Equity Issues in the Age of COVID-19

IMG_1553As the world adjusts to the difficult realities presented by COVID-19, I’m feeling very proud to be part of the education community. Many challenges come with not being able to meet in person for classes, conferences, and events, but I’m truly inspired by all of the ways that educators are supporting each other and leveraging their many skills to teach and learn together. I’m seeing so many great ideas born out of educators’ creativity already! And I’m encouraged that this new wave of online learning presents important accessibility opportunities for students. (We’re fortunate that many folks have years of online teaching and learning experience to share, along with the educational and accessibility innovations that the disability community has been contributing for decades.)

ALL THAT SAID, we also need to remember the important equity issues embedded in online learning. While there may be widespread access to tech among college students, we shouldn’t assume that absolutely everyone has easy access. Resources like libraries are still vital to many college students! (God bless librarians.) Additionally, access to technology for K-12 students is not as widespread as some may think, and students living in poverty will be disproportionately left out of online learning if they don’t receive access and support. This is all in addition to the important housing, nutrition, and safety services that higher education housing offers to students. 

And also, teachers at all levels need support and resources to teach online! Obviously, this is especially true for teachers who mostly teach in-person. But as the numbers of online learners scale-up very rapidly in the coming weeks, nearly everyone is going to need help. Educational institutions’ budgets are already stretched so thin, but educators need and deserve training in online teaching. Policy makers need to step up and fund the resources that students and educators need to keep students on track for the remainder of the school year and beyond. A shift from business as usual is going to require a shift from funding as usual.

As many smart and dedicated people have pointed out, the public health-related closure of day cares, preschools, and K-12 schools could have very dire consequences for the most vulnerable students in the US. Many students living in poverty receive vital nutrition, health, and childcare services from their schools everyday. Our government leaders need to have detailed, wrap-around plans for how we will support students in the event of temporary school closure. (Of course, this life-sustaining centrality of schools in the lives of millions of students should be a clear wake-up call about poverty in our society, but I’ll save that for another conversation.)

The Covid-19 virus has had tragic consequences for many people and families across the world. In order to stem the tide, the proactive decisions of many educational groups and institutions to suspend in-person interactions are difficult but necessary in many situations. As this new educational landscape forms, I see many promising opportunities for innovation in how educators support learners and provide innovative accessibility options through technology. Not surprisingly, educators are already working hard to support each other and their students during this challenging time. Perhaps now more than ever, we need the rest of society to pull together and support students in whatever way they can as well.

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Rio Day 2: Ibtihaj Muhammad, Fencing

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Carmelo Imbessi/Associated Press

Some of you may have already heard of Muhammad, and we’ll all be hearing a lot more about her soon. As the first US Olympian to wear a hijab, one of the oldest first-time Olympians on Team USA, and an African-American woman in a mostly-white sport, she was worked hard as an ambassador for her culture and her sport of fencing. This has often meant overcoming financial hardships, abject discrimination, and long odds to become an athlete at her sport’s highest level. Continue reading

Incredible Stories of Olympic Women in Rio: Day 1

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The Yomiuri Shimbun/AP Images

The Olympics is one of our most complicated social ventures, but it’s undeniably the most important international stage for women’s athletics. And in honor of that, I’ve decided to highlight a different female athlete every day over the next two weeks. Hope you enjoy learning about these incredible people as much as I do!

First up is Oksana Chusovitina, a 41-year-old gymnast from Uzbekistan who is competing in her SEVENTH OLYMPICS!!! Her skills in the floor exercise are so legendary that she has a tumbling move named after her. And it’s so difficult that even in this constantly changing and improving sport, Simone Biles (favored to win the all-around and floor golds) will be performing it in her floor routine in Rio. That’s a full 25 years after Chusovitina first performed it in international competition in 1991.
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Miss Chris Goes to Washington

LessonPlanI stood at the dusty old chalkboard scratching out numbers, struggling through my third week of trying to teach fractions. I was enveloped in a half-circle of students in desks, but these weren’t ordinary students. They were almost all older than me, a scrappy midwesterner trying to deal with an unprecedented batch of allergies. The flora was so different in DC. Something had been making me stuffy for weeks. I sounded so goofy with every word that came out of my mouth. My students seemed to be immune to the plant life in town, as well as the oppressive heat. Southeast DC is surprisingly scenic for an urban area. In some ways, nature seems to be reclaiming ground from the residents, an almost exclusively black population. It’s a place where white folks are so rare that I was called “Snowflake” on more than one occasion.
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Autonomy: An Ideological Link Between Democratic Equality and Localism

IVotedpicAmerica’s schools are one of the first places where we learn to become citizens. It is the place where we go to learn about our history, our values, and how we will contribute to the common good. Scholars often refer to this vital aim of schooling as the democratic equality goal. Educational researcher David Labaree explains that “ . . . a democratic society cannot persist unless it prepares all of its young with equal care Continue reading

School Lunches from Around the World: Beware the Mystery Meat

school lunches

neverseconds.blogspot.co.uk / Via Never Seconds/ Martha Payne

While America’s school children spent Thursday gorging themselves on turkey and football, the rest of the world’s students were going about business as usual. That, of course, means school lunches. A family member related to me this weekend that he once attended a school where no one was allowed to go out for recess until they had finished every last bite of their lunch. He noted significantly that your best friend was always the kid who was willing to eat your split pea soup for you.

Ever wonder what kids around the world are eating for lunch? Check out this great post from Buzzfeed!

Even Educators Could Use Some Enlightenment Sometimes

10-30Despite the best of intentions, educators do not always understand where students and their families are coming from. I learned of this troubling lack of enlightenment and compassion among some educators at an education studies graduate school function in 2012. As I sat with other students at a meet-and-greet luncheon, we shared stories of how we each became interested in our graduate programs. During my turn, I related my experiences as an AmeriCorps volunteer in Washington, DC and how working with adult students with low academic skills had inspired me to make a career of education reform. Continue reading

Friday 5: High-Tech, Low-Tech, and ‘Oregon Trail’ In-Between

Buzzfeed, the internet king of list-making, offers “15 Things We Did At School That Future Students Will Never Understand.” This is a serious trip down educational memory lane. I have to admit that I really do miss chalk, but I certainly don’t miss overhead projectors. I once accidentally obliterated one in the 6th grade. Don’t ask me. I don’t want to talk about it. However, I’m ALWAYS willing to talk about ‘Oregon Trail,’ Continue reading

What I’ve Learned from Growing My Own Food

potatoesAn old friend and I have a saying: “The world would be a much better place if everyone grew their own potatoes.” It’s a political nerd reference to Thomas Jefferson’s belief that those who are close to the land are close to God, and as an extension have a greater appreciation for the importance of our relationship with what the natural world has to offer. It’s a back-to-basics belief that Continue reading