District leader says let teachers innovate online
With schools closed and shifting to online education due to the coronavirus, a Colorado superintendent says he and his leadership team are not scripting or dictating how teachers deliver virtual instruction.
In preparing move online last week, Jeffco Public Schools Superintendent Jason Glass says administrators laid out broad concepts and goals for remote learning and let teachers take it from there.
“This is an opportunity for innovation, so we want our people using their ingenuity and to share good practices as they emerge,” says Glass, whose district west of Denver has about 85,000 students. “We relied on our teachers’ talent, creativity and professional commitment to figure it out, and they have.”
The district launched online instruction on March 17, and Glass believes 95% to 99% of students have engaged.
Teachers, who have been taking attendance online, have been live-streaming classes by videoconference, recording courses and posting assignments online for students to complete on their own.
“We’re still trying to figure out the balance between not enough work and what’s too much,” Glass says. “We’re navigating what’s the right workload and how much students can get through.”
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The district was able to provide computers and hundreds of WiFi hotspots to students who didn’t have the technology at home, and local internet providers have been opening up free or low-cost services to families who lack a connection.
“It doesn’t look like a regular school day, students don’t have to be online from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.,” Glass says. “What we’re looking for is evidence that a student has gotten on and engaged with what their teachers have put forth for them to complete.”
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Jeffco’s educators began intensive planning to shift online about three weeks ago when they first had an idea that the spreading coronavirus could shut down school buildings, he says. The district’s mental health and social-emotional learning team is also developing guidance for teachers to help students and families cope with anxiety.
“This is going to be a learning process for everyone, from teachers to schools to families to students,” Glass says. “Unexpected challenges are going to emerge, and you have to keep designing to meet the challenge. It’s deploy-reflect-adapt-and-repeat—that’s the cycle we are in that cycle right now.”
Preventing a COVID-19 ‘slide’
Some educators see a potential for a summer-slide-type learning lapse occurring as students are kept away from classrooms while the coronavirus pandemic plays out.
In Iberville Parish Schools in Louisiana, high school students have begun working remotely through Google classrooms, Superintendent Arthur M. Joffrion Jr. says
— Iberville Schools (@IbervilleSchool) March 23, 2020
“We want to remind people how important it is that parents and children are spending time with each other,” Joffrion says.
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