What Weingarten conveniently leaves out is the reason for “two years of disruption.” Time and again, cautious state and school leaders — disproportionately Democrats in concert with teachers’ unions — extended school closures or strict Covid protocols, demonstrated little responsiveness as new evidence on Covid emerged, and minimized the trade-offs. Many red-state leaders did the opposite, damning the torpedoes even when Covid threats skyrocketed. While both parties demonstrated remarkable inflexibility in their Covid responses, it is the most Covid-cautious bets that proved most disastrous for students.
Now, in the third pandemic summer, it’s worth remembering that things didn’t always look so dire, or so politically divided. Back in the first Covid summer, in 2020, prospects for the new school year seemed bright, and blue-state leaders were looking pretty good. In March 2020, all schools — in both red and blue states — closed for the rest of the school year. In the early-pandemic fog — with limited understanding of the virus’s lethality and transmission, of therapeutics or mitigation measures (remember the CDC’s early urging of Americans not to mask up?), and of the relative health threat to students — that was a reasonable decision.
During that spring, blue-state leaders did an admirable job providing the best possible approximation of routine, in-person learning. As I documented, 86 percent of blue-state districts got asynchronous learning platforms such as Google Classroom up and running that spring, compared with 79 percent of red-state districts, and over half of blue-state districts offered synchronous options such as Zoom, compared with less than a third of red-state districts. Blue states also better ensured that students had the devices, Internet access, and direct contact with teachers that made the best of a terrible spring.
By early summer 2020, we looked to be successfully “bending the curve” of Covid cases, and school leaders in both red and blue states were optimistic about plans for reopening and recovery. But then Covid cases began to rise again, and on July 6, President Trump took to Twitter to announce, “SCHOOLS MUST OPEN IN THE FALL!!!” He quickly doubled down, asserting that school closures were “causing death,” and he threatened to strip federal funding from any school that didn’t reopen.
Politics, closed schools and taxpayer supported Dane County Madison Public Health
The data clearly indicate that being able to read is not a requirement for graduation at (Madison) East, especially if you are black or Hispanic”
2017: West High Reading Interventionist Teacher’s Remarks to the School Board on Madison’s Disastrous Reading Results
My Question to Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers on Teacher Mulligans and our Disastrous Reading Results
Friday Afternoon Veto: Governor Evers Rejects AB446/SB454; an effort to address our long term, disastrous reading results
Booked, but can’t read (Madison): functional literacy, National citizenship and the new face of Dred Scott in the age of mass incarceration.
No When A Stands for Average: Students at the UW-Madison School of Education Receive Sky-High Grades. How Smart is That?