Here in Maskachusetts, today is the first day for public schoolteachers to teach. Negotiations with the union resulted in a startup delay of more than two weeks so that teachers could receive training and come up with a plan for the various bizarre forms of teaching that they’re going to be doing. Plainly there was no way for the teachers to do any prep in April, May, June, July, or August. (Private school teachers figured out how to teach remotely back in March, sometimes in only a day or two; see Massachusetts private school students zoom ahead.)
A popular system here seems to be “hybrid” in which students will attend school in-person two mornings per week and the rest of the time is “learning at home” (i.e., Xbox; back in 2009 it was the adults who were on the 99 weeks of Xbox plan!)
Another feature is that the school days are shortened. Where they previously escaped at 2:50 pm, now the school day ends at 1:45 pm. The reason for this is unclear. A teacher told me that it was to give teachers additional time to plan assignments and that teachers would never be expected to interact with students after 1:45 pm.
A friend in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania shared a plan from the public school system there (featured for its mediocrity in Smartest Kids in the World: Poland). Students will attend school Monday through Thursday, but then be dumped on the parents on Fridays. If it is safe for the students to attend Monday through Thursday, why can’t they also go Friday? If it is unsafe to be at the school on Fridays, why it is safe for them to be there Monday through Thursday?
These schedules, which feature a lot of time at home, seem ideal for boosting the pay of tutors and also for increasing inequality. “Parents are spending $70,000 for their kids to learn in ‘pods’” (New York Post):
Now that most NYC-area schools have released their plans for the upcoming school year, with a combination of remote and in-person learning, parents of elite students are scrambling to supplement what they believe will inevitably be lost if students aren’t in the classroom — by hiring private educators.
Known as “pods,” small groups of four to 10 students in the same grade led by a tutor or teacher, have become the solution for weary and wealthy parents who are paying thousands of dollars — on top of five-figure private school tuitions — for the extra help monitoring kids during their school’s remote learning schedule.
Christopher Rim, founder of the education and college consulting firm Command Education, has been inundated with calls from “desperate parents” demanding leaders for pods that they’ve created with other families. He’s already staffed four pods in the Hamptons with tutors and expects to close in on 10 by the time the school year begins, with kids expected to rotate learning at a different home each week. One Water Mill parent already volunteered her 13-bedroom manse as the permanent home base of her kid’s 11th-grade four-person learning pod. He charges $3,500 a week per student, but offers a flat rate of $70,000 per kid if you pay the whole year up front, which covers 30 weeks of school.
Rim, a 25-year-old Yale grad with a BA in psychology who started the company in 2015 out of his dorm room, trains his tutors, who are all Ivy-league educated and under 30 years old. Some have teaching degrees and are certified to teach in public schools but not all. Said Rim, “This is not a replacement for school. This is not an accredited program. This is a supplement to make sure the students are on track.” All his tutors will be tested for COVID weekly, and will follow CDC guidelines for social-distancing whenever possible.
It’s also a matter of pride. Parents aren’t broadcasting the fact that they’re spending $70,000 a year on top of the $50,000 private school tuition to friends, Rim said, because “They don’t want other parents to gossip about them, that their kid needs a tutor in order to survive the school year.”
Readers: Any good tales from your necks of the woods? Full post, including comments