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Planning for Back-to-School and Comparing State-level Approaches to Distance Learning

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. This week, as the state continues to tackle remote learning in response to COVID-19, we’re focused on planning for back-to-school and comparing state-level approaches to distance learning.

Our 3rd Phone Forum - Next Thursday: CT Elections During COVID-19 Crisis

DFER CT has always prioritized electing education champions in our state. On Thursday, May 7th, we will host a conference call about how CT is planning for elections during the pandemic —featuring Secretary of State Denise Merrill, Vice Chair of the Committee on Government Administration & Elections Senator Will Haskell, and former Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen. This is our third phone forum, following discussions of how higher ed is meeting student needs during this crisis and about state and local efforts to address remote learning.

Planning Ahead for Back-to-School?

Last week, ERN CT released our four Goals for a CT 2020 Education Recovery Plan. Many national and state leaders have thought about the logistics and timing of beginning a safe recovery. But beyond those important practicalities, we also want to see the State of Connecticut make plans to address impending academic concerns, such as the inevitable learning losses and socio-emotional impacts of this pandemic on students.

On Friday, Governor Lamont announced Connecticut’s “Advisory Group to Reopen the State.” We are watching carefully—in particular to see what plans they are making for K-12 students and whether equity and recovery of learning will be included in the conversation. (See our GOALS.) Several editorial boards also weighed in today on their desire for additional transparency from the group.

Comparing State Approaches to Remote Learning

As the entire country contends with prolonged school closures, it's becoming increasingly clear that states are taking varied approaches to oversight of remote learning. This month, the national research team of our affiliate organization, Education Reform Now, published an analysis of the different strategies across the nation. Their study covers issues such as professional development, specific guidance to address English Learner and Special Education populations, and ensuring access to the internet.

Last week, The Boston Globe also took a look at interstate comparisons, specifically contrasting the approaches of Rhode Island and Massachusetts to online learning. According to the article, districts in Rhode Island had to submit learning plans to the Commissioner of Education, mapping out 4-6 hours of instructional time per day, as well as plans for access to devices and the internet; in contrast, Boston teachers were merely asked to communicate with students once a week. Here in Connecticut, where local administrations were provided with few guidelines, the MA narrative may sound familiar. However, a Washington Post story—comparing the “synchronous” and “asynchronous” learning strategies of two districts inside of Virginia—emphasizes just how different expectations within a single state can be if guidelines are optional on remote learning. It will be impossible for CT to measure the impact and efficacy of these protocols when students return to the classroom without a plan.

How Parents Are Coping

This past week saw a slew of stories about the strain that remote learning is having on working parents. On Monday, The New York Times observed that parental engagement is more critical than ever, with working parents “expected to play teacher’s aide, hall monitor, counselor and cafeteria worker." CNBC has also looked at distance learning activities being sent home by daycares and preschools, observing that working parents can be over-burdened by remote assignments for younger students who need constant guidance. If you’re a parent in CT, how’s your remote learning experience going?


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