Teachers are the most important individuals in a child’s schooling, and during the pandemic, they have gone above and beyond to reach out to students.
AFT President Randi Weingarten and NEA’s Becky Pringle are to be commended for speaking out about Covid-19 in support of student and teacher safety. The teachers’ unions have been criticized unfairly for trying to do what’s right for the safety of students and teachers.
But why does their new post-Covid-19 guide tip a hat towards nonprofits and groups that are not friendly to teachers and public education?
How exactly will schools change after Covid-19? Are teachers aware of the union connections and what they mean by words like restructuring schools? Is it about online learning? How involved will teachers be in that restructuring process and is it for the betterment of students?
Learning Beyond Covid: A Vision for Thriving in Public Education at first glance might seem positive and it makes some good points. But many of the links raise questions. Why are the teachers’ unions highlighting these groups?
The Aspen Institute and Social-Emotional Learning
The Aspen Institute has always been about privatizing public education, highlighting charter schools, and promoting school choice with Education Reform Now and ExcelinEd.
The cited Aspen paper here has to do with social-emotional learning (p. 5). There’s much student well-being talk which is expected after what students have gone through with the pandemic. But social-emotional learning was controversial before the pandemic.
The same questions remain. When does the student behavioral data collected online become intrusive? Who is privy to this information? How will it be used?
Aspen is mentioned also referencing their Climate Play which they co-wrote with ExcelinEd.
Here are the primary funders of the Aspen Institute.
New Hampshire Department of Education Highlighting PACE, a Competency-Based Program
PACE has been criticized for being online outcomes-based instruction connected to Common Core State Standards. Here’s the article about it connected to the Christensen Institute, which is all about disruption with online learning.
Beware especially of the conversion of high-stakes standardized testing to the online assessment for which CBE is known. Why is the union highlighting this form of assessment (p. 6)?
The unions want teachers “profession ready” and they promote Teacher Residencies, specifically noting San Francisco and Seattle as the way to make teachers (p. 13). But these alternative programs are much like Teach for America, promoting service more than choosing teaching as a profession.
The Community Schools Playbook
The idea of community schools has gained popularity, and schools that bring people together who care deeply about students and their needs are important. Questions have to do with the emphasis on partners and whether they take over the public’s ownership of their schools.
What do they mean by deeper assessment? Where does the teacher fit in a thriving ecosystem? How are teachers empowered with Battelle for Kids?
It’s critical that children get good health care. No child can be expected to learn if they are unwell. Schools have always included some health screenings. But if schools become the dominant place for health care to occur because children have no other access to it, what happens to the school?
Are they truly community schools if outside corporations or individuals take control? The school board is critical to democratic public schools. Partners may facilitate this process or they may end it.
If outside entities take over the school, isn’t like another charter school?
The unions have connected with The Community Schools Playbook (p. 14) and they highlight Partnership for Community Schools. Scroll through the groups here.
There are some good groups here. But Teach Plus, Education Reimagined, Remake Learning, Big Picture Learning, Consortium for Educational Change, Nellie Mae Education Foundation, The Alliance to Remake Schools, are about changing schools to emphasize technology.
Where do teachers fit?
The Center on Great Teachers & Learners from The American Institutes for Research (AIR)
The self-assessment tool highlighted here (p.19) for teachers might have some good suggestions, social-emotional learning tool for teachers, but it comes from a group that is part of AIR which has a long list of clients including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, The Education Trust, AT&T, and universities and school districts, and more.
The real clients in public schools are the children, but even then, the word clients is a business word that doesn’t seem to fit.
Learning Forward is mentioned as promoting teacher growth, but they include the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, American Express, Get It Right: Common Sense on the Common Core campaign from the Learning First Alliance, Teach to Lead, and many more groups that are about school privatization.
Has there been a miraculous change since the pandemic? Have these organizations, most of them funded and supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, changed their stance about public schools? Are they now in tune with the democratic foundation of what makes a public school?
Where do teachers stand when it comes to schools after Covid-19?
Christine Langhoff says
Seems to be abiding by the maxim, “never let a crisis go to waste”. That Weingarten and Pringle are touting these ideas certainly does not mean teachers in their unions support or agree with their advocacy. Chuck Schumer and Randi have also supported giving money for covid relief to private schools, as reported here in the NYT. What is going on?
Nancy Bailey says
Agree. What is going on, is what teachers should be asking. Thanks, Christine. Great point!
Sheila Resseger says
This is very worrisome, but unfortunately not a huge surprise. That the union leadership is in sync with the usual suspects of public school disruption/privatization via a misguided technocratic mindset about accountability and data-mining, is unconscionable. Will the rank and file teachers union members fight back?
Nancy Bailey says
Are they too tired? How will they find the time? Thanks, Sheila.
If it quacks like a duck…
Lawrence D'Amico says
Teacher unions are supporting their members safety, compensation, and professional respect–as they should be. We must not be fooled by pseudoscientists during this crisis. In that spirit, let’s be supportive of Governor Gavin Newsom’s good, tough-minded, science-based decision instead of libertarian tax malingerers who want to scapegoat teachers by rushing to open based on Florida’s deceptive “success” with COVID-19:
“The shrinking difference in the death rates is likely the product of California’s higher levels of poverty, density, overcrowding and climate that make it particularly susceptible to coronavirus spread, experts say.
““The comparison of California and Florida is not fair,” said Ali Mokdad, an epidemiologist at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington. “California is a much harder situation than what Florida has to deal with.”
About 55% of California residents live in counties with a high “social vulnerability” score — a measure of how severely a disease outbreak might affect a region — while only a quarter of Floridians do. California’s rate of overcrowding in homes, a metric linked to coronavirus spread, is also more than double Florida’s.
“In many places we have much greater vulnerability than Florida, so it’s comparing apples and oranges,” L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti said.
The dry air in California may also be a challenge, especially compared with humid Florida. Researchers are still learning about how climate affects the coronavirus, but some studies suggest that when the air is humid, virus droplets fall to the ground faster, so people are less likely to become infected.
California also has a longer flu and pneumonia season, a pattern that the coronavirus tends to follow, Mokdad said. And in the fall, there may have been an extra-contagious strain of the virus circulating locally that further complicated matters.
Because of the many ways California is more susceptible to coronavirus spread, replicating Florida’s relaxed approach may have had devastating consequences here. Arizona, which has lax restrictions similar to Florida’s, has the nation’s fifth-highest COVID-19 death rate. An additional 38,000 Californians would be dead if the state’s per-capita deaths matched Arizona’s.
“If California had behaved like Florida, where mask use and physical distancing was not being practiced as thoroughly, our cumulative death rate would have been higher than Florida,” UCLA medical epidemiologist Dr. Robert Kim-Farley said.
“And conversely, had Florida been practicing California’s more rigorous attention to masking and physical distancing, curtailing indoor dining, et cetera, it would have followed a death rate trajectory that would have been the same or lower than California … because their vulnerability index was lower.”
And if we had all followed the swift restrictions enacted by South Korea or Australia or New Zealand, most of us would still be alive.
Eloise Wyatt says
Why is Randii Weingarten still head of the AFT. She has done nothing but throw teachers. under the bus for her own political benefit