There's a clear, scientific path to safely reopening schools. The real barrier now is politics. - Business Insider

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There's a clear, scientific path to safely reopening schools. The real barrier now is politics. - Business Insider There's a clear, scientific path to safely reopening schools. The real barrier now is politics. - Business Insider Campus Climate Progress Report – Spring 2021 – Creating Community – UW–Madison - University of Wisconsin-Madison Hofstra Law kicks off Vision 2020 campaign – Long Island Business News - Long Island Business News California school reopening row nears climax - OCRegister There's a clear, scientific path to safely reopening schools. The real barrier now is politics. - Business Insider Posted: 24 Feb 2021 09:28 AM PST By now, research clearly supports the idea that schools can safely resume in-person learning in the US. A January study of 11 school districts in North Carolina identified just 32 coronavirus infections in schools over nine weeks. A report from the C

Amid the pandemic, exodus from America's public schools - New York Post

Amid the pandemic, exodus from America's public schools - New York Post


Amid the pandemic, exodus from America's public schools - New York Post

Posted: 27 Dec 2020 12:19 PM PST

Families are fleeing public schools across America — because those schools, especially union-dominated ones, have failed children so horribly in the face of the pandemic.

Data collected from 33 states by Chalkbeat and The Associated Press shows that K-12 enrollment in public schools has dropped by over half a million students, or 2 percent, since the same time last year. This, when the same states have typically seen yearly enrollment growth of 0.5 percent.

Parents are plainly furious at systems that keep schools closed altogether, and at remote-"learning" efforts that just don't work. So they're shifting to Catholic and private schools that are giving in-person classes, to public charters that manage to make remote learning work and to home-schooling.

An Education Week survey reports that the federal yearly average percentage of students homeschooling is a little over 3 percent. But this year, that number tripled to 10 percent.

In New York City, Catholic schools, which mostly offer in-person classes and tuition more affordable than other private schools, are seeing a sharp spike in applications and absorbing over 1,000 students who attended public school last year. Charter schools would likely see a similar boom — if state law hadn't capped their numbers.

Teacher unions insist it's inhumane to send staff into schools during a pandemic, even though the science says otherwise. And sclerotic administration and union rules also seem to prevent the kind of true innovation and flexibility that can make online classes work.  

Mayor Bill de Blasio did better than many other urban leaders (and the entire state of California), re-opening schools in October — but it's been a lot of close-and-reopen chaos ever since (and with some teachers going remote even as students are in school), even as infection rates for the system remain low.

Maybe the pandemic will provoke a sea change: a growing exodus from public systems, or reforms that ensure the kids actually become the top priority.

Certainly, Americans have seen countless public systems basically give up in this crisis; the only question is what they'll do after learning that bitter lesson.

The Law School Application Process And Inequality - NPR

Posted: 22 Dec 2020 02:00 AM PST

LEAP fellows Astrid Saenz, Fatima Salcido, and Victor Briseno participating in a law school application workshop. Carrie Sommer/Courtesy of Cindy Lopez hide caption

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Carrie Sommer/Courtesy of Cindy Lopez

LEAP fellows Astrid Saenz, Fatima Salcido, and Victor Briseno participating in a law school application workshop.

Carrie Sommer/Courtesy of Cindy Lopez

When Ingrid Lopez Martinez received DACA status during her senior year of high school, it transformed her perception of the law. Instead of seeing it as a system used to limit her immigrant family's potential, she for the first time saw the law "as a transformative tool for justice."

This first-generation college graduate, who moved to the United States from El Salvador at age 4, now aspires to become a lawyer so that she can "pay it forward" and advocate for the undocumented community.

She soon learned, though, that getting into law school can be particularly complicated for many minority applicants — from the expense of test prep courses to the cost of actually applying to schools. There are other knowledge gaps, too. Many first generation college grads applying to law school don't know the ins and outs of the application process. They have no personal connections to people who can help guide them through the process and may not know, for instance, the disadvantage of applying to law school late in the application cycle.

A number of groups are focusing on "the pipeline" to law school as a way to diversify the legal profession overall.

A 2015 study by the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that the law was the least racially diverse profession in the country, and it remains among the top.

That's not all. As of 2020, the American Bar Association reported that 86% of all lawyers were non-Hispanic whites. To put that in context, while African Americans make up 13.4% of the U.S. population, they make up only 5% of all lawyers. And amazingly, that percentage has not budged in 10 years.

Just applying to law school, prospective students shell out thousands

Applying to law school is expensive. Taking the competitive law school admission test, known as the LSAT, just once costs $200. The Law School Admissions Council, or LSAC, then charges students an additional $195 to aggregate application materials and $45 for each time they apply to a new school. LSAC only waives fees for those who prove they are in "extreme need."

The fees continue to mount. Each school has its own fee for applying. While these are more easily waived, they can range from $15 to $100 per school.

Collectively, with the average applicant applying to six schools, fees can add up to $1,000 or more. And this number does not even include paying for an LSAT prep course, which most applicants routinely rely on to up their scores.

The average LSAT prep course costs between $600 and $1,800. Although expensive, they can significantly improve LSAT scores. For example, the Princeton Review's "LSAT 165+" essentially guarantees an improvement of at least seven points. It costs $1,700.

Bottom line: Though courses like these are a critical piece of success, they are financially out of reach for many minority students. While some organizations offer free LSAT prep courses online, there is often a hitch. Khan Academy, for example, does not have live programming and does not guarantee an increase in the LSAT score.

The average score on the LSAT varies vastly by race. Research by Aaron Taylor, Executive Director of AccessLex, a center for legal education excellence, shows that the average score for white and Asian test takers is 153, while the average for Black test takers is 142 and for Latinos is 146.

On a test where scores range between 120 and 180, an 11-point score differential between white and Black test takers is incredibly consequential. Driven in part by that stark disparity, 49% of Black law school applicants were not admitted to a single law school.

DACA student Lopez Martinez, for instance, tried taking the LSAT while she was in college but did so without guidance and realized that she was essentially flying blind. She saw friends studying for the LSAT, knew she wanted to be a lawyer, and figured she too should take the test.

But without mentorship throughout the process and with only test-prep books, and no LSAT course, Lopez Martinez did not do well enough on the test to even bother applying to any law schools.

The illusion of admissions deadlines

While most law schools tout rolling admissions, the entering class of many law schools is mostly determined before the application deadline even passes. Law schools begin accepting applications between August and October and do not stop accepting applications until between February and June.

Minority applicants likely do not share the same mentorship and networking relationships that more privileged applicants rely on to learn the importance of applying early. They may not know that as space in the entering class shrinks, competition increases, and admission offers diminish as time goes by.

During the 2017-18 admissions cycle, 43% of Black applicants and 36% of Latino applicants applied in March or later — compared to only 29% of white applicants, according to AccessLex director Taylor.

Pipeline programs

While the Internet is full of tips and tricks for applying to law school, a lot of the most useful resources are just out of reach for those who cannot afford them.

AccessLex does provide an extensive directory of diversity pipeline programs, and the programs on its list do tremendous work. But applicants still need to know they exist and then must apply to each online.

One Southern California-based organization, the Legal Education Access Pipeline, or LEAP, began last year with a cohort of 31 LEAP fellows made up of individuals underrepresented in the legal field. LEAP offers a free LSAT prep program, curriculum, and a mentoring program where students are paired with a law school and an attorney mentor.

LEAP founder Cindy Lopez, a retired California Deputy Attorney General explains that she "would not do a diversity pipeline program without LSAT. It's just too important." Her fellows seem to agree.

Lopez Martinez, the DACA student from El Salvador, who essentially flamed out after she took the LSAT in college without any prep course, fared a lot better later when she got help from LEAP and its prep course. She improved her score nearly 10 points, making her eligible for a whole new tier of law schools.

Andaiye McAndrew, a black DACA recipient from Belize, was initially drawn to LEAP because the program offered an expensive and reputable LSAT course cost-free. But, she adds, that is not what kept her in the program. As a first-generation college student who, before LEAP, had not known a single lawyer, the mentorship from lawyers has been critical.

While LEAP founder Lopez sees the LSAT and applying too late in the cycle as two key barriers to law school admission, she also emphasizes that these problems go back to inequities in education. She explains that those with privilege, "grow up talking about college, possibly talking about law school. SAT and college prep is a given at the dinner table ... None of that is existent for these fellows." And, she adds that, "if they've gone to under-resourced high schools, they're already behind the eight ball when they go to college."

The systemic nature of this problem sparked the Playing Field Project, a new pipeline initiative just founded by two recent law school graduates.

Assessing the "playing field"

During this summer's resurgence of Black Lives Matter protests, the implications of privilege on law school admissions weighed heavily on Alexei Segall and Akina Newbraugh, who both graduated from top-tier law schools in May and who also both just started as associates at a big law firm.

The pair decided to create a new nonprofit, The Playing Field Project, to, quite literally, level the law school admissions playing field by providing low-income minority students with LSAT tutoring services, law school application assistance, and other services. They plan to launch with their first set of participants entering the 2021 admission cycle.

Unlike LEAP, which caters to a small but growing cohort of individuals in southern California, the Playing Field Project aims to be national in scope.

"We're not reinventing the wheel ...We're not trying to create an LSAT program. We're not trying to be the ones reviewing essays. We just want to provide those resources to students," Newbraugh says. In short, they are trying to aggregate services and subsidize the admission and prep course fees as a potential game-changer for low-income and minority applicants.

Where should the pipeline start?

The dean of admissions at Georgetown Law School, Andrew Cornblatt, is trying to help build the pipeline at an earlier access point: high school.

After learning during a panel that law students first start thinking about law school in high school, Cornblatt began Georgetown Law's Early Outreach Initiative. It started with the idea that large segments of the population are not having conversations about law school when "these ideas and these ambitions form," he says.

Now he has identified 1,000 high school seniors at under-resourced high schools across 10 cities and has laid plans to have 300 lawyer-mentors who have volunteered to help guide them through their college years.

Law firms as important financial stakeholders

Both the Playing Field Project and LEAP are looking to law firms, and in particular big law firms, for funding. They see firms as key donors who have a stake in a more diverse applicant pool.

It is in their interest because "law firms need more diverse lawyers to make their clients happy," says Playing Field Project co-founder Newbraugh.

Starting next month, for instance, Intel will only hire law firms where the U.S. partners are at least 21% women and at least 10% underrepresented minorities. According to the Wall Street Journal, similar steps are being taken at other large companies including Microsoft, Uber and Novartis.

"Every lawyer I talked to about this, every major law firm, has said the same thing to me. 'What can we do? How can we get more diverse associates and partners?'" says Georgetown's Cornblatt . Their clients are "looking around the table," and saying, "What gives?"

COVID-19 vaccine is not a golden ticket to normalcy in Michigan schools - yet - MLive.com

Posted: 27 Dec 2020 05:00 AM PST

The COVID-19 vaccine's arrival in Michigan brings hope to many that the pandemic is nearing the end, but health and education experts agree there's a long way to go before school will return to normal.

The current vaccine is not approved for children younger than 16, and even after teachers are vaccinated, health officials said its best to continue wearing masks and practice social distancing. The normalcy of in-person school won't return overnight, the experts said.

Gayla Clark, a third grade teacher at Prairie Ridge Elementary School in Kalamazoo, said she will get the vaccine as soon as possible to protect herself, her family and her students.

"I don't want to give (COVID-19) to anybody, Clark said. "How awful would that be to know that you've given it to someone elderly, young or whoever," Clark said.

The teachers union vice president said she's thankful that Kalamazoo Public Schools has remained in virtual mode and will do so at least until March. Clark doesn't believe the arrival of the vaccine will have any impact on the 2020-21 school year.

But, although progress toward normalcy is "slow-moving," there's at least a light at the end of the tunnel, she said.

"It's at least a little glimmer of hope," Clark said.

Health officials have a lot of unknowns about how a vaccine may affect the school year, Susan Ringler Cerniglia, Washtenaw County Health Department spokeswoman, said.

"We won't know a lot until we have a vaccine they can actually take," Cerniglia said. "And when there's wide availability."

Teachers will be vaccinated earlier as part of phase 1B, which is the second of four distribution phases outlined by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. Vaccination of school staff is essential to improve the capacity to have in person instruction, MDHHS officials said.

Teachers are grouped with other essential workers behind healthcare workers in line for the vaccine. There are an estimated 87 million Americans working in essential sectors, like food and agriculture, manufacturing and law enforcement, according to a New York Times article.

This includes the country's three million teachers but may not account for school nurses, janitors, cafeteria workers and other school workers who are also crucial to reopening school, the article states.

In Michigan, distribution of the vaccine is slower than expected. This week, the state received less than half the doses of vaccine than it expected.

MDHHS received 84,825 doses of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine last week, and anticipated another 84,000 the week of Dec. 22, as well as 173,600 doses of the Moderna vaccine just approved by the Federal Drug Administration.

Instead, state officials have been told to expect 60,450 doses each of the Pfizer and Moderna immunizations, according to Lynn Sutfin, MDHHS spokeswoman.

Distribution of the vaccine will take multiple months. And students are unlikely to see vaccinations before the beginning of next year as pediatric trials have only just begun, per the New York Times article.

"The vaccine provides a light at the end of the tunnel for many parents who are trying to work, do remote school and take care of their families," said Jessica Grose, The Times's Parenting columnist. "But there's still considerable anxiety about how the months ahead might play out."

The vaccine will give her staff an additional layer of protection against the virus, Naomi Norman, Washtenaw County Intermediate School District interim superintendent, said.

"Most importantly, the vaccine is giving us hope that there is an end to the pandemic," Norman said. "We remain concerned about the student health risks and will be continuing to follow our pandemic response plans with guidance from our local health department."

The ISD has not discussed widespread changes to its in-person school models and knows schools will need to continue mitigation efforts, like mask wearing and physical distancing, into the new year, Norman said.

Health officials have been asked if schools will distribute the vaccine, and they've said it's unlikely because parents or guardians must be present for a minor to be vaccinated, Cerniglia said.

Schools also already have in place a process for parents to opt their children out of vaccines, and Cerniglia believes that may be the case for the coronavirus vaccine as well.

Melissa Emery, an Ann Arbor single mother of two, questions the safety of the vaccine and said she will not be taking it or giving it to her children.

"They don't know the long-term effects of it," Emery said. "I will never, never get that vaccine."

Emery believes it will be years before health experts know the real effects of the vaccine.

"I don't think its the panacea that maybe a lot of people think it's going to be," Emery said. "It's not the holy grail."

John Helmholdt, Grand Rapids Public Schools spokesman, said parents can opt their child out of the vaccine, when it becomes available. And, if parents decide not to get vaccinated themselves, their children will not be limited to online school, he said.

"We certainly are not going to penalize a student if and when the vaccine may be available if their parents choose not to," Helmholdt said.

The district's focus today is on rapid testing sites for educators and other GRPS staff, Helmholdt said. The district will return to hybrid in-person classes on Jan. 19, after spending the first half of the school year in virtual mode.

Grand Rapids school leaders hope the vaccine could be available for staff as early as mid to late January, Helmholdt said. But mitigation strategies such as social distancing will still be required when students return to school on in January.

Marcus Cheatham, Mid-Michigan District Health Department health officer, said the department does not give legal advice to schools and businesses, including whether or not they should mandate that personnel get the vaccine.

"We are not advocates for anyone requiring it," Cheatham said. "But if you don't want to get sick, get this vaccine."

To help you navigate this complicated fall, we're pleased to offer you a simpler way to get all of your education news: Our new Michigan Schools: Education in the COVID Era newsletter delivered right to your inbox. To receive this newsletter, simply click here to sign up.

Also on MLive:

Vaccination clinic for police, frontline workers brings 'joy and hope' to Kalamazoo

How does the coronavirus vaccine work? Nine things you need to know

'I shouldn't be alive,' says doctor who battled COVID-19 for three months

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