California teachers, students ready for a school year without in-person learning

California Connection

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) — Gov. Gavin Newsom and state school officials say they are all in for helping school districts gear up for teaching their students remotely.     

This comes after the governor suggested that school campuses will not be safe to reopen before the school year is out.

“We believe that we should focus on distance learning then rest of the way for this school year,” said California State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond.

Many area school districts were way ahead of the direction they got from state education officials and the state will pour money and provide teacher training to make it happen.

The issue is that online education has never been done on such a large scale.

“No one has ever experienced anything like this,” said David Fisher, who is the president of the Sacramento City Teachers Association and has two high school-aged children.

Fisher said new teaching systems are not adopted until results are proven.

“You would take months and months, and even years,” he explained. “You’d have pilots and check what is the most efficient way and what’s working best.”

That means for the current situation, teachers will be learning along with students.

Many districts have adopted a policy for the rest of the year that will stop student’s grades going down, only allowing grades to go up if their performance improves.

Statewide tests have been suspended and it is up to individual districts to evaluate a student’s progress, whether through its own testing or teacher evaluations.

California universities have already said that they will accept pass-fail classes instead of letter grades on their applications.

“Grades aren’t the only measure of success,” said Xanthi Pinkerton, a spokesperson for the Elk Grove Unified School District.

EGUSD will rely a lot on teachers’ knowledge of their students and coursework to determine if kids are grasping concepts. But students will be expected to meet goals despite not having in-person contact with teachers.

That’s a tall order for districts where internet and cell service are bad, even if they had enough computers to go around, which is not a given.

State officials say distance learning for them may mean learning packets delivered to families’ doors.

Part of the learning curriculum includes group projects, science labs and engineering projects which are hard to do online.

Backup if some students fall behind includes tutoring, summer school and remedial classes.

“When there’s a need for remediation because of our expectations, then we’ll provide that,” Pinkerton said.

Meanwhile, summer school make-up classes are still in limbo becauses no one knows when the stay-at-home orders will be lifted.

Along with the expectations comes a lot of speculation. No one really knows if long-distance learning will actually work or, in many cases, how to do it. But the alternative is no learning at all.


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