August 24, 2020

In a cruel attack on parents and children – especially from low income families – Roy Cooper’s State Board of Education viciously rejected Dan Forest’s plan for make virtual charter schools available for more families who can’t attend school in-person because of COVID-19.

That ignores what an education leader who cares about kids said to the Wall Street Journal about how her schools dealt with the enormous technology shortfall when COVID struck this past March in urban Newark, New Jersey.

About 88% of KIPP (Knowledge is Power Program) students in Newark are African-American, and 5% are Hispanic, while its students in Camden are 56% African-American and 34% Hispanic. About 95% of KIPP New Jersey students graduate. About 77% of them attend college.

“Our students have been outperforming the districts, and in some cases, outperforming the state averages on the state tests,” said Ms. Gabriella DiFilippo, chief operating officer for KIPP New Jersey, which serves 6,700 students across Camden, Newark and also in Miami. “We are doing this work every day to make sure that the achievement gap disappears among our kids.”

When the COVID virus struck and school leaders realized they might have to begin teaching virtually, KIPP leaders did a quick survey and realized that at least 50% of the school children in their Newark schools didn’t have computers or WiFi. The charter school leaders managed to round up Chromebook laptops for their students and worked out an arrangement to get free WiFi to families that didn’t have Internet access.

It may not be perfect, but the main thing with these charter schools appears to be that there’s accountability.  As Ms. DeFilippo said, “If we are seeing a student who’s not checking in with attendance or the parent who’s not responsive, we will make sure that we get in touch with that family to ensure that we can support them.”

Compare that to a study in another Wall Street Journal article back in June that showed  remote-learning wasn’t going so well in school districts across the country. They cited the University of Washington’s Center on Reinventing Public Education report that examined 477 school districts nationwide and how they have responded to the Covid-19 crisis.

The report found “widespread neglect of students” – with only 27% of districts requiring teachers to record whether students participated in remote classes.  School records showed only 15,000 Los Angeles students failed to show up or do schoolwork. In Philadelphia, only 61% of school children attended school virtually on average. Only half of the students logged in to online classes or did assignments in Boston.

The report said only 57.9% of the virtual class teachers do progress monitoring. Why is that?

And the rest “haven’t even set the minimal expectation that teachers review or keep track of the work their students turn in. Homework counts toward students’ final grades in 42% of districts. And some schools that do grade offer students a pass/incomplete.”

We all know there are plenty of great teachers out there, but it seems like something is keeping them from pushing to get the job done. That makes the public school experience so different than the charter or other alternative school experience. You probably can suspect the answer.

Teachers unions.

The Wall Street Journal pointed out that teacher unions nationally “never want teachers’ performance judged by student achievement, so they’ve lobbied to ensure a lack of accountability and assessment during the shutdowns. They dressed up this demand in the language of social justice: Because the pandemic has not visited the same hardships on all families, the only equitable solution is to deprive all students of for-credit instruction, they claim.”

What a sad thing for the public school children of our nation.

Understanding the national teacher union mentality described in this article makes it easier to understand how the NCAE teachers union was so powerful in impacting Governor Cooper’s shift in his school reopening decision a few weeks ago.

The NCAE teachers union didn’t want teachers’ performance judged by student achievement just like in the big cities, so they lobbied to ensure a lack of accountability and assessment during the shutdown period – and were successful. They dressed up this demand in the language of social justice.  Where’s the heart we expect from our teachers?  Where’s the compassion in not holding our students accountable?

The slack lack of accountability will only put students already struggling to keep up in worse shape for the future.

So chalk up another political decision to COVID and another victory for the liberals that directly affects our families and businesses. Back in the spring, we had the Governor’s tone-deaf economic shutdown which played favorites and devastated so many businesses and their families.

Now here in late summer, there’s little expectation for the education – if you can call it that wherever teachers are working at NCAE-speed – of our children.