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Report: Scant Improvements to Remote Learning

School districts’ responses to the pandemic continue to be thrown off course by leaders’ assumption that things will soon return to “normal,” researchers at the Center on Reinventing Public Education conclude in their latest snapshot of reopening plans in 100 U.S. school systems.

In the absence of clear public health guidelines, district decisions about bringing students back into classrooms in person — and now, going entirely remote again as COVID-19 cases surge nationwide — are “once again raising the specter that a churn of shifting reopening plans will detract leaders’ focus from academics,” a synopsis of the analysis warns.

Since March, CRPE has been tracking school systems’ handling of the crisis, creating a database of pandemic plans and launching The Evidence Project, to identify problems and potential solutions. More than 150 researchers at 100 institutions are contributing to the effort.

School leaders must decide how to navigate a daunting series of tradeoffs, CRPE analysts note, potentially threatening their ability to increase the quality of remote instruction and begin to stanch learning losses. They must decide whether to prioritize spending on health and safety measures to bring students back in person or on ensuring students who still lack technology have devices and internet access to participate in remote classes.

In its November update, CRPE noted that the number of districts offering at least some level of in-person instruction had more than doubled since September, to 52. Forty-four remained fully remote, as opposed to 76 at the start of the school year.

Of those that have welcomed students back to physical classrooms, two-thirds prioritize access for special populations, including English learners, elementary pupils and students with disabilities.

In a separate analysis of a nationally representative sample made up of 477 school districts, CRPE noted that the proportion of schools open for in-person learning is largely unchanged from August, but only because the number moving to invite students back is virtually the same as the number shifting to fully remote learning.

A lack of leadership, the earlier report notes, has left schools in crisis mode, scrambling to deal with public health questions amid fluctuating COVID-19 case counts instead of improving engagement and academics. President-elect Joe Biden has already signaled an awareness of the need for a coordinated response, but can go further, the researchers say.

Excerpted from “School Reopening ‘Churn’ Distracting District Leaders from Focusing on Improved Remote Education & Student Engagement, Researchers Find” in The 74. Read the full article online.

Source: The 74 | School Reopening ‘Churn’ Distracting District Leaders from Focusing on Improved Remote Education & Student Engagement, Researchers Find, https://www.the74million.org/article/school-reopening-churn-distracting-district-leaders-from-focusing-on-improved-remote-education-student-engagement-researchers-find | ©2020 The 74 Media Inc

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