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In the weeks after COVID shuttered schools, families came together to pool their resources to care for kids, oversee distance learning or replace traditional classes altogether. There were affluent neighbors who teamed up to hire experienced teachers, homeschool collectives that doubled down on ethnically affirming instruction, civic groups offering supervised remote instruction in parks. Policy wonks and the public were captivated by the possibilities of these pods. But they were expensive, labor-intensive and hard to organize.

Among those watching was Kurtis Indorf, of the Great Hearts network of charter schools in Texas and Arizona. When the pandemic struck, he began asking what was and wasn’t working for families — and realized that not only was there demand for a high-quality, permanent virtual school, but lots of parents would also be interested in sending their children to an in-person pod at the same time.

In February, the Phoenix Classical Microschool opened, serving K-8 students enrolled in Great Hearts Online. Kids can attend the microschool two or four days a week, taking their classes remotely and engaging in in-person outdoor activities, drama and improv. Next fall, two more microschools will open, one in metropolitan Dallas and another outside Phoenix. If they succeed, they could represent not just a leap forward in making learning pods sustainable, but in providing enrichment for students who attend school entirely online. Beth Hawkins takes a look.


Great Hearts Hopes In-Person Pods + Online Teaching = New Type of Hybrid School

With its 33 schools forced into distance learning by COVID, Great Hearts Academies heard parents loud and clear: They loved the new virtual setup and enjoyed forming small learning pods with families with similar needs and interests. But they couldn’t keep up with the logistics of running a mini-school — or sustain the financial burden. Two years and one aha moment later, three Great Hearts microschools will be giving students a physical place to learn online while getting in-person supervision, tutoring, clubs and more. Beth Hawkins has the story.

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Big Picture

Pandemic Changed Teen Relationships, Pew Report Finds

A new poll of teenagers and their parents suggests the pandemic substantially altered how students relate to their families, friends and peers at school. Happily, nearly half of all adolescents surveyed said they felt closer to their parents after two years of disrupted learning. But, as Kevin Mahnken reports, a sizable group grew more distant from their more peripheral ties, with roughly one-quarter saying they felt less close to friends or extended family.


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Fourth Grade Survivor from Uvalde to Testify Before Congress This Morning

Survivors of mass shootings in New York and Texas will appear before the House Oversight and Reform Committee at a hearing today to relate their experiences. Witnesses will include fourth grader Miah Cerrillo of Uvalde, Texas, where 19 children and two adults were gunned down at Robb Elementary School on May 24. Her harrowing story of having to cover herself in a friend’s blood in order to appear dead to the gunman has gripped lawmakers. Zeneta Everhart, survivor of a mass shooting May 14 by a white supremacist in Buffalo, will also testify. In our latest partnership with States Newsroom, contributor Ariana Figueroa offers a preview of this morning's hearing.

  • Watch Live: Stream today’s testimony at 10 a.m. Eastern.


Florida, Critical Race Theory and the Future of Textbooks

As someone who has spent more time than he’d care to admit reviewing mathematics textbooks, contributor Morgan Polikoff was more than a little suspicious of the claim that Florida math books contained anything like critical race theory. Now that he has seen the evidence, he realizes the accusations are just as specious as he imagined. But the episode speaks to several aspects of the curriculum-related controversies roiling the nation's schools and how they could impact student learning in Florida, red states and beyond.

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Union Report

Guns, Gas and Governments: Why Teacher Pension Divestments Are Complicated

The mass murder of 19 students and two teachers in Uvalde, Texas, prompted calls for public pension systems to rid themselves of investments in companies that manufacture guns and ammunition. The boards of teacher pension systems are required to make sound financial investments in order to maximize returns, and while teachers unions do not control those decisions, they have enormous influence. So if a union wants a pension board to divest, it will get a friendly ear. But many times, writes Mike Antonucci, it will also meet with foot-dragging and resistance. Find out more in this week's Union Report.



  • 'Exotic Assets and Investments': Officials Are Calling for Teacher Pension Funds to Divest from Russia to Protest War in Ukraine. It Might Not Be So Easy

Keeping It 100

Make Teaching a True Pathway to the Middle Class for Young Latino Educators

Daniel Velasco came to the U.S. from Venezuela as a teen and has painful memories of white teachers suggesting he go back where he came from and telling his parents he “had the vocabulary of a flea market employee.” Today, as president of Latinos for Education, he says that lack of cultural competence and compassion is still a problem in the U.S., where 1 in 10 Latino students attend schools without a single Latino teacher. Velasco suggests ways to tackle that imbalance, including debt forgiveness and early-career homeownership programs for new teachers, a focus on promotions and professional development opportunities, and a  justice, diversity, equity and inclusion plan for every district.

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