Chicago schools reopen after deadlock

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This is the Education Briefing, a weekly update on the most important education news in the United States. Sign up here to receive this newsletter in your inbox.

Today Chicago classrooms reopen as Los Angeles and other districts struggle to test students for the coronavirus. And a federal lawsuit accuses 16 top private colleges and universities of fixing prices on financial aid.


Chicago Schools reopened today after the teachers’ union and the city reached an agreement. Students are relearning for the first time since last Tuesday when the district school canceled after teachers have voted to stop reporting to their classes.

City officials said the deal included provisions for additional testing, as well as measures that would shut down schools in the event of major outbreaks.

Union leaders said the deal was flawed but necessary given the conditions teachers face during the pandemic.

And parents were frustrated, no matter where they fell on reopening issues. They had to run to find a daycare and struggle with it uncertainty.

“I feel like there’s a lot of political stuff going on,” said Aaron Wise, who has two kids in high school. “It’s hard, the situation is difficult. But it really shouldn’t be this difficult.”

Corn thorough testing can be difficult to put in place. Among the main problems:

Rapid antigenic tests are limited.

Tests, which can be administered at home, are at the heart of the test-to-stay strategy.

But supply chain issues and weather issues can exacerbate shortages. In California, for example, winter vacation storms destroyed a million test kits for schools.

And the tests may be faulty. In Florida this month, an attempt to provide tests to teachers in Broward County revealed outdated kits.

Many districts have also chosen an opt-in approach.

This means that they only test a selected group of students whose parents agree to have them tested, that is, those who may already come from homes more susceptible to viruses.

In Seattle, only 14,000 of 50,000 students and 7,800 district staff showed up when classes were canceled for testing.

Worryingly, about one in 25 has tested positive. Until monday, two Seattle schools were closed staff shortages and infections, and the district was considering a return to outlying classrooms.

Parents may not understand how to use the tests.

Take Chicago. The district – the third in the country – sent about 150,000 PCR tests by mail during the recess.

Most have never been returned. And of the roughly 40,000 tests that were mailed in, most gave invalid results.

The lines can also be very, very long.

Parents may have to take time off work – time they may not have to waste.

In Seattle, some children waited for hours, some in the pouring rain. Los Angeles families too aligned for blocks at school sites for much of last week to receive a swab.

Public health experts say few districts are testing sufficiently and strategically enough, especially in the wake of Omicron.

District data of Los Angeles showed that during the week ending Monday, 66,000 tests out of about 458,000 tests came back positive. That’s a positivity rate of over 15 percent – lower than the county, state, and country averages, but still high enough to be alarming.

“I am worried, like many parents,” said Amanda Santos, whose 7-year-old is in first grade.

Despite the high positivity rate, Los Angeles, the nation’s second largest district, continued with plans to open classes for in-person learning Tuesday. Santos said she was reassured by the testing policy.

“They don’t leave anyone who tests positive, or who doesn’t test, on campus,” she said. “So I feel safe about it. “

And testing can be expensive.

Since 2020, Los Angeles has implemented one of the most ambitious testing programs in the country.

But the initiative – which encompasses more than 600,000 students and staff – relies on PCR tests provided for around $ 12 each by a startup that is contractually obligated to deliver results overnight.

The district’s cost per test is about half of what the state has negotiated for its tests with another vendor. But he still spends around $ 5 million a week on testing, the school board vice president said.


A new federal lawsuit accuses 16 elite private colleges and universities – including MIT, the University of Chicago and many Ivy League schools – of conspiracy to reduce financial aid through a price-fixing cartel.

The allegations are based on a decades-old antitrust exemption, which allows these universities to collaborate on financial aid packages – provided they ignore a student’s ability to pay in the process. admission. (You may know these are “blind” admissions.)

The lawsuit claims that nine of the schools are not actually blind to need because for many years they have found ways to accommodate the ability to pay of some applicants. Because schools collaborate in an organization called the 568 Presidents Group, the lawsuit says, the actions of nine affect all 16.

One claim: The University of Pennsylvania and Vanderbilt have considered the financial needs of applicants on the waiting list.

Another claim is that other schools give “special treatment to children of high net worth donors” which, given the limited number of places, hurts students in need of financial assistance.

And one conclusion: The lawsuit claims that colleges overcharged about 170,000 students eligible for financial aid for nearly two decades.

“Putting the rich first and disadvantaging the needy are inextricably linked,” the lawsuit said. “These are two sides of the same coin.”


  • Politicized tensions on a return to distance learning – an effort often led by teachers ‘unions – can scold the Democrats’ mid-term prospects.

  • In The Atlantic, a parent explains why she turned away from Democrats. “What I have lost is my confidence that the party is truly motivated to act in the best interests of those it claims to serve,” she writes.

  • A major teachers’ union in Rhode Island calls for a statewide transition to distance learning.

  • Denver teachers also called for a week break on in-person learning.

Schools across the country are switching to temporary distance learning, as staff members report being positive or need to be quarantined due to the exposure.


Henry García, a fifth-grade teacher at an elementary school on 107th Street, a public school in south-central Los Angeles, uses Jenga to help his students talk about difficult issues.

“It gets really serious really quickly,” he said of the block stacking game. “All this allows you to get distracted and become very present in the game.”

Recently, he said, two of his students fell out. At one point, they both said they were done with their friendship, which had once been pretty close.

“I was like, ‘How can I help heal this? ” “, did he declare.

So he took out the Jenga. Their annoyance melted as the tower shook. Soon the two started to laugh. The old friendship shone through their frustration.

“Once I realized they were having fun, that’s when I brought it up,” he said. “I asked, ‘Hey, what really happened? “”

Jenga, however, is only the first step. García also tries to guide his students in their conversations. It helps them listen to each other and then reflect each other’s positions. In the end, he said, the students had reconciled.

“They were so focused on the game and they didn’t want to lose, so they kind of let their guard down just enough to be in a space to speak a little more openly,” García said.

But he also said there was nothing special about Jenga – any game would do just fine. The important thing, he said, is to create “a more informal and less serious environment where we can play, have fun – and also talk”.

That’s it for today’s briefing. If you have any other strategies to share in class, please email us at educationbriefing@nytimes.com. I would like to share more teaching talent with all of you in future newsletters. See you next week!

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Newsrust - US Top News: Chicago schools reopen after deadlock
Chicago schools reopen after deadlock
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