Districts COVID Report Card

COVID-19 Report Card

Districts COVID Report Card

Many Massachusetts public school districts failed miserably in their reaction to COVID-19. The district in which I work, for example, did nothing for three weeks. Nothing. At. All.

The kids did not get any work. We were not allowed to contact families. I think the administrators were afraid of what teachers would say or how things would be said. All students were given a pass for the last two quarters of the year. Nobody failed anything, even if no work had been done during the first two quarters. The luckiest students in the history of public education were seniors in 2020.

Everyone got a diploma. In December, several 12th grade students of mine had a 0% chance of passing and earning a diploma. In June, every one of them participated in the first (and God-willing only) drive through graduation in town history.

Acting Out Of Fear

Special education lawyers and advocates are partly to blame for creating such a litigious environment, but I blame the Department of Ed and the districts. They acted based on the fear of being sued rather than what was in the best interests of the students and families. 

Fear of being sued is not a valid excuse in my opinion. If I were ever sued, I would much rather be able to take the stand and explain my decisions based on my professional expertise; agree or disagree, but here is my rationale, Mr. Hearing Officer. I cannot imagine that “my lawyer advised me to do so” would fly as well. The attorney is not an educational professional. They are paid to give us advice. We need to make sound educational decisions.

If I had been in charge, some things would have been different. I would have had teachers reaching out weekly to students and staff in March and April. Staff would need to be informed and coached about what to say and not to say so as not to cause more angst or confusion, but families needed to hear from schools.

I don’t think granting the unearned diplomas was a terrible idea considering the students who earned them. These students often need teachers right next to them to get any work done; asking them to work at home would have been terribly unfair. However, in a time of chaotic change and lack of structure, districts would have done better to keep classes going and expectations high.

I realize that the last such pandemic was during World War I, so this was a wholly new and unexpected circumstance. My grandfather was born in 1908, and he told me stories of that time.  Children with cold sores were immediately sent home from school, so he and his friends discovered a “get out of school free card” by rubbing their lips with erasers to create the appearance of a viral outbreak. Maybe I should cut DESE and districts some slack, but I witnessed some much more appropriate responses within Mass and in New Hampshire.

A Better Approach

My daughter’s private school, in contrast, was set up for remote learning within a week. The world stopped the weekend of Friday, March 13th, by the next Tuesday, all her 8th grade classes were live on Zoom. 

Instruction did not stop, nor did homework nor high expectations. New Hampshire, supposedly Massachusetts’ educational inferior, had my stepsons online and continued their education within a week as well. More could have and should have been done in many Massachusetts districts.

Share Your Story

How did your districts do? Please let me know how you thought your school or district handled COVID last spring and throughout 2020-21.

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