Transmission chains broke trust chains

The debates over schooling in the pandemic are best explained by a concept defined by Anthony Bryk and Barbara Schneider in their 2004 book about Chicago school reform, Trust in Schools: relational trust. As they describe in the book’s second chapter,1 relational trust is the social glue needed within the type of organization that requires its members to risk a great deal just to keep the organization operating. Teachers and other school staff are regularly asked to risk their professional careers, sense of self, and their time for all sorts of tasks and initiatives that are demanded either by schools as organizations or society at large. Unlike skilled positions where people can assume a basic level of infrastructure, educators often cannot assume that they will work in an environment where they have current textbooks, enough undistracted time for lessons, or planning time; and in many places, they work in schools without safe drinking water, soap in bathrooms, or modern or safe HVAC systems.

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  1. Julie Kochanek cowrote that chapter with Bryk and Schneider []

It’s the summer, sunshine

If the Biden administration’s COVID-19 relief package passes with funding for K-12 summer school, we’ll see a great deal of things more clearly as a result. How much are parents worried about the academics their children have missed, as opposed to all the other roles of schools? How much have teachers been stressed to the point of quitting/disengaging when they can? How much can schools operate in-person smoothly if the staff are vaccinated but the students aren’t?

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What ed policy wonks might want to know about the CDC school advice, February 2021

Three and a half weeks into the new administration, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has released a new set of guidelines for K-12 schools. The general features of the guidelines have been well-covered in the press (with some minor mistakes–it’s complicated!), and some public-health researchers have started to weigh in as well (also with some mistakes–it’s complicated!).1 To me, the key operative expression is three and a half weeks into the new administration; the timing reflects both political needs of the Biden administration as it pushes through its COVID relief package,2 and also professional needs of the public-health community to return to ordinary public-health politics after the sheer awfulness of the Trump administration response to the pandemic.

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  1. At least one op-ed criticized the guidelines for requiring testing for screening purposes, which the guidelines don’t require. []
  2. See the White House statement released yesterday in response to the CDC guidance, and how the statement connects the CDC guidance with COVID relief. []

Single studies are good; literature is amazing

We can learn quite a bit from the surge of amateur epidemiology: It’s hard to be a good reader of a single study, and you don’t have to do that to learn from research. For almost half a year, I’ve repeatedly seen many well-educated, well-read people try to learn The Secret of Covid from individual studies in fields they have no training in.

This is understandable, but not generally a good use of someone’s time. Nor is it necessary.

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Will the cultural script of “school” change?

A colleague asked me over the weekend if there is any guidance from the history of education on what may change permanently in elementary and secondary schools as a result of the pandemic. There is now a little industry devoted to hot-takes about how this is the “end of ____ as we know it,” and there are plenty of entries in education as well as in other areas of life, from Steven Mintz and Bonnie Kristian in higher education to Conor Williams, David Mansouri, and Diane Ravitch for K-12. So I was not surprised by the question.

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