Retired elementary, public school teacher; all thirty-eight years in Florida... Now spending my time advocating for our children, and their right to strong public school education...With an appreciation for the arts and the beauty in each day…
Our children are dealing with quite a lot these days…It is up to us to provide comfort through our careful conversations with them; helping them cope, helping them process what is currently happening by instilling feelings of safety and well-being …
Hope for their future…
Helping kids process recent and ongoing current events
By Suzanne Monaghan KYW NewsradioPHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio)
Coronavirus-induced isolation, an inconsistent school year, fallout from the violence in Washington, D.C. — kids are living through many back-to-back historic and potentially life-changing events.
Counselor and author L.J. Jackson said young people are dealing with many anxieties as a result, like missing friends, fearing that their parents will get sick, or falling behind in school.
“The newness of it all is something that they’re trying to wrap their heads around and understand,” she said. “Whether they’re toddlers or pre-teens or teens or young adults, this is their first go-round for a lot of them with something as intense as what we’ve been going through in 2020 and the first start of 2021.”
For parents, Jackson suggests not listening to the news when children are around. Also, talk to them about how they’re feeling, reassure them that everything will be OK, and come up with things to look forward to.
“Their brains are still developing and they’re thinking in the moment, here and now, so just help them think and create a bright future so that no matter what happens, they can see beyond this.”
For example, make a vision board that you and your children can post pictures and lists of things to look forward to. Kids need consistency, especially during the inconsistency of today.
“With young people, hope is very important, and so it’s kind of like our gas tank,” she alluded. “Just kind of do a check-in with them periodically. Whether they want to talk or not, make sure their ‘hope tank’ is filled.”
President Trump and and his Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos have used our children, teachers and essential staff as pawns during this Pandemic…. trying to keep schools open to boost the economy…not caring about the lives involved….And now here in Florida teachers and staff are not a top priority to receive the Covid vaccine….
We will now have a new President, Joe Biden and a new Secretary of Education, Miguel Cardona….
Let’s make our schools safe…. Funding our schools with the resources necessary to put the right protocols in place…Making our children a priority…
COVID AND SCHOOLS: THE DATA AND SCIENCE THEN AND NOW
Early on in the pandemic the thinking was that masks were not necessary. In fact, there is a video circulating online that shows Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), saying “there’s no reason to be walking around with a mask.” Fauci’s remarks were made on March 8, 2020 and do not represent his current stance or the national conversation about the importance of face coverings nor the updated guidance issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). That was then, this is now.
The virus spreads in schools — but schools are rarely super spreaders
School outbreaks typically come from the community — not vice versa
Children transmit the virus — but not how adults do
For months, the common conversation in the media and research was that schools were not heavily documented sites for Covid or superspreading events. But I kept hearing anecdotally from the field that the situation was different. A friend that works in a Texas school district was infected in a public school by another teacher. The friend relayed that the teachers were rapidly getting sick in her school, but the students were not showing symptoms. This is not the only Texas superspreader event that flew under the radar. The Texas State Board of Education hosted their own superspreader event when they were forced to meet in person by Board leadership to make a political point. The argument made was if the State Board of Education couldn’t meet in person, why would school districts across the state of Texas agree to do so? While I am not an epidemiologist, anecdotally, this information seems quite problematic compared to the public discourse about school reopening. The AAMC article did include an important caveat and/or hedging.
The early data suggest that schools can reopen safely under certain conditions, but the analyses come with follow-up questions and multiple caveats — the most basic of which is some form of, “That’s what we know so far.” “We’re nine to 10 months into a brand-new disease,” cautions Helen Bristow, MPH, program manager of Duke’s ABC Science Collaborative, which guides schools on COVID-19 safety. “We’re regularly learning something we didn’t know before.”
That was then and this is now.
So what is the latest? The Guardian reported on January 2, 2021 that Symptomless cases in schools could be key driver in spread of Covid-19. Please read that again. They report that “Up to 70% of schoolchildren infected with coronavirus may not know they have it until after a positive test result.” Please read that again. In my own experience, I have heard many stories of people testing negative and then not soon after testing positive and/or having symptoms. Has this “negative” test situation happened to your friends and family too? This is now being borne out in the broader data.
A key factor in the spread of Covid-19 in schools is symptomless cases. Most scientists believe that between 30% and 40% of adults do not display any Covid symptoms on the day of testing, even if they have been infected. For children, however, this figure is higher. “It is probably more like 50% for those in secondary school while for boys and girls in primary school, around 70% may not be displaying symptoms even though they have picked up the virus,” says Professor Martin Hibberd of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
We don’t know what we don’t know. Proponents of immediate school reopening often point to contact tracing and testing. However, in the United States the number of cases has rapidly overwhelmed contact tracing and testing. It’s hard to argue that testing and contact tracing is currently adequate for K-12 schools.
The US Department of Education has absolutely failed in its responsibility to track the spread of Covid in higher education and K-12. LITERALLY FAILED. Besty DeVos said it was not her job. In the absence of leadership from Betsy DeVos and the US Department of Education, the free press of our nation have stepped into that glaring gap. The COVID Monitor is a US News database that tracks coronavirus cases in K-12 schools. They’ve shown there had been nearly 250,000 student and staff cases across the United States since Aug. 1— and that data doesn’t include the massive December surge. Read that again. 250,000. While those have been tied to schools, we also know that more than 1 million children have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in the United States.
The most distressing part of this pandemic is the death. Every time I have been forwarded an article by a reader of Cloaking Inequity about the death of an educator, I have posted it on my Twitter to make point. Educators are being infected with Covid and they are dying.
Inaccurate, unprovenclaims have filled the data gap, aiming to assuage anxieties about reopening schools for in-person classes, with seemingly little regard for the potential impacts the virus may have on the students, staff and communities affected by such choices. With uncertainties about the long-term effects of infection on an individual’s health, the evidence of children being asymptomatic spreaders and the increase in pediatric cases recently, public pleas for closing schools have grown.
In guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, schools are called a “potential source of COVID-19 outbreaks, due to the number of individuals intermingling in close proximity for extended periods of time.”
It makes sense when you think about it. Stuff a bunch of people into a confined space for eight hours a day and the likelihood of catching the virus increases.
And internationally, data indicates how quickly schools may become super spreaders.
In Israel, for example, many schools closed due to COVID-19 outbreaks only two weeks after the country fully reopened classrooms. Districts in Georgia and Mississippi experienced similar scenarios when they started school in August.
A recent study from the United Kingdom in November also showed a decline in cases in every age group except, apparently, among school-aged children and teens.
Yes, internationally, they have already figured out in the public consciousness that schools are platforms for superspreading. It is very clear that Covid has taken advantage of some of American’s most challenging traits— denial and hubris— in the debate about reopening schools.
So what does the national data reported in early December by US News tell us about the situation with communities, schools, and Covid?
Their analysis of their national data shows that the high school student case rate (13 per 1,000 students enrolled for in-person classes) is nearly three times that of elementary school students (4.4 per 1,000).
They observed that the higher the community case rate, the higher the school district case rate, as depicted in the graphic below.
They found that case rates for school districts are often much higher than case rates in the community. Meanwhile, within their data, a recent review of school district case rates based on total enrollment showed that less than 3% of all districts reporting two or more cases met a lowest-risk, case-rate threshold advised by the CDC for communities.
They also show that the percentage of students enrolled for in-person classes directly impacts the case rate in school districts. A recent study based on their data found school districts can reduce COVID-19 case rates by about 40% by reducing the in-person class size by 50%.
Based on data from Florida, their data show that school districts without mask mandates have an average case rate (12.1 per 1,000) nearly twice as high as those with mask mandates (6.9 per 1,000).
Do you come away from this independent national data thinking that schools are safe to reopen under current circumstances and do not contribute to the spread of the virus?
Also, there is worrisome new data. @DrEricDing say “new B117 Covid variant is not only more infectious, it’s potentially more infectious in children 0-9 (+24%) and 10-19 (+14%), and less among 60-79, compared to common strains. More sobering—the R estimate is much higher.” See more at this thread h/t to LH.
Arguments about social and mental well-being of students due to online learning have been made by experts in various fields. However, now that we have data, research and experience strongly indicates we need to prioritize the health of communities in the midst of a worldwide pandemic. We must do this until ALL states prioritize the vaccination of educators and provide the financial and strategic resources to reopen safely. States should immediately prioritize this goal so that we can both address the social and mental well-being of students as well as protect the health of the nation.
We’ve seen how problematic and absent leadership has led to less than a quarter of Covid vaccines (as of right now) being used for vaccinations in Florida, Texas and other states. Yet many states are insisting and placing enormous political and financial pressure on school to reopen. It’s a severe and gross failure of leadership to allow vaccines to sit on shelves and at the same time demand educators reopen schools. I have been impressed by the leadership in Kentucky prioritizing educators for inoculation as a high priority group so that schools can reopen more safely. Furthermore, absent inoculating all educators and providing the financial and strategic resources for districts to reopen schools safely (i.e. PPE, smaller class sizes etc.) for students and families, President-elect Joe Biden’s promise to open all schools in the first 100 days is a problem and a national disaster waiting to happen. I am sure President-Elect Joe Biden is aware that Secretary of Education-Designate Cardona pressured schools to reopen in Connecticut throughout 2019. So, considering the current knowledge in the data and science, it is my hope that Biden and Cardona get it right on school reopening in the upcoming months, otherwise history and voters won’t be kind.
Our teachers have little regard when it comes to what is best for our children and their own lives….It concerns me that here in Florida we have a governor who lacks compassion and leadership…
ORLANDO, FLA. (WSVN) – Some teachers in Florida are calling on Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to reconsider his decision to delay the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine to them.
Educators like Wendy Doromal, president of the Orange County Classroom Teachers Association, said she’s glad to hear that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has included teachers as essential workers recommended in the second priority group for COVID-19 vaccination guidance.
That decision, Doromal said, is particularly important, considering the school district announced that about 18,000 students will return to face-to-face learning after the holidays.
“That means that those rooms that are small and are ready don’t have space and adequate social distancing will be more crowded, so we were looking forward to teachers having the option of getting a vaccine,” she said, “especially those that have [Americans with Disabilities Act] accommodations, and their health is at risk, or a family member’s health is at risk.”
But DeSantis has opted to deviate from the CDC’s recommendation.
“We are not going to put young, healthy workers ahead of our elderly, vulnerable population,” he said.
The governor said essential workers like teachers will have to wait.
“On one hand, he’s saying, ‘Fling open the school doors,’ and on the other, he’s not providing adequate safety measures,” said Doromal.
Elizabeth Albert, president of the Volusia County Educators Association, said she is disappointed by DeSantis’ announcement.
“If you’re a teacher, or you work in the schools, you’re there every day, then you go home to your family,” she said. “You have children in the public schools, they go out, and they come back in, they interact with their own families. I mean, it’s a spider’s web of a connection, if you will.”
Florida is likely 6 to 8 weeks away from the start of Phase 2 vaccinations. The vaccine continues to make its way to hospitals and nursing homes to vaccinate those most at risk first.
President-elect Joe Biden formally introduced Miguel Cardona as his secretary of Education nominee on Wednesday, placing the Connecticut state education official atop the incoming administration’s sweeping plans to reopen the majority of American schools in 100 days and accelerate federal spending on education.
Cardona previewed a broad agenda to address persistent achievement gaps, fill neglected construction and trade jobs, expand access to college and universal early childhood education, and boost the status of the nation’s teachers.
“For too many students, public education in America has been a ‘flor pálida’, a wilted rose neglected and in need of care,” Cardona said in his first public remarks since his nomination. “We must be the master gardeners who cultivate it, who work every day to preserve its beauty and its purpose.”
But the nominee acknowledged Covid-19 has wrenched open long-standing and painful disparities in the nation’s schools — and that those problems will persist after the pandemic fades.
“We also know that this crisis is ongoing, that we will carry its impacts for years to come, and that the problems and inequities that have plagued our educational system since long before Covid will still be with us even after the virus is gone,” Cardona said…
“So it’s our responsibility, it’s our privilege, to take this moment and to do the most American thing imaginable: To forge opportunity out of crisis, to draw on our resolve, our ingenuity and our tireless optimism as a people, and build something better than we’ve ever had before.”
Cardona’s selection fulfills Biden’s campaign promise to name an educator with public school experience to replace Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, but his nomination also allows the incoming administration to highlight a fast-rising Latino education official who noted his public school education and birth at the Yale Acres public housing complex in Meriden, Conn.
“And I, being bilingual and bicultural, am as American as apple pie and rice and beans,” Cardona said…
I am holding onto hope for our children…. President Elect Biden’s choice Dr. Miguel Cardona for Secretary of Education…does have a background in education…and his own regard for values and inclusion are blessings…
I do have some strong concerns….He has only a few years of experience as a classroom teacher…So mostly his years is an administrator will be from that perspective…
Another concern….Dr. Cardona has not been a strong advocate for public schools …. and he may continue funding charter schools with public school monies…
And lastly he does advocate opening schools in a thoughtful manner…Which may be without the necessary funding and protocols to keep children, teachers, essential workers safe…
My hope is that he will care….
And will fund our schools with the programs and resources….our schools so desperately need…In these most challenging of times….
If confirmed, Cardona would be a visible part of the administration’s efforts to win public trust on the divisive issue…
Here is where Cardona stands on some of these key K-12 issues
Cardona’s position: As leader of Connecticut’s 530,000-student K-12 education system, Cardona has encouraged schools to open for in-person learning during the coronavirus pandemic. But, unlike some schools chiefs in other states, he has not sought to mandate in-person instruction, and he has acknowledged that local circumstances vary.
“We all know remote learning will never replace the classroom experience,” Cardona wrote in a November opinion piece published in the Connecticut Mirror. “We also know that the health and safety of our students, staff, and their families must be the primary consideration when making decisions about school operations. The two are not mutually exclusive.”
Cardona released a video in November to encourage school reopenings with precautions like face masks, saying that state data had tracked the transmission of many COVID-19 cases detected in schools to out-of-school settings.
The state’s education department also created a public dashboard to report coronavirus cases identified in schools. And it held virtual town halls for parents and virtual trainings in remote instruction for teachers.
He has faced some opposition to his push from teachers who are concerned about the risks of returning to the classroom. But some education groups have also praised his approach as thoughtful.
What it means for the Biden administration:
Biden’s administration will start at a complicated time for the ongoing debate over reopening schools. Some epidemiologists have said schools should be more aggressive about the return to in-person learning. But as some major cities have plotted strategies to bring students back, virus rates have spiked around the country, complicating their efforts.
On the campaign trail, Biden won favor with many teachers when he was critical of the Trump administration’s aggressive push to reopen schools. Biden released a plan that called for additional federal funding and guidance on how to conduct in-person learning safely. Since the election, he has campaigned to work with state and local leaders to open most of the nation’s schools within his first 100 days.
If confirmed, Cardona would be a visible part of the administration’s efforts to win public trust on the divisive issue.
Cardona’s position: Cardona hasn’t taken a strong position for or against charter schools. His state education department has renewed charter school plans, but it has not approved any new ones since he took was appointed in August 2019, the Connecticut Mirror reports.
“Charter schools provide choice for parents that are seeking choice, so I think it’s a viable option, but [neighborhood schools] that’s going to be the core work that not only myself but the people behind me in the agency that I represent will have while I’m commissioner,” he said during his state confirmation hearing.
What it means for the Biden administration: As the Trump administration pushed private school choice options, like vouchers, the debate heated up among Democrats over charter schools, a concept the party had embraced in the past.
Biden himself was critical of charter schools, and he pledged not to provide federal funding for “for-profit” charter schools. Biden’s campaign team said he would focus his attention on “neighborhood public schools” that the majority of U.S. students attend.
Cardona’s less-aggressive position on the issue, compared to some other candidates Biden reportedly vetted, may help build a bridge between different parties in the debate. It may also comfort some charter school supporters, who feared a candidate with a more combative tone. But it may not satisfy some progressive critics of charters, who’ve argued they siphon resources from traditional public schools.
Cardona’s position: Like all states, Connecticut used a federal waiver to cancel mandated state testing as schools quickly switched to remote learning at the end of the 2019-20 school year. But in a Dec. 7 memo, the agency said the state would conduct testing as planned this year, even as some schools remain closed for in-person learning and others are dealing with the fallout of interrupted schooling.
“State tests are the most accurate guideposts to our promise of equity for ALL,” that memo said.
The state plans to assess all students and report the data, but it will not use students’ test scores or to identify schools that need improvement, the guidance said.
In general, Cardona hasn’t been a strident critic of standardized testing like some of Biden’s other reported candidates for education secretary, but has emphasized the appropriate use of test scores. Serving on a state advisory panel that assisted in the design of teacher-evaluation policies as a district administrator, he stressed the importance of multiple measures of success.
What it means for the Biden administration: Biden was skeptical of standardized tests on the campaign trail. Working in cooperation with his campaign, the Democratic Party included language critical of “high stakes” uses of test scores in its 2020 platform. Some education policy wonks who supported President Barack Obama’s approach to school accountability said Biden put too much emphasis on school funding and not enough on accountability.
Testing and accountability are poised to be one of the first big education issues to watch under Biden’s leadership. State schools chiefs have pushed his transition team to give them flexibility on federally mandated accountability measures, including testing, as they continue to respond to the pandemic. Biden’s team has not made any commitments on the issue.
As someone with experience as a state education chief, Cardona may have some added credibility with his former peers that would help him navigate the discussions. As education secretary, he would have to weigh what forms of flexibility to offer and whether the agency should allow states to opt out of testing altogether.
English-Learners and Students of Color
Cardona’s position: Cardona wrote his doctoral dissertation on closing the achievement gap between English-language learner students and their peers.
As a Latino American and former English-language learner himself, he has said he relates to students of color and those who speak other languages at home.
“For Latino children from communities that are below the threshold of poverty, you know you’re not typically thinking, the data doesn’t suggest that they’re going to be the next principal of the school … or state education commissioner,” Cardona told the Connecticut Mirror last year. “There were times throughout my youth that I think people had lower expectations than they should have. It just made me hungrier.”
As education commissioner, Cardona agreed to a state settlement in a decades-long Hartford school desegregation case that allowed more students in the city’s segregated schools to enroll in magnet programs.
What it means for the Biden administration: White students make up the minority of enrollment in U.S. public schools, compared to the combined representation of students from all other racial groups.
And, as those demographics have shifted in recent years, so have debates over how to best serve students from all racial, ethnic, and demographic groups.
Biden’s education plans include efforts to encourage voluntary school desegregation, and to train, recruit, and retain more teachers of color. He has also pledged to boost federal funding for special education and for students with high enrollments of students from low-income families.
If confirmed, Cardona would oversee those efforts. It’s also expected that a Biden Education Department will reinstate key Obama-era civil rights directives that were rescinded by the Trump administration, including guidance on racial disparities in school discipline.
Teachers and Unions
Cardona’s position: When he designed his district’s teacher-evaluation system Cardona emphasized the importance of cooperating with educators and seeking their input.
In 2013, the American Federation of Teachers highlighted that work and called the district “a roadmap for union-district relations.”
AFT President Randi Weingarten praised Cardona Tuesday.
“If you want an example of how labor and management can come together to improve learning and student achievement, you need only look at Meriden,” she said in a statement. “His deep respect for educators and their unions will travel with him to Washington—and that commitment to collaboration is crucial to providing the resources and social and emotional supports to safely reopen schools.”
What it means for the Biden administration: Teachers’ unions were key allies for Biden during his campaign, promoting his plans to boost federal funding for schools and his approach to school reopenings.
Biden also reportedly considered Weingarten and former NEA President Lily Eskelsen García as potential education secretary picks.
That relationship comes following a contentious relationship between teachers unions during the Trump administration. U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos frequently criticized the organizations, saying they stand in the way of the changes necessary to reimagine education.
It also follows several years of muscle-flexing from local teachers’ unions, and grassroots groups that have pushed states and districts to improve contracts, raise school funding, and increase teacher pay.
Cardona would be the face of the Biden administration for teachers’ unions, which haven’t hesitated to criticize education secretaries from both parties in the past.
President Barack Obama signs the ‘Every Student Succeeds Act’, a bipartisan rewrite of No Child Left Behind, on Dec. 10, 2015, at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington, D.C. Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images
We now have this opportunity to give our children the chance they have so needed since “No Child Left Behind”…
Lily Eskelsen García, the ex-president of the National Education Association, is seeking the top education job in Joe Biden’s administration. Her supporters urge Biden to nominate her and, in doing so, appoint the first Latina to lead the Education Department…