Hexbyte Glen Cove Pandemic spurs boom in virtual offerings for US schools thumbnail

Hexbyte Glen Cove Pandemic spurs boom in virtual offerings for US schools

Hexbyte Glen Cove

Logan Strauss, 5, does his school work at home with his laptop while participating in an online class in Basking Ridge, N.J., Wednesday, July 28, 2021. Logan’s parents are keeping him out of school until he gets the COVID-19 vaccine. Credit: AP Photo/Mark Lennihan

Despite the challenges of distance learning during the pandemic, public school systems across the U.S. are setting up virtual academies in growing numbers to accommodate families who feel remote instruction works best for their children.

A majority of the 38 state education departments that responded to an Associated Press survey this summer indicated additional permanent virtual schools and programs will be in place in the coming school year.

Parent demand is driven in some measure by concern about the virus, but also a preference for the flexibility and independence that comes with remote instruction. And are eager to maintain enrollment after seeing students leave for virtual charters, home schooling, and other options—declines that could lead to less funding.

“It is the future,” said Dan Domenech, executive director of the American Association of School Administrators. “Some of these states might be denying it now, but soon they will have to get in line because they will see other states doing it and they will see the advantages of it.”

New Jersey parent Karen Strauss lost a brother-in-law to the pandemic. Her vaccinated teenager will return in person but she wants her 5-year-old son at her Bridgewater home until he can get a shot. Strauss said Logan has excelled online under the guidance of his teachers, who will not be available if she home-schools him.

Logan Strauss, 5, participates in an online class from home in Basking Ridge, N.J., Wednesday, July 28, 2021. Logan’s parents are keeping him out of school until he gets the COVID-19 vaccine. Credit: AP Photo/Mark Lennihan

“If learning from home is what’s best for them, why not do that? What’s the reason, except that people are afraid of change?” she said.

School districts’ plans for long-term, full-time virtual programs—which had been rising gradually—spiked during the pandemic. Students in virtual academies generally are educated separately from a district’s other students.

In Virginia, before the pandemic, most of the locally operated virtual programs offered individual courses only to students in grades 6-12, and few, if any, offered full-time instruction. In the new school year, 110 of the commonwealth’s 132 school divisions will use Virtual Virginia, a state-operated K-12 program, to provide some or all of their full-time virtual instruction, spokesman Charles Pyle said. So far, 7,636 students have enrolled full time for the fall, compared with just 413 in the 2019-20 school year, he said.

Logan Strauss, 5, sits on the floor with his mother Karen while they play a word game in Basking Ridge, N.J., Wednesday, July 28, 2021. Logan’s parents are keeping him out of school until he gets the COVID-19 vaccine. Credit: AP Photo/Mark Lennihan

Elsewhere, Tennessee state officials approved 29 new online schools for the 2021-22 academic year, which more than doubles the number created over the last decade, spokesperson Brian Blackley said. Colorado fielded two dozen requests for permanent single district online options along with six requests for permanent multidistrict online schools, according to spokesman Jeremy Meyer, who said numbers are up compared with pre-pandemic years. Minnesota also saw a substantial increase, approving 26 new online providers by July, with 15 applications still pending.

In New Mexico, which like most states is requiring schools to offer in-person learning this year, Rio Rancho Public Schools used federal relief funding to add the fully remote K-5 SpaRRk Academy. A survey found nearly 600 of the 7,500 families were interested in continuing virtually, including many who liked being more involved with their children’s education, said Janna Chenault, the elementary school improvement officer.

“We teetered back and forth at what grade to start,” Chenault said, “but we did have interest from some kindergarten parents and we wanted to keep them in our district, so it’ll be K-5.”

Logan Strauss, 5, participates in an online class from home, Wednesday, July 28, 2021, in Basking Ridge, N.J. Logan’s parents are keeping him out of school until he gets the COVID-19 vaccine. Credit: AP Photo/Mark Lennihan

Although the spread of the delta variant and rising infection rates have cast a shadow over the start of the school year, President Joe Biden and educators across the country are encouraging a return to in-person instruction, largely because of concerns that many were served poorly by .

Test scores in Texas showed the percentage of students reading at their grade level slid to the lowest levels since 2017, while math scores plummeted to their lowest point since 2013, with remote learners driving the decline. Louisiana tests results also showed that public school students who attended in-person classes during the coronavirus pandemic outperformed those who relied on distance learning.

Pre-pandemic research raised questions about the performance of fully virtual schools. A 2019 report from the National Education Policy Center said data was limited by disparate reporting and accountability requirements but showed that of 320 virtual schools with available performance ratings, only 48.5% rated acceptable.

Logan Strauss, 5, participates in an online class from home in Basking Ridge, N.J., Wednesday, July 28, 2021. Logan’s parents are keeping him out of school until he gets the COVID-19 vaccine. Credit: AP Photo/Mark Lennihan

But Domenech said families seeking out virtual school often have children who are strong students and feel held back in classrooms.

“These are the self-starters, students that are already doing very well, probably in terms of the top 10% of their classes, so remote learning is a great opportunity for personalized learning that allows them to move at their own pace,” he said.

Before the pandemic, 691 fully virtual public schools enrolled 293,717 students in the 2019-20 school year, according to National Center for Education Statistics data. That compared with 478 schools with an enrollment of just under 200,000 in 2013-14. Projections for the coming are not available, NCES said.

States vary in their approaches to remote learning, with some, like Idaho, leaving decisions entirely to local boards. Others require districts to get state approval to operate their own online school outside any that may exist for students statewide.

Logan Strauss, 5, bounces on the family’s trampoline with his sister Samantha at their home in Basking Ridge, N.J., Wednesday, July 28, 2021. Logan’s parents are keeping him out of school until he gets the COVID-19 vaccine. Credit: AP Photo/Mark Lennihan

Massachusetts requires detailed proposals from districts that must address equitable access, curriculum and documented demand. New Arizona online schools are put on probation until they’ve proven their academic integrity through student performance.

At least some of the virtual schools that districts set up may never take in students. In North Carolina, 52 districts made plans for fully virtual schools, although some were set up as contingency plans in the event they were needed, state education department spokesperson Mary Lee Gibson said.

In states like New Jersey, Texas and Illinois that have removed widespread remote options, restricting them to students with special circumstances, some parents are pushing back.

“We’re not trying to stop anybody from going back to or the world from trying to come back to some sort of normalcy,” New Jersey mother Deborah Odore said. She wants her son and daughter, who are too young to be vaccinated, to continue remotely this year for health reasons.

  • Logan Strauss, 5, adds water to a cake mix while baking with his mother Karen at their home in Basking Ridge, N.J., Wednesday, July 28, 2021. Logan will continue with remote learning from home until he can get the COVID-19 vaccination. Credit: AP Photo/Mark Lennihan
  • Logan Strauss, 5, leans into the mesh wall of the family’s trampoline at their home in Basking Ridge, N.J., Wednesday, July 28, 2021. Logan’s parents are having him study in online classes from home until he gets the COVID-19 vaccine. Credit: AP Photo/Mark Lennihan

“We’re not being given an option,” said Odore, who is part of a parent group petitioning to change that.

Although many parents had a rocky experience with online learning during the pandemic, they often experienced a version that was implemented with little planning. Parents left with a negative impression of distance learning could slow its overall growth, said Michael Barbour, who researches online learning at Touro University California.

“Even if that option was available to them three years, five years from now, that sort of experience has tainted it for them,” he said.



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Pandemic spurs boom in virtual offerings for US schools (2021, August 12)
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Hexbyte Glen Cove Pandemic, war, climate change fuel food fears thumbnail

Hexbyte Glen Cove Pandemic, war, climate change fuel food fears

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Distribution of the number of people in the world in “crisis” (phase 3 on the international food security scale) or “worse” (phases 4 and 5)

The economic cost of the global pandemic as well as conflict and climate change are fueling food security fears that in 2020 reached their highest level in five years, according to a report published Wednesday.

Last year, 155 million people in 55 countries faced acute shortages—20 million more than in 2019, according to a report by the EU, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Food Programme, which see the problem as getting steadily worse.

“We must act together to prevent an additional deterioration of the situation,” FAO director general Qu Dongyu told a video-conference, describing the New Global Report on Food Crises as a call to “urgent humanitarian action”.

He added in a tweet: “We must address the root causes and make agri-food systems more efficient, inclusive, resilient and sustainable.”

Last year saw the Global Network Against Food Crises, which groups together the three international organisations, identify 28 million people in 28 countries as suffering emergency levels of acute hunger with DR Congo, Yemen and Afghanistan worst affected.

A further 133,000 people were judged to be living in the most severe, “catastrophic” phase of food insecurity in Burkina Faso, South Sudan and Yemen.

Africa remains the continent worst hit by food shortages with 98 million people affected, or 63 percent of global cases—up from 54 percent in 2019.

“For 100 million people confronted by acute food crisis in 2020, the main cause was linked to conflicts and insecurity,” compared with 77 million in 2019, Dominique Burgeon, FAO emergencies director, told AFP.

Economic crisis was the prime reason for hunger for 40 million, compared with 24 million in 2019.

Burgeon said that “the pandemic has exacerbated vulnerabilities,” singling out Sudan, Zimbabwe and Haiti—the latter also hit by climate issues affecting the food security of some 15 million people.

With COVID restrictions still in place across much of the world, Burgeon said the coming year would be very difficult, exacerbating food security in already fragile economies.

He estimated at 142 million the number of people who would be affected in 40 of the worst-hit countries.

And with the on its way to hitting 8.5 billion by 2030, the report concluded that COVID-19 had underlined the need to make food distribution more equitable as the number of mouths to feed grows.



© 2021 AFP

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Pandemic, war, climate change fuel food fears (2021, May 6)
retrieved 7 May 2021
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Hexbyte Glen Cove Pandemic caused 'staggering' economic, human impact in developing counties, research says thumbnail

Hexbyte Glen Cove Pandemic caused ‘staggering’ economic, human impact in developing counties, research says

Hexbyte Glen Cove

Scene in Bangladesh under COVID. Credit: Mehdi Hasan/Dhaka Tribune

The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic last year led to a devastating loss of jobs and income across the global south, threatening hundreds of millions of people with hunger and lost savings and raising an array of risks for children, according to new research co-authored at the University of California, Berkeley.

The research, to be published Friday Feb. 5, 2021, in the journal Science Advances, found “staggering” income losses after the pandemic emerged last year, with a median 70% of households across nine countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America reporting financial losses. By April last year, roughly 50% or more of those surveyed in several countries were forced to eat smaller meals or skip meals altogether, a number that reached 87% for rural households in the West African country of Sierra Leone.

“In the early months of the pandemic, the in low- and was almost certainly worse than any other recent global economic crisis that we know of, whether the Asian financial crisis of the late 1990s, the Great Recession that started in 2008, or the more recent Ebola crisis,” said UC Berkeley economist Edward Miguel, a co-author of the study. “The were just severe, absolutely severe.”

The pandemic has produced some hopeful innovations, including a partnership between the government of Togo in West Africa and UC Berkeley’s Center for Effective Global Action (CEGA) on a system to provide relief payments via digital networks.

But such gains are, so far, isolated.

The new study—the first of its kind globally—reports that after two decades of growth in many low- and middle-income countries, the economic crisis resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic threatens profound long-term impact: Reduced childhood nutrition could have health consequences later in life. Closed schools may lead to delayed development for some students, while others may simply drop out. When families use their savings to eat, rather than invest in fertilizer or farm improvements, crop yields can decline.

“Such effects can slow economic development in a country or a region, which can lead to political instability, diminished growth or migration,” said Miguel, a co-director at CEGA.

Share of households experiencing drops in employment. Credit: Innovations for Poverty Action

A troubling picture of life during the pandemic

The study was launched in spring 2020, as China, Europe and the U.S. led global efforts to check spread of the virus through ambitious lockdowns of business, schools and transit. Three independent research teams, including CEGA, joined to conduct surveys in the countries where they already worked.

Between April and early July 2020, they connected with 30,000 households, including over 100,000 people, in nine countries with a combined population of 500 million: Burkina Faso, Ghana, Kenya, Rwanda and Sierra Leone in Africa; Bangladesh, Nepal and the Philippines in Asia; and Colombia in South America. The surveys were conducted by telephone.

Reports early in the pandemic suggested that developing countries might be less vulnerable because their populations are so much younger than those in Europe and North America.

But the research teams found that, within weeks after governments imposed lockdowns and other measures to control the virus’s spread, the pandemic was having a pervasive economic impact:

Income fell broadly. In Colombia, 87% of respondents nationwide reported lost income in the early phase of the pandemic. Such losses were reported by more than 80% of people nationwide in Rwanda and Ghana.

People struggled to find food. In the Philippines, 77% of respondents nationwide said they faced difficulty purchasing food because stores were closed, transport was shut down or food supplies were inadequate. Similar reports came from 68% of Colombians and 64% of respondents in Sierra Leone; rates were similar for some communities within other countries.

Food insecurity rose sharply. While the impact was worst in rural Sierra Leone, other communities were hard hit: In Bangladesh, 69% of landless agricultural households reported that they were forced to eat less, along with 48% of households in rural Kenya.

Share of households experiencing drops in food security. Credit: Innovations for Poverty Action

Children faced increased risk. With schools closed, the risk of educational setbacks rose. Many respondents reported delaying health care, including prenatal care and vaccinations. Some communities reported rising levels of domestic violence.

“The combination of a lengthy period of undernutrition, closed schools, and limited health care may be particularly damaging in the long run for children from poorer households who do not have alternative resources,” the authors wrote.

Miguel’s recent research has focused on economic conditions for poor people in Kenya, and he said people there scrambled to cope with the crisis.

“People moved in with relatives,” he said. “People moved back to their home areas in rural places where there was food. Other people were just relying on the generosity of friends and relatives and co-workers to get by. When you’re living on only a couple of dollars a day, and you don’t get that money, it’s a desperate situation.”

Wealthier countries are also gripped by crisis, but co-author Susan Athey, an economist at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business, said they’re better able to cope.

“COVID-19 and its economic shock present a stark threat to residents of low- and middle-income countries—where most of the world’s population resides—which lack the social safety nets that exist in ,” Athey said. “The evidence we’ve collected shows dire economic consequences … which, if left unchecked, could thrust millions of vulnerable households into poverty.”

A model of positive, high-impact international partnership

In fact, Miguel said, governments everywhere have struggled to address the health and economic dimensions of the pandemic. In both rich and poor nations, he said, governments have used the pandemic as a reason to crack down on political opponents.

Share of households experiencing drop sin income. Credit: Innovations for Poverty Action

But the crisis has also produced hopeful engagements. The CEGA initiative to support Togolese leaders in developing a system for digital relief payments could be a model for international partnerships.

Under that project, CEGA co-Director Joshua Blumenstock has worked closely with top government officials in Togo to develop an advanced data-driven system for identifying people in need and delivering financial aid. The system uses new computational technologies, with data from satellite imagery, mobile phones and traditional surveys to identify people or communities in economic distress.

CEGA and the GiveDirectly aid organization have just won a $1.2 million grant under the data.org Inclusive Growth and Recovery Challenge to allow further work on the project.

Already, “over 550,000 Togolese individuals have received cash transfers of roughly $20 a month,” said Lauren Russell, CEGA director of operations. “The grant should allow for the project to be scaled and evaluated even further, with the hope that the methods might be well-suited for adoption by other low- and middle-income countries.”

Global crises require global solutions

Still, Miguel said the disparities between rich and poor nations have been “disheartening.” In North America and Europe, nations may be struggling with vaccination plans, but vaccines have barely arrived in most low-income countries, he said.

“We will not recover in the rich countries until the whole world gets the vaccine and until the crisis is dealt with globally,” he said. “As long as there’s active pandemic in parts of the world that’s affecting travel and tourism and trade, our economy and our society is going to suffer. If we can spread the wealth in terms of relief assistance and vaccine distribution, we’re all going to get out of this hole faster.”



More information:
D. Egger el al., “Falling living standards during the COVID-19 crisis: Quantitative evidence from nine developing countries,” Science Advances (2021). advances.sciencemag.org/lookup … .1126/sciadv.abe0997

Citation:
Pandemic caused ‘staggering’ economic, human impact in developing counties, research says (2021, February 5)
retrieved 6 February 2021
from https://phys.org/news/2021-02-pandemic-staggering-economic-human-impact.html

This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no
part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.