Cuomo says New York will work with Gates Foundation to ‘reimagine education’

Governor Andrew Cuomo announced on Tuesday that New York State will work with the Gates Foundation to develop a blueprint “to reimagine education in the new normal.”

The coronavirus crisis that forced school closures, Cuomo said, can catapult education to a brighter future. “Let’s start talking about really revolutionizing education and it’s about time,” he said.

Although the shutdown of schools for the pandemic left many students and teachers unprepared, Cuomo said, “Let’s take this experience and really learn how we can do differently and better with our education system.”

Unlike Cuomo’s announcement earlier in the week that schools would not reopen this year, which was hailed by educators, the plan “to reimagine education” met with resistance from some groups of educators.

New York State United Teachers President Andy Pallotta released a statement, saying, “Remote learning, in any form, will never replace the important personal connection between teachers and their students that is built in the classroom and is a critical part of the teaching and learning process — which is why we’ve seen educators work so hard during this pandemic to maintain those connections through video chats, phone calls, and socially distant in-person meetings.

“If we want to reimagine education, let’s start with addressing the need for social workers, mental-health counselors, school nurses, enriching arts courses, advanced courses and smaller class sizes in school districts across the state … And let’s recognize educators as the experts they are by including them in these discussions about improving our public education system for every student.”

Similarly, Jasmine Gripper, executive director of the Alliance for Quality Education, said in a statement, “Both the Gates Foundation and Andrew Cuomo have a history of pushing privatization and agendas that have the potential to destroy public schools. 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 ... Studies have shown that the fully online learning model harms the students who need the most help.

“One of the areas we can really learn from is education,” Cuomo said at his Tuesday press briefing. “We’ve all been talking about tele-education, virtual education, remote education. And there’s a lot that can be done,” he said.

“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?” he asked.

He also said, “It’s not about just reopening schools. When we reopen schools, let’s open a better school and let’s open a smarter education system … Bill Gates is a visionary in many ways and his ideas and thoughts on technology and education, he’s spoken about it for years, but I think we now have a moment in history where we can actually incorporate and advance those ideas.”

As New York begins to develop plans to reopen colleges and K-12 schools, the state and the Gates Foundation will consider what education should look like in the future, Cuomo said, including:

— How can we use technology to provide more opportunities to students no matter where they are;

— How can we provide shared education among schools and colleges using technology;

— How can technology reduce educational inequality, including for English-as-a new-language students;

— How can we use technology to meet educational needs of students with disabilities;

— How can we provide educators more tools to use technology;

— How can technology break down barriers to K-12 and 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 we deploy classroom technology, like immersive cloud virtual classrooms learning, to recreate larger class or lecture hall environments in different locations?

The state will bring together a group of leaders to answer these questions in collaboration with the Gates Foundation, which will involve national and international experts, Cuomo said.

More Regional News

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have sounded the alarm on the highly transmissible variant of COVID-19 first identified in the United Kingdom, hastening the urgency for vaccination distribution.

  • While the Senate Republican Conference’s Long Island delegation is blaming Governor Andrew Cuomo for  “utter chaos” in the state’s vaccine roll-out, Cuomo maintains the fault lies with the federal government naming 7 million New Yorkers eligible while distributing just 300,000 vaccine doses weekly.

  • The CDC study says this about the implications for public-health practice: “Additional implementation of effective mitigation activities at colleges and universities with in-person instruction could minimize on-campus COVID-19 transmission and reduce county-level incidence.” Those were the sort of strategies addressed by three higher-education leaders in Albany County.

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