Sunday, May 3, 2020

Reasonable strategies for the future of schooling in unreasonable times

Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) | CDC
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) put out hard to swallow guidance about the reopening of schools.  Unless there are some big changes in our educational system, we will not be able to incorporate this guidance into our schools.

Reasonable strategies

The Coronavirus can forever change how we do school. In some ways, for the better.  Here’s how.

Central / District Staff:

All non-school staff should work remotely through the next school year.
Following that year, depending on how things go, there can be one or some offices that open up operating like a WeWork. Here staff can come infrequently if/when that seems necessary. Staff would continue to conduct the majority of their work remotely.

Parents / Society

If a staff member can work remotely, let them. This helps reduce business costs and makes choices like choosing virtual school for your children much easier.

Virtual Schools for Students/Teachers

All states need to get serious about creating a virtual school that can serve every grade. The fact that virtual schooling has been banned in states such as New York is a violation of American freedom. Citizens in every state should have a choice about how their children learn. It shouldn’t take a pandemic to allow virtual learning.

Virtual schooling has been around a long time

Virtual schooling is nothing new. States like Florida opened their virtual school in 1997. K12 online school was founded in 1999 as the nation’s largest full-time virtual school, providing online curricula and other educational services for students in pre-kindergarten through high school in 29 states.

There is evidence and research on the effectiveness of virtual schooling

So many other states have been stuck in the past.  That needs to change. There is plenty of evidence and research that with properly prepared teachers, students can have a high-quality learning experience. In 2002 The International Association for K-12 Online Learning (now the Aurora Institute) was founded. Since then they’ve provided tons of research and evidence on the effectiveness of online learning.

Prepare teachers

It's a shame that many states and colleges have kept our educators in the past and did not prepare them to teach in a world dependent on technology. What needs to happen next is the teachers who want to get good at this are trained in doing so. With the proper training, starting with a summer institute, teachers and students can be set up for success when learning remotely. 

Provide appropriate resources

Melissa Jacobs who heads library services for New York City schools points out the importance of having the appropriate, vetted, curated resources and online libraries available with effective librarians. Everyone is scrambling for free and easy instead of actually evaluating a source for the need at hand.

Encourage families

Encourage as many families and teachers as possible to choose this route. Set a goal of virtual schooling for 50% of students for states hit hardest and 20% for the rest. The majority of those making this choice would be secondary school students, but there should be an option for all grade levels.

Physical Schools

Families for whom virtual school is not possible or desirable would have the option to send their children to school buildings.

Room for social distancing

When 20 – 50% less students attend school face-to-face and with central staff working remotely, there will be much more space in the existing buildings. This makes following the CDC guidelines for this and future pandemics or disasters much more practical.  

Reimaging school

Movement in the school day
  • Students learn in affinity cohorts.
  • Students don't move from class to class. Teachers do.
  • There are multiple entries/exits designated to various cohorts. 

Class size
  • With less students, class sizes are smaller.

    Remote staff
    • Some staff would remain remote. For example:
      • Small group specialized instruction can happen with a remote teacher.
      • Guidance counselors remain remote.
      • Some specialized services such as speech therapists are remote.

    • Some schools stagger schedules within the day so that half the student body starts their school in the morning and the rest in the afternoon.
    • Stagger start and end times for entry/exit into school.
    • One day, mid-week (Tues, Wed, Thurs) close schools for cleaning. 
    • Make changes in the workforce that help accommodate schedules so that child care is easier. Businesses can do things such as set up child care at work, have a shorter work day (on certain days) to accommodate new school schedules, and hours can be made up on a flexible schedule.

    • Every student has a personal device that sticks with them during the school career. 
    • It is replaced when broken or 5+ years old. 
    • They take it with them when they graduate high school. 
    • This is a proven model in some districts already. 
    • This should reduce other expenses such as paper, pencils, printers, calculators, textbooks, etc.

    The future    

    These shifts aren’t only helpful because of the threat of Coronavirus. Giving families more choices is a good thing. Positioning our society for future waves of the Coronavirus or something else is forward thinking.  As we move into this new model we assess what works and what needs to change. Waiting and hoping things will go back to normal is wishful, not forward, thinking. 

    No comments:

    Post a Comment