in their future careers.

One thing remains certain: most of those who were homeschooling before this pandemic hit are suffering just as much as their public schooled peers. Their regular haunts -museums, libraries, parks, friends’ houses, co-ops, playgrounds – are all closed. Most will acknowledge that true homeschooling is more like world-schooling, with only a small portion actually taking place at home.

Utah high school teacher arrested in sting

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image courtesy Facebook

 

A teacher at Hunter High School in West Valley City, Utah, was arrested Monday after police say he made contact with what he thought was a 13-year-old girl and sent her at least four inappropriate photos.

Jared Wayne Briggs, a 37-year-old math teacher at the school, was charged today with five felonies: one count of enticing a minor and four counts of dealing in harmful materials to a minor. He was apprehended after police in Weber County, located about 30 minutes north of West Valley City, began an undercover operation using the app Whisper. After an exchange over the course of a few days (March 5 to March 13), during which the lewd pictures were sent, Briggs sent a photo of his face via Snapchat, which allowed police to identify and arrest him. He readily admitted his wrongdoing, also confessing to viewing pornography and chatting with underage girls on the regular, preferring them “innocent-like.”

Briggs was hired on at Hunter High School in August 2019 upon recently moving to Utah. A quick search yielded his Facebook profile, which shows him ostensibly married and with two young children. He is originally from California. At the time of his arrest he claimed Eagle Mountain, a small town 30 minutes south of the high school, as his residence.

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image courtesy Weber County Jail

Jared Briggs remains in jail in lieu of $30,000 bail, and has been placed on administrative leave at Hunter High School.

Hunter High serves approximately 2600 students in grades 9-12 in the Salt Lake City area, and is part of Granite School District. Fifty-seven percent of students are classified as low-income, and the school consistently rates low on standardized tests and college readiness.

High school teacher arrested on teen sexual enticement charges

Hunter High teacher arrested in online sting

Hunter High teacher arrested in online sting

Hunter High School – Home of the Wolverines

Facebook – Jared Briggs

GreatSchools – Hunter High School

Kindergartener brings superhero-stamped bag of heroin to school

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image courtesy Holyoke Police Department

A Massachusetts kindergartener was rushed to the hospital last Thursday after he admitted to teachers that he tasted the contents of the bag he brought to school. Inside the bag, which was stamped with superhero markings, contained a white powder that was later confirmed to be heroin.

Benny Garcia, 29, was arrested later that day, after he was found asleep in his home with 170 bags of heroin around him, as well as bags of cocaine. He’s plead “not guilty” to drug possession and reckless endangerment of a child, when he was arraigned on Friday. The 5-year-old, and an infant sibling, have since been removed from the home. Garcia is being held without bail pending a hearing on November 20.

H.B. Lawrence Elementary School, in Holyoke, MA, is part of Holyoke School District, and serves 285 students in grades K-3. A large majority (91%) of the student population is Hispanic, and 78% of all students qualify as from low-income families. According to GreatSchools, standardized test scores in both reading and math fall way below the state average. The school itself is small and outdated, desperately in need of updating and repairs. The community recently voted down an initiative (which included a property tax increase) to build new schools and take the pressure off some of the smaller, struggling schools.

Kindergartener takes dad’s heroin to school, says it makes him a superhero

Man pleads not guilty after 5-year-old son brings heroin to school, authorities say

H.B. Lawrence Elementary School – GreatSchools

Guest column Patrick O’Connor: ‘Our children deserve this’

Holyoke Public Schools – Middle School Redesign

California sophomore shoots 5 others and himself at high school

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Nathaniel Berhow is listed as the suspect in a shooting at a local high school that left 2 students dead and another 4, including Berhow, injured. It is said that Berhow, on Thursday, the morning of his 16th birthday, opened fire on his classmates killing 2  and injuring 3 before using the last bullet in the .45-caliber handgun on himself. He remains in “grave” condition.

The entire ordeal lasted approximately 16 seconds.

Berhow is assumed to be half-Japanese; only relevant because this blog aims to show that disturbed children and teachers come from all ethnic backgrounds. His father died from heart failure in 2017 after a long battle with alcoholism. A neighbor attests that it was Nathaniel Berhow who had found his father’s body. A motive for the shooting has not been determined, although Berhow’s mother and girlfriend are both being questioned and the family’s house has been searched, and by all accounts Berhow seems to have appeared a “quiet” and “respectful” teenager,  as well as a good student, athlete, and a long-term Boy Scout, although in recent days one Saugus student claims he noticed the alleged shooter looking different than usual, possibly more depressed. It’s only assumed that nothing was done about it.

Santa Clarita, a city about 40 miles north of Los Angeles, is 70% white and 0.6% Japanese. The median household income is $82,607. Seventy-nine percent of the 715 students at Saugus High School, which serve students in grades 9-12, are white. While test scores and college readiness are at about the state average, parents and students report the school contains teachers that “don’t care,” and students that are quick to bully.

Police look into motive behind California school shooting

What we know about the California school shooting suspect

A community in shock describes suspect they know

Santa Clarita shooting: Dad of Nathaniel Berhow was avid hunter who used to ‘make bullets’: reports

Nathaniel Berhow: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

Neighbor Describes Saugus High School Shooting Suspect Nathaniel Berhow’s Family As ‘Good People’

Santa Clarita, California – Wikipedia

Deadly shooting at California high school, Live Updates

Saugus High School – GreatSchools

Charter School drinking fountains have high lead levels, unbeknownst to parents

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image courtesy Google Street View

Children in a Philadelphia charter school have been consuming water from drinking fountains with astronomically high levels of lead, possibly for years, and parents are only now becoming aware of the issue.

Frederick Douglass Mastery Charter School, which serves approximately 750 students in grades K-8, (of whom nearly 100% are black and fall below the poverty level) has had issues with its water for over 15 years, but nothing has been done aside from occasionally taking the affected fountains out of rotation for a while. Parents were finally notified of the issue recently, and they are understandably upset.

The most recent tests on drinking fountains at the school, conducted by the district in compliance with a new city ordinance, showed water concentration levels of lead that reached upwards of 3500 ppb (parts per billion); the accepted maximum is around 10 ppb, although most medical professionals will agree that there is no amount of lead that should be acceptable in drinking water. All this while teachers report that there have been, for an untold number of years, special coolers with water designated for the teachers, because on some level it was understood that the fountains did not deliver water that was acceptable to drink.

Consuming high levels of lead, especially in children, has been attributed to lower IQ scores, increased incidence of ADHD, and other developmental and behavioral problems. The FDA sets the standard for lead concentration of drinking water at 5 ppb, while the EPA remains more conservative at 15 ppb.

Frederick Douglass Mastery Charter School is among 18 schools in the Philadelphia area operated by Mastery Charter School. The building itself was built in 1938, and until 2010 was under control by the School District of Philadelphia. As early as 2000, however, drinking water tests at the school have shown lead levels higher than what is deemed acceptable, and have consistently been swept under the rug.

The district admits that the maintenance backlog is so extensive that fixing the problem just isn’t possible, citing other issues in crumbling Philadelphia schools such as HVAC malfunctions, asbestos, and chipping paint.

On Frederick Douglass’s home page a quote from a parent features prominently:

“I just love the communication between
the parents and the teachers and the school.”

-Yonita Martin, Mastery Parent

One has to wonder if this parent is now eating their words, after realizing the school has been keeping parents in the dark about their children’s health and safety for years.

Test scores, perhaps unsurprisingly, rank low compared to state averages, with just 22% demonstrating language arts proficiency (compared with Pennsylvania’s 63%) and 7% demonstrating math proficiency (compared with Pennsylvania’s 46%).

Philly school knew about toxic lead in drinking water but kept parents in the dark

Frederick Douglass Elementary – Mastery Schools

Frederick Douglass Mastery Charter School – Public School Review

Lead Toxicity – What Are U.S. Standards for Lead Levels? – CDC.gov