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Meet the Brown University economist who argues that K-12 schools aren’t super-spreaders of the coronavirus

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ICYMI: Rhode Island was up to 26,294 confirmed coronavirus cases on Friday, after adding 167 new cases. The most recent overall daily test-positive rate was 1.7 percent, but the first-time positive rate was 5.5 percent. The state announced three more deaths, bringing the total to 1,130. There were 112 people in the hospital.

Today is supposed to be the first day of full in-person learning for every public school in Rhode Island, but it’s still unclear exactly how many of our schools aren’t quite ready to reopen.

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If you’re paying close attention to education in the age of the coronavirus, you might want to check out Brown University economist Emily Oster’s piece in The Atlantic on how schools don’t appear to be the super-spreaders of the virus that some predicted.

Oster agreed to answer a few questions for Rhode Map on the research she is doing.

Q: Your research shows infection rates have been quite low among both students and staff, but do we have a sense of whether kids just aren’t the super-spreaders we thought they might be, or if all the precautions that have been taken (like staggered schedules) are helping to prevent a spread?

Oster: My guess is that it is both. Schools in our data are taking a lot of precautions (especially masks), which likely matters a lot. Based on other data (Florida, for example), we haven’t seen huge outbreaks even though they are taking fewer of these.

But this is the kind of question we hope our data can help answer. Our next big analysis task, once we pull in another round of data, is to look at changes in case rates over time and correlate them with precautions. I’m especially eager to do this by age group. It

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State education board demands $11.2 million back from Epic Charter Schools over state audit findings | Education

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Holt began her presentation by setting the record straight on two issues she said have been commonly mischaracterized in public discourse since the release of the state audit report a couple of weeks ago.

She said Gov. Kevin Stitt’s charge to State Auditor and Inspector Cindy Byrd included the task of reviewing annual audits on Epic from the previous three years, but it did not limit the scope of the forensic audit as a whole to any such time period.

In all, $125.2 million of the $458 million allocated to Epic Charter Schools for educating students the past six years was found to have ended up in the coffers of Epic Youth Services, a for-profit charter school management company that has reportedly made millionaires of school co-founders Ben Harris and David Chaney.

“We ask for annual appropriations totaling approximately $3 billion and $125 million works out to about 4.1%,” said state board member Kurt Bollenbach, of Kingfisher. “Are you saying I do not have access to or oversight of 4.1% of the funds that come through this department?“

Holt responded: “Yes.”

Holt described how Epic and its affiliates armed themselves with lawyers to make the state auditors’ task of interviewing school personnel and scrutinizing records particularly difficult.

So difficult in fact that 63% of the funds turned over to EYS — nearly $80 million budgeted for students’ learning needs — remains out of reach of the State Auditor’s Office and outside public scrutiny.

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An ambitious overhaul of education is needed | Schools

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There is much to be welcomed in the One Nation Conservative MPs’ report (Tory MPs back ditching GCSE exams in English school system overhaul, 8 October), especially the proposal to postpone formal school entry to age six.

But if, as the group wishes, more children are to be “school-ready” by that age, a more ambitious and radical overhaul of the education system in England will be needed. In particular, we would do well to learn from the many other countries where kindergarten for three- to six-year-olds is recognised as a discrete developmental stage, with professionals working in it who have specialist training and a clear career structure. Best practice in those countries concentrates on developing young children’s spoken language, socialisation and fine motor skills – all crucial for educational success and difficult to achieve sitting at desks.

A rational structure for the rest of schooling would be a primary phase for ages six to 12, and a secondary phase for ages 12 to 18, with no centralised assessment until age 18. This would also imply a common curriculum for all children until they begin to know what sort of educational and work career would suit them. Subject choices would, therefore, as the report suggests, begin at about age 15 – we currently make children specialise too early.
Greg Brooks
Emeritus professor of education, University of Sheffield

• The radical rethink of education called for by the One Nation group doesn’t go nearly far enough. Tinkering with exams and term times is all very well but it won’t tackle the fundamental challenge – how to use schools to produce educated and resilient young people who know what gifts they have, and are able to use them to best effect, whether in pursuit of joy, or in order to survive and

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State education board calls special meeting on Epic Charter Schools audit | Education

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Byrd’s office found that Epic exceeded the state’s 5% state cap on administrative overhead costs intended to ensure public schools direct most resources on students “year after year.”

The state auditor’s report cites “questionable classification and reporting of administrative costs” between FY 2017 and FY 2019 totaling $16.6 million for Epic One-on-One, a statewide virtual charter school, and $6.7 million for Epic Blended Learning Centers, which offer students in Tulsa and Oklahoma counties a blend of at-home and classroom-based studies.

And a $530,000 penalty imposed by the state school board in February, while significant, represented a fraction of what the state auditor said she has documented proof that Epic actually owes for underreported administrative payroll costs the past six fiscal years: $8.9 million.

Byrd previously called the penalty “a slap on the wrist.”

Her report says had Epic Charter Schools been assessed full penalties by the state, Chaney and Harris’ company called Epic Youth Services would reportedly have collected at least $837,000 less in management fees.

The state audit team also found in 2016, Epic Charter Schools “inaccurately reclassified administrative costs,” thus avoiding a $2.6 million penalty for exceeding Oklahoma’s limit on administrative costs.

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Fairfield City Schools fills vacancy on board of education

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FAIRFIELD – The business development manager for First Financial Bank will be appointed to the Fairfield Board of Education Thursday.



a man wearing a suit and tie: Scott Clark


© Provided
Scott Clark

Scott Clark was one of six applicants to fill the unexpired term of Carrie O’Neal, who resigned her seat because she was moving to Hamilton. He will have to run in November 2021 to finish O’Neal’s term, which ends Dec. 31, 2023.

“The board of education is eager to begin to work with Scott. He brings vast leadership experience from a variety of Fairfield community organizations,’’ said board President Michael Berding.

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Clark serves as the president of the Rotary Club of Fairfield, is a member of the district’s Business Advisory Council and vice president of both non-profits Dougie & Rays’s and the Fairfield Prevention Coalition.

“For me, it’s all about the kids. We have a great district with excellent leadership,” Clark said.

“I am honored to work alongside the other board members and with Superintendent Billy Smith and his team. I just want to serve this district and do what’s best for kids.”

A resident of Fairfield for the past 17 years, Clark and his wife, Lori, have three children attending Fairfield schools.

“Scott’s extensive volunteer work with our students shows his passion for helping children from all backgrounds,” Berding said.

“Scott is a person with great integrity and is well-respected in the Fairfield and Fairfield Township communities. He is very intelligent and he should have no problem getting up to speed on all the items the board is currently working on.”

Following the vote selecting him for the board, Clark will be sworn into office and take his seat on the board. The meeting begins at 6:30 p.m., in

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