It’s no secret that public schooling is all about the money. Teachers are never paid enough. Failing school? Throw more money at it – maybe in the form of high-priced consultants or more testing.
The problem Covid-19 posed, of course, to public schools’ bottom line is, of course, that it’s hard to justify the astronomical costs of running these schools when they haven’t been open for a year. California is set to remedy that with – you guessed it – even more money, now bribing districts to reopen by March 31 to receive extra funding ($2 billion). “Get it while it lasts,” because every extra day they wait after that, they will lose out. An addition $4.6 billion will be made available to all schools, regardless of how they offer instruction.
Eighty-five percent of the money must be used for in-person instruction: perhaps summer school or extended hours for struggling students (because you know virtual school didn’t work out for many).
Specifics such as how many days or for how long students will be in school, haven’t been addressed. Some lawmakers suggest that the reopening could mean just 12 days of in-person instruction between now and the start of summer break. But for a district to receive funding, all K-2nd grade schools must reopen, but only one middle school and one high school grade need to have in-person classes.
Social promotion has been a concern for parents and educators alike for along as institutionalized education has existed, but it’s difficult to believe it can exist on a level as extreme as what Project Baltimore discovered this year.
A high school senior, it’s reported, has passed just three classes in his 4 years at Augusta Fells Savage Institute of Visual Design in Batimore, Maryland, with nearly 300 absences, and was then informed that he would need to repeat all four years in order to obtain a diploma. His GPA: just 0.13. His mother, a single parent working three jobs to support three children, is beside herself. She obviously relied on the school to prepare her son for graduation, and had no idea that he was performing poorly enough to be held back, especially as he was consistently promoted to the next grade. It’s easy to blame her – after all, parents should have some idea that their child is failing – but this mother is like most public school parents today: conditioned to depend on schools for everything, and as she asserts that direct communication with her was never initiated by the school, she assumed “no news was good news.”
Perhaps even more concerning is the rank shown on the teen’s most recent report card: 62 out of 150, which leads one to infer that there are 58 students at Augusta Fells with a GPA lower than 0.13.
Questions posed to the mayor of Batimore only yielded a call to protect the privacy of these failing students, as well as a promise to improve school quality now that they’ve received the funding they apparently weren’t getting before. (Augusta Fells is a charter school.)
While there is a push to shut down the school, citing the large amount of the student body performing well below the city, state, and national averages, most social media comments seem to focus on vilifying the mother for her ignorance and negligence. It bears reminding that the school system as a rule undermines all parental authority, convincing families that they will do the job of raising children (sex education and character education programs are evidence of this). This woman, likely overworked and undereducated herself, is only a product of what she herself was taught by a very broken system.
Augusta Fells Savage Institute of Visual Design serves over 400 students in grades 9-12 in the Baltimore area, and has a dismal grade of 1/10 on Greatschools, citing a low graduation rate of 56% (the state average is 87%) and poor standardized test results. Ninety-seven percent of the students are black, and 56% qualify as low-income. Students are admitted through a lottery. It first opened in 2004.
New York City entered and remained (and to some degree, still remains) in a strict lockdown earlier this year in an effort to “flatten the curve” of the huge COVID-19 outbreak there. Mayor Bill DeBlasio and Governor Andrew Cuomo have already released plans for the reopening of schools in the fall, which include alternate-day schooling to minimize the number of students in the city’s already-overcrowded buildings. “Make no mistake,” the district website assures parents: “New York City students will still be learning 5 days a week.” Sure, they will.
But in the struggle to transition to online learning during the 2020 Spring Semester, when lockdowns were quickly put into place and schools shuttered for months on end, many students fell behind, making it necessary to attend virtual summer school, which, unsurprisingly enough, they are also failing. Rachel Forsyth, a director at Good Shepherd Services, a nonprofit helping such students attempt to succeed, said, ““For our students who have already been at the margins of education … education is not really happening.” I’d argue that’s the case for more than just those at the “margins of education.”
Many students blame their lack of achievement in summer school courses on their lack of rapport with teachers they’ve never met before. Teachers will say the same, also citing difficulties with communication and the provided curriculum. Technology issues have further complicated the situation.
The problem with stories like these are that they convince many families that the only way to get back to “real,” “effective” learning is to bring teachers and students back to the classroom. But when COVID-19 safety protocols mandate social distancing, mask wearing, contact tracing, and regular disinfections, one wonders how much time is left for learning, especially on top of the already-existing standardized testing, “character education” disguised as indoctrination, and other nonsensical intrusions into the day.
A junior high in Indiana is under scrutiny as the family of one of its students sent their child to school on its first day of the Fall term even though the results of a COVID-19 screening were still pending.
The student indeed received a positive result sometime Thursday, and the health department notified Greenfield-Central Junior High in Greenfield, Indiana, which in turn notified students and faculty that afternoon in an email. As part of the district’s “Positive COVID-19 Test Protocol,” the school quickly isolated the student, and extra care was taken to disinfect rooms he or she may have been in. The student’s schedule was examined and everyone seated within 6 feet of the student is now required to quarantine for 14 days before returning to school. (Because you know children always sit still in exactly the place they were assigned – I’m sure the rest of the class is fine.)
When interviewed Thursday evening, Harold Olin, superintendent of Greenfield-Central Schools, said, “Tomorrow we will carry on. Obviously we will have fewer students with us, but we’ll continue with what we’re doing.” Students did return to school Friday, and all systems were a go by Monday morning, when all but the aforementioned students returned to their regularly scheduled classes.
Greenfield-Central Junior High is located in Greenfield, Indiana, about 30 minutes east of Indianapolis. It serves about 750 students in grades 7 and 8. It has an impressive rating on Greatschools.com overall, citing average or above-average standardized test scores. Approximately 95% of the student body is white.
The school’s website makes no mention of the exposure.