This weekly segment by Democrats for Education Reform CT looks at the top education stories Democrats are watching, providing bite-sized analysis and links to recent articles. On the roster this week: continuing to unpack the holes in CT’s plan for reopening schools, and connectivity issues during periods of remote learning.
State Oversight Made CT a National Leader on Public Health. Why Not on Ed?
Strong state leadership and statewide requirements have resulted in Connecticut becoming a national leader for lowering the transmission rates of coronavirus. Governor Lamont and his team should be acknowledged for their management of the public health crisis to date.
However, we’d like to see the same principles and statewide specifics applied to strategies for ongoing and remote learning when our public schools reopen this fall. Without establishing common statewide requirements, Connecticut's school reopening plan will unintentionally reinforce educational inequities in our state by relying on local models that can vary widely. Leaving these plans to be designed at the local municipal level will have implications across racial and socio-economic lines, perpetuate the ineffective patchwork of learning practices that students experienced in the spring, and fail to hold high expectations for all schools and districts.
Indeed, in the fifty page document on fall reopening issued by the state, there are almost no state-level expectations for how school districts should address post-closure instruction, with the exception of federal requirements regarding SpEd students and ELs. Given the widespread consensus that remote learning did not go well this spring, the lack of specifics on how districts should address meaningful, equitable learning and remediate learning losses will be devastating for many Connecticut children.
We know other states have risen to this challenge. For example, check out the planning templates that Rhode Island has provided to its districts (or LEAs)—jump to page 8 for instruction directives. Rhode Island has outlined specific items that all LEAs must address, including:
“Demonstrate comparable levels of rigor between online and in-person instruction.”
“Identify the ways in which distance learning in the fall will be different from and/or similar to the spring.”
“Develop guidance on creating online curriculum and content that is appropriate and meets fair use and copyright requirements.”
Those types of details are missing from CT’s template. Moreover, once RI LEAs submit their plans to the State Department of Ed, they’ll get feedback at the end of the month. By contrast, as of this writing, the CT State Department of Education's LEA Reopening Template, which is due on July 24th, explicitly does not require state approval or guarantee any kind of review.
Tech Access for Students - A Basic Need
Over the weekend, the Hartford Courant highlighted a new State Department of Education survey that found 29,000 Connecticut students did not have access to reliable WiFi during the period of school closures this spring, and 50,000 did not have access to a device. Sarah Eagen, from the Office of the Child Advocate, urged the state to decide whether technology access is a basic need. Given the likelihood of some level of continued remote learning, we think unquestionably, it is—thus necessitating making the provision of such devices and connectivity a statewide requirement. (See above!)