Kids in computer lab working on desktop computer

Remote learning questions that need answers

Nat Malkus highlights for Real Clear Education important questions parents should ask about remote learning.

This summer, I had the chance to discuss reopening options with district leaders across the country. Those that decided to reopen remotely wanted to assure parents of one thing: “remote learning” this fall would be far better than the “emergency learning” they experienced this spring. I certainly hope they make good on that promise, because my analyses of what districts offered showed far too many were perfunctory attempts at quality “remote learning” students needed then and will need now. As I reflect on the shortcomings of many school offerings last spring, and watch my own child start high school on a computer, there are three key questions parents should be asking that will determine whether remote learning will indeed be better this fall.

1. How will schools set expectations for students and parents this fall? In the early days of spring’s emergency remote learning, just 18% of schools were in districts that explicitly expected students to participate. Although that percentage grew over the semester, more than one out of three schools were in districts that never clearly stated expectations for participation or stated that it was not required at all. …

… 2. How will districts set expectations for teachers? In the spring’s rushed development of emergency remote learning, many districts struggled to communicate how, and how much, teachers should provide instruction. While many assumed schools would shift to online platforms like Zoom, by May, only 44% of schools were in districts whose websites mentioned these synchronous learning tools. …

… 3. How will schools foster personal connections between teachers and students? Last spring, three-quarters of schools were in districts that listed at least one way teachers should make regular one-on-one contact with students. That may seem like a glass half full, but the most common contact method was by email (52 percent), while just a quarter mentioned phone calls.

Mitch Kokai / Senior Political Analyst

Mitch Kokai is senior political analyst for the John Locke Foundation. He joined JLF in December 2005 as director of communications. That followed more than four years as chie...

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