Schools should open their windows for ventilation

As schools begin to reopen, The New York Times illustrates why classrooms should open a window for ventilation. Lower viral concentrations swirling around means reduced exposure.

The 3-D model to show airflow was already something, but keep scrolling to see the cross-sections. Then scan the QR code on your phone to see the simulated data with augmented reality.

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Where schools are ready to reopen

For NYT Opinion, Yaryna Serkez and Stuart A. Thompson estimated where we’re ready:

Our analysis considers two main things: the rate of new infections in a county and the county’s testing capabilities. We used guidelines from the Harvard Global Health Institute, which proposed a variety of ways to open schools as long as the county has fewer than 25 cases of Covid-19 per 100,000 people. We also used the World Health Organization’s proposal to open only if fewer than 5 percent of all those who are tested for the virus over a two-week period actually have it.

The second part matters because if a higher proportion of people are testing positive, it could mean that not enough tests are being conducted to adequately measure the spread.

As you might expect, based on these guidelines, reopening in some places and not others poses disparities when you start breaking down demographics.

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What schools might look like if students go back

Dana Goldstein, with illustrations by Yuliya Parshina-Kottas, imagines what school might look like if students go back. Face shields, distancing, masks, and pods.

I’m having trouble imagining any of this working in practice, especially with the young ones.

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How online school ratings are flawed

Standardized ratings are a challenge, because they often try to encapsulate many variables into a single variable. On the upside, a single score is quick and easy to see, but on the downside, variance goes into hiding and people/things that don’t fit a defined standard get dinged.

Vox looks at these challenges in the context of online school ratings.

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School diversity visualized with moving bubbles

The Washington Post visualized 13,000 school districts to show the change in diversity between 1995 and 2017. Each bubble represents a district and the size represents number of students. The bubbles transition to diverse, undiverse, and extremely undiverse. It’s an important topic and worth the read.

But right now, all I can think about is that I need to up my moving bubble game.

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Unproven aggression detectors, more surveillance

In some public places, such as schools and hospitals, microphones installed with software listen for noise that sounds like aggression. The systems alert the authorities. It sounds useful, but in practice, the detection algorithms might not be ready yet. For ProPublica, Jack Gillum and Jeff Kao did some testing:

Yet ProPublica’s analysis, as well as the experiences of some U.S. schools and hospitals that have used Sound Intelligence’s aggression detector, suggest that it can be less than reliable. At the heart of the device is what the company calls a machine learning algorithm. Our research found that it tends to equate aggression with rough, strained noises in a relatively high pitch, like D’Anna’s coughing. A 1994 YouTube clip of abrasive-sounding comedian Gilbert Gottfried (“Is it hot in here or am I crazy?”) set off the detector, which analyzes sound but doesn’t take words or meaning into account. Although a Louroe spokesman said the detector doesn’t intrude on student privacy because it only captures sound patterns deemed aggressive, its microphones allow administrators to record, replay and store those snippets of conversation indefinitely.

Marvelous.

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Math gender gap bigger in richer school districts

This is quite the scatterplot from Claire Cain Miller and Kevin Quealy for The Upshot. The vertical axis represents by how much girls or boys are better in standardized tests; the horizontal axis represents wealth; each bubble represents a school district; and yellow represents English test scores, and blue represents math test scores.

The result: a non-trend up top and a widening gap at the bottom.

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