Tuesday, September 7, 2021

In Case You Missed It – September 7, 2021

Here are links to last week's articles receiving the most attention on NEIFPE's social media accounts. Keep up with what's going on, what's being discussed, and what's happening with public education.

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The fights about the pandemic and masks are still going on. Truthfully, it sounds suspiciously like the "Am not! Are too!" arguments on the third-grade playground.

Mask supporters say the science is in and it is clear that masks help to stop the spread of COVID-19. Those who deny the efficacy of masks do so because they don't believe the government or the science community. Fortunately, the vast majority of Americans support mask-wearing. Meanwhile, the anti-mask state of Texas leads the country in child COVID deaths with 59.


Research Finds Masks Can Prevent COVID-19 Transmission in Schools

Here's the science. Believe it.

From Duke Today, a hub for news produced around Duke University
The widespread use of masks in schools can effectively prevent COVID-19 transmission and provide a safe learning environment, two Duke scholars said Wednesday.

Danny Benjamin, M.D., and Kanecia Zimmerman, M.D., were co-chairs of the Duke-led ABC Science Collaborative, which issued a new report Wednesday showing that North Carolina schools were highly successful in preventing the transmission of COVID-19 within school buildings.

The report found in part that masks effectively prevented COVID-19 transmission even without physical distancing in schools and on buses.

Benjamin and Zimmerman spoke to reporters Wednesday in a virtual media briefing. Watch the briefing on YouTube. Read a news story about the collaborative's findings on Duke Health's website.

Quarantine rules eased by governor

Governor Holcomb has provided an incentive to school boards to use mask mandates to keep schools open. That way, local school board members get the threats from crazy anti-maskers instead of the governor.

From the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette**
Gov. Eric Holcomb on Wednesday loosened quarantine rules for symptom-free students, teachers and staff in close contact with a positive COVID-19 case – but only if schools mandate masks.

The new approach provides a key incentive to districts struggling with the mask question while also not being a mandate. Fort Wayne Community Schools and Northwest Allen County Schools have mask requirements while East Allen County Schools and Southwest Allen County Schools have mask-optional policies.

Holcomb issued a new executive order running through September, and the Indiana Department of Health also issued a COVID-19 control measure. It says schools and day cares with mask requirements “consistently followed throughout the day” do not have to quarantine students, teachers and staff who are close contacts and aren't showing COVID-19 symptoms.

NACS reinstates mask mandate

Northwest Allen County Schools fights back against the minority who want to threaten students (and their families) with COVID-19. It was ugly.

From the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette**
An unruly audience on Monday criticized the three school board members who voted to reinstate Northwest Allen County Schools' mask mandate. The requirement takes effect Wednesday.

“Revote! Revote! Revote!” mask mandate opponents chanted after two hours of public comment.

Member Steve Bartkus, who opposed the mandate along with President Kent Somers, was game.

“Let's just revote then,” Bartkus said to cheers.

His attempts to rescind the measure supported by Vice President Liz Hathaway and members Kristi Schlatter and Ron Felger weren't successful.

...Dr. Matthew Sutter, the Allen County health commissioner, issued an advisory last week encouraging school boards to revise optional masking policies. He recommended universal masking in K-12 schools.

Some Indiana schools aren’t reporting COVID cases as pediatric hospitalizations spike

So if we don't report any COVID cases does that mean we don't have any?

From Chalkbeat*
More than 1,200 of Indiana’s nearly 2,200 schools are not reporting their COVID-19 cases to the state this school year, health officials said Friday, as positivity rates and hospitalizations for children rise across the state.

In a news conference, State Health Commissioner Kris Box emphasized that these schools are out of compliance with Indiana code, which requires institutions like schools to report cases of COVID-19 in group settings.

This helps the state determine the number of students who need to be quarantined in order to reduce transmission of the disease.


We know just enough history to get it wrong

Diane Ravitch reprised this post by Steve Hinnefeld. She commented, "Frankly, it’s astonishing to hear enemies of public health compare themselves to courageous fighters for justice and equality."

From School Matters
At a central Indiana school board meeting last week, an anti-mask parent said, “This is our Martin Luther King moment to say no,” a reporter tweeted. It wasn’t clear what he meant, but it seems unlikely King would have downplayed the seriousness of a virus that’s hit Black Americans especially hard.

At the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, King famously talked about his dream that someday his children would “not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” Today, Republican legislators – in Texas and elsewhere – twist those words to try to prevent students from learning hard truths about America’s racial history, which they label “critical race theory.” They say that teaching about race is “divisive” and could make white children uncomfortable.

But Martin Luther King Jr. wasn’t the person they make him out to have been. He engaged in repeated acts of nonviolent civil disobedience and was jailed 29 times. He spoke out against racism, poverty and violence. Three-fourths of the American public disapproved of him, especially after he brought his anti-racism campaign to the North and began speaking against the Vietnam War.
Image by Tumisu from Pixabay

PA: The CRT Flap Continues To Metastasize

While the COVID-19 mask wars are going on, there's still the problem of the people who don't want to acknowledge the history of America. As Peter Greene shows in this Curmudgucation piece, school boards are hoping to soon be able to ban the teaching of anything they don't like.

From Curmudgucation
Clarion County, despite containing a state university, is a mighty conservative place. Back in March, the County Commissioners, for no particular reason, declared themselves a "Second Amendment County." Now, one of the county's school districts has let itself get played by the "critical race theory" flap.

Parents showed up to complain about the possibility of that race stuff sneaking into schools, supporting the board's newly-minted policy. The policy follows the usual template, borrowing language that is being used in these policies all across the country, such as
The teaching concepts which impute fault, blame, a tendency to oppress others, or the need to feel guilt or anguish for persons solely because of their skin color, race, sex, or religion are prohibited in the district as such concepts violate the principles of individual rights, equal opportunity, and individual merit underpinning our constitutional republic and therefore have no place in training for administrators, teachers, or other employees of the district
That same language was adopted by the Mars School District, located just a bit north of Pittsburgh (and in California, and Alabama, and so on...). While the basic policy seems to be getting copied and pasted all across the US, folks feel free to add some details as well. In Mars, there was an addition of patriotic patriotism ("We will teach our children to honor America..."

Because these policies also come with a built-in "This is totally not saying that teachers can't teach controversial stuff, but only, you know, factual stuff and only all sides presented," there's also a list of Stuff That Can't Be Taught.
Further, this policy shall ensure that Social Justice and unsubstantiated theories of any kind, including but not limited to Holocaust Denial Theory, 9/11 Theory, The 1610 Project, and Critical Race Theory, are not advocated or presented to students as part of any curriculum unless approved in advance by the board.


While colleges go test-optional, Indiana juniors prepare for a new SAT requirement

What constitutes a high enough score on the SAT for a student to graduate from high school? We don't know that information because passing scores -- cut scores which are arbitrary -- haven't been "determined" yet.

Tests do not represent what students have achieved in high school. Tests are a reflection of a student's family background more than their achievement. Colleges around the country are finally beginning to understand how tests are poor instruments in determining school success. Indiana should, too.

From Chalkbeat*
Under the new graduation framework, the state will meet its federal accountability requirements through the SAT, chosen for its utility to college-bound students, according to the architect of the changes, Rep. Bob Behning.

But students who don’t meet the still-undetermined benchmarks have other pathways to graduation, such as completing an approved apprenticeship or demonstrating proficiency on a military aptitude test.

The state Department of Education will determine passing score rates — or cut scores – next summer.

Preparations are already underway for students and teachers ahead of the March test date in schools and through a bootcamp run by Purdue University’s GEAR UP, a federally funded program designed to provide students a path to college.

The latter offered a bootcamp to about 500 Indiana teachers last month to train them to prepare students for the test.

*Note: Financial sponsors of Chalkbeat include pro-privatization foundations and individuals such as Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, EdChoice, Gates Family Foundation, The Walton Family Foundation, and others.

**Note: The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette has changed its online access and is now behind a paywall. Digital access, home delivery, or both are available with a subscription. Staying informed is important, and one way to do that is to support your local newspaper. For subscription information, go to fortwayne.com/subscriptions/


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