Friday, December 31, 2021

Talk out of School: Our most listened to podcasts in 2021

One of the best things that happened to me in 2021 was finding a collaborator who share hosting responsibilities on Talk out of School, my WBAI radio show and podcast.  Daniel Alicea is a special education teacher and the founder of the organization Educators of NYC.  

Below are the episodes most listened this year, half of them hosted by Daniel.  But there are many more that are worth hearing on the podcast website.  Please subscribe!  And if you enjoy our show, please also contribute to WBAI, the only purely listener-supported radio station in NYC that doesn't accept any advertising.

September 4, 2021   Council Member Mark Levine on his concerns with the health and safety protocols in the NYC school reopening plan 


August 28, 2021: Keeping our Children and Schools Safe: Discussing School Reopening with Tajh Sutton and Dr. Kaliris Salas-Ramirez 


July 17, 2021: Inside UFT Politics and History (Part 1) : How the Nation’s Most Powerful Teachers Union Impacted NYC Public Schools 


July 10, 2021: The Creation, Implementation, and Failure of Common Core Standards with Tom Loveless


Thursday, December 30, 2021

My most read blog posts of 2021

 Below are my most read blog posts from the last year.  


October 24, 2021 Unanswered questions about DESSA, the DOE's social-emotional screener, and what parents should do

August 4, 2021  Original list of "Tier one" schools which DOE said couldn't provide social distancing next year

September 21, 2021 The uselessness of the interim assessments that the DOE purchased for $36 million

October 24, 2021  A well-connected informant speaks out about the MAP exams

August 25, 2021 NY Times columnists still financially benefiting from Bill Gates largesse - without acknowledgement from the NYT

June 11, 2021 NYC Mayoral Candidates: Their Positions on Public Education


December 11, 2021 Class size rally urging Speaker Corey Johnson to bring Int. 2374 to a vote; though he apparently will not allow this to occur


December 9, 2021 Corey Johnson MIA when parents, teachers and students gathered at his district office, urging him to bring Int. 2374 to a vote.

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

The city's claim of low in-school transmission is unreliable at best

Yesterday the Mayor and the NYC Health Commissioner Dave Chokshi held a press conference to announce revised safety protocols for NYC schools, with weakened quarantining requirements.  Instead, kids ill be sent home with testing kits if they were in close contact with a Covid positive classmate or teacher, and unless they test positive on day 1 and/or on day 5, they can continue to attend school.  

They also said that they will double the amount of random Covid testing in the schools (ostensibly 10% of students weekly at each school, to be increased to 20%; though the actual number of students is  often far less given that families have to opt into rather than opt out of testing).  

For more on the new protocols, see the DOE letter to parents here, and articles in Gothamist and Chalkbeat.

During the presser  and afterwards on twitter, Dr. Chokshi repeated the claim that more rigorous measures were not necessary, including testing students more frequently or before the resumption of school next week, as some experts have advised, since they had found in-school transmission to be extremely low: "Even if the rates were to become somewhat higher due to Omicron becoming dominant, we estimate that, in schools, about 98% of close contacts do not end up developing COVID-19."

I received the document below that City Hall is using to back up this 98% figure, prepared by Dr. Jay Varma, the Mayor's Senior Advisor for Public Health.

Some quick observations:

  1. I don’t see the figure 98% cited anywhere.
  2. The time period covered, October – December 2021, is mostly pre-Omicron and thus of doubtful relevance to current conditions in which this far more infectious variant prevails.  In fact, the document is entitled, "Interim Report on COVID-19 Transmission due to Delta Variant in New York City Public Schools."
  3. Since the DOE Situation Room has been dysfunctional, especially in recent weeks, overwhelmed by the sharp rise in Covid cases in schools according to many accounts, it is unclear how much tracking and tracing the city has managed to do that could accurately estimate how much in-school transmission has actually occurred.  

If you have additional thoughts, please leave your comments/observations below the document.  Thanks!

An appeal from Diane Ravitch


Dear friend –

As a historian, I have studied reform in NYC and in cities across the nation.

Reform usually means shaking up the system. Centralize, decentralize, recentralize. Reorganize the bureaucracy, put the mayor in control, change the decision-making structure. Hire consultants, hire data analysts, hire coaches.

Or reform means outsource the schools to private entrepreneurs or more standardized testing.

Yet more testing does not produce more learning or better grades. None of these so-called reforms barely move the needle, if at all.

Class size reduction is a far more powerful reform than any of the above. Learning and behavior improves, especially for children with the greatest needs. With smaller classes, teachers have the time to do their jobs, and children get the support they need to thrive.

And yet NYC students continue to suffer from the largest class sizes in the state.

That’s why I am proud to sit on the board of Class Size Matters, a non-profit organization that is the “city’s leading proponent of smaller classes,” according to the NY Times.

Leonie Haimson, its executive director, has been tirelessly committed to making sure that this issue remains in the forefront of policymakers and the public at large. In the last year, she was named by both City and State and Politics NY as one of the most powerful education leaders in the state. But she needs our help.

That’s why I’m urging you to make a tax-deductible donation to Class Size Matters, for the future of NYC public schools and children. Please give if you can.

Happy holidays and a wonderful New Year to you and your family,

--Diane Ravitch