Monday, May 18, 2020

2020-2021 School Year

I do not believe, even with states trying to loosen up, that all K-12 schools will be back to the pre-pandemic normal. K-12 schools and higher ed institutions should be planning for improvement and continuation of some form of remote instruction. This year many school districts threw together some form of remote learning – or just expected the teachers to pivot into remote instruction -- with very little guidance.

Failure to plan now will make the 2020-2021 academic year a time of watching students fall further behind in their learning. Failure to plan now for services to students with disabilities could have a serious negative impact on those students’ lives.

There has been simple guidance like; do not do 3 hours of Zoom school. Research says don’t regularly do what might be a high school class period (~50 minutes) lecture on Zoom. There are ways to make a Zoom session more than a lecture and make it more appropriate as a learning tool. Because the traditional classes were all synchronous doesn’t mean that the remote teaching needs to be synchronous. There are benefits to asynchronous instruction, but that would have required some professional development and support for the teachers.

There is time for school districts and teachers to prepare for the 2020-2021 school year.  It will likely be unlike any school start in history.  The more schools and teachers can do to prepare for remote and online teaching the better, both for them and for all their students.

Even though the President wants schools to open now, I don’t think he’s considering the teachers, administrators, specialists, and staff that make the schools work.  Many of those folks are in high-risk categories, and while youth don’t seem as susceptible to the virus, it’s unclear how effective they are as carriers. And not only can they get the COVIS-19 virus, but there are limited instances of children showing a syndrome like Kawasaki disease and unfortunately some fatal incidents. 
Beyond that, thoughts about extending the school year or school day don’t take into account existing teacher contracts. Suggestions for lowering class size doesn’t account for the extra classroom space and additional teachers that would entail.

School leaders need to be planning for something other than “business as normal” and help prepare teachers for another period of remote learning. They also need to be planning on how to provide the services to meet student IEPs. The 2020-2021 school year requires planning that needs to be happening now.

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