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The Covid Pandemic and Inequity in Education

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Years ago, my daughter was invited to transfer to another elementary school for an advanced academic program. The principal at her current school then, Brian Butler, convinced me to have my daughter stay in the same school. Butler is one principal I knew who would give my daughter the opportunity and tools to realize her potential. It is not a special treatment. It is just the way Butler treats each student. This month marks the return to in-person schooling in Fairfax county, but we do have the choice of keeping our children in a virtual setting. There is considerable demand for in-person classes and with mitigation strategies, not every child can go in-person. My children have been thriving in an online environment and I am currently holding all my classes and office hours virtual so I am quite available to serve as a monitor to my children at home. Thus, we chose our children to stay virtual, hoping that the opportunity will be made to two other children out there who need face-to-f

COVID Situation in Fairfax County

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If you do not read past the headline, you may get comfortable with the idea that we are no longer under the threat of coronavirus. The governor of Virginia has just relaxed restrictions and Fairfax county public schools are scheduled to return to in-person classes next week. The introductory paragraph of the governor's new executive order, however, tells a sobering picture:  "Even though case counts are decreasing, there is still a cause for concern and a need for continued restrictions. Virginia’s seven-day moving average of new COVID19 cases is still more than 2,000 per day, which is higher than at any point in the first nine months of the pandemic. Virginia’s seven-day PCR percent test positivity rate is 8.3 percent. The statewide rate of COVID-19 ICU hospitalizations (3.8 per 100,000) is still above the threshold of concern (3.5 per 100,000)." We are not yet in a position that is better than either March or September last year when schools have gone virtual. There is

Instructional Continuity - COVID and Snow Days

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My son woke up today during the usual time so he could attend his virtual classes. I told him that there were no classes today because of snow. He gave me this blank stare and said, "But we are virtual". Well, this apparently is not the case in Fairfax county. Both in-person and virtual classes had been canceled. For Georgetown University, Main and Medical Campuses are closed but with Instructional Continuity. We use virtual classes, which we are currently using this semester due to the pandemic, because we believe in the importance of instructional continuity. "Classes will continue virtually as scheduled." ___________________________________________________________ Here is an old post from this blog on instructional continuity. When Storms Interrupt Learning in Classrooms January 25, 2016 A post on this blog more than a year ago talked about  Instructional Continuity . The article was in response to flooding brought by heavy rains in the capital region of Manila i

What It Takes To Reopen School Buildings

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Experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) emphasized that for school buildings to reopen, there must be a "commitment to implement community-based policies that reduce transmission when SARS-CoV-2 incidence is high". There are two elements here. The first is that people should be doing their best to prevent transmission of the virus. The second element is the current incidence of COVID in the community. Both highlight the most important key: disease transmission. Some have used percent positivity rate as a measure for transmission. This is only accurate if there is universal testing. Without widespread and regular testing, setting a given positivity rate as a threshold does not really hold any meaning because percent positivity is a function of both transmission and testing. During the week of January 24, 94 students at Georgetown University tested positive for the coronavirus. The university acted quickly by suspending all hybrid classes until Februar

Black History is World History

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This month is Black History month. I have seen several posts on social media enumerating black people who have been successful in a variety of fields such as science, medicine, technology and sports. It is good to celebrate successful people of color. However, history is so much more than just a "list of greatest hits". History is looking at the past in an unvarnished fashion. History is about learning from where we were so that we could find ourselves in a better place in the future. Most importantly, black history is world history. Basic education therefore is not served if we place black history as apart from our story. I went through basic education learning about the Roman Empire, Medieval Civilizations, and various wars, but I never came across a map that showed what we actually did in Africa not so long ago. Above copied from Facing History The map alone tells so much about our world, how Europeans divided an entire continent among themselves. Here is another map: Abov

Should Fairfax County Schools Switch to In-Person Classes?

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Fairfax County switched to a virtual environment back in March of last year. The county had about 10 confirmed COVID cases during that time. During the week of Labor Day in September, Fairfax county was seeing on average 70 new COVID cases per day. Fairfax county public schools opted stay virtual. Now, school officials are once again planning for a return to in-person instruction some time this coming March. Today, the county is reporting  more than 250 new COVID cases. There is no doubt that current COVID transmission in the county sits at a high alarming level. The situation is not better compared to either March or September last year.  Above copied from Fairfax Health District The above graph clearly shows that COVID case counts in the county are at their highest level, higher than last April, and much higher than last September. Experts are worried about variants from Brazil, South Africa and Britain. With the United States leading the world in number of COVID confirmed cases, the

Academic Freedom and Radicalization

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There is no doubt that for higher education to flourish, there must be a free exchange of ideas. Sadly, institutions of higher education are finding themselves in societies where violent extremism also exists. Universities cannot serve as a fertile ground for recruitment of new members into extremist organizations. Academic freedom is a responsibility. It must be earned. Such burden ultimately rests on the shoulders of both educators and authorities. In the recent months, the Philippines government has increasingly brought attention to allegations that universities are serving as recruitment grounds for violent groups such as the New People's Army. The dilemma of safeguarding academic freedom amidst radicalization, however, is not unique to the Philippines. Countries in Europe are also grappling with this issue.  And in the Middle East, the questions has not been as stark, as laid out in an article written by  a former president of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East and a Freed