Education and school choice links, 8/5

Here in Florida, Governor Ron DeSantis issued an executive order banning school districts from forcing children to wear masks. His EO referenced the state’s Parents’ Bill of Rights, which would allow the government to strip funding from schools that did not comply. Several districts announced yesterday that they would not comply.

In response, the Florida Board of Education is holding an emergency meeting tomorrow to consider allowing parents to use the Hope Scholarship (vouchers) to move their children into private school or homeschool them if they do not like a district’s masking policy. As the districts that said they would not comply with the EO include the cities of Jacksonville, Fort Lauderdale, and Miami, this would represent a massive expansion of vouchers in the state if utilized.

Florida is one of many states that used the pandemic response as justification to expand school choice.

It looks like Arkansas is going to follow DeSantis’s lead.

The school district that includes Las Vegas is making some sweeping changes to its grading policies. A student can now rarely show up for school and be given a diploma. There is literally no point to these institutions anymore, and that is the governing concept of their policymaking.

In Newark, New Jersey – the state’s largest school district – only 9% of children met state standards for math in the last year. For reading, it was 11%. It’s like the school year never even happened for substantially all students.

This is fairly typical for inner city schools now, and was even before the pandemic. See the following links covering what is happening in Baltimore, where if you have a D-average GPA, you now rank in the top half of your class.

Ghost student scandal hits Baltimore city schools

Student passes three classes in four years, ranks near top half of the class with 0.13 GPA

And then this:

If a student has more than 20 unexcused absences in a year, they are considered chronically absent. Throughout Maryland, that’s 19% of students. In all of City Schools, it’s 42%. At Augusta Fells, 83% of students were chronically absent in 2019, but the school somehow recorded a 48% graduation rate.

The nation’s largest teachers union is suing a mother for asking what her child would be taught in kindergarten. Three guesses what that was about.

A report from elite consulting firm McKinsey & Co. quantifies the damage done to school children from school closures and virtual learning:

Shutting down schools was among the most destructive policies of the pandemic, and a new report by McKinsey & Co. quantifies the harm.

The consulting firm examined spring 2021 test results for 1.6 million students in grades 1 through 6 across the U.S., then compared their performance with that of similar students pre-pandemic. They discovered that the pandemic-era children were, on average, about four months behind in reading and five months behind in math.

However bleak, these numbers “likely represent an optimistic scenario,” McKinsey says. The results measure “outcomes for students who took interim assessments in the spring in a school building—and thus exclude students who remained remote throughout the entire school year, and who may have experienced the most disruption to their schooling.”

The McKinsey study doesn’t say it, but teachers unions were the main architects of this calamity by first refusing to return to the classroom, then insisting on watered-down schedules. The data company Burbio found that, by the end of the spring semester, most students could attend school at least part-time. But due to union demands, the return sometimes amounted to a few days or hours of in-person learning a week.

Children in majority-black schools ended the school year a full six months behind in math and reading on average. And the fear-mongering crowd wants to do it again this year. Just tossing the poor kids into the abyss.

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