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Students aren’t missing. It’s the computers, stupid.

Do you need help finding those “missing students” that haven’t made it to online school yet? I can help.

A piece by ABC’s Ted Oberg follows a Houston student who hasn’t been schooled since last spring because she hasn’t had a computer or wifi access. Her name is Raquel and she represents the millions of kids nationally who have been “missing” from school district rosters, and falling behind.

These are the stories that break my heart. In a nation boastful of our economic power, we can’t get kids all they need for an education. We used to be able to put a man on the moon. Today we can’t get a Chromebook into a child’s hands.

A laptop during a pandemic. Apparently that’s too much.

Here’s the story:

The last time Raquel was in class was in March, just before Spring Break. After that, HISD shut down in-person learning and classes went online. Raquel didn’t follow there, “I don’t have no computer to use at home.”

Without a computer and without Wi-Fi, Raquel was one of the thousands of HISD students who just disappeared last year from online learning. At its worst, nearly one out of four HISD students was less than fully engaged. State figures show 49,514 students like Raquel either lost contact or were less than fully engaged.

It may be far less now. Thousands of the missing students have been contacted and HISD handed out nearly 100,000 tablets and computers, but thousands more are still waiting.


Like many parents, Raquel’s mother, Monique Smith, was anxious to get her daughter a device. “I am just worried about if she can get a tablet this year, so she could be doing some things, exercising her brain and staying positive.”

When Smith walked to school to get Raquel a device on Tuesday, she was turned away. Smith told 13 Investigates she informed the district she needed a device during a home visit in June, but on Tuesday the district initially said paperwork indicated she already got one.

Smith was in tears as she told ABC13 it wasn’t true.

Raquel didn’t have time for tears as she said, “I don’t want to be far behind because I don’t have a laptop.” Raquel is the kind of student the district is worried about.

“Very worried,” Dr. Lathan said. “And will continue to be worried until we know we’re back face to face and we’ve been able to engage with all of the students that are assigned on an HISD roster.”


Tuesday morning, the district opened some 36 distance learning centers so students without devices could sign on somewhere, but HISD didn’t announce that until late last week.

Smith said she wasn’t even told about the centers specifically for families like her, until Tuesday afternoon, and her school is one. We suggested they go back and ask.

Raquel was optimistic, “I was hoping I’d get me a laptop so I can go to school and be in my classes now, since it’s a new year.”

How many Raquel’s are there?

As my friend Dirk Tilotson points out regularly, the digital divide is actual an injustice canyon. It’s estimated that as many as 40 million Americans are without the reliable internet access that is critical to getting an education. Tens of thousands are without laptops.

These aren’t missing students, they’re victims of incompetent leadership nationally and locally.

And, guess who is most hurt? According to a McKinsey report, “only 60 percent of low-income students are regularly logging into online instruction; 90 percent of high-income students do.”

In schools that are predominantly Black and Brown, just 60 to 70 percent are logging in regularly.”

Something is wrong with us.

I don’t care what else we do as a nation, whatever else we tout as evidence of our being “great again.”

We ain’t shit until Raquel gets a laptop, WiFi, and teachers who can teach.

Pursuing the power of self-sovereignty and personalized learning to create secure citizens and abundant communities. #TheOppositeOfSchool #AllPowerToThePupil

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Personalized Learning

HANNA LEONE: Chicago Public Schools aren’t connecting with thousands of students – still

A story in the Chicago Tribune says that as many as 44,000 students have been out of touch with the Chicago Public Schools’ remote learning scheme.

As you should expect, the problem hits black and Latino students harder than others.

Hanna Leone writes:

More than two months since schools statewide closed their doors because of COVID-19, Chicago Public Schools has been unable to contact more than 2,250 students to determine whether they have digital access, according to newly released data.

And though the district is requiring schools to make contact with each student at least once a week, no school contact was recorded with 15% of students for the week of May 11, the only week broken down in data provided by CPS. That’s about 44,000 students whom schools didn’t hear from that week.

More than 93% of students in district-managed schools have digital access and have connected in some way, according to the district. That’s a long way from where things stood at the start of remote learning, before 122,000 Chromebooks or similar devices were loaned to students.

But that still leaves out thousands of students, who still need access to computers or reliable internet. About 5%, or 15,600 students, have made contact but are considered nondigital.


African American and Latino students, whose communities have been hardest hit by the coronavirus, were least likely to use Google Meet or Classroom, based on data for the week of May 11. About 70% of African American students and 78% of Latino students accessed the platforms at least once, compared to nearly 87% of both white and Asian students in first through 12th grade.

The gap was similar when looking at graded assignments, with grades recorded for 77% of African American students, 85% of Latino students, 89% of multiracial students, 91% of Asian students and 92% of white students in first grade through high school. (Preschool and kindergarten students use a greater variety of platforms and less Google, and don’t receive graded assignments, so they weren’t included in some calculations.)

Read the whole story here.

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Personalized Learning

Suddenly homeschooling? Khan is here to help

Having trouble staying organized with your kids home learning? Khan is here to help.

Sal Khan's platform helps millions of homeschooling parents

COVID-19-related school closures have left many parents suddenly homeschooling their youngins. More than half of the nations kids are our of school.

That’s a lot of kids. When will they go back to school? Can’t say. How will we keep them on track? Dunno. Are there tools to help parents support their students at home?

Yes. Here it is. Our friends at Khan Academy are doing an amazing job of providing usable information to educators, students, and parents.

Today, they’re publicizing several webinars you might find helpful:

  • Wednesday, April 29: How to motivate and engage your kids in learning (3 PM PT / 6 PM ET) One of the most-asked questions we’ve heard from parents is: how do I motivate my kids to learn? We sit down with Conor Corey, a teacher, Khan Academy Ambassador, and parent of 4, to learn his student motivation tips and strategies. RSVP now.

If you missed previous parent webinars, you can view them on YouTube here. And you can find all of Khan’s remote learning resources for parents and teachers on this site.

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Just because I’m a full-time education activist doesn’t mean I know what to do now

We’re taking the predictions of scientists seriously, which means we’re pulling out all stops to minimize risk of exposure to this damned scary public health crisis. Constantly hearing it will “get worst before it gets better” is one hell of a motivator.

When news reports of the coronavirus became too alarming to ignore a few of my brothers and sisters in Christ wrote blog posts saying the pandemic would lead many families to pursue homeschooling.

I won’t lie. I rolled my eyes a little. Well, it actually was a lot because it just seemed too much like wishful thinking and policy myopia.

And then my family decided this week to keep our kids home from school.

We’re freaked out a little by what we’re seeing on the news. We’re taking the predictions of scientists seriously, which means we’re pulling out all stops to minimize risk of exposure to this damned scary public health crisis. Constantly hearing it will “get worst before it gets better” is one hell of a motivator.

I realize that we’re fortunate that both my wife and I can work from home, supervise our kids, and sequester ourselves into relative safety. Even so, we have a string of questions, decisions, and tasks popping up that we haven’t planned for.

How long will we keep the kids out of school? A week? A month? Indefinitely?

What will they do to keep up with the work they’ll miss? What are the best resources to keep their learning progressing? What does the law say about keeping our kids home?

What do we do tomorrow, our first day of having them home?

I have to tell you, I’m a little embarrassed that I have to investigate these things, but I do. So, there I go to the internet and the phone.

I’ve left messages for our school district to hoping to get some guidance, but I haven’t heard from them.

I requested information from a well-known online public school. Their guy who called me back sounded like he was in a call center somewhere other than the United States. Other phone reps could be heard in the background. I imagined them sitting in cubes being underpaid and scripted to drive me like a timeshare customer toward a decision to enroll.

Hard pass.

I found other online schools and programs that were more reputable, but none of them seem like something we should do temporarily while our kids hide out from a pandemic. These schools, like district schools, expect us to enroll as if we’re staying, which would make us lose our seats in our neighborhood public schools. We’re not ready for that yet.

This process of quickly attempting to put together an education plan for my kids is ironic in that I’m not exactly an education policy civilian, yet, I’m having to look up my state’s homeschooling law because I’m unsure how to do it without getting arrested?

What if we choose not to enroll our kids in any program whatsoever and go freeballing our way into unschooling territory? What tests would they have to take each year to keep the state off our back?

It’s a national emergency that put us in this uncertain, uncharted position of having to assume complete control of the educational process for our kids. We are confronting the degree to which we’re responsible for their education and realizing how easy it has been to be lulled into relying solely on states and districts to determine what, where, and how our kids learn. But that masks the natural order. In truth it shouldn’t have required a crisis for me to understand the full gravity of parental responsibility.

So, for the record, I’m not rolling my eyes now about my friends who predicted families like mine would be introduced to the world of homeschooling.

We’re not sure whether this arrangement lasts for a couple of days, a week, or a month, but we’re more clear than ever that it’s on us to do for our kids what the government can’t.

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