Decisions, Decisions, Decisions (Part 2)

Hey all… welcome back to my pink room!

Grab a seat, get comfortable… we might be here for a little while. As you may have noticed over the last few days, I am still getting my sea legs when it comes to the timing of these post, so for now just expect to see a post each weekday.

Alright. Now on to the good stuff…

Today we are picking up on our little series about the roots undergirding K-12 schooling in my district (which from hence forward I will call “Pink Valley District”) .

Last week, we talked about how COVID-19 has brought us face to face with a question, it seems many of us had been avoiding and demanded that we give an answer: What is school really? We conjectured that whatever our answer is to this question, it also has the power to reveal our roots. And so our mission, if we hope to understand what values schooling sprouts from in Pink Valley, is to uncover how in fact they chose to answer that question. In the last post, “Decisions, Decisions, Decisions (Part 1)”, we essentially spent some time reflecting on what school looked like before the pandemic and how impossible the task of continuing school during the pandemic really was.

Today we will spend all our time thinking about one important choice that Pink Valley had to make when constructing their version of this new kind of “pandemic” schooling. There is a lot to talk through so we better get started…

Our discussion begins well at the beginning with the first choice that I had actually previously wrote off as obvious. That is to have any kind public schooling at all. Perhaps the choice seems to you as obvious as I made it out to be last week, yes we need to have school. But let’s slow down for a minute. And spend some time considering these questions: (1) What do we mean by ” having any kind of public schooling” and thus what does it mean to not have it? and (2) What are the obvious factors at play influencing our choice to purse “any kind of public schooling” or not?

Let’s now try to answer (1). In order to answer this question, we will first consider what is necessary for the statement “having some kind of public schooling” within the specific context of Pink Valley to be true. Then see if we can come up with a formulation that constitutes having no “kind of public schooling”.

So, okay what do we actually know? We know that a physical school building is not necessary because Pink Valley’s state did not permit any school districts to host students in any kind of physical building. We also know that specific designated times for “classes” are not necessary because high school students in Pink Valley did not have designated synchronous times for “class” in Spring 2020. We also know that teacher-student interactions are not necessary because it was entirely possible for a student to have no interaction with their Pink Valley teachers in Spring 2020. We know that traditional A-F assessment practices are not necessary because schools across the nation including Pink Valley chose alternative practices (including no assessments at all). Finally we know that attendance (or at least traditional tracking of attendance) is not necessary because many schools at the onset had no way of tracking a child’s attendance to school or per class.

Before we move on, notice what this list tells us about the choices that Pink Valley will make. It tells us that if Pink Valley chooses to make a school system that includes any of that mentioned above then they are consciously and deliberately choosing to do so. That is they are not required to make that choice so they could have made another choice, be it for attendance or grading, etc.

So okay now on to the hard part what is necessary then? Notice first that when we say “what is necessary”, this is wholly contingent on the specific context of Pink Valley, i.e what is necessary for “any kind of public schooling” to hold true in Pink Valley is not necessarily true for another school district. Yet it is still really hard to answer this question so here is what we are going to do. We will now think about what it would mean to have no public schooling of any kind. And this should just be another way of saying what is necessary for Pink Valley to consider itself hosting some kind of public schooling.

So what does it look like to not host school? In Pink Valley, there is no school if there are no assignments. The assignments do not necessarily need to be graded in any specific way but they need to be due within some set timeframe and have some sort of assessment attached(even if it just for completion). In Pink Valley, there is no school if there is no official school calendar with designated school days and a final day of school. But that’s it. (At least as much I can come up with for now).

Given what we have above all that appears to be necessary to have public schooling is to have assignments due within a scheduled timeframe that is by the scheduled final day of class, and during one of the “school days”. Notice that this formulation of school appears to be significantly below our expectation before COVID, but also gives us a lot of freedom in what deem as school. It means that any practices above assignments and school days is not at the core needed to have school.

Okay now on to (2). What are perhaps some the obvious factors in play when deciding to have some kind of public schooling? For time sake I will list a few but we will periodically comeback to these and possibly fill them out a little more precisely.

  1. In the US (with slight variations by state), every student between the ages 6-16 is required by law to be enrolled in some kind of school (public, private or charter). And in addition, every district must offer access to a free education to any student ages 5-18 residing in that district.
  2. Since the No Child Left Behind Act was passed in the 2000s, schools have been closely monitored and policed surrounding standardized assessment scores of students enrolled
  3. Districts maintain the “quality” of their neighborhoods and their schools based on their rankings
  4. Parents want their children to procure the best possible resources to allow their child to not only prosper but often outperform them.

Alrighty folks… that was a lot but we have now taken a look at the first of many important decisions. Tomorrow, we will dive right back in and see if we can investigate one of the choices that appears to immediately follow this one. Okay, join me back here in the pink room to find out more.

Till then!

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