Category Archives: Education Policy

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.

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

“Improbable Scholars”: Urban Students Can Get a Great Public Education, Too

abrazos

A nurturing culture is at the forefront of Union City’s success.

David L. Kirp’s 2013 book, Improbable Scholars: The Rebirth of a Great American School System and a Strategy for America’s Schools, shows us that the average urban school system can be a great one–but that takes a lot of doing. Kirp offers a case study of Union City, NJ, a small but heavily urban district comprised largely of first- and second-generation immigrants from Latin America. While many urban school districts languish, Continue reading

The Capitol Dome and Its Two Cities

Capitol DomeFor a year after I graduated from college, I worked as an educator in the shadow of one of the weightiest symbols in the world, the embodiment of all of the ideals that make up the great ideological experiment that is America. The Capitol Dome feels omnipresent when one travels around Washington, DC, and the city planners have made sure of that Continue reading

Identity Impacts Education, and Vice Versa

Education and IdentityThere’s a growing body of scholarship around how students’ social identities impact their educational experiences, but it’s so important to consider how education affects their identities as well. In fact, I think it’s entirely possible that identity and education interact with each other as a cycle, or even a series of them, in which identity and our experiences in education feed into each other in different and overlapping ways. For some students and teachers, that cycle plays out every day and in some unexpected (and challenging) ways. Continue reading

I Cheated in 3rd Grade Math

Flash CardsI have a secret to share with you all: I cheated on one of my 3rd grade multiplication quizzes, and it was all because I was obsessed with getting to the top of Multiplication Mountain. Many elementary school classrooms feature a similar approach to teaching times tables. Students get to move to the next level after mastering a set of numbers, from their 3s to their 4s, their 4s to their 5s, and so on all the way up to 12s. In my case, that meant the summit of a very impressive peak on our classroom’s massive bulletin board. Continue reading

Kids Are Hurt by NYC’s School Co-Location

Trump

Trump.

Charter schools are the sexiest thing going in New York City education. They are fountains of educational innovation in that city, even as charters languish in many other parts of America. Those schools are not without their own unique set of controversies beyond the typical ones regarding unions and privatization, however. As outlined by Amy Pereira and Trymaine Lee in an article titled “A Day in the Life of a Divided School,” one of the most hotly contested education issues in that city is school co-location, the practice of Continue reading

The Pope, a Bullet, and Character Education

Pet Blessing 1994

My brother and me at our school’s pet blessing in 1994. That fish was definitely holier than any of the public school kids’ fish were.

When I was a 2nd grader at a Catholic elementary school, Pope John Paul II was like a real-life Santa Claus. Everybody my age liked him so much, we didn’t even care that he was never going to pop down the chimney and leave us presents. Just like Santa Claus, he was always smiling, he wore the same iconic outfit all the time, and whenever he talked, everybody cheered. Many of my Catholic friends to this day refer to him as JP2. Continue reading