Friday, July 17, 2020

New York City public schools will reopen with "blended learning" model in the fall

New York City students will return to school in the fall with a “blended learning” model, the mayor and schools chancellor announced Wednesday.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said most students will attend in-person classes two or three days a week.

“Blended learning simply means at some points in the week you’re leaning in person in the classroom, at other points in the week you’re learning remotely,” he said Wednesday. “For the vast majority of kids in the vast majority of schools, you’ll be going to school to the classroom either two days a week or three days a week, depending on the week.”

Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza outlined two models — one for schools at 50% capacity, and one for schools at 33%.

“For the 2020-21 school year, it will look different,” he said. “Let me be clear: New York City students will be learning five days a week whether it’s in person or at home.”

Families who aren’t comfortable sending their children back to school may continue with remote learning. They will have the chance to opt back in on a quarterly basis.

Last week, the mayor said a Department of Education survey found 75% of families wanted their kids to return.

JT Yost told CBS2’s Hazel Sanchez his second-grade son, Rocky, and sixth-grade daughter, Lulu, can’t wait to get back into the classroom.

“I’m missing seeing all my friends and teachers every day,” Lulu Yost said.

“If they are coming in with temperature checks and washing their hands often and it’s not as crowded because of the alternating days, all those things makes me feel safer,” JT Yost added.

Students will receive their schedules in August, and they can opt out of blended learning at any time.

As Sanchez reported, for working families with multiple children in different schools, there is no solid plan to help them with child care. “We’re going to have to figure out more in terms of child care.

This is something we’re going to be building as we go along,” the mayor said. “Some parents are going to be able to make it work under current conditions. Some are going to need extra help. We’re going to work over the coming weeks to find other ways to help them.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo still needs to approve the school plan, and the United Federation of Teachers isn’t totally on board.

“We are not going to be careless with our students, their families, and our educators,” UFT President Michael Mulgrew said.

The principals union admits it will be difficult to enforce all the rules.

“We’re gonna do the best we can, but anyone thinks that we’ll be able to magically make sure everyone will stay away from each other, six feet at all times, that’s not realistic and that’s not going to happen,” said Mark Cannizzaro of the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators.

“My number one concern is about being back in the building, and is it going to be safe, even with the measures that they are proposing?” Moulton told CBS2’s Alice Gainer. “My concern is the kids keeping their masks on … I can’t tie your shoe. That’s a new one today that came to me, how am I going to tie a shoe?”

Carranza said teachers can apply for a special accommodation to only teach remotely if they don’t feel safe.

Face coverings and social distancing will be required, along with hand-washing stations and nightly cleaning protocols.

Schools are being asked to utilize large spaces, like gyms and cafeterias, and update their layouts to help people spread out.

Carranza said the DOE will provide personal protective equipment and cleaning supplies, including hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes.

He says health and safety is their priority. “We can make up learning for students. We cannot bring a student back who is infected and passes away,” Carranza said.

He also said he remains committed to “equity and excellence” for students during these difficult times.

“Our approach remains the same: We set a high bar for every student no matter who they are — that’s excellence — and we give every student the support they need to meet that bar. That’s equity,” he said. “We recognize and honor the significant trauma that our students, staff and city have experienced over the past several months.”


School closures threaten kids more than COVID-19, pediatricians say

Kids are less likely to contract the virus, are less likely to spread it to others, and are less likely to have severe symptoms if they do contract the virus.

It’s not even a close call. The consequences of extended school closures far outweigh the health risks of COVID-19.

Access to education is foundational to American society and fundamental to the American ideal of providing equal opportunities. Yet amid COVID-19 shutdowns, many children have very limited or even no access to formal education.

That has caused numerous problems for some children, including a loss in learning, an exacerbation of race- and income-based educational gaps, and, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, increased child abuse and neglect.

There are also added stresses and uncertainties for families.

Taking a holistic view of the situation, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a new report that advocates for opening schools while providing age-based safety guidance.

The academy’s report emphatically states: The APP strongly advocates that all policy considerations for the coming school year should start with a goal of having students physically present in school.
It goes on to note:

The importance of in-person learning is well-documented, and there is already evidence of the negative impacts on children because of school closures in the spring of 2020.  Lengthy time away from school and associated interruption of supportive services often results in social isolation, making it difficult for schools to identify and address important learning deficits, as well as child and adolescent physical or sexual abuse, substance use, depression, and suicidal ideation. This, in turn, places children and adolescents at considerable risk of morbidity and, in some cases, mortality.

As detailed below, the consequences of school closures are significant. Yet, while still not entirely known, the benefits of school closures appear far less impactful because kids simply are not as affected by COVID-19.

Kids are less likely to contract the virus (in the U.S., children represent about 22% of the population, but only 1.7% of COVID-19 cases), are less likely to spread it to others (a study of 54 Dutch families found no indication of children under 12 transmitting the disease), and are less likely to have severe symptoms if they do contract the virus.

A study from the Netherlands’ National Institute for Public Health and the Environment found that after reopening schools between May 11 and June 8, there have been few reports of infections among employees at schools and no reports of employees who were infected by children.

That’s important information as school districts weigh the health and well-being concerns of children and teachers.

For kids, COVID-19 is far less dangerous than the seasonal flu. That’s not true for older individuals or those with comorbidities.

But while at-risk adults can take measures to mitigate their risks of COVID-19, children are largely helpless against the harms caused by school closures.

Those harms are at least threefold.

First, there’s the education loss.

At best, it appears students are spending about half as much time engaged in learning, with many engaged for an hour or less per day.

According to a McKinsey report, about half of students live in 28 states that have not mandated distance learning. And even at its best, full-time remote learning will not be the right fit for every child. Some families may prefer virtual learning for the time being, but that should not be the only option.

As Doug Lemov, an expert on effective teaching practices, said, “There’s a limit to how good a lesson can be when you’re trying to interact with your students through a keyhole in the door.”

McKinsey modeled the impacts of three different scenarios and found that the difference between fully reopening schools in the fall versus only partially reopening them through January 2021 would result in three to four months of lost learning for students with average remote-learning instruction; seven to 11 months of lost learning for students with lower-quality remote instruction; and 12 to 14 months for students who receive no remote learning.

Second, there’s the disparate impact.

As the McKinsey report noted:

Even more troubling is the context: the persistent achievement disparities across income levels and between white students and students of black and Hispanic heritage. School shutdowns could not only cause disproportionate learning losses for these students—compounding existing gaps—but also lead more of them to drop out. This could have long-term effects on these children’s long-term economic well-being and on the [U.S.] economy as a whole.
Surveys of parents confirm stark differences in experiences with a strong correlation to race and income level.

According to a survey from advocacy group ParentsTogether, low-income families were five times more likely to report receiving no distance learning from their schools compared with the highest-income families (11% vs. 2%), were twice as likely to report that distance learning is going poorly or very poorly (36% vs. 17%), and were 10 times as likely to report that their children are doing little or no remote learning (38% vs. 3.7%). And 4 out of 10 of the poorest students are participating in remote learning only once a week or less.

Some 76% of African American and 82% of Hispanic families say they are concerned they don’t have the resources necessary to keep their children on track.

Third, and most heartbreaking, is increased child abuse and neglect.

School shutdowns mean vulnerable children who are in abusive home environments are spending more time where most neglect and abuse occurs, at a time when economic and health stresses have contributed to more abuse and neglect.

Those children aren’t coming into contact with the teachers and professionals who are the primary reporters of abuse and neglect.

In 2018, there were 3.5 million children who came into contact with Child Protective Services. About 678,000 were determined to be victims of maltreatment, and 1,770 children died of abuse and neglect.

Parents are the perpetrators among 92% of child maltreatment victims; 29% of victims are two years of age or younger; and professionals—most significantly educational professionals—are responsible for 67% of all reports of maltreatment. (Friends, neighbors, and family account for only 17% of reports.)

That makes school, child care, and other child-wellbeing service closures a recipe for disaster for vulnerable children.

As a report on child welfare and COVID-19 from the Brookings Institute aptly stated:

COVID-19 has created a perfect storm of factors that will almost certainly lead to a sharp increase in unreported cases of child abuse and neglect, as children are cut off from interactions with professionals and teachers, confined at home with caregivers and relatives, and families are feeling the stress of job loss and economic uncertainty. The nation’s system of detecting abuse and neglect, which is heavily dependent on reports by teachers, doctors, and other professionals, is rendered almost completely powerless in this new situation as in-person and face-to-face interactions between children and professionals are being minimized by the stay-at-home orders issued by most states.

At the same time, other vital parts of the child welfare system—home investigations, child-parent visits, mandatory court appearances, home-based parenting programs—are now at a near standstill, making it harder and harder for the system to ensure the safety and well-being of the nearly 3.5 million children they come into contact with each year.
COVID-19 is temporary, but many of its impacts will be long-lasting. For children, school closures could have lifelong consequences.

It’s not even a close call. The consequences of extended school closures far outweigh the health risks of COVID-19.

It’s time to reopen schools in person. The current and future health and well-being of America’s 57 million schoolchildren depend on it.


Back to school? "No thanks," say millions of new homeschooling parents

Next month marks the beginning of the 2020/2021 academic year in several US states, and pressure is mounting to reopen schools even as the COVID-19 pandemic persists. Florida, for example, is now considered the nation’s No. 1 hot spot for the virus; yet on Monday, the state’s education commissioner issued an executive order mandating that all Florida schools open in August with in-person learning and their full suite of student services.

Many parents are balking at back-to-school, choosing instead to homeschool their children this fall.

Gratefully, this virus seems to be sparing most children, and prominent medical organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics have urged schools to reopen this fall with in-person learning. For some parents, fear of the virus itself is a primary consideration in delaying a child’s return to school, especially if the child has direct contact with individuals who are most vulnerable to COVID-19’s worst effects.

But for many parents, it’s not the virus they are avoiding by keeping their children home—it’s the response to the virus.

In May, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued school reopening guidelines that called for:

School districts across the country quickly adopted the CDC’s guidelines, devising their reopening plans accordingly. Once parents got wind of what the upcoming school-year would look like, including the real possibility that at any time schools could be shut down again due to virus spikes, they started exploring other options.

For Florida mother, Rachael Cohen, these social distancing expectations and pandemic response measures prompted her to commit to homeschooling her three children, ages 13, 8, and 5, this fall.

“Mandated masks, as well as rigid and arbitrary rules and requirements regarding the use and location of their bodies, will serve to dehumanize, disconnect, and intimidate students,” Cohen told me in a recent interview.

She is endeavoring to expand schooling alternatives in her area and is currently working to create a self-directed learning community for local homeschoolers that emphasizes nature-based, experiential education. “There is quite a lot of interest,” she says.

According to a recent USA Today/Ipsos poll, 60 percent of parents surveyed said they will likely choose at-home learning this fall rather than send their children to school even if the schools reopen for in-person learning. Thirty percent of parents surveyed said they were “very likely” to keep their children home.

While some of these parents may opt for an online version of school-at-home tied to their district, many states are seeing a surge in the number of parents withdrawing their children from school in favor of independent homeschooling. From coast to coast, and everywhere in between, more parents are opting out of conventional schooling this year, citing onerous social distancing requirements as a primary reason.

Indeed, so many parents submitted notices of intent to homeschool in North Carolina last week that it crashed the state’s nonpublic education website.

Other parents are choosing to delay their children’s school enrollment, with school districts across the country reporting lower than average kindergarten registration numbers this summer.

School officials are cracking down in response.

Concerned about declining enrollments and parents reassuming control over their children’s education, some school districts are reportedly trying to block parents from removing their children from school for homeschooling.

In England, it’s even worse. Government officials there are so worried about parents refusing to send their children back to school this fall that the education secretary just announced fines for all families who keep their children home in violation of compulsory schooling laws. “We do have to get back into compulsory education and obviously fines sit alongside as part of that," English secretary Gavin Williamson announced.

When school officials resort to force in order to ensure compliance, it should prompt parents to look more closely at their child’s overall learning environment. Parents have the utmost interest in ensuring their children’s well-being, both physically and emotionally, and their concerns and choices should be respected and honored.

After several months of learning at home with their children, parents may not be so willing to comply with district directives and may prefer other, more individualized education options. Pushed into homeschooling this spring by the pandemic, many parents are now going willingly, and eagerly, down this increasingly popular educational path.


Harvard, Yale and Princeton Embarrass, but Cornell Shines

In the last week or so, I have read about happenings at several Ivy League schools, most predictably wretched, but at least one, at Cornell, showing much intelligence and concern for students. Let’s talk about four schools, in order of founding.

Harvard, America’s first university, finally relented and dropped its controversial policy restricting student rights to free association outside of their studies, namely the policy banning single-gender organizations, rather ironic for a university that banned female students for the first one-third of a millennium (more than 85%) of its history. While Harvard’s policy change is good, President Lawrence Bacow made it clear that he acted only because he had to: federal courts were going to force Harvard to do so.

As the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education Executive Director Robert Shibley put it “While this “Crimson Scare’ is finally over, lasting damage has been done to many cherished men’s and women’s groups that either shut down or were muscled into changing their policies against their wishes.” Meanwhile, Harvard’s administration and faculty maintains its freedom of association from students: it plans to use almost fully remote instruction this fall, even though students likely will gather in Cambridge to party and Zoom.

Moving on to Yale, President Peter Salovey appropriately rejected protesters who said the name “Yale” should be removed from the institution—the ultimate expression of the Cancel Culture. Elihu Yale was a slave trader holding views considered reprehensible by most civilized American adults today, but helped fund an institution that has educated young people for more than three centuries. Salovey does not always show such common sense: In 2015, he and his aides refused to defend Erika Christakis for daring to suggest it was not Yale’s job to tell students what kind of Halloween costumes to wear, ultimately hounding her and husband Dr. Nicholas Christakis off campus. Yale was quick to take John Calhoun’s name off of a college, for he, too, owned slaves and defended the Southern way of life 180 years ago. Implicitly Yale is saying, “our current generation of Yalies is morally superior to the scum who founded, funded and nurtured us,” so we must erase recognition of their accomplishment. It shows a contempt for our history, heritage and ancestors that I find morally dubious.

Going to Princeton, more of the same. Woodrow Wilson’s name must go, even though he was good enough for Princeton to make him its president for eight years. It is true that Wilson was a racist and more: he said contemptuous things about immigrants from southern Europe, for example. Personally, I think he was one of the most overrated presidents in American history. Yet I think it was wrong for Princeton to show its ingratitude for a man important in the shaping of both that school and the nation. Again, the current anti-historical mood: “We are morally upright and our predecessors were scum” is, in my judgment, despicable, even though I equally believe that the evolution of moral standards over time to rejecting racial discrimination has been a wonderful thing.

Enough negativism. Let us turn to the last created Ivy League school, one more democratic and less elitist than the other Ivies (it is, horror of horrors, partly a public university): Cornell. Provost Michael Kotlikoff and President Martha Pollack have declared Cornell will reopen this fall for classes (see their superb July 1 Wall Street Journal op-ed). The school will track and isolate Covid-19 cases and take other measures to insure safety. They make a great point: if students did not return to traditional classes, Covid cases would probably not fall, maybe even rise—students would simply be living at least part of the day in a different environment. And large portions of the student body would return to campus anyway and, outside of class-time, party and socialize in a distinctly non-social distancing manner. Public health would be imperiled, not improved. Moreover, students need socialization, direct interaction with other students, etc. (See the recent superb statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics supporting in-class instruction of younger students). That is why I, celebrating my 80th birthday this fall, plan to return to teach in person unless apparatchiks at Ohio University successfully stop me.


Thursday, July 16, 2020

Nashville schools to start academic year remotely for all students

All Metro Nashville Public Schools students will start the academic year remotely as coronavirus cases continue to mount, Director of Schools Adrienne Battle announced Thursday.

Instead of allowing families to choose from either in-person or remote learning options, all 86,000 students will start the school year learning from home on Aug. 4.

"Our school district does not operate in isolation and we should not and cannot make the decision about reopening schools in isolation," Battle said during a Thursday news conference. "Our nation has not prioritized the steps to reduce the spread of COVID-19. We have not had our national priorities focused on that goal."

Virtual instruction is expected to last until at least Labor Day. When students and teachers do return to school buildings, families will still have the option to keep their children at home and do remote learning.

Battle attributed the delay of reopening schools to the rising number of coronavirus cases in the community and the nation's inability to halt the spread of the virus. Nashville reported 688 news cases on Thursday, of which 172 dated to early June.

Mayor John Cooper called Thursday the city's "worst day" since the outbreak began.

Battle said the district must put the health and safety of its students and employees first and all the information she has seen, combined with feedback from experts, community members and families, led her to the conclusion that it is not safe to reopen schools before Labor Day.

Metro Nashville Public Schools Director Adrienne Battle speaks at a schools board meeting on March 12, 2020, in Nashville.
Many of the city's charter schools are also following Metro Schools' lead. All members of the Nashville Charter Collaborative will open virtually for at least the first month of the 2020-21 school year, according to a statement Thursday.

The collaborative includes 12 charter organizations and their schools, including KIPP, LEAD Public Schools, Nashville Classical, Republic Schools, Rocketship Public Schools, Valor Collegiate Academies and others.

What learning will look like for students
Though students won't physically start the year in the classroom, they will be assigned to a class and a teacher at the same school they would have attended in person, whether a zoned school, a magnet or another choice school.

Learning will look much different than it did in the spring, when grades were not assigned and attendance was not required after initial school closures, Battle told teachers Thursday morning.

“In this virtual learning environment (this fall), there will be increased expectations," she said, according to a recording obtained by The Tennessean. "We will be assessing. There will be accountability. Attendance will be required. We will be providing grades."

Students will receive at least two hours of real-time instruction each day, but the bulk of learning will be done at each student’s own pace, according to Battle's presentation to teachers and staff prior to the news conference, portions of which were obtained by The Tennessean.

Learning time will vary based on the age of students and the content, she later clarified. On average, up to at least six and a half hours of content and instruction will be available to students through the virtual learning platform per day and students will have access to all course content 24/7.

The district is proposing to utilize the curriculum and platform used by Florida Virtual School, which already includes more than 190 courses so teachers will not have to develop their own lessons and materials in a short time frame.

High schools will also adopt a semester model, with students taking four classes per semester, which district officials said is more manageable in a virtual environment.

Students will still be able to earn the same amount of credits as they would through a traditional block, or AB, schedule.

"We will be utilizing a standard curriculum to be used across the district in all schools, and this is very necessary because we need to provide a continuity of learning plan for consistency for our students," Battle said during a call with teachers and staff Thursday morning. "We should fully expect that there might be ebbs and flows, times when we are in face-to-face or not, that we might be virtual or having hybrid opportunities for our students given our local context with COVID-19. We need to be able to pivot no matter what situation we are in."

The district has previously used the Florida Virtual School curriculum on a smaller scale and said most of the courses MNPS offers are already available through the platform, including honors and advanced courses and even career and technical education courses.


Parents struggle with the possibility of online classes this fall

Parents and teachers are struggling to prepare for the possibility that school will be online this fall.

“I’m terrified, honestly,” Kristienne, a mother of three from North Carolina, told the Washington Examiner. “I know my daughter’s friend’s mom is a single parent, an essential employee, and was coming home every day and spending hours every night helping two children with no other parental help.”

The fear of online classes this fall is keeping one stay-at-home mom from rejoining the workforce. “I was planning on going back in some capacity, but it's really not realistic if I will have to put my younger two into a day care during the day,” Katie, a 37-year-old mother of three, told the Washington Examiner. Anonymity was granted to parents and teachers who commented for this article.

School closures during the pandemic affected 55.1 million students and caused panic among parents and teachers, who had to reorder their lives to handle the sudden change.

Students weren't the only ones sent home. Millions of people lost their jobs during the coronavirus. Parents had to struggle to pay the bills while trying to help their children with schoolwork.

“I saw many other parents struggling, both with technology issues such as internet connectivity or not having the equipment they needed, as well as actually finding the time to teach the material to their kids,” said Rachelle, a substitute teacher from Texas.

“Parents were stressed,” said Karen, a 51-year-old kindergarten teacher from North Carolina. “I know kids were shuffled around so that parents could work.”

President Trump is urging schools to reopen this fall, but parents and teachers are still debating how to handle the virus.

New York City public schools have announced that they are not fully reopening this fall, Mayor Bill de Blasio has said, although the final arrangement is subject to the direction of state Gov. Andrew Cuomo. In the announced plan, school would be a mix of online and in-class learning. Classrooms would have no more than 12 people in the room. The plan would still leave parents struggling to help their children with online lessons or to find child care while they are at work.

Kristienne was able to get help from her mother to juggle her kids' schooling. Kristienne's mom took one of her daughters, who was doing relatively well with online learning, and Kristienne worked with her other daughter, who has a learning disability. "There was one week my mom attempted to take both girls just to see if she could do it. It was too much," she said.

Some days, Kristienne or her mother would spend the majority of the day helping the girls with their education. With "the girls starting their work at 9 a.m. and breaking only for lunch and bathroom and my mom sitting at the table with them the whole time, it was taking 10 hours," Kristienne said.

It was hard to keep up with lesson plans for the children and hard on the grandparents, Kristienne said. “They’re supposed to be able to enjoy the grandchildren without that sort of responsibility. Not to mention, I’m working 40 hours a week again and have even less time to help and make lesson plans.”

A child's short attention span makes at-home learning difficult for many. “Online schooling is not for everyone,” Katie said. “I’m very concerned with it for elementary-age kids, many will just not be successful.”

Katie's husband has an irregular work schedule. It is impossible for Katie to go back to the workforce this year like she hoped, and she is planning on pulling her youngest out of public school if it implements hybrid learning.

Katie said that is is very hard to "juggle" her youngest as "he is more needy and hands-on than the other two, who are older and can do things on their own." The youngest would distract her older children from their work, which is one reason why she won't pull her older kids out of school.

In the pandemic, thousands of teachers have been forced online with no prior training. Although there was a struggle switching online for some teachers, they were able to help their students with the switch and with homework.

“It wasn't very hard for us, but we are a very tech-savvy family,” said Rachelle, the Texas substitute teacher. Rachelle was able to help her own children along with some of her friends’ children with homework.

“It took quite a bit of balancing our schedules, my husband and I are teachers, after the initial adjustment that home and school were the same place,” Jamie, a mother of three from Pennsylvania, told the Washington Examiner.

Although teachers might have had an easier time adjusting with their own children this spring, they recognize that many parents were struggling during this time and need to plan ahead for the fall.

“Parents ... it's hard because if they work, they need to find someone to take care of the kids AND make sure they are doing their work. It's a lot of pressure on parents, but they have time to prepare as they all know it is a possibility,” Karen said.

During the wave of shutdowns in the spring, 60% of parents did not have any help caring for their children, according to a survey from the Boston Consulting Group. It is going to be hard for many to find help for the fall, regardless of the time they have to prepare right now.

Parents need now to discuss plans for the fall if online learning is offered again, Rachelle said. “I do think that the schools could be preparing teachers and parents better ahead of time, but honestly, I don't know how that would or should work,” she said.

Older siblings need to help their parents out with their younger siblings, Karen said. “Parents of younger kids have a tough job ... especially if they work. Someone has to help them online with work and meetups,” she said.


Warding off International Students Will Destroy US Jobs

An ongoing lawsuit filed by the American labor union, The Washington Alliance of Technology Workers, or “Washtech,” is threatening to increase unemployment and damage the ability of the US to attract highly-skilled foreign talent. The target of the lawsuit is Optional Practical Training (OPT), which allows international students to remain in the US for a limited period of time post-graduation.

As the authors of this piece are both international students from the UK, Patrick a graduate student at George Mason University, and Alice currently finishing her OPT year working at a university-based research center, the subject hits close to home. We promise we’re not trying to steal your jobs.

The current COVID-19 pandemic has already been used as a justification for curtailing immigration, and could add more fuel to the fire given concerns over high US unemployment. However, ending or limiting OPT will have a detrimental effect on US citizens both now and in the future.

OPT is a period of work authorization for international students in F1-visa status following the completion of a degree in the US The work must be related to the student’s field of study and generally lasts for 12 months, but may be extended an additional 24 months for students in STEM fields. The OPT program plays a key role in attracting international students to US universities.

The “Washtech” lawsuit challenges DHS authority in the initial ruling, and questions whether appropriate rulemaking procedures were followed in 2008 and 2016. Restricting the OPT program has also been on the Trump administration’s regulatory agenda for the last four years, and a target date of August 2020 has been set to enact amendments.

“Washtech” claims that the OPT program leads to reduced employment opportunities for US citizens. However, a team of scholars at the National Foundation for American Policy found that the OPT program had no effect on US employment, and that there was actually a negative relationship between unemployment and the number of OPT applicants between 2008 and 2016. Similarly, Business Roundtable modeled a scenario in which new immigration policy led to a 60 percent decline in OPT participation. They found that this would cause real US GDP to decline by about 0.25 percentage points by 2028, and lead to the loss of 255,000 jobs held by native-born workers.

In July 2019, several large business associations successfully petitioned to become party to the lawsuit in order to defend OPT suggesting that they are fearful of how changes could affect their bottom line. In November 2019, over 100 US colleges, ranging from Ivy League schools to state university systems, signed on to an amicus brief opposing the lawsuit.

Restricting OPT will stifle economic growth by creating persistent gaps in the labor market. It will disable businesses’ ability to acquire foreign talent based on market needs and scarcity of domestic workers. Research undertaken after the 2009 recession shows that this could be particularly advantageous during downturns.

Over the past few years, burdensome visa rules have influenced international students to choose countries with a more liberal stance on immigration, leading to a decrease in enrollment for U.S institutions. In Canada, for instance, foreign students automatically qualify for work permits upon graduation. If OPT were to be limited or ended, US universities would likely continue to see significant drops in the enrollment of foreign students.

During the 2018-19 academic year, international students contributed $39 billion to the US economy, and supported 455,622 American jobs. The Trump administration and “Washtech” claim to want to protect US jobs, but creating an unfriendly environment for international students will lead to the destruction of the very jobs that they support.

In addition, foreign students contribute to US exports when they spend money on university tuition, housing, dining, or other expenses while present in the US The Trump administration pledged to reduce the US “trade deficit,” but restricting the flow of foreign students will reduce America’s fifth largest export and widen the deficit further.

The possibility of working in the US attracts some of the world’s brightest young minds to its universities which drives innovation and economic growth. Studies have shown that international students are highly entrepreneurial and are far more likely to found startups and file patents than their American counterparts. A Mercatus Center study demonstrated that for every foreign worker hired in an industry, 5 to 7.5 domestic jobs are created for Americans in the same industry. In the 2019 edition of their Fortune 500 report, the New American Economy Research Fund showed that 45 percent of Fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants.

Innovation and entrepreneurial spirit create jobs and promote prosperity. Limiting or abolishing the OPT program will redirect the next generation of entrepreneurs toward countries with a more liberal stance on immigration, and deprive the US of future innovation and the job creation that would come with it.

“Washtech” and the Trump administration’s baseless claim that restricting the OPT program will reduce “foreign competition” is a fallacy. In the short term, US unemployment will increase as international student enrollment declines, while in the longer term, US innovation will lag inflicting serious collateral damage on us all.


Explosive College Recruiting Video on BLM Shows Why 'Wokey McWokeface' Needs Not Apply

Well, what do you know? A college that is as tired as you about how America’s colleges and universities have become literal factories for cranking out offended-nistas.

At this college there are no trigger warnings, safe spaces or boys in the girls’ showers.

Indeed, New St. Andrews College, a small school of about 200 students in Moscow, Idaho, is becoming known for its outspoken student recruitment videos, some of which are hilariously in your face in promising no coddling and no safe-spaces – just “clarity of thought.”

Though it’s gotten blowback for its recruiting videos recently, including for one called “Boys Will Be Boys,” about the politics of bathrooms, New St. Andrews College promises parents and incoming students only that it offers a traditional liberal arts education based on Christian values, using “dead teachers,” in a “riot-free” atmosphere.

Students and teachers are also are meeting in person this fall “free of masks, plastic wrap, Zoom classes, government money, and ‘safe’ spaces.”

But nothing is quite as in your face as this latest New St. Andrew’s (NSA) recruitment video, which features a discussion of Black Lives Matter, woke-ness, white supremacy and the sacredness of life.

No “Wokey McWokefaces” need apply. Indeed, they might be triggered by simply watching the video “Why Black Lives Matter” (see it below).

The video begins with a discussion of George Floyd and how his life mattered as well as the lives of millions of other black children who were killed in the womb.

The two-minute and 16-second video uses photos of the victims of abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, who killed babies after they were born and has been sentenced to life in prison for it.

We know this black life matters, but why doesn’t this one? We believe that all these black lives mattered. And (showing baby from Dr. Gosnell photos) tens of millions of others did too.

We believe that each and every human life matters, because regardless of culture or color, we’re made in the sacred image of almighty God, which is the only possible reason why any life could matter at all.

But there’s a lot more. Showing still photos of President Woodrow Wilson, abortion advocate Margaret Sanger, Andrew Carnegie and more, the video delves into why some black lives don’t matter to population-control zealots.

We believe that secular progressive white supremacists have been running a vile, genocidal, population control campaign in America that has straddled centuries. Trying to keep them from life, from adulthood, from power. From stable families and communities. And that matters.

We believe that the organization, Black Lives Matter, registered trademark, is a Marxist front that doesn’t care about black lives even half as much as an average white, pro-life, fly-over, Trump-voting, evangelical.

Every single black life matters, from conception to the grave and beyond into eternity.

That is God’s truth. And it’s a helluva lot more than BLM can say.

One must appreciate the guts it takes to be in the education space, filled with wokeness, gender “studies” and other “progressive” fields of study, and be unabashedly traditional in scope and Christian philosophy and then shout it from the rooftops.

NSA President Benjamin Merkle told PJMedia that the response “has been largely very positive. A lot of people feel like we are saying what they think but what no one else will say.”

It’s true. Imagine Harvard putting out a video like this one. Don’t bother trying, it never would. It’s even hard to imagine the schools in the Christian College Consortium producing anything this bold in standing up for their beliefs out of abject fear of offending anyone and hurting their bottom line.

While those places are staying in their self-made bounds of propriety, NSA is going in the other direction.

Merkle said that this video and the others like it aren’t only about recruitment, but empowerment for other colleges and those who would unthinkingly bend a knee “to Baal”:

“The college campus is what has been broken in America for some time, and nobody has been willing to notice or address the problem,” said Merkle. “That is why we are currently looking at a generation of students that have not been trained to think clearly and can so easily be swept up by Marxist ideology. We wanted to show that there was at least one knee out there that has not bowed to Baal.”

“If Christian colleges aren’t ready to be bold in this moment, there isn’t much of a future for them as distinctively Christian schools,” he warned.

I asked him if he’s getting more interested students and he said web traffic has been up but that won’t necessarily translate into new students. Mainly, the full-throated message he’s sending is to stand up to the rage mob and tell the truth. That hasn’t always gone over well.

“We’ve had a lot of people get upset,” he explained. “We had the mayor of our city also write an editorial in our local paper denouncing us. But I’ve seen a bunch of our alumni be really supportive. And my board is very behind us as well.”

And if the rioters come calling? “I’m not worried about physical safety.”


Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Princeton Black Faculty Writes Lengthy List of Demands For University to Follow in Order to Fight Racism

On July 4th, a group of Princeton faculty, mostly consisting of Black professors, wrote a letter to the university with nearly 50 demands, all as part of an effort to combat "anti-Black racism."

The letter was written to Princeton President Christopher Eisgruber, Provost Deborah Prentice, Deans Sanjeev Kulkarni and Jill S. Dolan, Vice President for Campus Life W. Rochelle Calhoun, and members of the Princeton Cabinet.

"Anti-Black racism has a visible bearing upon Princeton’s campus makeup and its hiring practices," the letter said. "It is the problem that faculty of color are routinely called upon to remedy by making ourselves visible; by persuading our white colleagues to overcome bias in hiring, admission, and recruitment efforts; and by serving as mentors and support networks for junior faculty and students seeking to thrive in an environment where they are not prioritized."

The group wants the school to implement changes at the university, faculty, postdoc, graduate, and undergraduate levels.

These professors are urging Princeton leadership to give seats at the "decision-making table" to the Black faculty who are "actively anti-racist and inclusive in their practices." They believe that the Princeton community needs to be educated about "the legacy of slavery and white supremacy."

Some of the other demands include addressing Princeton’s history with slavery as part of their freshman orientation process, rewarding the "invisible work" done by faculty of color with course relief and summer salary, elevating more faculty of color to prominent leadership positions, and removing questions about misdemeanors and felony convictions on all applications for both students and staff. These are just a few of the countless demands these faculty have asked of Princeton leadership.

At Princeton 9% of students are Black, 12% are Hispanic, and 25% are Asian. A total of 44% of students at the university are white.

In 2019 the average base salary for a college professor in America was $88,706. The average salary for a Princeton professor is $213,769, according to Business Insider.

"What we offer here are principled steps which, if implemented with care and in consultation with all affected parties, could immediately and powerfully move the dial further toward justice for this campus and, given Princeton’s influence, for the world," the letter concluded.

Princeton has yet to comment on the letter.


Universities Sowing the Seeds of Their Own Obsolescence

When mobs tore down a statue of Ulysses S. Grant and defaced a monument to African American veterans of the Civil War, many people wondered whether the protesters had ever learned anything in high school or college.

Did any of these iconoclasts know the difference between Grant and Robert E. Lee? Could they recognize the name "Gettysburg"? Could they even identify the decade in which the Civil War was fought?

Universities are certainly teaching our youth to be confident, loud and self-righteous. But the media blitz during these last several weeks of protests, riots and looting also revealed a generation that is poorly educated and yet petulant and self-assured without justification.

Many of the young people on the televised front lines of the protests are in their 20s. But most appear juvenile, at least in comparison to their grandparents -- survivors of the Great Depression and World War II.

How can so many so sheltered and prolonged adolescents claim to be all-knowing? Ask questions like these, and the answers ultimately lead back to the university.

Millions of those who graduate from college or drop out do so in arrears. There is some $1.5 trillion in aggregate student debt in the U.S. Such burdens sometimes delay marriage. They discourage child-rearing. They make home ownership hard -- along with all the other experiences we associate with the transition to adulthood.

The universities, some with multibillion-dollar endowments, will accept no moral responsibility. They are not overly worried that many of their indebted graduates discover their majors don't translate into well-paid jobs or guarantee employers that grads can write, speak or think cogently.

One unintended consequence of the chaotic response to the COVID-19 epidemic and the violence that followed the police killing of George Floyd is a growing re-examination of the circumstances that birthed the mass protests.

There would be far less college debt if higher education, rather than the federal government, guaranteed its own students' loans. If universities backed loans with their endowments and infrastructure, college presidents could be slashing costs. They would ensure that graduates were more likely to get good-paying jobs thanks to rigorous coursework and faculty accountability.

Taxpayers who are hectored about their supposed racism, homophobia and sexism don't enjoy such finger-wagging from loud, sheltered, 20-something moralists. Perhaps taxpayers will no longer have to subsidize the abuse if higher education is deemed to be a politicized institution and thus its endowment income ruled to be fully taxable.

If socialism has become a campus creed, maybe Ivy League schools can be hit with an annual "wealth tax" on their massive endowments in order to redistribute revenue to poorer colleges.

It is hard to square the circle of angry graduates having no jobs with their unaccountable professors who so poorly trained students while enjoying lifelong tenure. Why does academia guarantee lifetime employment to those who cannot guarantee that a graduate gets a decent job?

The epidemic and lockdown required distance learning, but at full price. The idea that universities can still charge regular rates when students are forced to stay home is not just an unsustainable practice, but veritable suicide. If one can supposedly learn well enough from downloads, Zoom talks and Skype lectures, then why pay $50,000 or more for that service from your basement?

Universities are renaming buildings and encouraging statue removal and cancel culture. But they assume they will always have a red line to the frenzied trajectory of the mob they helped birth. If the slaveholder and the robber baron from the distant past deserve no statue, no eponymous hallway or plaza, then why should the names Yale and Stanford be exempt from the frenzied name-changing and iconoclasm? Are they seen as billion-dollar brands, akin to Windex or Coke, that stamp their investor students as elite "winners"?

The current chaos has posed existential questions of fairness and transparency that the university cannot answer because to do so would reveal utter hypocrisy.

Instead, the university's defense has been to virtue-signal left-wing social activism to hide or protect its traditional self-interested mode of profitable business for everyone -- staff, faculty, administration, contractors -- except the students who borrow to pay for a lot of it.

How strange that higher education's monotonous embrace of virtue signaling, political proselytizing and loud social justice activism is now sowing the seeds of its own obsolescence and replacement.

If being "woke" means that the broke and unemployed are graduating to ignorantly smashing statues, denying free speech to others and institutionalizing cancel culture, then the public would rather pass on what spawned all of that in the first place.

Taxpayers do not yet know what to replace the university with -- wholly online courses and lectures, apolitical new campuses or broad-based vocational education -- only that a once hallowed institution is becoming McCarthyite, malignant and, in the end, just a bad deal.


Because Racism: Charter School System to Remove 'Work Hard. Be Nice.' as Its Official Slogan

On Wednesday the charter school organization The Knowledge is Power Program, commonly know as KIPP, announced that it will be retiring the slogan "Work hard. Be Nice." as school officials believe the phrase is counterproductive to abolishing systemic racism.

Richard Barth, KIPP Foundation CEO, said in a press release that after a letter from KIPP Co-Founder Dave Levin about the ways in which the organization can change its culture, he decided to axe the slogan as it "diminishes the significant effort required to dismantle systemic racism."

"Over the last few weeks, we have all been working hard to turn words into action, recognizing that there is still much more work to be done to eliminate any practice at KIPP that furthers systemic racism, anti-Blackness, and inequities experienced by our students, alumni, families, teachers, and staff," said Barth.

Levin's letter was full of white guilt, expressing how he takes blame for not doing enough on behalf of KIPP to stop racial injustice. The practice of disciplining students of color instead of making them feel "affirmed, uplifted, and celebrated" was wrong, he said.

"In recent years, I have come face to face with the understanding that white supremacy doesn’t just mean the public and hateful displays of racism; it applies to all aspects of the world that are set up for the benefit of and perpetuation of power for white people at the expense of Black, Latinx, and other People of Color," said Levin.

"Work Hard. Be Nice." certainly has the outward appearance of promoting values that would make life better for every person who chose to espouse them. But to Barth, the idea of being nice and working hard offered too narrow of a future for children who might want to be lazy and mean in order to get what they want. 

"[The slogan] places value on being compliant and submissive, supports the illusion of meritocracy, and does not align with our vision of students being free to create the future they want," his statement read.

In addition to the removal of the slogan, KIPP also plans to distribute grant money to communities most affected by the novel coronavirus and from racial trauma, eliminating discipline practices in schools that officials determine to be inequitable, providing a senior equity officer, along with countless other actions spurred by the killing of George Floyd.


The Decline of Free Speech Zones

The term “free speech zone” can be misleading. While the name implies a policy that promotes free expression, free speech zones do the opposite. They confine political demonstrations to a small, often secluded, area on campus and typically require students to get advance permission to demonstrate.

In Oregon, a pro-life group, Students for Life, filed a lawsuit against Chemeketa Community College in May to challenge the college’s free speech zone policy.

The college restricts outdoor speech to two small “free speech areas” and requires a two-week notice to use them. Students for Life claims that the policy violates their right to free speech and that the required notice prevents them from engaging in spontaneous political expression.

Even at schools that claim to have eliminated their free speech zone policies, though, colleges still restrict speech. In 2003, Western Illinois University said that it would eliminate its free speech area policy. However, when students protested to legalize marijuana in 2019, campus police told them to stop because they were outside the school’s free speech zone.

Thankfully, colleges have been cleaning up their act in recent years: free speech zones are on the decline. According to FIRE’s 2020 Spotlight on Speech Codes, only 8.3 percent of surveyed schools enforced free speech zone policies, down from 10.5 percent in 2019.

State legislatures have also acted against free speech zones. Seventeen states have passed legislation preventing free speech zone policies: Virginia, Missouri, Arizona, Kentucky, Colorado, Utah, North Carolina, Tennessee, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Arkansas, South Dakota, Iowa, Alabama, Oklahoma, and Texas.

Those annoying limitations on students exercising their Constitutional rights on campus may soon be a relic of the past.


Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Here's What This Liberal University Did When an Incoming Student Dared to Say She Supported Trump

Marquette University has threatened to reconsider their admission acceptance of a recent high school graduate, citing a pro-Trump video the teen posted to social media.

Samantha Pfefferle, an 18-year-old girl, said in an interview with The College Fix that her admission to the university was no longer a guarantee and she was forced to undergo a series of morality questions in order to prove she still belonged in the school's Class of 2024. 

Pfefferle said she was asked how she would respond if a "Dreamer who lived down the hall" came up to her and said "she didn’t feel safe or comfortable" with the conservative views or her presence on campus.

"[He] had the heart to tell me I wasn’t a student,” Pfefferle said. “This means that my classification is still in limbo and is currently being decided by the administration."

The video that Pfefferle posted to TikTok features the incoming freshman calling out the Trump haters and showing the world she does not care about what others think of her political beliefs.

She titled the video: "When the libs find their way to your page."

Pfefferle has a series of captions sprawled in the video, as she dances and sings to 6ix9ine's GOOBA.

The text sections read: "When people find out I support Trump, they try to hate on me...and change my views."

People viciously attacked Pfefferle in the comments section of the video that has nearly 600,000 views.

A "Trump 2020: Keep America Great" banner is noticeable in the background as well as a Trump sticker on a car parked in the driveway of her home.

“Someone burn her house down,” wrote a TikTok user.

"I hope you get shot," wrote one user.

“Congrats on outing yourself as a racist, homophobe, transphobe, and misogynist,” wrote another.

People quickly figured out what school Pfefferle was going to in the fall given the fact that she was wearing a Marquette sweatshirt and the “Marquette University 2024” sign behind her.

The trolls said they would report her actions to Marquette admissions. The recent high school grad welcomed the threats in subsequent videos and liberals made good on their promise as the school attempted to “reeducate” Pfefferle before she even stepped foot on campus.

Conservatives quickly took to Twitter to defend Pfefferle, and strongly encourage Marquette to reconsider their decision to give the incoming freshman an ultimatum.

“Defund academic leftist indoctrination!” tweeted Donald Trump Jr. “It’s truly sad to see what’s going on in college campuses.”

“Another example of the growing reality that colleges don’t want political diversity on campus,” said former Wisconsin governor Scott Walker. “Did they follow up with any incoming students who posted ‘Defund the Police’? I doubt it.”

“Marquette Univ. threatened to cancel 18 y/o, incoming freshman Samantha Pfefferle’s admission just for posting a pro-Trump video,” said TPUSA founder Charlie Kirk. “She is being attacked online and of course the media & university ignore all of it.”

The canceling of Samantha Pfefferle comes a week after a Harvard grad Claira Janover posted a TikTok of herself threatening to stab those who say “all lives matter.” There was no reaction or comment from Harvard regarding Janover’s actions. However, she was fired from her job at Deloitte.

Plenty of incoming freshmen and current college students have posted Black Lives Matter related commentary and some share at least one “woke” post with their followers on social media each day. Marquette’s actions infringe upon a student's right to freedom of speech and it's a prime example of the reason why so many young people are afraid to discuss their political beliefs in fear of the consequence.

A Marquette spokeswoman, in an email late Tuesday night, told Empower Wisconsin that the school had not rescinded Pfefferle’s offer, but she said “the admissions team did recently have a conversation with incoming freshman Samantha Pfefferle about statements made on her social media accounts.”

There is currently a petition to stop Marquette from removing Pfefferle from the school that already has collected thousands of signatures.


Trump Administration Pushes for Schools to Reopen in Fall

Some school districts were successful in distance learning during the spring COVID-19 outbreak, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said Wednesday, but far too many were disappointments and “just gave up.”

“Things like this cannot happen again in the fall. It would fail America’s students. It would fail taxpayers who pay high taxes for their education,” DeVos said during a press conference held by the White House coronavirus task force. “Ultimately, it’s not a matter of if schools should reopen. It’s simply a matter of how.”

Vice President Mike Pence, head of the task force, conducted the press conference at the Department of Education. It also included top public health officials, but President Donald Trump did not attend.

However, Trump addressed the matter during a Rose Garden event later Wednesday at the White House.

“The U.S. is by far No. 1 in testing, No. 1 in the world in testing, and the mortality rate is the lowest, or just about the lowest, of any nation in the world,” the president said. “And we are safely reopening our country and, very importantly, we are safely reopening our schools.”

During the earlier press conference at her department, DeVos acknowledged risks are involved in reopening schools, but added that “lost opportunities for students, particularly the most vulnerable among us” are also a risk, particularly for students with disabilities.

“It will look different depending on where you are,” DeVos said, referring to some states with a larger surge in COVID-19 cases than others. “What’s clear is that students and families need more options.”

She singled out Fairfax County, Virginia, a wealthy suburb of the District of Columbia where many federal workers live, as having what she called an “elite public school system” that had a disastrous performance.

“I talked to all of the state schools chiefs at least once, most of them more than once,” DeVos said. “They have told me that while many of the districts in their states have done well through the past several months, a number of them they were very disappointed in doing next to nothing.”

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said that different measures could be taken to ensure safety, such as keeping students in one classroom rather than having them switch classes.

Earlier Wednesday, Trump tweeted that in “Germany, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and many other countries, SCHOOLS ARE OPEN WITH NO PROBLEMS.” He added: “May cut off funding if not open!”

The Education Department is “seriously considering” using federal funds as an incentive for schools to reopen, DeVos said in an interview Tuesday night on Fox News Channel.

During the press conference, Pence took a softer approach, noting that 90% of school funding comes at the state and local level. The Trump administration will work with states based on their circumstances, he added.

The vice president stressed several times that public health experts favor reopening schools.

“What we heard again yesterday from education officials and what we heard from the American Academy of Pediatrics [is that] it’s absolutely essential that we get our kids back into the classroom for in-person learning,” Pence said, adding:

We can’t let our kids get behind academically. Remember that for children who have mental health issues, for special needs children, for nutrition, for children in communities facing persistent poverty, the school is the place where they receive all those services.

So, this is not just simply about making sure our kids are learning, advancing academically. But, for their mental health, for their well-being, for their physical health, for nutrition, we’ve got to get our kids back to schools.

Trump also went after the federal government’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in a tweet.

“I disagree with @CDCgov on their very tough & expensive guidelines for opening schools,” Trump tweeted. “While they want them open, they are asking schools to do very impractical things. I will be meeting with them!!!”

Dr. Robert Redfield, CDC director, sought to explain the goal of the guidelines, which include strong social distancing recommendations for children in schools.

“The guidance that CDC continues to put out for schools K-12 and higher learning is intentional for reopening and keeping our schools open,” Redfield said.

Redfield said the CDC would issue clarifications to the guidelines next week.

“I want to make it very clear, what is not the intent of CDC’s guidelines is [for them] to be used as a rationale to keep schools closed,” he said. “We are prepared to work with each school, each jurisdiction to help them use the different strategies they proposed, and help do it safely, so they come up with the optimal strategies for those schools.”

Redfield later noted: “In general, this virus does not cause significant damage in children.”

“Unlike influenza,” he said, “we really don’t have evidence that children are driving the transmission cycle of this.”

However, during a Rose Garden event later Wednesday, Trump addressed the matter.

“The U.S. is by far No. 1 in testing, No. 1 in the world in testing, and the mortality rate is the lowest, or just about the lowest of any nation in the world,” the president said. “And, we are safely reopening our country and very importantly, we are safely reopening our schools.”


There's a Brilliant Solution for Getting Kids Back to School—Which Is Why It'll Probably Get Shot Down

While some states have announced that schools will reopen as planned in the fall, others have indicated they won’t. Still others say they’re taking a wait-and-see approach.

Parents, teachers, and kids are stuck in educational limbo as the COVID-19 pandemic, or what’s left of it, drags into its sixth month (or is the seventh?). The novel coronavirus, which may have hitched a ride here from Wuhan, China, as early as last December, has largely passed over school-age children, with 14 deaths nationwide in the 5-14 age group, according to the CDC, and 149 deaths in the 15-24 age group.

I am in no way trivializing the tragedy of those deaths and the suffering of the families who lost loved ones, but that’s, at most, 163 deaths out of more than 50 million students—0.000326%.

And while most schools did not begin closing down until mid-March, the first death in the 5-14 group wasn’t recorded until the last week of March and by May 1 there had only been four deaths in that cohort—a month and a half after the shutdown. Compared to the number of children who die from accidents every year (more than 12,000), COVID deaths are statistically insignificant in the younger population.

While the risk of death from COVID is small for children, teachers are a different story. Many of them fall into the high-risk category due to age or preexisting health conditions. And many families have concerns for loved ones who might come into contact with a child who brings the virus home from school, or so the argument for keeping schools shuttered goes.

Laura Hill, a fifth-grade teacher in the Akron Public School system, told PJ Media that the benefits of allowing children to return to school far outweigh the risks for students.

“The majority of our students are disadvantaged by many factors in their home and community environments,” she said. “School attendance gives our kids a stable environment and a schedule to adhere to each weekday,” along with food and counseling in many cases. “Due to the family structure in economically disadvantaged homes, there is oftentimes little academic support for our students due to the parent either having to work a schedule that is not flexible or the parent simply becoming overwhelmed.” Most of her students last year were being raised by a single mom or grandmother. “I think I had five students out of 30 who were blessed to be in a household with a mom and dad,” she explained

So what’s the answer? Do we just keep schools closed until there is a vaccine? Do we reopen and let the chips fall where they may. Or is there another option?

Melanie Elsey, national legislative director for the American Policy Roundtable, thinks she may have a solution.

During the nonprofit public policy group’s COVID briefing on Thursday (watch below), Elsey said, “There’s a time crunch now because school is starting and parents are panicking because they want their children back in school.”

“There really isn’t any reason to not put children back in school since they are not the vulnerable population,” said Elsey, a former educator. “Teachers, though, are saying, ‘What if we are at risk? What if we’re the ones who catch the disease?'”

“My solution is that schools should put everyone back—five days a week—in the classroom, business as usual,” she said. “If a parent is concerned, allow that child to do distance learning. If a teacher has a concern for their own health, let that teacher be the one who teaches the distance learning. Assign the teachers who have concerns to the distance learning.”

That seems like a perfectly reasonable solution, doesn’t it? The people who are frightened and want to exercise extra caution can stay home, while those who think it’s safe to return to school can do so.

While Hill says older students might be able to handle remote learning, she thinks younger students, especially those in urban schools like the one where she teaches, “would feel more emotional stability if they could return to school full-time.”

“I know that some of the older people on staff in our building, especially those who are either immune-deficient in some way or have family members at greater risk do not want to return to their classrooms,” Hill said.

“I do think parents should be given options. If parents can provide a safe and stable environment that allows their student to work at home and desires to keep their child home to learn remotely they should have that right.” And teachers who don’t feel safe due to true health concerns “should be given the privilege to teach those students who will learn remotely.”

Sure, there will need to be some shuffling if some teachers remain at home while others return to the classroom. The regular first-grade teacher who decides she’s not ready to return to school might find herself with a fourth-grade online class—or a mixed-age class—but with a little flexibility and creativity it could be done.

The extraordinary times we live in call for outside-the-box solutions. Now’s as good a time as any—better, perhaps—to rethink the way we educate our children and to look for creative solutions to deal with the issues we face.


Australia: Citizens not all equal when it comes to the getting of wisdom

Civics should be taught in the schools.  But what if it degenerates into Leftist propaganda?  That is the dilemma conservative governments face.  The author below does not see it

What do we want our citizens to know? Applicants for citizenship must pass a test on the rudiments of our political system and they are given a booklet to prepare for it. Citizens by birth pass no such test, and many would not be able to answer an abstract question such as: “What arm of government has the power to interpret and apply the law?”

The test, introduced by the Howard government in 2007, is for new citizens. But what about those born here, including the children of these new citizens?

For about 20 years I taught first-year Australian politics at La Trobe University to large classes of students, many of whom were the first in their family to attend university, and many of whose parents were born overseas. In the first tutorial, I would ask them why they were studying politics.

Occasionally one said it was because they wanted to become a politician, but the most common answer was that they would soon be casting their first vote and so wanted to know more about how our political system worked. Obviou­sly, they did not feel that what they could learn from their parents would be enough.

Politics is now one of the discip­lines that Education Minister Dan Tehan wants to charge students a premium to study, along with others in the humanities and social sciences.

Much of the discussion of this has been about the esoteric upper reaches of these disciplines where French theorists such as Michel Foucault and Jacques Derrida are accused of spreading a conformist postmodernist relativism and under­mining confidence in the traditions and history of the West.

Defenders, such as Luke Slattery in Inquirer last month, stress the civilising role of the Western humanist tradition; others point to the lifelong benefits to individuals of learning how to read and think well, to the transferable skills of humanities and social ­science graduates and to their robust­ employment outcomes.

Little has been said, however, about what we want our young people to know. Bizarrely, Tehan’s schedule of HECS fees aims to encourage prospective students to do teaching while discouraging them from training in the disciplines many will actually teach, such as history, geography and politics. It also discourages them from studying subjects that would teach them about Australia, not to mention the countries from which many of them came.

My students learned nothing about Foucault or Derrida. Instead­ we studied Australia’s institutions of parliamentary demo­cracy, the challenge of balancing individual rights and liberties with democratic electoral politics, the tensions inherent in federalism, the histories of the parties. Such courses exist in every Australian university and thousands of students­ take them every year.

There are periodic outbursts of anxiety, especially from conservatives, about how little Australians know about the politics and histor­y of their own country. In January, in response to one such outburst, Tehan announced a special program of the Australian Research Council for research in Australian society, history and culture because, he said: ­“Between 2011 and 2020, just 3 per cent of grants under our primary competitive grant scheme — the Australian Research Council’s Discovery Grants — were in the areas of Australian society, history­ or culture.”

The reason for this is univer­sities’ competition for inter­national rankings, where Aust­ralian-focused research is at a disadvantage, but that is another story. The point is that the Morrison government recognises that the Australian community benefits from people knowing about our history, society and culture.

So why is it discouraging young people from studying them?


Monday, July 13, 2020

Restoring Racial Preferences Will Harm Many Who Are Supposed to Be Helped

California’s 1996 constitutional amendment that prohibits public institutions from preferentially discriminating by race, sex, and ethnicity may be reversed later this year to restore explicit affirmative-action policies.

Some social-justice groups and state legislators argue that opportunities, incomes, and college admissions of people of color and women are significantly depressed by significant racial, ethnic, and gender biases. According to these groups, the road to equal opportunity for women and people of color is giving job and college admission preferences to them to offset the racism and biases that these groups face.

But claims that these preferences are needed to give people of color and women a fair shot is not supported by a substantial body of research studying the effects of race and sex-based preferential treatment. In fact, several studies indicate that protected groups may have significantly worse outcomes with these preferences than without.

The impact of Proposition 209 on minority student academic performance and graduation rates appears to be positive and substantial. Professor Gail Heriot studied student performance at UC San Diego and found immediate improvement among underrepresented groups. Immediately before the implementation of Proposition 209, only one black student in a first-year class of more than 3,000 students had a GPA of 3.5 or higher, compared to 20 percent of the white students in the first-year class. But the following year, 20 percent of black students had a 3.5 GPA or better after their first year, comparable with whites.

Moreover, 15 percent of black students and 17 percent of Native American students had GPA less than 2.0 before Prop 209, compared to 4 percent of white students. Immediately after Proposition 209’s implementation, this record changed substantially, with the black and native American rates falling to just 6 percent, nearly the same as whites.

More broadly, The University of California reported that underrepresented minority four-year graduation rates rose from about 31 percent just before Prop 209 to 55 percent by 2014.

Moreover, six-year graduation rates for underrepresented minorities has increased to about 75 percent. Admission rates also rose significantly for all underrepresented minorities except African Americans, which stayed about the same. Hispanic student enrollment rates increased from 15 percent to 23 percent, and the rate for Asian Americans increased from 28 percent to 37 percent. The UC student body is by far the most diverse in its history.

A study by four Duke economists shows that after Prop 209, minority graduation rates in California increased, reflecting in part better matching between students and colleges. Matching is the idea that a student will flourish at a college that is the right fit for the person but may have a very difficult time at a college that is not a good fit for them.

For example, suppose that under ethnic admission preferences UC Berkeley aggressively recruits a Latino student, but that the student discovers that UC Berkeley is not the right fit, and then drops out. Without Prop 209, what has happened is that this hypothetical student may have a lower chance of admission at Berkeley and ends up choosing a different college in the UC system that ultimately will be a better match or them.

As Professor Heriot, a member of the US Civil Rights Commission describes, there are many gifted minority students, but not enough to fill the nearly insatiable demands for race and ethnic diversity by colleges. With racial and ethnic preferences, colleges race against one another to see who can assemble the most racially and ethnically diverse first-year class, and the students who fall through the cracks are ultimately the ones who are hurt.

I personally have seen the enormous harm that can be done to a struggling minority student who is not at the right college. I began my teaching career at the University of Pennsylvania. While there, an African American student came to see me, explaining that she was really struggling with her schoolwork and apologizing for her failing grade in my class.

We spoke for quite a long time. She was very bright and creative but had gone to a poorly performing high school where she learned far less than her student peers at Penn. She was extremely depressed, and I helped her connect with student counseling.

She ended up leaving Penn, but we kept in touch afterwards. She enrolled in a junior college to learn what she needed, and ultimately graduated from the University of Maryland. I was delighted to see her succeed, but at the same time, it is sad to think of the many students like her who do not.

The study also found that colleges have done a much better job since passage of Prop 209 in supporting these students should they face academic or other challenges.

There is an important inconsistency regarding the argument of those desiring to restore race-based preferences. Students of Asian descent are much more represented in the UC system, compared with their population share, since Proposition 209. And in terms of gender bias, women now represent nearly 59 percent of the UC student body. This suggests that doing away with Proposition 209 is not about bias and bigotry per se. Instead, the argument is simply used to justify preferential treatment of certain groups.

What is the solution? An incredibly important issue that many California legislators refuse to discuss is the deficient performance of California K–12 education. California ranks 40th for educational quality among US states.

And this is just a relative ranking. Compared to those around the world, US outcomes are roughly in the middle of the pack of peer countries and, in some years, below average and trailing those of much poorer countries. In math achievement, even the highest-performing US states significantly trail the countries with the leading education systems.

More striking is that within California, students from low-income families typically attend the worst-performing public schools. It has been estimated that only about 5 percent of African American students are attending high-performing schools, while whites and those of Asian descent are much more likely to attend a high-performing school.

Creating a high-performing school system is a key part of the foundation toward building a society where all have the knowledge base and skills to succeed. Year after year, California school performance remains far below acceptable, despite substantial budget increases. The bulk of peer-reviewed research shows that this deficiency is significantly related to policy.

This body of research concludes that implementing common-sense reforms to the rules governing tenure and promotion, to pay criteria, and to the high costs of firing a poorly performing teacher would substantially raise student performance. These reforms have become so obviously needed that they are constantly advanced within policy circles, but they ultimately are suppressed by teacher unions, which in turn have a very close political relationship with many California lawmakers.

California state senator Ling Ling Chang (R-Diamond Bar) recently remarked, “Our academic admission process should be fair and even for all who apply. Having institutions of higher learning pick winners and losers based on nothing more than race is an abhorrent practice and something that should not be allowed ever in this country.”

Senator Chang’s statement should be heeded. The evidence indicates that implementing racial and gender preferences may significantly harm the very groups targeted to benefit from this policy. There are common-sense education reforms that will do so much more than race-based preferential policies.

But these education reforms are blocked by the legislators who ironically claim to be the strongest representatives of these targeted groups. Meanwhile, another generation of students from poor households will receive a deficient K–12 education and will face adulthood with far fewer opportunities than they could—and should—have.


Better than Common Core: Florida’s New K-12 Standards Raise the Bar, Says New Report

The Independent Institute has published a briefing that vindicates Florida’s K-12 curriculum-content standards. A team of education policy experts demonstrates that Florida’s standards have particular strengths relative to their predecessor Common Core in areas such as knowledge acquisition and guidance for teachers. The guidelines actually offer a new gold standard that other states may well choose to emulate.

In the Spring of 2020, the Florida Department of Education announced its new state standards called “B.E.S.T.”, for Benchmarks for Excellent Student Thinking. B.E.S.T. is a replacement for the Obama-era Common Core Standards in English and mathematics. The change came after Governor Ron DeSantis, who had vowed to “eliminate the Common Core from Florida schools,” issued a 2019 executive order to create new curriculum-content standards.

Such a switch was controversial, with academics and parents expressing concerns. A critical report published by the Fordham Institute even warned that the B.E.S.T standards “aren’t ready for prime time.”

The Independent Institute’s positive review was written by Ze’ev Wurman, former senior policy adviser with the Office of Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development at the U.S. Department of Education; Dr. David Steiner, Executive Director, the Johns Hopkins Institute for Education Policy; with Dr. Ashley Berner, Deputy Director, the Johns Hopkins Institute for Education Policy; and Dr. James Milgram, emeritus professor of mathematics at Stanford University and one of the 23 members of the Common Core Validation Committee. Steiner is former commissioner of education for the State of New York and former dean of the school of education of Hunter College in New York City.

In their review of the English standards, Dr. David Steiner and Dr. Ashley Berner offer their recommendations for further improvement to the standards, while concluding, “In its essential elements, the B.E.S.T standards are the strongest standard in ELA currently in use in the United States” and “can stand as a new model for the country.” They note that many of the criticisms of the B.E.S.T Standards are simply mistaken about what is contained in the standards and discount their coherence.

In his review of the B.E.S.T. math standards, Dr. James Milgram praises them for their clarity and walks through several examples of effective mathematics questions.


Australia: Inside medicine’s culture of racism, bullying and harassment

I have no doubt that the instances described below did happen.  What I doubt is that they are common.  The medical profession encounters many of the hard edges of human society so is less idealistic.  As a result they can be cynical and reserved in their approach to others.

I see something of that when I meet a medical practitioner who is new to me.  When they hear that I am a retired university lecturer, their attitude to me visibly warms.  I become one of them rather than someone who has to be approached with caution. And I do generally get on well with doctors.

So I can see that doctors have been hardened by experience and that might make them unsympathetic or abrupt on occasions.  But does that do much harm?  One would think that Asian students might be treated unkindly and I believe that they are on occasions.  But the large numbers of Asian doctors I encounter one way or another tells me that they are pretty good at surviving any such travails.  The large number of female doctors tells a similar story

And the assumption that receivers of donor sperm usually prefer Caucasians as the donors is not ignorant. It is simply wrong. The fact is that Caucasian types are overwhelmingly preferred by recipients.  England gets a high proportion of its donated sperm from Denmark, where blue eyes and blond hair are common.  The Viking invasion is not over!

So the claim that medicine has a culture of racism, bullying and harassment surely has  something to it but not much

Being told indirectly that, unless you’re a white man, no one is going to want your sperm is not something you forget.

But medical students say racist slurs, social exclusion, gender discrimination and inappropriate jibes from their superiors are a common experience and it highlights the need for urgent changes in the industry.

Sam, a fifth-year medical student who is a person of colour, says bullying is “endemic” in medicine, especially if you are not white.

He has been subject to a number of slurs, including one incident a few weeks ago involving a midwife in the IVF ward of a Sydney hospital.

The student was in the room when a group of nurses were discussing a female patient who had requested an Asian sperm donor. “(The midwife) said, ‘I don’t understand why you wouldn’t want to use caucasian sperm’,” Sam explained.

And Sam’s not alone. Many of his peers have also endured deeply unpleasant experiences.

Another fifth-year student, Tim*, said he benefited from being a white man in the medical industry and wanted to do more to help his international colleagues.

“It’s difficult to report because a lot of this stuff toes the line. It’s not like someone has slapped you across the face; it’s usually much less obvious,” Tim said.

One example he gave involved a teacher who was very particular about students arriving to class on time, and wouldn’t let them in if they were late.

“One day I arrived a few minutes late and he said, ‘Don’t worry, come in and sit down.’ But a student from an Indian background arrived straight after me and he wouldn’t let him in,” Tim explained.

“Then I noticed it was a repetitive thing. He’d let the caucasian students in but not the international students. It’s just not good enough.”

From belittling, to sexist comments and favouring male colleagues, sexism in medicine has also been allowed to flourish.

One female medical students told NCA NewsWire she was placed in a male-dominated team that made jokes about women being in surgery.

“They would say, ‘Why are you here? You need a family-friendly career,’” the student said.

“I couldn’t report it because I was the only female student in there and it would have been obvious that it was me.”

A second female student said while her experiences had been good, everyone assumed she was a nurse, not a doctor.

“Most of my teachers always refer to doctors being a ‘he’ and nurses being a ‘she’,” the student explained.

Sam supported those comments saying when he entered a theatre no one asked any questions, but when females do they were queried.

All four students described being ignored or hounded in front of patients or fellow staff.

When Tim spent time as part of a neurosurgery team, he should have done ward rounds and accompanied seniors into surgery. Instead, he was ignored.

“When they found out I was a student and not doctor, they wouldn’t even acknowledge me or say hello. This continued the entire time,” he said.

“For the majority of that term, it wasn’t what they were saying; it was them not saying anything.”

And when they were speaking, they often spent it belittling the Sydney student.

He said things escalated when he noticed a patient wasn’t responding to questions and failed to open her eyes, or move her hands.

“I thought, ‘this could be life-threatening’ so I said to the doctor, ‘Shouldn’t we do something? She doesn’t look good.’ But in front of everyone, they would be really dismissive and start asking things like, ‘What do you think is wrong with her? What should you do?’” he said.

“That patient was quite ill and no one was doing something about it.”

While not all doctors gave students a rough time, many have experienced verbal abuse, social exclusion, racial discrimination, gender stereotyping and general rudeness, usually from surgeons and physicians.

A report, published by BMC Medical Education and driven by fifth year UNSW Medicine student Laura Colenbrander, found in the past year alone Bankstown-Lidcombe, St George, Royal Prince Alfred, Westmead and Tamworth hospitals had all made headlines regarding mistreatment of junior doctors.

The hierarchical structure of medicine fuelled the “endemic culture” of bullying and harassment, often perpetrated by senior staff, Ms Colenbrander’s study found.

All four students said the hierarchy created barriers to reporting mistreatment, as they feared they would be labelled a troublemaker.

Students were also concerned it would affect career progression or that reporting avenues did not guarantee confidentiality or an outcome.

“Senior doctors were overwhelmingly considered unapproachable because they were ‘self-important’, sexist, uninterested, too busy, or participants feared verbal abuse,” the report states.

Australian Medical Students Association president Daniel Zou said the reporting processes for bullying and harassment remained unclear to many medical students.

“There should be confidential, easily accessible, clearly communicated and consistent reporting pathways available for all medical students,” he told NCA NewsWire.

“In many hospitals and medical schools, there are no guaranteed confidential reporting processes or anonymous reporting processes. For those hospitals and medical schools that do, they are oftentimes confusing pathways, inaccessible and ineffectual.”

Tim argued the industry had a responsibility to teach students about what bullying and harassment was.

“There are a lot of things we didn’t realise were serious,” he said. “And a lot of medical students won’t report it because we know nothing will happen. It’s not a big enough issue to bring up with top-level hospital management.”

Of the four study participants in Ms Colenbrander’s research who had reported an incident or knew someone who had, none had experienced desired outcomes.

This included sexist behaviour from surgeons on which the clinical school had insufficient authority to act.

This harassment extends beyond students. In 2015, the Australian Medical Association (AMA) confirmed more than 50 per cent of doctors and trainees (not including medical students) had been bullied or harassed, with verbal harassment among consultants most commonly cited.

Ms Colenbrander said the issue of bullying and harassment “spoke to her” because she knew many students who had experienced this in a hospital setting. “It just seemed widespread,” Ms Colenbrander told NCA NewsWire.

“Personally my experiences have been really positive. I’ve had great teachers and experiences but I’ve also definitely experienced the underbelly of medicine.”

According to a survey released by the Medical Board of Australia, one in three trainee doctors in Australia have experienced or witnessed bullying, harassment or discrimination in the past 12 months.

However, only a third have done anything about it, with 57 per cent believing they would suffer negative consequences if they reported the inappropriate behaviour.

And mistreatment of medical students will no doubt have long-term consequences on the nation’s future doctors.

“It has an epidemic bullying culture. Medicine isn’t immune from the stuff that happens in other professions. It’s still very rife and still there,” Sam said. “These are the people that look after you, so why can’t they look after their own.”