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Good data helps to create a clearer picture of reality; doesn’t create a smokescreen of confusion or misunderstanding; and is a quality interpretation of data in context that allows for the quality application of that data to inform decisions.

Bad Data:

https://twitter.com/janicejackson/status/1357366092541399044?s=20

And, before I begin, let me say that we ALL wish that kids could be in person learning while keeping families and communities safe.

Let’s take it one by one:

Claim:

Remote learning does not work for children of essential workers.”

Reality:

Lack of CHILD CARE, in the case where child care is absent, does not work for children of parents who work. The United States defaults to using education as child care and teachers as child care workers in the absence of other strategies. Some essential workers are struggling to find childcare. Some are using alternative means (e.g. extended family, friends/neighbors, etc.) for child care. There are no statistics being provided–not even an opinion survey from parents and teachers–that prove remote learning is not working for the majority of children of essential workers.

Claim:

“Remote learning does not work for children with special needs.”

Reality:

Some students with special needs are struggling with remote learning, and those needs tend to result in remote learning refusal or lack of access to physical guidance needed for their IEP. Some students have disabilities that are more aligned with remote learning requirements (e.g. students who use technology for voice-to-text, for example, or who do better with less sensory peer interaction during classroom time.) Most importantly, some students who have special needs that increase their immunocompromised status are safer during a pandemic by engaging in remote learning. There are no statistics being provided–just anecdotes–that prove remote learning is not working for a majority of students with special needs. That could be true for some, or all, we just don’t have that data.

(Note: The absence of tools and support for teachers to actually create quality remote learning for special needs learning? That is a WHOLE other conversation.)

Claim:

“Remote learning does not work for Black & Latinx children who make up the majority of children who chose in person learning.”

Reality:

While there are QUANTITATIVELY MORE Black & Latinx families who chose in-person learning in CPS, that is because Chicago Public schools has mostly Black & Latinx families. According to CPS Data:

  • 30,000 Latinx students chose in-person (out of ~162,619 Latinx students in the District)
  • 23,000 Black students chose in-person (out of ~125,091 Black students in the District)
  • 18,000 white students chose in-person (out of ~37,875 white students in the District)

In all, about 37% of the students in the District chose to return via in-person learning.

  • 18% of Latinx students
  • 18% of Black students
  • 48% of white students

So the reality is that about 82% of Black & Latinx students are choosing NOT TO RETURN via in-person learning or did not respond to the survey. That is the majority of Black & Latinx students. And there is NO data presented regarding who is doing “better” at remote learning in regards to race.

Why are fewer Black & Latinx families electing in-person learning for their students?

There could be many reasons for this. However, one of the reasons could be related to the large disparity of health and health-related financial outcomes for Black & Latinx families in regards to COVID.

These disparities create a situation where different communities are experiencing the effects (illness, death, and financial issues from medical expenses) very differently.

For example:

“The huge decline in life expectancy for Latinos is especially shocking given that Latinos have lower rates than the white and Black populations of most chronic conditions that are risk factors for COVID-19,” said study co-author Noreen Goldman, the Hughes-Rogers Professor of Demography and Public Affairs at the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs. “The generally good health of Latinos prior to the pandemic, which should have protected them from COVID-19, has laid bare the risks associated with social and economic disadvantage…The bigger reductions in life expectancy for the Black and Latino populations result in part from a disproportionate number of deaths at younger ages for these groups,” Goldman said. “These findings underscore the need for protective behaviors and programs to reduce potential viral exposure among younger individuals who may not perceive themselves to be at high risk. ”  (Miller, J. 2021)

This also affects the risk for teachers and teaching staff in Chicago Public Schools where the demographics of teachers and staff are DRAMATICALLY different than surrounding districts (with the exception of Evanston or Oak Park). CPS teachers are 51% white, compared to the 82-98% white teachers in surrounding districts examined in this link.*

*Outliers are Evanston 65 (68% white) and Oak Park (77% white)

Lesson Learned? Don’t take data in press conferences at face value. Ask questions about context, sources, and basis of conclusions. Even from those with PhD’s. Don’t compare districts with vastly different demographics and logistical considerations.

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