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Today, Chicago classrooms are reopen while Los Angeles and other districts struggle with coronavirus testing. A federal lawsuit also accuses 16 private colleges and universities of fixing the price of financial aid.
Chicago opens; Schools test
Chicago schools reopened today after the teachers’ union and the city struck a deal. After teachers voted not to report to their classrooms, the district cancelled school last Tuesday. Students are learning again.
Officials in the city stated that the agreement included provisions to conduct additional testing and metrics to close schools affected by major outbreaks.
Union leaders stated that the agreement was imperfect, but necessary due to the difficult conditions faced by teachers during the pandemic.
Parents were frustrated regardless of where they stood on the reopening of questions. They had to rush to find child care and deal with the uncertainty.
“I feel like there’s a lot of political stuff going on,” Aaron Wise, who has two children in high school, said. “It’s hard, the situation is difficult. But it really shouldn’t be That difficult.”
However, extensive testing can be difficult to implement. The following are the top issues:
Limited supply of rapid antigen tests is available.
The test-to-stay strategy is centered on the home-based tests.
But supply chain problems and weather issues can make shortages worse. California storms in winter break decimated a million test kits meant for schools.
Even worse, tests can go wrong. This month in Florida, a Broward County teacher tried to supply tests. But the kits were not valid.
Many districts have also adopted an opt-in approach.
That means they’re only testing a select group of students whose parents agree to have them tested — that is, those who may already come from more virus-conscious homes.
In Seattle, only about 14,000 of the district’s 50,000 students and 7,800 employees showed up when classes were canceled for testing.
Worryingly, approximately one in 25 test positive. Two Seattle schools had been closed due to staff shortages and infection by Monday. The district was considering returning to remote classes.
Parents may not be able understand the use of the tests.
Take Chicago. The district — the nation’s third-largest — sent out 150,000 or so mail-in P.C.R. Over the break, tests
Most were never returned. Of the approximately 40,000 tests sent in, most resulted in invalid results.
You might also find lines that are really, really long.
Parents may have to take time off work — time they may not have to spare.
Some children waited in Seattle for hours, while others waited in the rain. Los Angeles families waited in line for blocks at schools for a week to get a swab.
Public health experts believe that districts are not testing enough and strategically enough in order to be safe, especially after Omicron.
Los Angeles district data showed that 66,000 of the approximately 458,000 positive tests returned during Monday’s week. That’s a positivity rate of more than 15 percent — lower than county, state and national averages, but still high enough to cause alarm.
“I’m worried, like a lot of parents,” Amanda Santos, whose 7-year-old attends first grade, said.
Los Angeles, which is the second-largest county in the country, continued to move forward despite its high positivity rate. On Tuesday, it opened classrooms for in-person learning. Santos said that she was satisfied with the testing policy.
“They’re not letting anybody who has a positive test, or who doesn’t test, on campus,” she said. “So I feel secure about that.”
Also, tests can be very expensive.
Since 2020, Los Angeles has had one of the nation’s most ambitious testing programs.
But the initiative — which encompasses more than 600,000 students and staffers — relies on P.C.R. A start-up that is contractually bound to provide overnight results provided tests for only $12 per test.
The district’s cost per test is about half what the state negotiated for its tests with another vendor. But it’s still spending about $5 million per week on testing, the vice president of the school board said.
Are elite colleges fixing prices?
A new federal lawsuit is accusing 16 elite private colleges and universities — including M.I.T., the University of Chicago and many of the Ivy League schools — of conspiring to reduce financial aid through a price-fixing cartel.
The allegations hinge on a decades-old antitrust exemption, which permits these universities to collaborate on financial aid formulas — provided that they do not consider a student’s ability to pay in the admissions process. (You might know that as “need blind” admissions.)
The suit claims that nine of the schools are not actually need-blind because for many years, they have found ways to consider some applicants’ ability to pay. The suit claims that the actions of nine schools have an impact on all 16 because they collaborate in an organization called 568 Presidents Group.
The Coronavirus Pandemic: Key Information
One claim: Vanderbilt and the University of Pennsylvania have taken into account the financial needs of applicants on wait lists.
Another claim: Other schools award “special treatment to the children of wealthy” donors, which, given the limited number of spots, hurts students needing financial aid.
Conclusion: The suit alleges that colleges overcharged approximately 170,000 students who were eligible to receive financial aid over the past two decades.
“Privileging the wealthy and disadvantaging the financially needy are inextricably linked,” the suit said. “They are two sides of the same coin.”
Unions and politics
Politicized tensions over a return to remote learning — an effort often led by teachers’ unions — may snarl Democrats’ prospects in the midterms.
In The Atlantic, one parent explains why she’s turned away from the Democrats. “What I’ve lost is my trust that the party is truly motivated to act in the interests of those they claim to serve,” she writes.
A major teachers’ union in Rhode Island is calling for a statewide transition to remote learning.
Denver teachers also called for a weeklong halt to in person learning.
Schools across the country are moving to temporary remote learning, as staff report being exposed to the disease and need to be quarantined.
Tip: Use Jenga as a way to solve conflicts
Henry García, a fifth-grade teacher at a 107th Street Elementary, a public school in South Central Los Angeles, uses Jenga to help his students talk about difficult issues.
“It very quickly gets very serious,” he said of the block-stacking game. “All of that makes it easy to get distracted and become very present in the game.”
He said that two of his students had fallen out recently. Both of them said that they had lost their friendship which was once close.
“I thought: ‘How can I help heal this?’” he said.
He then brought out the Jenga. As the tower creaked, their anger melted. Soon, they started laughing. Through their frustration, they could see the old friendship.
“Once I realized they were having fun, that’s when I brought up the issue,” he said. “I asked, ‘Hey, what really happened?’”
Jenga is not the only step. García tries to guide his students in their conversations, too. He helps them listen to one another and then reflect each other’s positions. He said that the students had come to an agreement at the end.
“They were just so focused on the game and they didn’t want to lose, so they kind of let their guard down just enough to be in a space to talk a little bit more openly,” García said.
But he also said there was nothing special about Jenga — any game would do just fine. The important thing, he said, is to create “a more informal, less serious setting where we’re able to play, have fun — and also talk.”
That’s it for today’s briefing. We would love to hear from you if you have any additional classroom strategies. Please email us at email@example.com. I’d love to share more teacher brilliance with you all in future newsletters. We’ll see you next week!
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Source: NY Times