Friday, February 26, 2021

CARRANZA RESIGNS

 From Chalkbeat:

New York City Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza is leaving his post on March 15, a sudden departure in the middle of a public health crisis that has meant a tumultuous, draining year for the city’s roughly 960,000 students and their families.

Meisha Ross Porter, the executive superintendent of the Bronx, will replace Carranza and become the first Black woman to lead the nation’s largest school system, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Friday.

Porter will take over a fraying school system, with many students having lost out on critical instructional time and facing mounting mental health needs. On top of that, many schools have seen significant enrollment drops, with the overall student population dropping 4% from the previous year, and as a result, many principals might start next year in serious debt.

Families on both sides of the reopening debate — those who wished this year was fully remote and those who want their children back in classrooms five days a week — are frustrated with Carranza and de Blasio, and have blasted them for not having a clearer plan for September.

Porter, a New York City public school graduate, started out as a youth organizer in the Bronx’s Highbridge neighborhood and has worked for the education department for 20 years, serving as a teacher, principal, and superintendent in the Bronx. In 2018, Carranza appointed her to fill the new role of executive superintendent in the Bronx, overseeing the borough’s 361 schools.

“I am ready to hit the ground running and lead New York City schools to a full recovery,” Porter said in a statement.”

UFT reaction::

UFT President Michael Mulgrew on the Resignation of Chancellor Richard Carranza

“Richard Carranza was a real partner in our efforts to open school safely. Too often he had to fight behind the scenes to keep the needs of students, staff and their families ahead of politics. We wish him well. He will be missed.”


“We have successfully partnered with Meisha Ross Porter on projects in the past, including the Bronx Plan and expanding community schools. We look forward to working with her in the future.”

Reader thoughts?

TEACHER EVALUATION AGREEMENT


Thursday, February 25, 2021

DE BLASIO ADMITS NYC HAS HIGH COVID-19 ACCEPTABILITY NUMBERS

 I saw this response to a question that Mayor Bill de Blasio gave on the Brian Lehrer show back on February 12.

Our friend Reality Based Educator sums up the mayor's thinking quite well:

Is the end of the pandemic near or is the fourth wave coming? The NY Times uncharacteristically played it down the middle this evening. They interviewed 21 scientists. They report that case numbers are going down so states are opening up but they admit that is not the whole story:

Buoyed by the shrinking rates over all, however, governors are lifting restrictions across the United States and are under enormous pressure to reopen completely. Should that occur, B.1.1.7 and the other variants are likely to explode.

“Everybody is tired, and everybody wants things to open up again,” Dr. Tuite said. “Bending to political pressure right now, when things are really headed in the right direction, is going to end up costing us in the long term.”

Looking ahead to late March or April, the majority of scientists interviewed by The Times predicted a fourth wave of infections. But they stressed that it is not an inevitable surge, if government officials and individuals maintain precautions for a few more weeks.

A minority of experts were more sanguine, saying they expected powerful vaccines and an expanding rollout to stop the virus. And a few took the middle road.

“We’re at that crossroads, where it could go well or it could go badly,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

The vaccines have proved to be more effective than anyone could have hoped, so far preventing serious illness and death in nearly all recipients. At present, about 1.4 million Americans are vaccinated each day. More than 45 million Americans have received at least one dose.

A team of researchers at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle tried to calculate the number of vaccinations required per day to avoid a fourth wave. In a model completed before the variants surfaced, the scientists estimated that vaccinating just one million Americans a day would limit the magnitude of the fourth wave.

“But the new variants completely changed that,” said Dr. Joshua T. Schiffer, an infectious disease specialist who led the study. “It’s just very challenging scientifically — the ground is shifting very, very quickly.”

Shouldn't we error on the side of preventing serious illness and more death by shutting down and not accepting de Blasio's unacceptable COVID-19 numbers?



Wednesday, February 24, 2021

ANOTHER POLL CONFIRMS PUBLIC DOES NOT WANT TEACHERS TO RUSH BACK TO IN-PERSON SCHOOLING; MULGREW EMAIL TO MIDDLE SCHOOL UFTERS

 From Pew Research:


The latest from Mulgrew:

Dear __________,

Tomorrow marks the first day back inside your school building for many of you. We understand this transition may be challenging and have been working ahead of your return to ensure your safety. Still, we are counting on you to be the eyes and ears of the building and to alert us immediately if you see any issues upon your return.

We have already reached out to your chapter leaders, and your COVID-19 building response team will be making sure the processes and procedures are in place for safety protocols, personal protective equipment and other COVID-related concerns. The building response team consists of members of your school staff who take on the following roles: BRT leader, special needs coordinator, emergency officer, assembly point coordinator, recorder, school nurse, custodian and school safety agent(s).

In addition to this school-based building response team, the UFT has sent health and safety liaisons to check that the PPE and safety protocols we established in September remain in place at your building.

Middle schools will be observing the more stringent in-school testing regimen that the city agreed to adopt in December when elementary and District 75 schools reopened:

●Mandatory weekly testing: Twenty percent of all in-person students and staff in all open school buildings will be randomly tested on a weekly basis.
●Student consent: No student will be allowed to stay in school for in-person learning without a testing consent form signed by their parent or guardian. Principals have been instructed to conduct a testing consent form review by the end of the workday on Feb. 24.

Answers to many questions on building safety can be found on our Safety FAQ, which is updated regularly to reflect the latest information.

Please alert your chapter leader and call our special safety hotline at 212-331-6317 to report unsafe conditions or protocols that are not working correctly at your school.

Your devotion to your students and your flexibility this school year are unmatched, and you deserve to feel safe in your workplace. Working together, we will make sure our school communities remain safe.

Sincerely,


Michael Mulgrew
UFT President

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

BIDEN BREAKS WORD ON STANDARDIZED TESTING

For those who wish to go to the video of Biden's campaign pledge, you can find it here.



Question to Biden in December 2019: Will you commit to ending the use of standardized testing in public schools?

Biden Answer: Yes....

It didn't long before Biden broke his word on standardized testing. At least he is reviving the opt-out movement.

Have at it MAGA's. Betsy DeVos was better on testing in the pandemic than the Biden administration. 


Update: NY State Education Department Statement: 

NEWS

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE February 23, 2021

Media Contact:

JP O’Hare or Jeanne Beattie

(518) 474-1201

www.nysed.gov

 

 

STATEMENT ON USDE ASSESSMENT & ACCOUNTABILITY WAIVER LETTER FROM NYS DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION SPOKESPERSON, EMILY DESANTIS

 

“USDE informed states last night that it will not grant a blanket waiver for state assessments. While we are disappointed by this decision, we are examining all possible options. Further, USDE made the right call in affirming that no child should be made to come to school to take a state assessment. In addition, USDE agreed to uncouple state assessments from accountability measures so no school will be affected by the results of state assessments and the results will solely be used as a measure of student learning. Given these circumstances, the Department will propose a series of regulatory amendments at the March Board of Regents meeting so Regents Exams would not be required to meet graduation requirements and to cancel any Regents Exam that is not required by USDE to be held. We continue to have discussions with USDE regarding this matter to find a path forward that is best for the health and safety of all New York’s children.”

Sunday, February 21, 2021

LISTEN TO WARNINGS FROM UK ON B.1.1.7 VARIANT, PLEASE

 This is from USA Today dated February 21, 2021. Please, please take heed.

The headline:

COVID-19 variant found in UK spreads 'like wildfire.' British experts fear what will happen if US won't lock down


LONDON – On Jan. 4, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson made yet another somber coronavirus-related address to the nation: A variant first identified in Kent, England, was thought to be 50%-70% more infectious. In little more than a week, hospital admissions had increased by nearly a third. Deaths had risen by 20%. Johnson ordered the country's third full lockdown since the start of the pandemic.

"That means," Johnson said, "the government is once again instructing you to stay at home. You may only leave home for limited reasons permitted in law, such as to shop for essentials, to work if you absolutely cannot work from home, to exercise, to seek medical assistance such as getting a COVID test or to escape domestic abuse."

Monday, amid a dramatic drop in coronavirus infections, Britain's leader will unveil his plan for unwinding one of the world's strictest COVID-19 lockdowns. Only Cuba has tougher restrictions in place, according to an index of government measures compiled by Our World in Data, a research unit attached to Oxford University.

Further down:

Simon Clarke, a professor in cellular microbiology at the University of Reading, said there is an emerging body of evidence suggesting that the B.1.1.7 variant is not only more contagious but also more lethal, a possibility initially raised by British scientists. He said there is anecdotal evidence from hospitals, not confirmed by studies, that the B.1.1.7 variant could harm more younger people. He cautioned it was too early to drawn firm conclusions.

He expressed concern about how the United States would deal with B.1.1.7 if, as expected, it becomes entrenched as the dominant variant by the spring.

"U.S. coronavirus waves have been based on slower-moving variants," Clarke said.

And more:

The USA has seen peaks and declines of COVID-19 cases since the first infections were reported in North America in January 2020, but there are concerns that the B.1.1.7 variation is among a number of different variants that could help precipitate a so-called fourth wave of American coronavirus infections.

'It's like we're trying our best to help the virus': A fourth coronavirus wave is looming if the US fails to contain variants, experts say.

Trevor Bedford, an epidemiologist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, said in a Twitter thread Thursday that a steady decline in U.S. coronavirus cases that has brought levels back to where they were in late October could be threatened by the "rapid take-off of B.1.1.7." He said there is evidence that the B.1.1.7 variant "will reach 50% frequency in the U.S. perhaps by late March."

In the USA, there were 1,523 cases of B.1.1.7 reported across 42 states as of Feb. 18, according to CDC data. To put that in perspective, though new coronavirus infections in the USA have been falling broadly for about a month, the daily new case count for February still averages about 95,000, according to a USA TODAY analysis of Johns Hopkins University data. In February, U.S. coronavirus deaths have averaged about 2,520 per day.

In Britain, new daily coronavirus case counts have hovered around 12,000 for the past week. Christina Pagel, who leads a team of researchers at University College London who apply mathematics to problems in health care, said the B.1.1.7 variant makes up about 90% of new cases in Britain.

Variants also emerged from Brazil, South Africa and California. Researchers said the United States is almost certainly undercounting cases of the B.1.1.7 variant. The case count has more than quadrupled since Jan. 27.

"It (B.1.1.7) spreads so easily, like wildfire. It's really caught us by surprise," Carl Waldmann, the director of an intensive care unit at a hospital in Reading in southeast England, told German state broadcaster Deutsche Welle.

As the more contagious variant tore through Britain in January, the government warned that hospitals were on the verge of being overwhelmed. There was a steady stream of pleas from doctors, nurses and other health care workers for the public to abide by Johnson's lockdown.

Johnson is no lefty. Back to the article:

Britain has administered more vaccines per 100 people than any other advanced economy except for Israel, according to Our World in Data. There is little data to show how well the vaccines affect new U.K. infections.

Simon Clarke, a professor in cellular microbiology at the University of Reading, said there is an emerging body of evidence suggesting that the B.1.1.7 variant is not only more contagious but also more lethal, a possibility initially raised by British scientists. He said there is anecdotal evidence from hospitals, not confirmed by studies, that the B.1.1.7 variant could harm more younger people. He cautioned it was too early to drawn firm conclusions.

He expressed concern about how the United States would deal with B.1.1.7 if, as expected, it becomes entrenched as the dominant variant by the spring.

"U.S. coronavirus waves have been based on slower-moving variants," Clarke said.

"If a faster-moving one such as B.1.1.7 starts to take off, then you are going to have yourself a problem if you're not prepared to do a strict, broad-based national lockdown," Clarke said, noting that the United States doesn't seem willing to do this.

Unlike Britain's nationwide orders, not all U.S. states have restrictions on travel for leisure, many states offer exemptions that allow restaurants to stay open and many have resisted calls for entertainment venues, gyms and personal care businesses such as hair salons and tattoo parlors to be closed. It is largely up to local officials to decide whether and how to impose U.S. coronavirus restrictions.

Other countries in Europe that have not imposed lockdowns as strict as Britain's have struggled to keep rising cases of the B.1.1.7 variant in check.

"If you want to get B.1.1.7 under control, lockdowns just have to be that much tougher," said Kit Yates, a professor of mathematical biology at the University of Bath, England.

Yates said he believes that when schools in Britain reopen, coronavirus cases are likely to rise again despite new evidence that the B.1.1.7 variant's transmissibility may not be as high as originally thought. It may be closer to 30% to 40%, he said, more contagious than that of the more commonly found variants in the USA.

[Christina] Pagel, [a] University College London researcher, said Britain's latest lockdown has reduced new cases of coronavirus by about 60%. "That's the good news," she said. "The bad news is that we can't control this thing with half-measures."

She said that if the United States can't or won't order a national lockdown similar to Britain's to deal with the B.1.1.7 variant, its best hope may be to "vaccinate its way out.

Pagel cautioned that if the variant first detected in Britain is allowed to circulate too freely in the USA, it could lead to an even more aggressive variation that could evade vaccines or better target younger people.

She said that cases of an older variant could fall rapidly enough that it might look like everything was OK even while a new variant spread.

"Effectively, you have two epidemics going on at the same time where one is shrinking, and one is growing," she said. "That's exactly what happened in the U.K. and seems likely for the U.S."

Watch our federal, state,  and local officials, both Democrat and Republican, as well as union leaders, f**k this up again so more people will needlessly die. Now is the time to prepare to be ready to lock down, not open up everything as if the pandemic is over. I hope to God I am wrong and that the scientists who are saying we could be reaching herd immunity in the US by April are right, not the UK experts.


Saturday, February 20, 2021

POLLS SHOW HUGE MAJORITY OF PARENTS NOT SCREAMING FOR MORE IN-PERSON SCHOOLING

Chalkbeat may be surprised with poll results showing parental support for how schools are handling in-person as opposed to remote education during the pandemic, but I am not at all shocked that parents are generally content with the type of learning their children are getting. As a remote parent of two, I am mostly satisfied with the remote instruction my two kids are receiving and I know they are as safe as possible.

The poll Chalkbeat cites shows 15% of parents want more in-person instruction, 10% want less in-person instruction, and a whopping 75% are getting what they want right now. 

The poll digs a bit deeper:

Thursday, February 18, 2021

STATE ED DEPARTMENT REVISES MEMO ON MANDATORY COVVID-19 TESTING

UFT pushback succeeded here but I am sure that won't matter to some of our always anti-union commenters.