Massachusetts private school students zoom ahead

The school in our town shut down on the afternoon of March 12. Initially, the school decided that teachers wouldn’t be tasked with any online teaching. This was consistent with my theory that #1 priority for a public school is welfare enterprise for employees and that #2 priority was teaching.

This theory turned out to be wrong. Our email inboxes were flooded with content regarding the school’s heroic efforts to continue providing meals to students entitled to welfare. Could the school add $300/month to the mom’s EBT card and task her with microwaving whatever was purchased from a supermarket? Apparently that would be too challenging, so the school decided that they would have people come in to cook every day (spreading coronavirus to each other?) and then hire drivers in school buses to deliver the food to students, most of whom were located a 30-minute drive away in Boston (part of the METCO program that brings exotic skin colors to the suburbs while relieving wealthy Boston skyscraper owners from paying property tax).

How about the teachers? They email students with some assignments on Monday morning. These review material previously taught. They host a couple of Google Classroom hangout sessions each week, in which the students chat amongst themselves.

Facebook post from the father of an 8th-grade student here in our town (soon to be home to the most expensive school, per student, ever constructed in the United States):

Quarantine Day 30+ in a district with some of the highest teacher salaries in Massachusetts and a future $100m middle school building:

How was your video lesson with your teachers today? Have you guys started learning something new?

Papa, seriously, today we talked about our teachers’ dogs, dogs other teachers would love to get, and some other unrelated nonsense. For 45 minutes.

A follow-up:

“Papa, our teachers finally stopped pretending. This week’s science homework is ‘reflect on last week’s homework'”

The 8th grader spends roughly five hours per week on schoolwork, including the video chat. There are no grades.

Maybe things are better in Brookline, a top school district within Massachusetts? “The teachers are useless,” said a friend. “The kids are getting nothing.” His perspective was confirmed by another friend in that town: “Very close to giving up on Brookline schools, which have devolved into about one half hour of Zoom per day. It’s teacher’s union saying ‘you can’t make us teach’ and weak administration and School Committee — and somehow parents just aren’t organized enough even here…” (ordinarily she is a huge believer in the power of bigger government to fix any problem, and a loyal Clinton/Warren-style supporter of unionized labor)

How about high school? I ran into a 10th/11th grade English teacher walking his dog in the during what used to be the school day. He described his current work schedule as “intense.” What hours was he actually online with the students? “12-2 every day.”

What about private school? Friends have 3rd and 6th graders in a local school for intellectually and financially elite children. The teachers transitioned seamlessly and immediately to Zoom, working from 8 am to 2 or 3 pm daily. There are substantial homework assignments afterwards, especially for the 6th grader. Although the children are Zooming ahead, so to speak, academically, a lot of parental effort is required. There are numerous breaks and small tasks that require the mother and father to step in at various points throughout the school day.


15 thoughts on “Massachusetts private school students zoom ahead

  1. Every kid has a good chance of living through 1 crisis which causes their school to shut down for a while. Our school was reduced in capacity for a semester by a fire. Other generations had the school shooting crises. The best way to avoid the tribulations of raising kids in public schools is to be male, skinny, have hair, & financially inept so no women will ever reproduce with you.

  2. It is about the same here in NYC — the public schools have been closed for two months and haven’t bothered to get classes on line. Instead teachers send kids busy work. Kids are required to register each day to show attendance but then there is pretty much nothing. Meanwhile the City’s largest group of charter schools, the Succes Academy serving 17,000 students has been on line since 17 March.

    Charter Schools are essentially public schools that are not subject to union contracts.

    Meanwhile our Mayor, Bill de Blasio (a/k/ Warren Wilhelm jr. a/k/a The Dope From Park Slope has decided to use the police department to crack down on any one who might want to go for a swim at one of NYC’s beaches

    Seems he is afraid a swimmer will be bitten by a corona virus. Go figure.

  3. I wonder what teacher’s unions, school districts and teachers are going to say when they have to measure and report academic performance for kids whose education was interrupted by coronavirus? Does everyone just get passed on to the next grade level while the whole system fudges the numbers? You can’t blame the kids — it’s not their fault, but if the schools stay closed through the fall, what are they going to do, just pretend and try somehow to make up for all the lost time?

    When this is “over” is there going to be any testing to evaluate if the kids learned anything at all while the schools were closed? How can they pass anyone on to the next level if nothing is being graded?

    • I did a little homework and partially answered my own question. It was really easy and I’m waiving my own requirement to be graded or credited for it:

      “We previously requested and received a waiver from the federal requirement for annual statewide student assessment. Now, with the state legislation enacted, the MCAS testing requirement is waived for the remainder of the 2019-20 school year.”

      The high school graduation competency requirements can also be “modified or waived.” There’s no compelling reason to teach anything, and you certainly can’t force anyone to do it since the testing has been jettisoned.

      Meanwhile the CDC has been hard at work promulgating guidelines for schools. I wonder if instead of teaching, all the teachers are reading the guidelines and planning to implement them? It’ll take a long time!

  4. All MA school districts including charter schools are also being encouraged to continue paying their hourly employees while schools are closed, thus saving their workers from having to tap any of their unemployment benefits. I guess the hourly employees could also sign up to be contact tracers because the schools are closed and they have plenty of free time on their hands.

    The teaching may be nonexistent but there’s very little bad news when it comes to funding. Even when FY2021 budgets can’t be passed due to inability to hold a town meeting, etc., the state has given everyone maximum flexibility with 1/12th budgets.

  5. In early March, my city closed the city’s Recreation Department – closing all community centers, parks, the auditorium, event centers, and other classes, activities, and recreation programs. Over 50 city employees immediately had no work; the city has continued to pay them in full. It’s not clear whether they are still showing up to their now-closed work sites or just staying home.

  6. The situation is similar in our well-regarded school district in Northern California. Based on our experience, the teachers assign some/a lot of worksheets at the beginning of the week, and the kids turn them in by Friday. This is the extent of the online curriculum.

    They also hold “office hours,” where kids can ask for help – 3 hours per week. I have my doubts as to whether elementary and middle school students will voluntarily take advantage of meeting with their teachers. I know mine don’t.

    No actual curriculum delivery (aka “teaching”) through online is being delivered by the teachers, three months in. One middle school math teacher included a Khan Academy link, so there’s that.

    They do have online “meet and greets,” but they don’t cover the material. This is strictly social.

  7. Report from California here… legal is leading shutdown of teaching activities. The laws regarding special education are clear ( , LEA is Local Educational Authority i.e. public school board):

    – If an LEA closes its schools to slow or stop the spread of COVID-19, and
    does not provide any educational services to the general student
    population, then an LEA would not be required to provide services to
    students with disabilities during that same period of time

    – If an LEA continues to provide educational opportunities to the general
    student population during a school closure, the school must ensure
    that students with disabilities also have equal access to the same

    The solution to administrators is obvious (and they will tell you this!): don’t provide educational services to the general student population, and you don’t have to provide any for special education (which sometimes requires one-on-one and/or in-person instruction, and can disallow requirements to use a computer).

    The silver lining is that everybody at the school district gets paid vacation and continues to accrue for retirement, so the teachers’ union lines up to support. Win-win! #WereAllInThisTogether

    Shockingly, two teachers at my daughter’s high school are kicking butt in the midst of this, holding classes, assigning homework, having office hours, answering emails and calls. The best of the rest of her teachers sends out an email once a week with links to Tyler DeWitt lessons in chemistry. Kids, teach yourself electron configuration!

    On the private school front, an administrator friend of mine said “this is a good opportunity for us to speed up our efforts in online education”. They were up and running within a couple of days of the shutdown and are on a regular schedule as @philg describes (0800 to ~1400).

    I imagine a lot of parents right now are beginning to understand how much better Tyler Dewitt and Sal Kahn are at teaching than the local high school staff…

    • Wow, interesting. I will check out the chemistry videos. Good point on Sal Kahn.

      Thanks for the info.

    • If the students are watching Tyler DeWitt, then they aren’t teaching themselves.

      Also, special ed is the biggest racket in education.

  8. Wonder how many of the MA teachers are teaching from vacation homes in the same out of state towns their MA student’s families are living in? Kids can now get fancy-town HS diplomas while living anywhere in the world.

  9. Children impacted with moderate to severe disabilities and other vulnerabilities?

  10. While a bit late to the party, my report:

    My 12-year-old goes to the private school in the Seattle area. School proactively shut down ahead of public schools and transitioned to MS Teams in three days. Ie he had online classes on Wednesday of the shut down week. The only thing we have to do is to kick him out of his room so he would get some exercise.

    For our 5-year old we don’t even bother with school assignments (to be fair, it’s hard to teach 5-year olds remotely). He goes full-time to his old daycare (which are not shutdown in Seattle), and, lucky enough, learns some stuff there.

  11. P.S. I keep saying that one thing for sure, this will demonstrate value of American education system. My prediction that there will be no measurable effect – American education doesn’t teach that much anyway, so few months are not going to make a difference.

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