Destruction in the educational world caused by the lockdown.

Education today. Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

Growing indications point towards ongoing damage to learning at all educational levels due to the shut down. From kindergartners to college students there will be losses of learning time and knowledge.

Older students will be able to catch up. Motivated students will get through. I fear youngsters in particular and unmotivated students in general will suffer permanent damage from the lockdown.

Consider all the damage described in the following articles is a result of a public policy choice made by a host of state and local officials.

The Dispatch – 9/10/20 – The sad realities of virtual learning. – Looks like kindergartners are disappearing from schools. Enrollment in Los Angeles Unified School District is down 14% from a year ago.

A number of other reports suggest there is a drop in enrollment at the K level of anywhere from 5% to 40% across country.

Article says some people think the drop might be because families are leaving cities or are transitioning to a private school. That is not likely the case in LAUSD where four out of five kids qualify for subsidized lunch.

Ponder what the shut down and drop in education quality is doing to poor people. A disproportionate drop in the enrollment in Los Angeles is in poor neighborhoods. The ongoing damage to those kid’s education breaks my heart.

Kindergartners in LAUSD are expected to spend three hours online and then engage in self-directed activities for a few more hours a day.

Kindergartners.

In poor households.

With unknown internet connection and computer tools.

Article points out distance education is tough for a middle-class family, with good equipment, with decent Internet access, with two parents present, both of whom speak English. Even those parents have to juggle the bandwidth, downloads, passcodes, passwords, variety of user accounts, and unending list of detailed instructions.

Just imagine how tougher it is in poorer households to get on-line, stay on-line, then get a five-year-old to sit still for two 90 minute instructional sessions and then sit still for another hour or two of self-directed learning activities on the screen all the while doing so in one-parent family in a crowded apartment with other children on-line.

How in the world are kindergartners, or poor folk, or unmotivated students ever going to catch up with the educational losses they’re going to suffer this year?

Oh, lack of money for schools is not the issue.

Article explains the average spending per student across California is $17,000 per year. In LAUSD it is $18,788.

For a class of 30 students that is about $560,000 a year per classroom.

Reason – 9/16/20 – Homeschooling Hits a Tipping Point – Article sites multiple news reports providing anecdotal information that many families are moving to homeschooling. Driving this is the chaos of schools which are open, visibly poor quality of distance education, and schools that haven’t yet opened or won’t reopen in person.

A survey by Gallup indicates perhaps 10% of families may be homeschooling their children this year. The survey is phrased oddly so what that number actually means is not quite clear. The impact though it is to point towards increased homeschooling.

Estimates are that 3.3% of students in K-12 classes were homeschooled in 2016. That portion has been increasing over time. Looks like it will accelerate this year.

That is understandable in light of some places, such as the entirety of the County of Los Angeles where the social worker who runs the county public health department (yes, social worker, not a doctor or a registered nurse) declared LA County schools won’t reopen until ‘after the election,’ health director says. The reference point wasn’t Halloween, wasn’t a set date like November 9 or 23, or a vague time like mid-November. Please ponder that mindset.

The Nation – 9/8/20 – House of Cards / Can the American university be saved? – As has been obvious for several months, the pandemic and resulting lockdown creates an existential threat to the entire University model in the United States.

Article points out state schools are cutting services. Small liberal arts schools are on the brink of failure. Rich schools are cuttings services and increasing tuition while leaving their massive endowments untouched.

Adjuncts and grad students who don’t get laid off are seeing their hours slashed.

At the same time, students are pushing back against spending tens of thousands of dollars per semester for lower quality classes viewed from their parent’s basement or living room.

Some other articles I read report frustration from students who were sitting at home but still paying for gym, student center, activity fees, and all the other charges beyond tuition which are imposed for living on campus.

Take or leave the author’s assessment as to the cause of current distress, the current condition for instructors is precarious.

A book cited by the author points out that 75% of the instructors at the college level are either non-tenure-track professors, or contingent adjuncts, or graduate students.

The average compensation for a contingent faculty member is $2,475 per course. Article points out with that average compensation a person would have to teach a ridiculously high number of classes in order to live. Cited example is a person would have to teach 19 courses a year to hit the median income for an American worker of $47,025. That would be a whopping 10 courses in the fall (30 semester hours) and another nine courses in the spring (27 semester hours).

Article provides a lot more background from two cited books on the current state of higher education and how this situation has developed.

Article makes the same point I have seen repeatedly over the last six months: there is a disaster on the near-term horizon for higher education.

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