Monday, January 11, 2021

To read: early January update

I have been snowed under (metaphorically) and haven't managed to write; I hope that January lets up a bit to allow for a bit of contemplation. In the meantime, here is some of what I have been reading.

I want to recommend for your reading "Black American has reason to question authorities" by  Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor in this week's New Yorker. After reviewing health disparities and the history of (as an example) the Tuskegee experiment and sterilization of Black women, the second half of the piece moves to schools specifically: 

Black parents are predictably chastised for not fully understanding the implications of continuing to rely on remote learning. Liberal critics have combined with school boards to describe school reopening as an “equity” issue, often targeting teachers’ unions that have also insisted on trying to stay out of schools that have not been properly retooled to increase ventilation or that lack the space capacity for social distancing. It is as if Black and Latino parents, whose communities have borne the devastating brunt of this disease, need to be lectured about what constitutes equity for themselves or their children. A staggering seventy-one per cent of African-Americans know someone who has been hospitalized with or died from the virus, compared to forty-nine per cent of white people. In fact, it is the absence of equity that has driven these families to want to keep their children at home. For all of the citation of studies and student outcomes in South Korea or the Netherlands, the return-to-school advocates seem to miss that Black parents simply do not trust that local officials and school administrators are telling the truth about the condition of the schools and the susceptibility of their children to the disease if they are in school buildings.

If you're wondering how the districts that are doing regular testing are managing it (besides "money"), you may find this piece by Michael Jonas looking at the Harvard Public Schools' testing informative. There's more from Politico on the national push on school COVID testing here
From a Worcester perspective, I ran some back of the envelope numbers on Twitter this weekend. Pool testing is 10 people per pool, so that's 2900 tests per week (25,000 students + 4000 staff). At $105 per pooled test, that's $304,500 per week. Positives trigger individual tests, which cost $48 each. As Worcester most recently had a 33% positivity rate, that's a third of those tested, or 9570 individual tests, which is an additional $459,360, for a weekly total of $763,860, though I of course would think that a one-third positivity rate already would rule some of this out. 

This Atlantic piece titled "The debate over school safety is no longer relevant" notes that with the number of staff who are sick or quarantining, simple logistics throw schools into needing to move to remote learning 

It's really important to remember the other impacts of the pandemic: the 74 has this piece on students at work full-time to support their families, while also attempting to balance remote learning. 

Finally, two recent pieces of research on COVID-19 and schools have been picking up a good bit of press: this study via REACH on the impact of school reopening on hospitalization, and this study via CALDER on what extent in-person learning contributes to community spread. Rather than my summarizing them here, I would direct you to the dependable Matt Barnum in Chalkbeat and Rachel Cohen writing in the The Intercept. I was disappointed to find that The Hechinger Report in their piece repeated the error of going to Emily Oster of Brown for comment; see here, for example, on the issues with her work on this issue, and here for her history of having done this before.
If you'd like to apply the REACH study to your own district, they've now put together this spreadsheet of hospitalization by county. 

More as I have it! 

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