Posted Date: 02/18/2021
“We have to stay relevant — to listen to what students are saying, rather than assuming we know everything. That’s what keeps me up at night.” Kirt Hartzler @UnionSchools @valeriestrauss https://t.co/hyDQ6MKJVh— Nita Cochran (@Nitajo1) February 15, 2021
How have school districts dealt with the coronavirus pandemic?
That’s the subject of this post by David Kirp, a professor of public policy at the University of California at Berkeley and author of numerous books about K-12 and higher education, including “The College Dropout Scandal” and “Improbable Scholars: The Rebirth of a Great American School System and a Strategy for America’s Schools,” which was named outstanding book of 2013 by the American Educational Research Association.
A former journalist and member of President Barack Obama’s 2008 transition team, Kirp is completing a new book, “Greater Expectations,” on three “punching-beyond-their-weight” school districts. The followed edited excerpt from the book looks at how two of the three districts responded to the coronavirus pandemic.
They are the Union City School District in New Jersey — which was the subject of “Improbable Scholars” — and Union Public Schools in Oklahoma.
Union and Union City have national reputations as pioneers in technology, and that on-the-ground capacity enabled them to pivot quickly to distance learning.
Union, Oklahoma, was one of the nation’s earliest adopters of virtual learning. A high school academy that combined virtual and classroom instruction, begun in 2012, had attracted several hundred high school students. Two years later, Union was among the 100 school districts hailed by President Barack Obama, at a White House ceremony, as a “connected and future-ready” model of innovation.
In fall 2019, Union expanded its virtual program, with a fully online program for middle as well as high school students. However, only 40 students signed up, and it seems that almost every student wanted to spend some time in the classroom.
As the district pondered its next steps in online learning, covid-19 loomed large. “We wanted to get ahead of the game,” Superintendent Kirt Hartzler asserted, echoing his Union City counterpart, and by mid-February 2020, a plan was in the works. A month later, Oklahoma closed all its public schools and Union shifted to all-virtual learning. In a single week, the district, like Union City, turned a fledgling venture that had enrolled only a handful of students into a virtual education program its 16,000 students.
See Washington Post story: https://www.washingtonpost.com/education/2021/02/14/how-two-school-districts-handled-covid/