Time for a rant about the schools. Many, many schools, K-12 and post-secondary, are closed. That’s the right thing at this moment, for the safety of all. Many universities have closed for the semester, with school districts giving a variety of timelines for re-opening. But I don’t think this is going to end in two weeks or the day after Easter. I think we won’t see school start again until August at the earliest.
But come on people: this is chaos and we need to do a better job!
My niece and nephew, who are university students, are receiving all their instruction on-line, on the same schedule as they would have in-person, with systems for sharing work with others and submitting assignments. They will take exams and they will receive grades. Their younger brother, a 10th grader in a suburban district, is receiving NOTHING. My grandchildren, in three different school districts, are participating in a wide range of instruction through different platforms. My friend’s daughter, in a Philadelphia special admission public school focusing on music, has been receiving assignments through Google classroom and some instruction through Google hang-outs. The District as a whole has posted “Learning Packets” on the District website and is handing out print copies at the same locations where they are distributing food.
However, the instruction through Google hangouts has stopped because the Pennsylvania Dept. of Education told Districts that this is inequitable. They are absolutely correct that some students in the state lack internet access or devices on which to receive instruction. Do you buy the idea that in 2020 the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania cannot ensure that its students have internet access and a device? I do not. How in the world are we preparing students for post-secondary education and the 21st century workplace if we don’t provide them with the means to work electronically?
If this were in place as it already should be, all students in the state could be going to school as my niece and nephew are, at least all students grades 5-12. Students in the younger grades could be receiving a variety of electronic interventions: for example, my Pre-K granddaughter is having story time with her teacher through videos that the teacher is sending out to parents (sshh-this is not in Pennsylvania, so keep this quiet. We don’t want it to get shut down in this other state.)
You are likely aware that all teachers and unionized school employees will keep getting paid. I’m fine with this. The economy is wrecked enough—at least some people will be able to pay their bills and (over) shop online. But if the state had taken the steps to ensure electronic educational access and devices, the teachers who are getting paid could actually be working!
And if an electronic system were in place, staff at all levels could be receiving professional development, a scarce and valuable commodity in most districts. Teachers and aides could be meeting in grade bands to review and discuss curriculum, and compare notes on best practices.
When this pandemic ends, let’s not go back to business as usual.