When the Covid-19 pandemic forced schools to pivot to remote learning, Nawar Almadani and her family weren’t sure what they’d do. Her three kids were enrolled in middle and elementary school; she was working toward her GED. They didn’t own a laptop, and even when they got two from school — one from the city for the kids, the other from Almadani’s program — they had to share. Beyond the struggles all families are facing with remote learning, the Almadani family is dealing with additional stress: They fled Syria as refugees, and resettled in Chicago in 2016. They, like many refugee families in the U.S., face a litany of additional obstacles to remote learning, including language barriers, access to technology. Schools are also childcare centers, access to meals and nutrition, a source of support for vulnerable children, and a hub for socialization.
For some families, like the Coronas, the next school year will be spent rebuilding what fell apart this year. They’re nervous about the reopenings that have caused virus cases to skyrocket in Texas, but at the same time anxious to go back to work and school. School took a back seat to work for 16-year-old Mia. Still, she made it through the school year. Her 14-year-old sister Aaliyha could not concentrate because of anxiety and frustration and quit logging on to her remote lessons. “I made lots of mistakes. I decided not to do my work or do it last minute,” Aaliyha said. “I decided to do my own thing, which I really regret.” She’s determined to get things back on track next academic year. Spend a day with the Corona family.
The country’s experience with crisis distance learning in the 2019-2020 school year was not always great, nor equitable. However, one school district in suburban Oklahoma worked out a model to help ensure access to educational materials with or without Internet access. As plans take shape for this coming school year, the community business partnership might help leaders and families. New America’s Kristina Ishmael interviews Karla Dyess, Associate Superintendent of Broken Arrow Public Schools in Broken Arrow, OK. In the interview, Dyess talks about how the school district designed curriculum for students to access without the Internet through a community partnership with Wal-Mart. While this model was originally developed to address the challenges of crisis distance learning during the 2019-2020 school year, it may prove useful to other schools in the coming year.
There are 3.2 million teachers in U.S. K-12 schols today. And there are also over 500,000 aides (also known as paraprofessionals) who work in instruction, primarily in early education, with students who have special needs, and with English-language learners. In this post, four educators share tips on how teachers and paraprofessionals can work effectively together, including by maintaining regular daily communication and providing professional-development opportunities.
In light of recent demands for racial justice, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, NAACP, UnidosUS, and the National Women’s Law Center along with hundreds of other civil rights and education organizations, have written to Congress to again urge decision makers to enact antiracist education policies. Such steps are needed to support the educational success of historically marginalized students, including Black students and other students of color, Native students, students with disabilities, LGBTQ students, religious minorities, sexual assault survivors, and immigrant students, in PK-12 and higher education spaces. The letter included the civil and human rights community’s policy recommendations for achieving justice and equal opportunity in education
This week, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) introduced the Coronavirus Child Care and Education Relief Act (CCCERA)—the largest proposed congressional relief package for education yet, totaling $430 billion. On top of the $30 billion already provided under the CARES Act, Senator Murray’s bill would infuse an additional $345 billion in stabilization funding for higher education and K–12 schools. Like CARES, funds would be split between three emergency relief funds for Governors ($33 billion), state departments of education ($175 billion), and institutions of higher education ($132 billion). Funds could be used for a number of activities to help districts reopen safely and improve remote learning, in addition to addressing learning loss and students’ social and emotional needs.
Last week, New America’s Open Technology Institute (OTI) convened a number of broadband experts and district leaders to talk through innovative approaches to addressing the ‘homework gap,’ a term that refers to the educational disparities caused by inequitable access to home Internet among preK-12 students. Key takeaways from their conversation: the digital divide is much steeper than we previously thought; there is no one right way to do distance learning; teacher professional development is needed, and there are options for funding it; and E-Rate flexibility is key.
As the coronavirus pandemic has impacted every aspect of life in the United States, school buildings across the country have closed and learning has moved online. Teachers have needed to rapidly adapt to their new teaching environments. Justin Minkel, an elementary school teacher from Arkansas, discusses the progress he saw through remote learning, his concerns for the vulnerable population he teaches, and what he’s preparing for come fall. Christina Torres, a middle school teacher in Hawaii, discusses the steps she’s taking to prepare for the fall, including teaching her students about anti-racism as the issue has moved to the forefront during the pandemic.
Angel Castillo Pineda immigrated to the U.S. from Guatemala five years ago. Navigating a new environment and language at East Boston High School, he thought little of future career ambitions—until he met Wensess Raphael, head of Boston Public Schools’ High School to Teacher Program (HSTT). Raphael encouraged the then-high school junior to apply to the program, which supports participants from high school through college in exploring and completing teaching degrees. Angel graduated this spring with plans to become a teacher and a full tuition scholarship from Regis College’s Diverse Educators Program. “I totally see myself coming back to visit and tell high school students about my experience,” Angel said. Angel’s experience represents one of an increasing number of efforts to recruit and retain a more racially diverse teacher workforce in K-12 schools. While initiatives like the HSTT identify students of color in high school and expose them to teaching careers, others seek out paraprofessionals already working in the public school system to become certified teachers. Still others work to retain existing teachers of color.
Samantha Honani’s son hasn’t completed a school assignment in months. After his high school on the Hopi Reservation in Arizona shut down in March, he finished about three weeks of distance learning via his family’s computer. Then, in April, he stopped hearing from his teachers. Honani’s son attends Hopi Junior Senior High School, which is funded and partially overseen by the Bureau of Indian Education, an agency within the Department of the Interior that manages nearly 200 tribal K-12 schools throughout the country. Implementing distance learning for schools like Hopi High would have been difficult even under the best of circumstances — the school is located on a vast reservation where families often lack access to internet and computers. But evidence suggests that some of the blame for the struggles of BIE schools during Covid-19 lies on the shoulders of the federal government, which consistently bungled its role in helping schools adapt to remote learning and ensure that kids continued to receive an education.