The education community is preparing to enter the 2020-2021 school year while facing unprecedented challenges. As rates of infection fluctuate across the nation, districts and schools are tasked with predicting what will be the safest option for students, teachers, and school personnel. They are also tasked with doing what is best, from an education perspective, for their students. The CDC’s Considerations for Schools say that remote instruction is the safest option from a health perspective, and they suggest ways to ensure safety if/when students return to campuses. They also suggest Guidelines for Helping Students Learning at Home. These are available online in Chinese, English, Korean, Spanish, and Vietnamese.
For districts creating fall plans to continue remote instruction in the fall, it will be imperative that we support parents and guardians during the next phase of remote learning. Here are a few key ways we can provide proactive supports to our students’ parents and guardians.
- Encourage Parents to Communicate Their Needs: Whether it is a lack of devices, inadequate internet connectivity, or work schedules that impact learning from home, soliciting and encouraging parents to communicate their needs will help you consider how to best provide support throughout the time students are learning at home.
- Help Parents Make the Most of What They Have: If there aren’t enough devices, or the home Wi-Fi is weak or spotty, help parents consider ways to share what they do have. Often, resources can be downloaded and reviewed offline, so others who need to access the internet can do so. Determine times that must be devoted to schoolwork (e.g., assessments, face-to-face lessons, etc.) and schedule around those. Suggest that parents determine all of their home devices that connect to the internet, and turn off the Wi-Fi for unnecessary devices during school/work hours.
- Provide Strategies to Promote Learning at Home: In the current setting, many parents, siblings, grandparents, and other caretakers have fallen into the role of instructional leader for students who are learning at home. It’s unrealistic to expect the teacher-by-default scenarios to provide a learning experience that matches what happens in a traditional classroom (and, it can help to let parents know you recognize that and don’t hold that expectation). However, there are ways to set parents up for success and ensure that learning at home is more effective. Try suggesting that parents:
- Set guidelines that help distinguish “school” periods from all other activities at home. This could be a simple matter of sitting at a desk or turning off the television.
- Use a timer to help children know when it is “recess” or time for a break.
- Determine the rules for school hours at home and post them.
- If students are sharing technology in the home, set a schedule to ensure that each student has adequate time to complete and submit work.
- Establish the difference between what is “helping” and what is “doing” in order to place the expectation for showing understanding on the student.
- Have a response for when students say, “I can’t” or “I don’t know.” Without a plan, that scenario can feel like a dead end to parents. One strategy is for parents to ask their students to read the assignments or question aloud and then ask the student to explain what they need to do in their own words. This will work for a high school chemistry student just as well as it will work for a first grader. Reassure and affirm with parents that it’s not their job to show what they know, it’s the student’s.
- Help Parents Understand the Role of Remote Assessment: As educators, we use a variety of assessments to determine what students know, what they have learned, and what they still need to learn. For this reason, assessments are a vital component of a student’s education—whether in onsite, remote, or hybrid environments. For parents new to comprehensive assessment systems, it might be confusing and frustrating to understand why assessments are still happening—or feel compelled to “assist” students on their assessments. Communicating with parents about assessments can help you ensure you are getting valid data and make parents your partners in remote assessment. Here are a few ideas:
- Help parents understand why various assessments are being administered and the role they play in understanding the student’s academic and social-emotional behavioral (SEB) needs such that the right instructional and intervention next steps can be taken.
- Help parents understand the importance of ensuring that the student is the only one contributing to the assessment. It is imperative that the teacher has authentic data upon which to base instructional decisions, and any “help” that is provided to the student during the assessment may prevent the teacher from identifying the essential next steps in the student’s learning. Essentially, “helping” a child on an assessment prevents a teacher from ultimately helping the child.
- For support in explaining the connection between assessment and aligned supports, check out our Back-to-School Toolkit for a communication template—feel free to use or adapt that template within your own community.
- Provide Tips for Supporting Remote Assessment: When parents understand that assessments are a tool for supporting students, they are also better equipped to help students take assessments seriously. Some additional tips to share with parents might include:
- Provide a distraction-free learning environment during assessment times.
- Minimize Wi-Fi disruption if the assessment is online. Many assessment platforms use a lock-down browser that prevents students from navigating to other websites during the assessment, and disruptions in the Wi-Fi can cause the student to be “kicked out” of the assessment and/or lock-down browser.
- Ensure that the student is the only one contributing to the assessment by limiting access to phones or other devices and prevent others from “helping” during assessments.
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Looking for more resources around supporting remote learners? Check out our Remote Learning Community Page for free resources for your team, including webinars, professional learning activities, articles, product tips, and more.
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