Many districts still lack consistent plans months into closures

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Dive Brief:

  • A Center on Reinventing Public Education project tracking 82 school districts nationwide shows 33% still lack consistent expectations for teachers to deliver instruction, while half don’t require teachers to give students feedback, The 74 reports. The data shows that, as of May 6, 59% of the districts analyzed are providing curriculum, instruction and monitoring student progress

  • Districts in Boulder Valley, Colorado, and Miami-Dade County, Florida, are among outliers that were able to quickly adjust in directing teachers to continue instruction remotely during closures, with a reported 90% of Miami-Dade’s students connecting.

  • On the other hand, Nevada’s Clark County Schools, the sixth-largest district in the nation, reportedly doesn’t have consistent expectations that teachers provide instruction because 80,000 students had been out of contact with the district the week of April 20, and 9,000 were exempted due to lack of internet access or transportation to learning packet distribution sites. 

Dive Insight:

So far, districts’ responses have been hit or miss, with their success in transitioning to remote learning largely dependent on factors including the presence of 1:1 device programs and related training prior to the pandemic shutting down schools, the socioeconomics of families served, and geographic issues.

Miami-Dade, for example, had devices to give students, while Clark County, which includes Las Vegas, had to seek donations to buy tens of thousands of devices when schools closed. These differences may help other districts determine how to best connect with students going forward.

Milwaukee Public Schools, meanwhile, is using the online learning platform Clever and has distributed computers to students who needed one. It is also giving paper packets to families during grab-and-go meal distribution. But there is reportedly no consistent message on what learning teachers are expected to provide to students.

In Newark, New Jersey, elementary and middle schools, packets are handed out with daily assignments in reading and math, while high schools are creating their own curriculum expectations. The variance in expectations from school to school and even teacher to teacher is said to be creating a confusing environment for parents.

Home internet access is ultimately a determining factor in the success or failure of district’s remote transitions. Hotspots and Wi-Fi won’t work, for example, for rural districts where some families live in areas so remote that they still lack infrastructure for internet service even if families can pay. Some of these locations also lack cell towers to tether a hotspot to.

The U.S. Department of Education’s directive that all schools move to online learning missed the fact that many districts nationwide face these circumstances, Troy Kilzer, director of schools for Chester County Schools in Tennessee, recently told Education Dive.

The lack of connectivity and new curriculum may cause a massive loss in reading and math skills. The “summer slide” has long been known to set students back. This year, the extended out-of-school period is expected to do excessive damage. Bill Gates predicts students from low-income families will be most affected by school closures.

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