Media Mentions

Why Reading Is Fundamental to Racial Equity

September 15, 2020   |   By Stephanie J. Hull

From T74

America is finally waking up to the full scope and severity of its oldest illness: racism. We cannot afford to hit snooze. And yet this awakening comes at a time when coronavirus-related school closures are exacerbating racial inequalities in our education system, even as the virus and the recession disproportionately hurt communities of color.

Our schools are the very place where racism does perhaps its deepest and most lasting damage to the body politic. As schools begin to announce their fall semester plans, we must do all we can to make sure that remote learning and part-time schooling do not continue to leave Black and brown children behind.

It has been 66 years since Brown v. Board, and public schools are still not the equalizing institutions they should be. Even before the inequities of this pandemic hit, children of color, particularly those from under-resourced communities, faced serious barriers to education. In 2016, the national graduation rate was 84.1 percent, an all-time high. Yet the graduation rates for Black and Hispanic students were 76.4 and 79.3 percent, respectively. Educator Gloria Ladson-Billings refers to such unequal outcomes as the “education debt” that results from our society’s systemic and historic racism.

Repairing the race gap in schools would take significant political will even in the best of times. Teachers need to be trained on implicit bias and on the impact of trauma on student behavior and learning. Overly punitive discipline policies need to be replaced with restorative justice practices — as it is, Black girls are seven times more likely than white girls to be suspended and four times more likely to be arrested at school. But most communities are a long way from implementing such reforms. Not only are schools strapped for the resources they need to adapt to the pandemic, most have not even been able to deliver equitably on the fundamentals of learning.

Take something as basic as literacy: Reading is the foundation for all future learning. It is vital for critical thinking, problem solving, writing and math. While the national average for reading proficiency among all U.S. fourth-graders is at a low 36 percent, just 18 percent of our nation’s Black fourth-graders were proficient in reading in 2015. Children who are proficient readers by the end of third grade graduate from high school on time at four times the rate of those not reading proficiently, according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

These disparities are not only due to economic inequality, although there is a strong correlation between income levels and reading proficiency. Still, the link between poverty, low reading proficiency, and race is also clear: About 31 percent of poor Black students and 33 percent of poor Hispanic students who did not hit the third-grade proficiency mark failed to graduate, as compared to 22 percent of poor white students with weak reading skills.

This is not only a civil rights issue, but also an economic one: The lifetime cost of a student who leaves school without graduating is $260,000 in lost earnings, taxes, and productivity. Students who complete associate’s degrees earn on average 18.7 percent more per week than those with a high school diploma alone, while those with a bachelor’s degree earn 44.7 percent more than high school graduates.

A good start would be expanding access to high-quality early education and afterschool and summer learning opportunities. Such programs — once appropriate safety measures were identified and taken — would also help parents get back to a normal working schedule. It has become crystal clear that the U.S. economy simply does not function when children have no daytime care, yet in 2017 only 47 percent of 3- and 4-year-olds nationwide were enrolled in preschool programs of any kind. State-funded programs remove the financial barriers many families face, but six states still have no public preschool programs.

Despite the best efforts of schools last spring to remain relevant and connected, many of those that served low-income communities and students of color were not able to maintain their connection with and support for students. School districts partnered with internet service providers to increase connectivity, distributed laptops to students, loaned wireless hotspots, and strengthened Wi-Fi connections at schools to narrow the digital divide for nearby families. If schools are to continue remote learning in any capacity, these efforts will need to continue and even increase.

Parents have a major role to play as well. Evidence shows that spending time together reading — at whatever level and in any language — makes a big difference to a child’s educational outcomes. Nevertheless, parents cannot be expected to shoulder this burden alone, especially given the challenges of the current environment.

Closing the achievement gap means being intentional about creating environments that affirm the inherent potential of every student. Equipping students to be strong readers, engage in school, and graduate from high school will not achieve racial equity alone. But if we do not get this right, the gap will only grow. This is not the moment to abandon children to remote-learning solutions that are ineffective at best, and at worst serve to exacerbate the inequality between white and Black children.

Our social and political systems are not race-neutral, so our education efforts must create not only parallel learning environments, but also equitable ones that will ultimately allow all students to enter the classroom — and their adult lives — on equal footing.


Making Science Multilingual Partnership works to change the way we teach science

August 20, 2020   |   By Jesse Stone, Nevada Today

From Nevada Today

Yerington Elementary is trying something new. They’re working towards implementing teaching science in every classroom as part of their school improvement program. This year, the school is participating as a pilot of brand-new ideas and principles made by Making Science Multilingual that make science teaching more effective not just for students that learn English as a second language, but everyone.

“All the teachers have had to learn how to teach science and teach science in a fun and interactive way, not the boring way you might’ve learned in school,” Professor of Science Education and Director of the Raggio Research Center for STEM Education David Crowther said. “They put stuff out on the tables and the kids have to learn how to interact and solve these problems.”

Crowther co-leads the Making Science Multilingual project along with Rita MacDonald, an Academic English Language Researcher at the Wisconsin Center for Education Research. The Making Science Multilingual project was created after the NSTA (National Science Teachers Association) approached WIDA (World-Class Instructional Design and Assessment) to discuss a partnership in 2016.

“I think this project has the ability to substantially change classroom instruction in science to be more equitable and to reach the needs of language learners,” Crowther said. “And not just language learners but for all students. The strategies that we’re talking about, they work well for people whose first language isn’t English, but they work really well for everybody.”

Crowther said that WIDA has programming in over 10,000 schools across 40 states, and the organization has shifted Making Science Multilingual into a large-scale capital project.

“Ultimately, that’s going to change the way we teach science and the way we test science,” Crowther said. “That in itself could change the face of education and work with language learners in the U.S.”

Making Science Multilingual has drafted a set of Pedagogical Principles, which serve as a summary of the beliefs of the organization while potentially being a resource for educators. One example of one of these principles is re-examining how academic vocabulary is emphasized while teaching science.

“There is an importance for the academic or the specialized vocabulary of science, but we don't think that it should be the first thing that we should do,” Crowther said. “We think that you should engage with a phenomenon, you should observe that phenomenon and you should build some inquiries that would allow you to try to figure out why that phenomenon does what it does.

Yerington Elementary wanted to implement other subjects into their science and STEM instruction. After a partnership with Making Science Multilingual was born, a pilot and mixed-methods study utilizing some of Making Science Multilingual’s principles was conducted through the 2019 school year and early 2020.

When Crowther was the president-elect of the NSTA, the organization surveyed science teachers across the country to understand the issues they were having. The survey demonstrated that the primary issue many science teachers had was not understanding how to work with students who didn’t speak English as a first language.

“We got a pretty good idea that we need to build some actual resources, programming, training so that people can work with the students they’re not trained to work with,” Crowther said.

The NSTA looked towards partnerships with other organizations to shore up skills in teaching English Language Learning. The NSTA partnered with WIDA, a large organization operating out of the University of Wisconsin specializing in these skills, even having to change some of its bylaws to do so. 

“We partnered with them and it seemed WIDA was the right place to partner with,” Crowther said. “We knew how to do the science. They knew how to do the language learning.”

In addition to the eight design principles Making Science Multilingual has made eight design during their process to restructure how to teach science not just to multilingual students but all students within a classroom. The organization has created these design principles, hosted webinars, hosted Twitter chats and presented at over 30 conferences across the country.

“We’re creating a whole new road,” Crowther said. “We’re excited that WIDA is behind this, that NSTA is behind this, that Wisconsin is behind this, that the University is behind this, and we’re meeting the needs not just of Nevada but a national need.”


Many rural Wisconsin school districts don’t have full-time nurses. Some don’t have any at all.

August 18, 2020   |   By Naomi Kowles

From WSAW-TV

Across Wisconsin in small, rural districts made up of just a few hundred students, full-time school nurses are a scarce commodity. It’s not a new issue, but the implications of a school year unfolding mid-pandemic with incomplete access to medically-training staff is one that’s concerning to district administrators as they plan for an uncertain, and often in-person, return to school this fall.

About 150 K-12 students are served by the White Lakes School District, buried in the heart of rural Langlade County and 25 miles from the county seat, Antigo. There, district administrator Glenda Boldig says they’re fortunate to have a nurse in their building four hours a week, where she catches up with students, families, questions and paperwork while also working elsewhere in the community’s health care. When she’s gone, she’s reachable by email and text, and Boldig is grateful for how well she’s served them. But for the daily, on-site decisions that she anticipates having to make as the school year unfolds, she’s worried about the gap.

“Making those daily decisions sometimes is going to become more important, to be responsive to the situation that’s happening in my building and in my district,” Boldig noted.

In Clark County, Greenwood School District has none, serving about 350 students.

“We do the best we can with what we have,” administrator Todd Felhoffer noted, adding that the gap was just one of a lot of components he was concerned about. “We’ve got a very good relationship with our county health officer.”

In Loyal, Superintendent Chris Lidner says he’s concerned about their school nurse situation. Sometimes they might bring a local nurse in for a one-off check-in, but otherwise rely on the Clark County Health Department.

“There is a concern,” he explained. But like so many districts strapped for funding or other constraints--”We’ll make it work.”

Statewide, the data on school nurses through the Department of Public Instruction is incomplete, as only nurses employed directly by the school district are reported. However, many districts (in central Wisconsin, including Merrill and Stevens Point which both have multiple school nurses) contract for their nursing services, meaning they have full-time nurses on site that are (typically) employed by the local health department and contracted to the school.

“Many school districts – and I would say most school districts in Wisconsin—do not have a full time school nurse,” DPI school nurses consultant Louise Wilson explained. “What people in districts do is they have to rely on people who have no medical background to take care of students.”

In Neillsville, district administrator John Gaier says they’re extremely fortunate to have their contracted certified nursing assistant through the Marshfield Clinic Health System--something that isn’t always shared by other similar-sized districts.

“As school budgets get tighter districts are forced to make difficult decisions, and school nursing positions were often cut, because there is no additional funding for that type of service,” he told 7 Investigates in an email. “In order to pay for those services the district has to take money from the same funds that are used to educate children, so many districts have had to choose between funding educational programs or school nursing positions.”

For the 2018-2019 school year, 260 schools reported school nurse data of any kind in a survey, Wilson said, out of 420 districts. In an independent survey conducted this summer by the Wisconsin Rural Schools Alliance (WiRSA), 18.5% of the 70 rural districts responding said they had no school nurse at all. About 37% of responding districts reported a full-time nurse; about 44% reported a part-time nurse or other forms of health services. Where a gap exists, districts say they usually rely on local health departments, health care facilities.

Some school districts are moving forward with plans to bring on school nurses, according to that survey and districts 7 Investigates spoke to. (Colby School District just had a 80%-FTE school nurse position approved by their board.) But where a willingness to hire exists, funding or personnel availability can become a roadblock.

“Trying to find a school nurse in some of our rural areas is sometimes very difficult,” WiRSA executive director Kim Kaukl explained. In an environment nationwide where nurses are (and have been) in high demand, district administrator Glenda Boldig says hiring for them in areas where few social opportunities outside of work exist can be a challenge.

Additionally, while the National Association of School Nurses recommends at least one nurse per school building, the state of Wisconsin only requires by law that a registered nurse assist with developing the school’s policies--not that a district has one on-site.

For many working in rural school districts, the gap in school nurses represents an ongoing environment where staff have grown accustomed to a job where their roles may stretch far beyond their official titles. Craig Albers, with UW-Madison’s Rural Education Research Implementation Center, says he hears that from the districts they research all the time.

“Teachers say, ‘One day I could be a bus driver, the next day I’m out on the playground, the next day I’m doing this other activity,” he explained.

“Being in the profession as long as I did, I learned that I’m not just a school administrator or a teacher,” Kaukl noted. “I’m a jack of all trades.”


Coronavirus has upended school plans. It will also worsen racial & economic inequalities,

August 12, 2020   |   By Michelle Fox, CNBC

From: CNBC

Raacial and economic inequities have long existed in America’s school systems, and it’s about to get worse, experts warn.

With coronavirus cases still high around the country, half of U.S. elementary and high school students will attend school only virtually this fall, according to a study by Burbio, which aggregates school and community information nationwide.

That will have grave implications for minority and disadvantaged students, said Madeline Hafner, executive director of the Minority Student Achievement Network Consortium at the Wisconsin Center for Education Research.

The past five or six months have “really brought to light these racial disparities that have persisted for generations,” she said.

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“The nexus of schooling, health care and the nature of this virus are all coming to create this perfect storm.”

Black and Brown families are disproportionately affected by the virus and face inequality in health care, and a lot of families live in multi-generational housing, Hafner pointed out.

When it comes to school, many families use it for services and support, including food, health care and libraries.

In addition, educators agree that virtual learning can’t completely replace in-person learning.

For disadvantaged students, the stakes are even higher: Thirty percent of all K-12 public school students, about 15 million to 16 million children, live in homes that don’t have an internet connection or an adequate device for distant learning at home, a study by Common Sense Media and the Boston Consulting Group found.

I feel anger. I feel frustration. I feel sadness.
Vicky Martinez
PARENT

That lack of access, coupled with inadequate help at home and a quiet place to learn, means lower-income, Black and Hispanic children may struggle, a June report from McKinsey & Company found.

The average learning loss for students is seven months if in-school instruction doesn’t resume until January 2021, the report said. However, Black students may fall behind by 10.3 months, Hispanic students by 9.2 months, and low-income students by more than a year. School closures will also probably increase high-school drop-out rates, according to McKinsey.

“We estimate that this would exacerbate existing achievement gaps by 15% to 20%,” the McKinsey report stated.

Not returning to classrooms until January will also hurt earning power, with the average K-12 student possibly losing $61,000 to $82,000 in lifetime earnings (in constant 2020 dollars), the report said.

Breaking it down by race, McKinsey estimated White students would earn $1,348 a year less (a 1.6% reduction) over a 40-year working life, Black students would bring in $2,186 a year less (a 3.3% reduction) and Hispanic students would earn $1,809 less (3%).

Podding up

[Tutor and child in masks]
Ruslan Dashinsky/Getty Images

With the pivot to distance learning, many parents are hiring teachers or tutors and creating “learning pods” or “pandemic pods,” which are small groups that meet in-person to study.

Critics call the trend disturbing, since it will leave disadvantaged students behind.

“With great uncertainty about the new school year, wealthier, predominantly White parents are using their resources to secure educational options for their individual children,” Erica Turner, an associate professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, wrote in her “Equity in Pandemic Schooling” action guide.

“By abandoning public schools or cornering scarce educational resources (while many less-advantaged children cannot meaningfully access school at all), they are engaging in White flight and opportunity hoarding.”

While some learning pods are using their school district’s virtual curriculum, others are offering a private school education — which means kids could be leaving their public school districts. That, in turn, will cause their district to lose some funding.

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“It is deeply inequitable,” said said Keisha Scarlett, chief of equity, partnerships and engagement for Seattle’s public schools.

As pods form, they will also not likely be diverse, she said.

“The reality is we, a lot of time, have in-group favoritism, so these pods will likely look like and reflect the people we spend the most time with,” explained Scarlett, who is also part of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s Committee on Guidance for K-12 Schools on Covid-19, which urged districts to prioritize reopening schools full-time.

“These will end up being segregated environments for these students.”

‘I feel anger’

Vicky Martinez, who is raising her family in the same Northeast Los Angeles community she grew up in, is upset that people are thinking of themselves over society as a whole.

“I feel anger. I feel frustration. I feel sadness. It just depends on the day,” said the mother of four boys ages 7 to 15.

“It is something that I’ve seen and I’ve lived and I’ve experienced, but not at this level.”

[L-R: Ivan(14 at the time), Me, Joe(12), Noah(7)in front of Joe, Mario(10), Joe(my husband in the back behind Joe and Mario.]
Vicky Martinez, center, with her husband Joe and four sons: Ivan, Joe, Noah and Mario (left to right.)
Source: Vicky A. Martinez

Martinez, 41, emigrated from Mexico when she was six years old and grew up poor. These days, when she looks at the charts, she said she’s considered middle class.

“I don’t feel like it,” said Martinez, who is an advisor on the parent board for Integrated Schools, which is a grassroots movement of parents enrolling their children in integrating schools.

Her Highland Park school district, which she said has become gentrified, is going all virtual this fall, and that’s how her boys will be learning. Since she is disabled and can no longer work in her field as a respiratory care practitioner, she’ll be home with her kids.

“They are going to be alive, that’s all I care about,” she said. “It doesn’t really matter if they are going to fall behind if people are dying.”

What can be done

While the pod model isn’t necessarily bad, it should be available to everyone, Scarlett said.

Partnerships with community- and faith-based organizations can help by providing space and adults for children who may not have internet access or parents at home to teach them, she said.

“That takes the community-based organization having resources to both financially pay for this — to pay for the space — and having the people that you need in place to be able to help support this effort,” Scarlett said.

For instance, San Francisco-based Outschool, a marketplace of online classes, is putting $2 million into a fund to help families in financial need. Half will go to direct cash assistance for its online learning platform and half will be grants to fund in-person learning centers for low-income communities.

“We know that a lot of school districts and community organizations are, now more than ever, strapped for cash,” said Justin Dent, executive director of Outschool.org.

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“They are also really struggling in terms of their own personal bandwidth and time.”

The organization is also trying to raise an additional $8 million for the effort, said Dent, who was raised in New York CIty’s Harlem neighborhood by a single, Black mother. She instilled him in the importance of a good education, he said. Dent has also witnessed the vast inequities in the country’s education system.

He said he believes we are at a fork in the road.

“We can say we as a society believe that we need to invest more in these communities or we can just say, ‘No, we are going to continue to believe that it is almost every family for themselves and this is only a privilege for wealthy communities,’” Dent said.

For her part, Martinez is optimistic.

“Maybe now there is hope because people are seeing it,” she said. “It’s in your face, so what are you going to do about it?

“I have this hope that this will be a turning point,” Martinez added. “It has to change.”


COVID-19 BACK TO SCHOOL

August 10, 2020   |   By Logan Wroge, Wisconsin State Journal

From: Wisconsin State Journal

When Wisconsin students begin school this fall — regardless of whether it’s online, in person or a hybrid of both — supporting students’ academic and social-emotional needs will be intertwined, crucial components for a successful year, UW-Madison experts say.

The COVID-19 pandemic has put new stressors on students and their mental health, could lead to larger losses of learning, and poses challenges to the social experiences and bonds children gain at school.

“The academic side is not separate from the social-emotional side,” said Gloria Ladson-Billings, a UW-Madison education researcher and emeritus professor. “There is a different kind of temperature taking, if you will, that kids will have to really be able to process this experience. What has it meant to be away from school, to be away from friends, to miss loved ones, to process the fact that some loved ones have passed on?”

As school plans are rolled out, districts are similarly highlighting the dual importance of attending to the traditional learning needs of children while ensuring students form and maintain healthy relationships, understand and manage emotions, and work toward positive goals.

Some Dane County districts, such as Madison, Middleton-Cross Plains and Sun Prairie, are planning all an-online start to the school year. Others, such as DeForest, Edgerton and Verona, are offering some degree of in-person learning.

In his first news conference last week, new Madison Superintendent Carlton Jenkins said the social-emotional and mental health of students will be a priority in the fall.

“Trust me, I want our academics to move forward, fast,” Jenkins said. “But not at the expense of harming our children, harming our staff and harming our community.”

Mitchell Nathan, a UW-Madison professor in educational psychology, said it’s too early to know what sort of effect the closure of school buildings in March has had on learning.

While researchers can look at school disruptions caused by natural disasters, such as Hurricane Katrina in 2005, to make projections, there’s no exact match to compare to the pandemic, he said.

Students are normally at risk of losing ground over the three-month summer break — known as the “summer slide” — made worse this year by the hasty move to online learning in the spring.

“There certainly is going to be an experience of a substantial loss of academic progress as a result and combination of the disruption in the spring and on top of that the summer seasonal loss,” Nathan said.

That slide typically leads to a larger loss in math skills than reading, Nathan said, because math is something students need to regularly practice, while reading can happen informally and independently.

And research finds the time out of school inequitably affects students based on socioeconomic status, he said.

Beverly Trezek, an associate professor at the university’s School of Education, said coming out of summer break, teachers typically identify student needs and intensify instruction in those areas. That’ll be especially important this fall, she said.

But a complicating factor, Trezek said, is that mandatory statewide assessments such as the Forward Exam, which gauges how well elementary and middle school students are doing in math and reading, were canceled in the spring. Districts, too, may not have been able to administer their own year-end assessments, she said.

That could leave schools at a disadvantage of not knowing where students left off last year to compare it to how they’re returning in the new year, Trezek said.

Educational partners

Nathan said teachers will need to tailor instruction to children’s specific needs even more than they already do.

“Teachers do this all the time during the normal school year anyways, but I think we can expect these variations are going to be more dramatic in the fall than they have been in prior years,” he said.

Ladson-Billings encourages teachers not to presume because students haven’t been in school they haven’t been learning. But she also “would probably urge educators to not be so quick to just try to pick up where they left off.”

To aid learning, she encourages schools to bring in more educational partners such as community centers, museums and libraries to “complement the education process.”

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Ultimately, Ladson-Billings sees the disruption caused by the pandemic as an opportunity for a “hard reset” to the ways schools have traditionally operated.

“There’s been a lot of discourse about getting back to normal,” she said. “I want to suggest, particularly for the students who are most vulnerable academically, that normal is not where they want to go, because normal was where their problems were.”

Seth Pollak, a psychology professor at UW-Madison who researches child development, cautions schools and parents against sending a message that students need to hurry and catch up. Rather, it’s better to share a message of “let’s get back into it,” Pollak said.

“If we send this message that they have to get caught up, they won’t get caught up really,” he said. “That could just be starting things off for maybe years of feeling because of 2020 they’re spending a lifetime of being behind.”

Supporting students

The social-emotional needs of students can vary by age, Pollak said.

For younger children, a routine provides comfort, he said, and a hybrid class schedule where they’re in school a few days a week and learning online other days may throw off the routine and lead to problems with sleep patterns and mood regulation.

Nathan also said it’s important to keep young children to a schedule as much as possible. For those learning online, the younger children are, the less attention they can devote to sitting at a screen, he said, suggesting breaking up online instruction into “manageable portions.”

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For districts holding in-person classes, Pollak suggests schools let students engage in conversations and hold lessons about what factored into the decision to reopen.

“This is an important time. How do we bring together lessons about biology, but also lessons about economics and lessons about individual choice?” Pollak said. “Schools should actually let kids talk about what the rationale was and what the risks are and why they decided to do what they did in a way that’s kind of not biased in one direction or the other.”

Pollak’s biggest advice to parents: Don’t make assumptions about what children are feeling.

A parent could think a child doesn’t like a hybrid model of schooling because of the online lessons, Pollak said, but the child might have concerns unrelated to learning, such as a best friend being assigned to in-person classes on opposite days.

 “We really never know what’s going through an individual kid’s head,” he said. “Something that’s concerning us as a parent might not actually be the worry for the kid.”

Ladson-Billings stressed schools will need to strengthen mental health supports, particularly for students who have lost family to COVID-19.

Funerals serve as a way for family and friends to come together and heal, she said, but public health restrictions on gatherings to slow the virus’ spread have also limited how the dead are mourned.

“There’s going to be some trauma that kids have experienced, particularly those kids who have had a death in the family or in the community that did not have the same degree of resolution that most deaths have,” Ladson-Billings said. “That is unresolved for our kids.”


UW-Madison expert on going back to school

August 10, 2020   |   By Gena Kittner

From the Wisconsin State Journal:

Beth Graue is a Sorenson Professor of Early Childhood Education at UW-Madison and the director of the Center for Research on Early Childhood Education at the Wisconsin Center for Education Research.

She’s also a former kindergarten teacher. Her research focuses on how school policies translate into opportunities for teachers, students and families.

Like many students and teachers expecting to be in brick and mortar buildings, Graue was planning to spend a portion of her upcoming sabbatical in classrooms this fall. A reality that she said is a “small price to pay” compared with what others are facing.

Q: All the challenges presented to teachers, staff, parents and students this fall surrounding the return of school are some we’ve never faced before. What is your advice to parents on how to untangle these issues?

A: I think my major advice would be to be willing to accept uncertainty. I think a lot of parents try to figure out how to get the best fit for their child and the pandemic has made it so that choice isn’t necessarily an option.

I think being willing to learn new things to support your child in this very unusual period ... and being kind to yourself as a parent... that you can’t know everything ... are the only things that I think of that are going to work.

Someone working in higher education had a little one and didn’t know about the silly factor in early childhood teaching and learning — making silly sounds, making games and stories — that’s how kids learn. Being free enough to do that is going to be a gift that you’re giving your kids and yourself.

Q: What concerns are you hearing from early education leaders and parents?

A: We heard a lot of stories from teachers that were trying to juggle the technical part with the instructional content they were trying to develop while also keeping things social enough. One of the best ideas I heard was a kindergarten teacher, during play time, put pairs of kids in breakout rooms and had them play together, virtually. That gave them space to have the social interaction that is so important.

Q: What is one advantage to online learning?

A: I think one of the advantages I’ve heard is that teachers who are interested are learning more about the children and their families through this virtual format. They see the dog running around, they see grandma. If that can be an invitation in building a stronger relationship between the teacher and the (student’s) home, that’s a huge plus. It requires a lot of teachers managing relationships. I think also in situations they start to understand the complicated lives that kids have in a way that can (increase) empathy on both sides.

Q: What are some disadvantages to online learning?

A: Rather than trying to build a case for or against it, it just is. This is what we’ve got. Making the best of the very strange situation is the only way we can make it through.

Q: Does a child’s age play a role in the success of online learning?

A: I think this is going to be a different challenge across the board. The needs are different, the stakes are different (for all ages). It’s hard regardless of age. The other piece I hope people will come to value more is the idea of how kids of multiple ages can teach and learn from one another. Children aren’t born in litters. Until the 20th century kids were much more likely to interact with children of all different ages. This could provide an opportunity to provide more cross-age interaction.

Q: Any last thoughts as to what parents should keep in mind this fall?

A: I think just reminding people that both parents and teachers are exhausted. I think some people might see the plans for a 4K or lower elementary teacher for the time she’s doing (online education) and think ‘oh, this is easy,’ but there’s an immense amount of planning that goes into it. And a constant fear that technology won’t work. Make sure any plan has time for people to enjoy each other and recharge themselves.


As school restarts, UW experts say supporting academics, social-emotional health is key

August 10, 2020   |   By Logan Wroge

From the Wisconsin State Journal:

When Wisconsin students begin school this fall — regardless of whether it’s online, in person or a hybrid of both — supporting students’ academic and social-emotional needs will be intertwined, crucial components for a successful year, UW-Madison experts say.

The COVID-19 pandemic has put new stressors on students and their mental health, could lead to larger losses of learning, and poses challenges to the social experiences and bonds children gain at school.

“The academic side is not separate from the social-emotional side,” said Gloria Ladson-Billings, a UW-Madison education researcher and emeritus professor. “There is a different kind of temperature taking, if you will, that kids will have to really be able to process this experience. What has it meant to be away from school, to be away from friends, to miss loved ones, to process the fact that some loved ones have passed on?”

As school plans are rolled out, districts are similarly highlighting the dual importance of attending to the traditional learning needs of children while ensuring students form and maintain healthy relationships, understand and manage emotions, and work toward positive goals.

Some Dane County districts, such as Madison, Middleton-Cross Plains and Sun Prairie, are planning all an-online start to the school year. Others, such as DeForest, Edgerton and Verona, are offering some degree of in-person learning.

In his first news conference last week, new Madison Superintendent Carlton Jenkins said the social-emotional and mental health of students will be a priority in the fall.

“Trust me, I want our academics to move forward, fast,” Jenkins said. “But not at the expense of harming our children, harming our staff and harming our community.”

Mitchell Nathan, a UW-Madison professor in educational psychology, said it’s too early to know what sort of effect the closure of school buildings in March has had on learning.

While researchers can look at school disruptions caused by natural disasters, such as Hurricane Katrina in 2005, to make projections, there’s no exact match to compare to the pandemic, he said.

Students are normally at risk of losing ground over the three-month summer break — known as the “summer slide” — made worse this year by the hasty move to online learning in the spring.

“There certainly is going to be an experience of a substantial loss of academic progress as a result and combination of the disruption in the spring and on top of that the summer seasonal loss,” Nathan said.

That slide typically leads to a larger loss in math skills than reading, Nathan said, because math is something students need to regularly practice, while reading can happen informally and independently.

And research finds the time out of school inequitably affects students based on socioeconomic status, he said.

“One of the things that’s very promising about the projections based on other kinds of disruptions is that it’s not necessarily the case that the loss of progress is irreversible,” Nathan said. “Kids who in the past who have shown the largest loss due to school disruption also subsequently then show the greatest gains when they return to school.”

Beverly Trezek, an associate professor at the university’s School of Education, said coming out of summer break, teachers typically identify student needs and intensify instruction in those areas. That’ll be especially important this fall, she said.

But a complicating factor, Trezek said, is that mandatory statewide assessments such as the Forward Exam, which gauges how well elementary and middle school students are doing in math and reading, were canceled in the spring. Districts, too, may not have been able to administer their own year-end assessments, she said.

That could leave schools at a disadvantage of not knowing where students left off last year to compare it to how they’re returning in the new year, Trezek said.

Nathan said teachers will need to tailor instruction to children’s specific needs even more than they already do.

“Teachers do this all the time during the normal school year anyways, but I think we can expect these variations are going to be more dramatic in the fall than they have been in prior years,” he said.

Ladson-Billings encourages teachers not to presume because students haven’t been in school they haven’t been learning. But she also “would probably urge educators to not be so quick to just try to pick up where they left off.”

To aid learning, she encourages schools to bring in more educational partners such as community centers, museums and libraries to “complement the education process.”

Ultimately, Ladson-Billings sees the disruption caused by the pandemic as an opportunity for a “hard reset” to the ways schools have traditionally operated.

“There’s been a lot of discourse about getting back to normal,” she said. “I want to suggest, particularly for the students who are most vulnerable academically, that normal is not where they want to go, because normal was where their problems were.”

Seth Pollak, a psychology professor at UW-Madison who researches child development, cautions schools and parents against sending a message that students need to hurry and catch up. Rather, it’s better to share a message of “let’s get back into it,” Pollak said.

“If we send this message that they have to get caught up, they won’t get caught up really,” he said. “That could just be starting things off for maybe years of feeling because of 2020 they’re spending a lifetime of being behind.”

The social-emotional needs of students can vary by age, Pollak said.

For younger children, a routine provides comfort, he said, and a hybrid class schedule where they’re in school a few days a week and learning online other days may throw off the routine and lead to problems with sleep patterns and mood regulation.

Nathan also said it’s important to keep young children to a schedule as much as possible. For those learning online, the younger children are, the less attention they can devote to sitting at a screen, he said, suggesting breaking up online instruction into “manageable portions.”

For districts holding in-person classes, Pollak suggests schools let students engage in conversations and hold lessons about what factored into the decision to reopen.

“This is an important time. How do we bring together lessons about biology, but also lessons about economics and lessons about individual choice?” Pollak said. “Schools should actually let kids talk about what the rationale was and what the risks are and why they decided to do what they did in a way that’s kind of not biased in one direction or the other.”

Pollak’s biggest advice to parents: Don’t make assumptions about what children are feeling.

A parent could think a child doesn’t like a hybrid model of schooling because of the online lessons, Pollak said, but the child might have concerns unrelated to learning, such as a best friend being assigned to in-person classes on opposite days.

“We really never know what’s going through an individual kid’s head,” he said. “Something that’s concerning us as a parent might not actually be the worry for the kid.”

Ladson-Billings stressed schools will need to strengthen mental health supports, particularly for students who have lost family to COVID-19.

Funerals serve as a way for family and friends to come together and heal, she said, but public health restrictions on gatherings to slow the virus’ spread have also limited how the dead are mourned.

“There’s going to be some trauma that kids have experienced, particularly those kids who have had a death in the family or in the community that did not have the same degree of resolution that most deaths have,” Ladson-Billings said. “That is unresolved for our kids.”


New program brings learning, interaction for 3rd and 4th graders at Penn Park

August 3, 2020   |   By Scott Girard, The Capital Times

The Capital Times

A group of eight third- and fourth-graders sat around a bucket of water on a recent Wednesday morning, waiting for Richard Jones Jr. to drop in a cantaloupe and watch whether it would float or sink.

Before Jones Jr. made the drop, he asked the students: Sink or float? They needed to make a guess — or, as it’s called in the scientific method process they were learning, a hypothesis. A mix of responses filled the air as they observed the next step in the method — experiment — and eventually the final step: a conclusion about what made certain foods float.

The lesson was one of many the group will learn this summer through the S²MARTLY in the Park summer learning program, sponsored by Mt. Zion Baptist Church and led by a group of educators hoping to help students avoid a “summer slide” amid an unprecedented time in education. The activities are focused on science, technology, engineering and math — or STEM — and taught three mornings a week over a three-hour, outdoor class at Penn Park.

They also highlight successful African Americans in STEM and other fields to create a culturally relevant curriculum for the mostly Black students in the program.

“They have science, math, social studies and reading materials that actually reflect back to who (the students) are,” said Andreal Davis, who planned the curriculum. “One of the big things in putting the curriculum together I thought about was they were seeing negative images in the media and wanting to give them that vision of greatness, wanting them to see and learn about people like Booker T. Washington and Sojourner Truth.”

The group is taking safety precautions, including temperature checks for every student in attendance, health screening questions, required masks and regular pumps from a giant hand sanitizer dispenser. The group is limited to 21 participants to keep it at a maximum of 25 people when the four instructors are counted, though attendance fluctuates on any given day.

The program received grants from Dane County in June and another from the Evjue Foundation announced in July. The Evjue Foundation is the charitable arm of the Capital Times Company, but has no control over the editorial side of the paper.

Shortly after finding out about the money from the county, Mt. Zion lead pastor Rev. Marcus Allen called University of Wisconsin-Madison professor Gloria Ladson-Billings about getting something started.

“Like this,” he said while snapping his fingers, “she had a whole acronym and everything ready to go.”

Ladson-Billings said she’s “been thinking about questions of summer slide for a while,” and this was a good opportunity to put some of those thoughts into practice.

“Last year we were saying we were not making use of all the resources that we have,” she said. “It was sort of in the back of my mind all along.”

Before the floating fruit, students sat in pairs at picnic tables, each with a staff person leading them through a reading about physicist Shirley Jackson, the first African American woman to earn a Ph.D. at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The rest of the morning included a reading about Booker T. Washington, snack time and games in the field behind the pavilion at Penn Park. All of the lessons provide something the program’s leaders say is just as important as any learning that happens: interactions with other kids.

Jones Jr., the program director, leads the teaching along with three staff members. He saw “how devastated” his own daughter, who is in the program, was when schools closed this spring.

“Education is cool and getting them to learn is awesome, but in the end it’s the social-emotional that makes the difference, getting to be with each other in the same place, laughing and joking,” Jones Jr. said. “Seeing them in this setting gives me hope.”

A typical morning

Students arrive between 8:45 and 9:15 a.m. each Monday, Wednesday and Friday of the program, which began July 22, and runs through Aug. 21.

After a health check, students dive in to a Black history activity. On Wednesday, that meant discussing Booker T. Washington’s legacy — with one pair learning about Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

“Me and Booker T. Washington went to the same school,” one of the staff members told a pair of students.

“You went after him?” Deion, 8, asked in response, prompting a big laugh from the staffer.

Deion said he likes “doing fun things” at the program and is glad to be part of it, even though he doesn’t miss school.

“I want the summer to not end,” he said.

Snack time included strawberries on that day. Some students discussed what food they would eat if they could only eat one for the rest of their lives: one said burgers, the other decided on pizza.

Once they regrouped, they played a game in the field and then gathered again under the pavilion to learn about that day’s African American STEM figure, Jackson. Each day ends with an experiment related to that person and a discussion of the STEM topic.

‘Future of education’

Jones Jr. said he sees the outdoor, small-group and hands-on model “as a strong possibility for the future of education,” especially while the pandemic continues.

That future could be coming soon. Ladson-Billings said she’s working on a proposal for this fall to station small groups of students in various places around the south side as teachers move around to teach specific content areas.

“They need the face-to-face learning, but I also don’t want to put people in large schools, because this virus is something we don’t really understand,” Ladson-Billings said.

Ladson-Billings sees the possibility of the summer program scaling up around the city next summer, as well. For now, the group is glad to help students through a tumultuous time.

“It’s something we’re super proud of,” Allen said.

Jones Jr. also stressed the importance of the cultural relevance to the students, and wants to see that “ingrained in education from the beginning.”

“It shouldn’t be something you have to learn in your free time,” he said. 

To drive home the students’ connections to their own world, the bags they receive — put together by Davis — include a worksheet titled “Just Like Who?” The sheet features two dozen examples of famous Black people, their accomplishments and a blank line where students can write in someone in their lives who shares the qualities.

“(Blank) is a great communicator. They’ll be great in business just like Madam C.J. Walker,” says one.


Three from Vanderbilt Peabody College honored for education research

July 28, 2020   |   By Vanderbilt University

From Vanderbilt University

A leading Vanderbilt scholar, her doctoral student and a recent doctoral alumnus have been honored with awards by the American Educational Research Association.

Carolyn J. Heinrich, Patricia and Rodes Hart Professor of Public Policy and Education, and Jennifer Darling-Aduana, a Ph.D. candidate, received the Palmer O. Johnson Memorial Award for their article “A Look Inside Online Educational Settings in High School: Promise and Pitfalls for Improving Educational Opportunities and Outcomes.” Co-authored with Annalee Good and Huiping (Emily) Cheng of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the article appeared in the December 2019 issue of the American Educational Research Journal.

The awards committee noted that it “found the research to be comprehensive in its scope and depth, carefully executed and extremely timely, providing critical policy guidance for districts engaged in online instruction.” The Palmer O. Johnson award recognizes the lifelong achievement of Johnson as a dedicated educator as well as his pioneering work in educational research and methodology.

In addition to research addressing education policy, Heinrich is chair of Peabody’s Department of Leadership, Policy and Organizations and a past president of the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management. Darling-Aduana finishes her doctoral degree in August and will join the faculty of Georgia State University as assistant professor of learning technologies.

Francis A. Pearman, MEd’12, PhD’17, assistant professor of education at Stanford University, received AERA’s Review of Research Award for his article “Gentrification and Academic Achievement: A Review of Recent Research,” which appeared in Review of Educational Research in February 2019. “The author synthesizes evidence from different disciplines—including organizational theory, urban planning, segregation, sociology and education—into a fresh and generative conversation, demonstrating both empirical sophistication and control of complex phenomena,” the award committee wrote.

“AERA is the world’s leading association of scholars examining topics in education policy and practice,” said Camilla P. Benbow, Patricia and Rodes Hart Dean of Education and Human Development. “These awards signify remarkable achievement, and it is wonderful to see these honors accorded both to one of our senior scholars as well as two who are early in their careers.”

To read more about Heinrich and Darling-Aduana’s research on digital learning, see their study website and forthcoming book, Equity and Quality in Digital Learning: Realizing the Promise in K-12 Education, as well as recent blog posts for the William T. Grant Foundation and Harvard Graduate School of Education.


Expert cautions learning pods could worsen Madison’s achievement gap

July 28, 2020   |   By By Emily Shetler, The Capital Times

The Capital Times

Almost immediately after the Madison School District joined other districts across the country in announcing a return to online instruction instead of bringing students back to the classroom for the fall semester, posts started popping up on Facebook groups, Craigslist, Reddit and the University of Wisconsin-Madison student job board seeking in-home academic help.

Parents taxed by trying to do their own jobs from home while monitoring their children's school work are looking for tutors, nannies, even retired teachers to help them navigate what could be several more months of virtual education.

“I think one of the important things that everyone needs to understand is right now, parents are in just an untenable position, all the way around, every parent,” said Madeline Hafner, executive director of the Minority Student Achievement Network Consortium at the Wisconsin Center for Education Research.

Many families are teaming up with neighbors to pool resources and form “learning pods” for the school year. But research indicates when families can afford to do so turn to tutoring and educational services in their homes, it can affect the academic success of all students.

Impacting all families

Even without additional in-home teaching support, children attending advantaged schools have more tools to succeed in online learning.

"If you were in a district that has a very large per pupil expenditure, you've got lower class sizes. You've got higher amounts of money to spend on tech. You've got more resources for supplemental instruction and for educational supports, before school, after school, and that all translates online very seamlessly,” Hafner said. “For some students, especially children living in poverty, I've seen statistics that show if we stay in the cycle we're in right now with unsupported online learning, they can lose up to a year of gains in growth."

For students without at-home support, it's even more crucial that they learn among fellow students. Hafner emphasized that children learn through their peers, a social-emotional piece that is crucial to understand.

The National Academies of Sciences Engineering and Medicine (NAS) released a report on July 15 predicting long-term academic consequences from virtual-only learning, in particular for students in kindergarten through fifth grade. In a statement, Enriqueta Bond, chair of the committee that authored the report, wrote: “This pandemic has laid bare the deep, enduring inequities that afflict our country and our schools. Many of the communities hardest hit by the virus are also home to schools with the least resources and the greatest challenges.”

Parents looking to refocus on their careers by forming neighborhood learning pods and hiring tutors for their children may be exacerbating pre-existing segregation in the community.

“Where people live is generally dictated by housing markets, and demographically cities are segregated by race,” said Hafner. “Because of access to wealth, white families have more access to finances that will get them houses in 'good' neighborhoods. So we live in segregated neighborhoods, where you have, many times, segregated schools. And even when schools are racially integrated physically, they're racially segregated academically. This pattern has emerged where families are podding with families who live close by. And so that creates very real racial segregation.”

She said there is a long history in America of white families leaving integrated public schools for private schools, sometimes even forming their own.

"So that history needs to be in everyone's mind as they're making these decisions," she said.

Challenges in Madison

Mike, who asked for his last name to be withheld, was initially considering forming a learning pod with a small group of neighbors and hiring a teacher to help with virtual learning through the 2020-2021 school year.

But now he is planning to take his children out of MMSD and renting a house in Columbia County where he can send his children to in-person classes before returning to Madison next June. Otherwise, his family will adopt “some sort of home school curriculum.” 

“I don't think MMSD teachers are qualified to give online instruction, and my experience in the spring would confirm that,” he said.

Hafner said moving out of urban districts like Madison will only make matters worse for their ability to fund improvements.

"I think one thing every single parent needs to know — and I don't think every parent does — is if you choose to pull your child out of public school, your school loses funding," said Hafner. "That's the worst possible thing you could do for a school district, is to remove that funding at this moment in time when everybody needs funding for education. Understanding that has extreme ramifications financially for a school district."

Lisa Kvistad, MMSD assistant superintendent of teaching and learning,  acknowledged that the district learned from the issues surrounding virtual learning in the spring is using that knowledge to inform decisions going forward.

"We learned a lot from the surveys from parents, teachers and staff about how to make virtual learning more robust when we go back in the fall," she said.

The spread of the coronavirus itself is also disproportionately affecting students of color. As Dane County sees a rise in the community spread of COVID-19 from the actions of young people, there remains an age and racial disparity in those who are most vulnerable to complications and death from the disease. Students are witnessing first-hand the devastation in their communities.

“We have chosen not to support laws and policies that support children, and in particular, don't support Black and brown children,” said Hafner. “We have chosen as a nation not to do that. And this is what happens when families who have resources use them in ways that on the outside look benign, but have these deleterious effects for years on families and students of color and their communities."

She advised white families who are concerned about racial disparities to consider their actions carefully.

“I think white families need to be very thoughtful in how we proceed," she said. "I am a white person, and I am mother. I have two very small children. And we all need to understand our choices will have an impact.”


How college leaders can bridge the growing ‘trust gap’ with their faculty and staff members

July 24, 2020   |   By Goldie Blumenstyk, The Chronicle of Higher Education

From The Chronicle of Higher Education

Harmony on campus is hard to come by even when the stakes are lower. The brutally tough decisions colleges have been or soon will be making — how to teach in the fall, where to cut as budgets tighten — are among the most challenging that institutions have faced, at least since 2008. And for the foreseeable future, it’s not going to get any easier.

But internal conflicts aren’t inevitable. I became more convinced of that after hosting a conversation last week with three presidents, as part of the Remote conference. They shared ideas like avoiding “the bunker mentality” (Mark Rosenberg of Florida International University); ensuring that the institution’s values are reflected in its actions (Lori S. White, DePauw University); and creating formal opportunities for people to voice complaints and concerns (Joseph Castro, California State University at Fresno.) Here are some of the lessons that seemed the most useful — and universal.

In stressful times, people appreciate when you invest in them. Since March, and especially over the summer, all three institutions have put time and resources into professional development for faculty members. Fresno and FIU have relied heavily on their teaching and learning centers to train hundreds of professors on remote instruction, and DePauw has created faculty “communities of practice” to focus on teaching issues that arose this spring. Fresno is even paying professors a stipend for going through the training; FIU is including its adjuncts.

Connecting with colleagues is vital — and not just for newbies. White, who was in Week 3 of her presidency when we spoke, is deliberately organizing a host of virtual meetings with her new colleagues. It’s her only way to meet them right now, and for them to get a better sense of her priorities. Even longer-serving leaders shouldn’t forget to touch base regularly.

Inclusive decision making pays off. (Yeah, more committees!) Rosenberg couldn’t imagine moving forward without input from two committees: one his provost created to guide the eventual “re-population” of the campus and another that decided how to use federal Cares Act funds. Fresno convened a group to help set protocols for the limited amount of face-to-face teaching it expects to conduct this fall. Meanwhile, the presence of unions can be a plus. Both presidents said that existing union-administration relationships facilitated communication and made it easier to resolve disagreements, like one at Fresno over who would be doing Covid-19 testing.

It’s worth making room for dissenting views. Rosenberg, the longest-serving of the presidents, was adamant on this point, noting how he’d seen people at other institutions suffer when leaders became too insulated, too reliant on their hand-picked inner circles. “I’m very worried about groupthink” he said, especially now, with so much happening so fast. “We have to be very open.” Castro uses an online feedback page to publicly air and answer questions that come to him. That openness includes paying attention to rumors. Even if they’re not completely true, White added, it’s important to identify the circumstances that got them going.

A college’s mission and values should guide its actions. Talk is easy. In the end, institutions will be judged by what they do. Especially when it comes to putting the health and safety of the campus community first, said White, “the more we demonstrate that by our actions,” the better. DePauw is trying to do that by respecting faculty members’ choices on how they want to teach in the fall. Castro has heard grumbling from local alumni who own businesses about the Cal State system’s decision in mid-May to stay mostly remote in the fall. “Some people thought we were making a decision prematurely,” he said. “I’m guided as an educator by the mission of our university.”

Are these foolproof ideas? No. But they seem like good starting points. For the whole conversation (along with dozens of other sessions), register and look around here.

Hopes — and doubts — about new attention to skills in hiring.

This month I wrote that I wasn’t sure what to make of President Trump’s executive order urging federal agencies to look beyond degrees in hiring, especially since it came as colleges face their biggest headwinds in memory. I appreciate the insights many of you shared.

Advocates for skills-based hiring tend to see it as a way to level the playing field for qualified job candidates who happen not to be college graduates. And some of you see the federal move as an opportunity for higher ed. Rovy Branon, vice provost for the University of Washington’s Continuum College, said that while degrees can signal mastery of skills, colleges need to do a better job of accurately capturing and verifying that. Now is the time, he said, “to create faster and cheaper pathways for a new market that wants and needs it.” And Shalin Jyotishi, of the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities, noted that “sometimes a degree isn't the only/right credential a learner needs, and that's OK.” Jyotishi, the assistant director for economic development and community engagement at APLU, also put in a plug for an op-ed he just co-wrote, arguing for embedding industry certifications into degree programs, an approach that was popular with readers of The Edge when I wrote about it in December.

Less positively, I heard from folks wondering whether the new order would create confusion — and perhaps worse. Matthew Hora, of the Wisconsin Center for Education Research, worried that implementation could emphasize assessments of so-called “soft skills” like communication that are “cultural constructions” and could “open the door to even more hiring discrimination.”

A related concern for me: In recent weeks, we’ve seen a bevy of announcements from colleges, companies, and nonprofits about new programs to help people skill up, especially in the digital realm. The list includes Google’s new career certifications and scholarships, Microsoft’s “global skills initiative,” the Digital US coalition, and the new nonprofit Skill Up. As well meaning as these initiatives seem, they miss the bigger issue — that many of the 40 million newly unemployed people didn’t lose their jobs because they lacked skills. They lost them because the pandemic shut down their workplaces.

Maybe that’s the jolt that will prompt some to find better jobs, but skills alone won’t guarantee a shiny new career. Better coordination of state work-force policies, as this new effort calls for, could help. Ultimately, though, we need a much stronger, growing economy, and that is at least a few years away, if we’re lucky (and if more people would just wear masks). Without a recovery, this Huffington Post reporter’s assessment is worth remembering: “Re-skilling is sort of like playing musical chairs: People are racing to grab a job and sit down, and not everyone will get a seat.”


WCER’s Good and Cheng Win AERA’s 2020 Palmer Award for Excellence in Education Research

July 22, 2020   |   By Tony Pals and Tong Wu, American Association of Education Researchers

AERA Announces 2020 Award Winners in Education Research

Washington, July 22, 2020—The American Educational Research Association (AERA) has announced the winners of its 2020 awards for excellence in education research. AERA will honor the recipients for their outstanding scholarship and service at a Virtual Awards Celebration, September 12, 3:00-4:30 p.m. EDT.

“This year’s award winners exemplify commitment to the study and practice of education,” said AERA Executive Director Felice J. Levine. “We are proud to honor their outstanding scholarship and service to the education research field.” . . . 

Palmer O. Johnson Memorial Award

Recipients: Carolyn J. Heinrich (Vanderbilt University), Jennifer Darling-Aduana (Vanderbilt University), Annalee Good (University of Wisconsin-Madison), Huiping (Emily) Cheng (University of Wisconsin-Madison)

“A Look Inside Online Educational Settings in High School: Promise and Pitfalls for Improving Educational Opportunities and Outcomes," American Educational Research Journal, Volume 56, Issue 6, December 2019 .

This award recognizes the lifelong achievement of Palmer O. Johnson as a dedicated educator and for his pioneering work in educational research and methodology. The award is given for an outstanding article appearing in AERA Open, the American Educational Research Journal, Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, Educational Researcher, or the Journal of Educational and Behavioral Statistics. 


Public Health Madison & Dane County explains why there’s no mandatory mask policy

July 8, 2020   |   By Jamie Perez, FOX 47 Madison News

From Fox 47 Madison News

Many people are wondering why there isn’t a mandatory mask-wearing policy in Madison. Last week, Public Health director Janel Heinrich said, “While we know masks work to help reduce the spread of the virus, a mandatory masking policy may place an undue burden on some people. People may fear racial profiling or discrimination based on wearing–or not wearing–a face covering.”

A petition that now has about 5,000 signatures is circulating in Madison asking the city to require face masks and demands that a city-funded mask distribution program be implemented with it. But not everyone believes the answer is that simple.

Madeline Hafner is an expert on racial disparities at the University of Wisconsin — Madison. Hafner said racial discrimination would be an adverse consequence of a mandatory mask requirement and is a legitimate concern among communities of color, especially for black men.

“We live in a racialized society that doesn’t afford people of color the same protection in their masks,” Hafner said. “They could be wanting to do all the right things to protect other and protect themselves but they will bear the unfair burden of the repercussions of wearing a mask.”

Hafner said there is an implicit bias that our society has when we see a person of color in a mask. She said they’re often perceived as threats, and especially right now, that added stress is making many people of color fearful of how they could be perceived if wearing a mask was mandatory, even if everyone was required to wear one.

“It’s the impact of how we respond as white people to perceiving people of color in those masks that lay that stress on them. So I think for us, we need to keep doing our own work to make sure we are not laying an extra stressor or burden on people of color,” Hafner said.

The public health department also released a memo detailing additional reasons for not implementing a mandatory mask policy.

The memo states:

“Some health conditions may keep individuals from being able to wear a cloth face covering. These might include chronic conditions such as dementia or Alzheimer’s, autism spectrum disorder, or COPD/emphysema; wearing a face covering may be challenging, dangerous, or stressful for individuals with disabilities.In addition to medical considerations, individuals may not feel safe wearing a mask for many reasons including emotional, behavioral, and trauma experiences.”

The memo also states that socioeconomic status also plays a role in the decision.

“Potential consequences of implementing mandatory masking may include loss of wages, if the employer does not consider reasons why masking may not be an option for that individual, limiting access to certain business spaces such as grocery access, which could lead to increased food insecurity, generally requiring individuals to choose between their safety or being able to access spaces that support their ability to access basic needs.”

The memo also states that there are issues that come with trying to enforce this rule.

“The enforcement of masking requirements have resulted in violence in other parts of the country, both between police and private citizens – this is most certainly not something that we want to see in Madison and Dane County. Using local law enforcement resources to enforce face covering requirements would detract from their ability to support other safety and public service roles.Furthermore, enforcement efforts that include fines have resulted in financially penalizing individuals in a climate when many are already financially stretched.”

The petition demanding a mandatory mask policy states, “The alternative is more lock downs, the failure of beloved local businesses, and serious illness and death. Not only does wearing a mask protect oneself, but it also protects others, especially our essential workers and those who do not have the luxury to work from home.”

Dr. Jeff Pothof at UW Health said even though mask wearing is not a requirement, “From the medical perspective, the jury has rendered the verdict. If we are out in public close to other people, we need to be wearing a mask at this point.”

Although Pothof urges the community to wear a mask as often as possible, he acknowledged that the public health department’s reasons for not implementing one were “legitimate concerns.”

“I don’t think we want to persecute people who are unable to get face masks with some sort of mandatory order. But I don’t think that should be confused with the lack of benefit from the medical side to mask wearing,” Pothof said. “That benefit is clear. I think if we have segments of our community that find it difficult to acquire a mask or get a mask, the effort should really be focused on what can we do then, as a larger community, to ensure that those individuals have access to a mask just like all the rest of us do.”

Public health officials said they are working to make masks more accessible.


Report: Wisconsin has student-to-teacher racial, ethnic gap

July 2, 2020   |   By Associated Press

From Fox 11 News:

MADISON (AP) -- A gap between the percentage of teachers of color and the percentage of students of color in Wisconsin grew over the last 10 years as student diversity increased, according to a report released Tuesday by the Wisconsin Policy Forum.

The state's teacher workforce has remained overwhelmingly white, according to the study, Wisconsin Public Radio reported. During the last decade, the number of students of color in public schools increased by 28%, while the number of teachers of color increased by just 22.5%, the study found.

Anne Chapman, the Wisconsin Policy Forum researcher who authored the report, said that pattern holds true for rural areas, suburban districts and towns, as well as the state's larger cities.

The gap between the demographics of students and their teachers vary by district, as well as by race. Black students make up just over 9% of K-12 students, compared with about 2% of teachers. Both the population of Latino teachers and students over the past decade has doubled, but the gap between them widened each year -- with Latinos currently making up 12.3% of students, and 2% of teachers.

Chapman pointed to research that shows that having a more diverse teaching and administrative staff is good not just for Black and brown students, but also for white students.

"It is important for white children to see people of color as being knowledgeable and authoritative," said Gloria Ladson-Billings, a teacher educator who most recently was on the faculty at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. "The stuff we are seeing happening in our streets today is, I think, a direct result of young white people saying, 'I was never really taught to value these people's lives."'

Chapman said subsequent reports will dig deeper into the reasons for the persistent racial gap between student and teacher populations.


Life at home with kids during quarantine

June 30, 2020   |   By Joel Patenaude, Madison Magazine

From Madison Magazine:

Lorena Mancilla is amused by her 6-year-old nephew who walks around his home — where his family is quarantined due to COVID-19 — while holding a tablet and saying, “Shh, I’m on a call.”

The child is mimicking one of his parents, who are both working from home, says Mancilla, director of WIDA Early Years, the world-class Instructional Design and Assessment program promoting English-language education for multilingual children nationwide. WIDA is based in the Wisconsin Center for Education Research at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

“It just cracks me up to see these behaviors from kids,” says Mancilla, who works remotely from her home in the Chicago area.

This spring, many parents suddenly found themselves laid off or working from home and caring for their children full time because schools and day care facilities had closed. As summer arrived, it was unclear if cooped-up families would feel relief from the easing of restrictions on public gatherings and the resumption of youth programming.

“When I had young children I relied on a lot of things that happened in the summer,” says Tricia Blanco, a Madison-based professional learning specialist with WIDA Early Years. “My kids went to camp, they were in swimming lessons, they had soccer. … All that may not be available this summer. We don’t know.”

Blanco says the state’s Safer at Home order challenged families with children of all ages. And the gradual lifting of those restrictions will shake up family routines again, she says.

The Madison School & Community Recreation, or MSCR, canceled all spring and summer programming, such as sports-specific youth camps and adult art classes. Instead MSCR has created virtual content for kids to do at home.

Cindy Kuhrasch, coordinator of the physical education teacher training in UW–Madison’s School of Kinesiology, made a series of videos demonstrating simple physical activities to do alone or with family members. She encouraged her college students to also make videos and post them to the UW–Madison PE Facebook page. Kuhrasch said some of the videos have been repurposed for the Boys & Girls Club of Dane County, where she serves on the board of directors.

“As a parent, I think all we can do is make opportunities available and invite our kids to play with us,” Kuhrasch says.

Physical activity is important to maintain, she says, and not just for the fitness benefits. Staying active develops social and emotional skills, too. Of course, that’s difficult to achieve when self-isolation rules out going to a gym or participating in team sports.

“Kids aren’t unique. We all miss our friends. We all long for social interaction. I think we’re all struggling with anxiety over how long this will last,” Kuhrasch says.

Parents of children with autism or developmental disabilities have had additional challenges during the pandemic that include loss of access to school counselors and health care providers.

For these children “worries, fear, and frustration can be expressed as challenging behaviors,” says Sigan Hartley, associate professor of human development and family studies in the UW–Madison School of Human Ecology. “It can help to anticipate these challenges and to make sure the child has access to coping or calming activities and items.”

Parents, too, have had to learn coping strategies. “Although it is often hard to do, it is important for parents to invest in their own health and well-being,” Hartley says. “When parents have their own needs met, they are better able to focus on the needs of their children.”

She suggests taking a few moments for mindful breathing, keeping a gratitude journal “or writing a compassionate letter to yourself as if you were a friend who you were supporting through a bad day.”
Blanco and Mancilla of WIDA also urge parents to find ways to lessen the stress they’re under. “Whatever you can do to take care of yourself is definitely going to flow to how your children are reacting,” Blanco says.

Blanco has taken note of several positive community responses to the pandemic in her neighborhood near Tenney Park. “People are putting things in their windows, whether it’s rainbows or hearts or teddy bears. That’s for people out walking about to see,” she says.

“Another thing I’ve noticed,” she adds, “are people nodding or saying ‘hi’ knowing that we’re a little bit more isolated than we’ve been. So that’s been really nice to see as well.”

In her neighborhood, Mancilla says, little girls are drawing pictures with brightly colored chalk in their driveways for their friends to see when they’re out for walks with their families. “It’s the cutest thing,” Mancilla says. “They’ll draw the picture and their mom will sign it, ‘Love, Lexi and Nora.’”

Blanco expects such expressions of neighborly support to outlive the virus. That’s the hope, anyway.

“I think we’re in this for the long haul,” she says. Social distancing measures “may not have to be as stringent as they’ve been, but until there’s a vaccine this virus isn’t going away.”