Discover more from COVID-19 Policy Update
Covid-19 Policy Update #653
The Long Shadow of Covid School Closures: Via the NYT:
"Many other education leaders took a different approach in 2020 and came to favor a faster reopening of schools. In Europe, many were open by the middle of the year. In the U.S., private schools, including Catholic schools, which often have modest resources, reopened. In conservative parts of the U.S., public schools also reopened, at times in consultation with local teachers’ unions."
"Some people did contract Covid at these schools, but the overall effect on the virus’s spread was close to zero."
"Despite the emerging data that schools were not superspreaders, many U.S. districts remained closed well into 2021, even after vaccines were available."
"And children suffered as a result. They lost ground in reading, math and other subjects. The effects were worst on low-income, Black and Latino children. Depression increased, and the American Academy of Pediatrics declared a national emergency in children’s mental health. Shamik Dasgupta, a philosopher at the University of California, Berkeley, who became an advocate for reopening schools, called the closures “a moral catastrophe.”
"Dasgupta, the Berkeley philosopher, has a thoughtful way of framing this failure. As he wrote to me in an email:It is clear that extended school closures were a mistake — they harmed children while having no measurable effect on the pandemic. It is also clear that teachers’ unions were a major factor behind the closures. But remember that the unions were just doing their job. Their remit is to advocate for their members and that is exactly what they did."
‘The Most Dangerous Person in the World Is Randi Weingarten’: Via the NYT.
"This crisis has political consequences. The pandemic closures and classroom culture wars have fueled the revival of the dormant school-choice movement, with Republican-led states around the country passing an array of far-reaching school-voucher bills. These bills come in different forms but share a common goal: to enable parents to move their children out of America’s government-run education system en masse."
"A frequent knock on the A.F.T. is that it puts teachers before students, a framing neatly encapsulated by a quote attributed to the union’s former president Al Shanker: “When schoolchildren start paying union dues, that’s when I’ll start representing the interests of schoolchildren."
"Weingarten did not believe the Trump administration was giving schools what teachers needed to return to work safely. She publicly denounced Trump and DeVos’s call to reopen as “reckless,” “callous” and “cruel,” and the A.F.T. passed a resolution supporting local strikes if schools were forced to reopen in areas where a variety of safety conditions hadn’t been met. As if to underscore the point, some teachers took to the streets in protest with mock coffins."
"Florida became a test case. Even as the state’s Covid death rate was surging in July, its Department of Education issued an emergency order requiring schools to fully reopen in August. The state’s largest teachers’ union, the Florida Education Association, affiliated with both the A.F.T. and the N.E.A., sued DeSantis and his education commissioner, Richard Corcoran, among others, to block the reopenings, arguing that the order violated the state’s Constitution, which guarantees Florida residents the right to “safe” and “secure” public schools."
"At a virtual news conference announcing the lawsuit, Weingarten accused DeSantis of being in “intense denial.” After some Florida schools started reopening, an A.F.T. political action committee produced a TV ad attacking Trump, citing claims that schools were becoming superspreader sites and that children were being used as “guinea pigs.”
"On the eve of the April runoff election, Weingarten headed to Chicago to speak at a Johnson political rally headlined by Bernie Sanders. Both the A.F.T. and the C.T.U. continued to funnel money into Johnson’s campaign as the election approached, their combined contributions totaling $4.6 million. “All of this stuff is about power,” observed a local community activist, Ja’Mal Green, who had run in the first round of the election but didn’t make the runoff and was now supporting Vallas."
Randi Weingarten’s Incredible Covid Memory Loss: Via the WSJ Editorial Board.
"Much still needs to be learned about the long-term health effects of Covid-19, but we already know one of the clear long-term political effects: memory loss. That’s the only way to explain why long-time advocates of pandemic lockdowns are now denying they ever supported the school and economic shutdowns that did so much harm to so many."
"Alas, her “detail” omitted a few things. Such as her description in July 2020 of the Trump Administration’s push to reopen schools for in-person learning that autumn as “this reckless, this callous, this cruel.” That summer she also endorsed teacher “safety strikes” if unions deemed local reopening protocols to be inadequate. Hundreds of private and charter schools did open that fall without the surge of illness that Ms. Weingarten claimed to fear."
"After Gov. Ron DeSantis ordered Florida schools to reopen in autumn 2020, the Florida Education Association sued the state to keep them closed. The schools opened—much to the benefit of students who learn far better in person according to all the evidence."
"Ms. Weingarten and others are trying to rewrite history because they realize now, far too late, that their lockdowns are unpopular. The public can see the damage in lost learning and livelihoods. The lockdown lobbyists want everyone to forget it all happened, but it’s important for democratic accountability that they don’t get away with it."
Related: Weingarten Sets the Record Straight Over School Reopening: Via the AFT.
CDC: The CDC will end its Covid community-level tracking program, which provided information on how the virus was spreading where you live.
White House: Pint-sized "Secret Service agents" stole the show at the White House's Take Your Child to Work Day.
Face Mask Recommendations In Schools Did Not Impact COVID-19 Incidence Among 10–12-year-olds in Finland: New study: "According to our analysis, no additional effect was gained from mandating face masks, based on comparisons between the cities and between the age groups of the unvaccinated children (10–12 years versus 7–9 years)."
Novavax COVID Vaccine Estimates 100% Efficacy Against Hospitalizations:New study.
Tennessee: Congrats Penny and Lizzette!
"Tennessee education chief Penny Schwinn, one of the nation’s most high-profile state superintendents, who worked to expand tutoring and revamp literacy during the toughest days of the pandemic, will announce today that she is stepping down, effective June 1."
"In addition to launching the tutoring initiative to curb learning loss, Schwinn shepherded a new school funding formula through the legislature and positioned Tennessee as the first state with a federally registered teacher apprenticeship program. At the same time, she told The 74 in an exclusive interview last week, she weathered distracting culture war battles over the way race and gender is taught in the state’s classrooms."
"Lee will appoint Lizzette Gonzalez Reynolds, a school choice advocate with experience in state and federal policy, to be her successor. Currently vice president of policy with nonprofit ExcelinEd — which has been instrumental in the rapid expansion of education savings accounts in Republican-led states — Reynolds said she plans to pick up where Schwinn left off."
"Of the 38 states where superintendents are appointed and not elected, Tennessee will be the 17th to have a new permanent or acting chief since January 2022 — a mark of the widespread leadership turnover in the profession since the pandemic."
Texas: Burbio analyzed 2022-23 enrollments. Overall enrollment increased 1.7% versus 2021/22, representing the largest increase of the 41 states that have announced 2022-23 enrollments to date.
First Republic Bank Is Seized, Sold to JPMorgan in Second-Largest U.S. Bank Failure: Via WSJ: "JPMorgan said it will assume all of First Republic’s $92 billion in deposits—insured and uninsured. It is also buying most of the bank’s assets, including about $173 billion in loans and $30 billion in securities."
The ‘Some College, No Credential’ Cohort Grows: "The population of learners who stopped out of college without completing rose 3.6% between July 2020 and July 2021."
"That’s an additional 1.4 million people on top of the 39 million reported last year."
"Academic outcomes for these students also worsened. The number who returned to college fell 8.4%, those who earned a credential within a year after re-enrolling dropped 11.8% and those who continued on to a second year of college after re-enrolling fell 4.3 percent."
US Growth Seen Outpacing China’s for First Time Since 1976: Via Bloomberg.
State Education Budget Priorities: Burbio analyzed 35 state education budget documents for 2024 and ran some keywords through them to evaluate priorities. Below is a chart of key terms and the percent of state budgets that mention the term at least once.
Louisiana and Montana Test Out New, Less Time-Consuming Tests: Rick Hess interviews Arthur VanderVeen, the founder and CEO of New Meridian over at EdNext.
"We are trying to reduce overall testing time while providing greater value to those who need it most: teachers and students. There’s no question that an effective teacher using a coherent and research-based curriculum is the greatest lever for accelerating student learning. We want to design assessments that reinforce that quality teaching, not disrupt it."
"That is why we are developing a new system of modular mini-assessments that can be flexibly aligned to a local curriculum to inform instruction while also providing a reliable, comparable measure of students’ mastery of grade-level standards. This approach will create a single system of assessments that gives teachers actionable instructional data, enables district administrators to monitor school performance and direct resources, and meets federal accountability requirements."
"In total, the studies analyzed included 40,807 subjects pre-COVID and 33,682 subjects during the COVID-19 pandemic, from a total of 53 longitudinal studies."
"The pandemic likely worsened depression for those already experiencing depressive symptoms, while triggering new symptoms in those who had never yet experienced a depressive episode."
COVID Policies Failed Our Kids and Schools. Can We Learn From It, Rebuild Trust: Cynthia Allen in the Star-Telegram.
Why Reading Matters – Now More Than Ever: Via BRT: A CEO Action Plan to Support Improved U.S. Literacy Rates
ChatGPT Might Show More Empathy Than Docs: New study in JAMA which had doctors and ChatGPT answer medical questions.
A clinical team evaluate both of the answers to each of the questions, rating them on the quality of the answers and the empathy demonstrated.
ChatGPT won. Evaluators preferred the response by the computer nearly 80% of the time over the human doctor's answer.
Marshall "Mike" Smith: Passed away this morning. "He had a distinguished career in academia and government, and wanted what in his view was best for kids and worked for it. Instrumental in standards based reform."
Rabbi Harold S. Kushner: Passed away at 88.
"Rabbi Kushner wrote “When Bad Things Happen to Good People” (1981) after the death of his son, Aaron. At age 3, just hours after the birth of the Kushners’ daughter, Aaron was diagnosed with a rare disease, progeria, in which the body ages rapidly."
"We can't pray that God make our lives free of problems; this won't happen, and it is probably just as well. We can't ask Him to make us and those we love immune to diseases, because He can't do that. We can't ask Him to weave a magic spell around us so that bad things will only happen to other people, and never to us."
"People who pray for miracles usually don't get miracles, any more than children who pray for bicycles, good grades, or good boyfriends get them as a result of praying.”
“But people who pray for courage, for strength to bear the unbearable, for the grace to remember what they have left instead of they have lost, very often find their prayer answered.”
Do You View This Season As A Failure?: Amazing response from Giannis Antetokounmpo:
"Do you get a promotion every year? In your job? No, right? So every year your work is a failure? Yes or no? No. Every year you work, you work towards something, towards a goal — which is to get a promotion, to be able to take care of your family, provide a house for them, or take care of your parents. You work towards a goal — it’s not a failure. It’s steps to success."
"There’s always steps to it. Michael Jordan played 15 years, won six championships. The other nine years was a failure?"
“There’s no failure in sports. There’s good days, bad days, so days you are able to be successful — some days you’re not. Some days it’s your turn, some days it’s not your turn. That’s what sports is about. You don’t always win — so other people are going to win, simple as that. We’re going to come back next year, try to be better, try to build good habits, try to play better."
I Hit a Personal Wall That I Didn't Even Know Was There: Bruce Springsteen on CBS This Morning. Great segment.
"It was my first real major depression where I realized though I've got to do something about it.”
"You can't succeed your way out of pain."