We hope this note finds you and your family safe and healthy during this unprecedented time. We also hope that your communities – both personal and professional – have proved helpful in navigating the current transitions.
It is in that spirit of community that we are reaching out to you and our K-12 networks. For now, we simply want to share what we are hearing and seeing, to the extent it might be helpful to you in your support of the broader K-12 community. Given the volume of information crossing our collective screens, we have prioritized this week selected actions taken by three groups – states and districts, the federal government, and suppliers and organizations – and included links for you to learn more as relevant.
We will plan to stay in touch weekly for the near-term in a similar vein. If there is anything in particular it would be helpful to hear about, please let us know.
Wishing health and security to everyone in our community.
School Closures: Across the nation, 46 states have decided to close schools to mitigate the spread of the virus. Kansas was the first state to close its schools for the remainder of the 2019/20 academic year, but others are considering taking similar action.
Meal Assistance: Nearly 30 million children rely on schools for breakfast and lunch. In response to school closures, districts are being creative in reaching students and families, deploying “grab-and-go” models and driving buses to apartment complexes and housing areas with high-needs’ students to ensure that students still receive meals.
Transition to Remote Learning Models: Many districts are implementing remote learning strategies to continue providing educational experiences to students. Those districts that have elected not to implement distance learning approaches cite either a lack of preparedness for online learning or concerns over equity.
Variability in Approaches: Approaches to remote learning are wide-ranging across the country. Some students are simply receiving their lessons and homework via email or school websites, others are watching broadcast educational instruction via TV or website, and others are accessing remote instruction for much of the day in live chats via Google Classroom, Zoom, or other platforms. While K-12 stakeholders have not yet begun to address the quality of current distance learning experiences created for students, postsecondary stakeholders are already questioning whether the current environment will help or hurt online learning potential.
Equity and Access (Food): With school and state leaders are focused on meeting the basic needs of students and families, the recently signed Families First Coronavirus Response Act enables districts and schools to continue offering meals to students in a variety of settings.
Equity and Access (Special Education: In light of district uncertainty about how to educate all students – including those with disabilities – the US DOE released a fact sheet clarifying that federal law should not be used to prevent schools from offering online learning opportunities for all students, including those with disabilities.
Equity and Access (Digital Divide): The FCC is also waving rules for the E-rate program to allow companies freedom to provide schools with free services and equipment to improve internet connectivity. It also announced an extension of the required E-rate application form for districts and schools seeking program funding.
Assessment: The US DOE is waiving requirements – notably around states’ high-stakes assessments – for the current academic year to enable schools and families to focus on immediate needs and maximizing remote learning experiences. Many have already canceled standardized testing, but most have not yet determined how they will make decisions about key issues (e.g., graduation, grade-level retention, teacher evaluation).
Free Supplier Solutions and Tools: K-12 vendors have moved quickly to make offerings free in an effort to assist districts, schools, teachers, and parents amidst the shift to remote learning models. A selected list of suppliers’ responses are noted below.
Curated Teaching and Learning Resources: Non-profits, foundations, and other groups are curating free and helpful resources for teachers and parents. Selected examples are also included below.
Innovative Partnerships: Innovative approaches to remote learning instruction have sprung up quickly. Los Angeles Unified School District and PBS SoCal/KCET launched an “At-Home Learning” program to offer students in grades PreK-12 education programs and resources via local TV channels; other PBS stations in California and across the nation are looking to replicate the program. We expect more of these types of initiatives and will continue to track them.
Digital Divide: With 3.1 million households with school-aged children without wired broadband connection at home, helping alleviate the digital divide is critical for some school communities. Internet service providers are providing support to boost internet connectivity through the FCC’s “Keep Americans Connected” pledge and through individual company programs. Selected examples are also noted below.
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