The education system in California is going to be struggling this year.
With Governor Gavin Newsom having declared no schools shall open, he is effectively shutting down the education system in his state, and the results will be terrifying.
Nevermind that students with special needs are already set to fall further behind here. The fact is that children across California are not going to have equal access to online education, and there is no real system in place to ensure that they do. The system that is supposed to provide for these students’ educations has had its hands tied behind its back, and there is nothing school districts can do unless they all file suit against Newsom and win in court.
There are already reports coming out of California that this whole thing is going to be an educational and emotional mess.
A new school year like no other begins Tuesday in Los Angeles when some 500,000 students are expected to sign on and show up at a distance — and for many, at a disadvantage — devoid of the traditional in-person joy of seeing friends and teachers.
Campuses are deserted except for a skeleton staff, but some 30,000 teachers from 1,400 schools will fire up their computers from home, virtually beckoning children to participate in online learning as they test their first daily schedule since mid-March, when the COVID-19 pandemic forced campuses to close.
“We have had months to prepare for online school in the fall,” said Pedro Noguera, dean at the Rossier School of Education at USC. “The question is: Are we ready? Beyond access to technology and the internet, we will soon see if teachers know how to deliver meaningful instruction to the broad range of students. … We serve large numbers of students with special needs, who are still learning English, and who reside in challenging home environments. The majority of these kids need the support that schools provide. We will soon see if they can provide the support needed remotely.”
None of this is new or unforeseen, though. This was expected and, in many cases, the teachers’ unions have not helped, making outrageous demands while also fanning grievances without offering real solutions. Newsom catered to them rather than the students.
So, the district referenced in the quoted story — the Los Angeles Unified School District — has tried to assemble its training to help prepare teachers, and in some cases, it’s been an absolute disaster.
Most of the Monday action in L.A. Unified was via Zoom, in the homes of teachers and administrators who were going through training. Like parents, they had technology issues, too.
A start-of-session video in a training for substitute teachers would not play, so a coordinator switched quickly to calming breathing exercises. They may have helped, but a snap poll still showed that more than half the subs on the Zoom did not feel ready for the new year to begin.
And because of the purely online aspect of this and the lack of traditional routine, many students are feeling lost, and have been for the last six months.
“A lot of what we picked up on was that kids were basically sleeping in until 2 in the afternoon,” said Emily Dillon, a school psychiatric social worker. “A lot of the kids I talked to said that they were feeling depressed because they could not figure out how to create their own habits and self-care routines.”
The Marshall team discussed setting up help sessions with students. The team also talked about setting aside time to assist parents with the district’s technology platform, called Schoology.
“I don’t think that everyone’s going to be connected,” said Karla Alvarado-Goldberg, another psychiatric social worker.
Again — not unforeseeable, but when your plan is to panic and run, and you focus on shutting down everything rather than finding a solution that doesn’t put kids at a disadvantage, you create this chaotic atmosphere that California now has to deal with thanks to Newsom.
As I’ve said dozens of times before, there is no perfect solution here. But what has happened in California is going to hurt kids across the state who are already disadvantaged and do nothing to close the achievement gaps inherent in the system. Newsom is hurting those students, and the disregard for their education is going to set the state even further back.