Public school students at every level nationwide have been and are going to be short changed in their education experience due to the restrictions on in-class participation as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Action must be initiated immediately to remediate this damage and to improve remote learning experiences for the future.
It is easy to arm-chair quarterback the situation, looking at the experience in hindsight, and conclude that many if not all of the actions taken by the local school administrations, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic concerns, were either unnecessary or poorly designed. The decisions that have been made by local school boards as directed by Governor Cooper were made with the best intentions and based on an experience for which there was no precedent.
The real issue now is to address the short and long term impacts of these decisions and to re-think how we deliver the educational experience. And to do it quickly.
Two parents of Croatan High School (CHS) students rightfully expressed their concerns and frustrations at a recent Carteret County Board of Education meeting. Christine Hanks, one of the parents, told the school board that, “Ideally all students could return to their classrooms full time, but until that day comes, delivering high quality, engaging and effective remote instruction must be immediately addressed.”
Kelley Tyson, the other CHS parent, e-mailing her remarks to the school board meeting, noted one solution involving synchronous learning whereby the student and teacher are working remotely simultaneously as opposed to the teacher posting school work on the class’s website, allowing the student to determine when to listen to, or engage in the school work.
Ms. Tyson noted, “It is simply not enough to have students read passages online and complete assignments on their own with little or no instruction.” Assuming continued remote learning, she offered an alternative involving, “a district wide synchronous learning plan for middle and high school students IMMEDIATELY (emphasis added by the editor).”
We have opined in previous editorials that school administrators need to address the reduced educational experience resulting from hybrid schedules whereby students participate in both in-class and remote learning environments. The confusion and lack of continuity for both teachers and students is most likely resulting in poor retention and comprehension of the subjects which will become obvious as students matriculate to the next grade level. The more subtle and frightening long term impacts will only become obvious once the students enter the workforce after graduation.
Now that the state’s public school system has completed two semesters of remote learning (2019-20 spring semester and 2020-21 fall semester) there should be sufficient analysis to see what teaching procedures have and have not worked. As noted, it is time to re-think or re-imagine education for the long term by introducing the conclusions of this analysis now in the spring semester.
Ms. Tyson’s proposal of synchronous learning plans is a good start and one that the county school board apparently is pursuing. But there is more to be considered, such as developing school pods where students can gather in small groups with teachers or tutors to enhance the lesson plans established by the teachers. A plan is also needed to provide summer school tutoring for students who are not meeting grade level standards.
There is a plan for students to return to in-class participation over the next few weeks based on new evidence provided by Duke University and UNC-Chapel Hill research, indicating that transmission of the virus is “extremely limited” in the public school environment. But this return to the classroom, if it is fully implemented, will not repair the damage resulting from the hastily developed educational programs of hybrid classroom participation or the totally remote classroom system implemented during the past two semesters.
Both CHS mothers correctly admonished the county school board to remediate both long and short term educational shortcomings immediately. As Ms. Tyson passionately stated, “We cannot wait another nine weeks, much less (a) semester, to fix this.” We agree; action is needed now.