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Cuomo: Virus A Chance To Reimagine Education

It doesn’t appear that the schools students left in March will be the same schools they return to in September.

During his daily news conference Tuesday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the state is partnering with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to develop a blueprint to reimagine education. Questions the state and the Gates Foundation will broach include:

¯ How can technology be used to provide more opportunities to students no matter where they are;

¯ How can shared education be provided among schools and colleges using technology;

¯ How can technology reduce educational inequality, including English as a new language students;

¯ How can technology be used to meet educational needs of students with disabilities;

¯ How can educators be given more tools to use technology;

¯ How can technology break down barriers to schools, colleges and universities to provide greater access to high quality education no matter where the student lives; and

¯ Given ongoing socially distancing rules, how can classroom technology, like immersive cloud virtual classrooms learning, be deployed to recreate larger class or lecture hall environments in different locations?

“One of the areas we can really learn from is education,” Cuomo said. “We’ve all been talking about tele-education, virtual education, remote education. And there’s a lot that can be done. The old model of everybody goes and sits in the classroom and the teacher is in front of that classroom and teaches that class and you do that all across the city, all across the state, all these buildings, all these physical classrooms. Why, with all the technology you have? We’ve been exploring different alternatives with technology, right. We have classrooms in this state that have technology where they’re talking to students on Long Island with a teacher from Staten Island with students from around the world participating with technology, hearing that one teacher. If you look at the technology, it looks like all these different students are in one classroom. All right. Well, let’s learn from that and let’s learn from our experience.”

The discussion proposed by Cuomo comes at the same time the state Board of Regents is navigating a long-term project to evaluate the state’s graduation requirements, including the use of the Regents examinations. Both the Gates Foundation partnership and the revamping of graduation standards come at a time when the state faces staggering revenue losses due to the COVID-19 economic shutdown that are prompting likely cuts to state aid to schools and local governments.

Cuomo’s plan was pilloried by the Alliance for Quality Education, which called the move a threat to public education while calling for education to be reimagined with smaller class sizes and more school counselors and school psychologists. AQE officials said technology has a place in schools as a classroom tool but shouldn’t replace face-to-face interactions with teachers and school staff.

“Both the Gates Foundation and Andrew Cuomo have a history of pushing privatization and agendas that have the potential to destroy public schools,” said Jasmine Gripper, Alliance for Quality Education executive director, in a statement. “This collaboration raises a red flag and real questions about what shape our ‘reimagined’ public schools will take post-pandemic, and whether they will be recognizable as public schools at all. In 2018 there was an attempt by a different billionaire to promote online learning in NYC public schools, the failed program led to student walkouts and dismal results. Studies have shown that the fully online learning model harms the students who need the most help.”

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