What we as parents, distance learners, and stakeholders expect from our education system.
As the next school year quickly approaches, parents are growing increasingly angry and disappointed with the failures of leadership in our public education system.
In March, shutdowns called for an abrupt transition to remote learning. Parents and caretakers stepped up to compensate for the gaps in their childrens' education and students across the board suffered from lack of access and poor quality of distance learning. Despite widespread frustration with the difficulties remote lessons brought, it was an unexpected and unprecedented situation- so we allowed educators and schools a lot of flexibility.
Now after five months the situation has lost its novelty, yet schools across the country feel just as chaotic and unprepared for COVID learning now as they did in March.
While no one expected or planned for the situation we are in, parents and professionals everywhere have been forced to adjust their lives and find solutions; our schools must do this as well, with parent-driven and student-centered plans that are executed with urgency and effectiveness.
As schools unveil tentative, poorly orchestrated plans for back to school, parents are realizing that the concerns they have been voicing since the beginning of shutdowns are still not being acknowledged.
Since schools will not address these issues and widely-felt concerns on their own, parents are stepping up and explicitly demanding them. Our children deserve a system that works for them so they can be successful; our communities deserve stability; our families deserve answers. This is our Bill of Rights.
(TEN spoke with local parents and community members about what their expectations look like in the time of remote learning.)
Establish a collective set of expectations that we can hold all those involved with the education of our children in order to ensure, whether in person or remotely, that our children have the opportunity, support and environment to be able to meet and exceed their potential.
1. Parents and caregivers are in the position with the greatest impact on student’s learning and development and therefore need to be supported and compensated as such.
Parents are spending out of pocket for countless unexpected expenses to support home learning and fill in the gaps that being out of school has left. While companies like Comcast/other internet providers and organizations like food banks have shown generosity, this will inevitably run out as the situation continues. Parents should be reimbursed for childcare expenses, home internet, the purchase of devices necessary for students’ learning, and other school supplies/resources/services they are forced to provide their children that would ordinarily be covered by public schools.
Additionally, schools must make accommodations for parents who are now largely involved in their children’s education while also balancing their own work and commitments. Remote learning schedules and plans must allow for flexibility and focus on meeting external needs of the students and families. Live lessons should be recorded for families to allow all students access to their learning.
2. Parents need to be involved in planning for the school year as well as need consistent, explicitly set communication with schools and teachers in their own language throughout the year.
Parents need support in navigating online learning platforms.
Parents need a set schedule that schools or districts mandate for school-to-parent communication, in whatever platform makes the most sense and reaches the community effectively. This might look like phone calls, emails, messaging applications, paper mail or other creative means of contact.
All communications must be available for families in their native language.
Parents’ voices must be heard and incorporated into the heart of any plans or actions moving forward; surveys and other opportunities for parent feedback should be conducted frequently, offering more than just a few limited either/or options but rather focusing on specific areas of needs and allowing for parents to vocalize their experiences and needs. This feedback should be shared with communities by the schools and parents should see how this is reflected in actions at the school and district level.
3. Support that students were receiving in school must continue during remote learning, including but not limited to special education services, advanced learning plans and college counselors/application/financial aid support.
During the spring, remote learning failed in all of these categories and students and families were left frustrated; the impact of missing out on this support may last for years or even change the direction of a students’ future.
First-generation college students in particular urgently need support in ACT/SAT testing, navigating the college application process and applying for FAFSA/financial aid. Without the support they are guaranteed through the school system, this group will be significantly underrepresented in higher education and inequalities facing our nation will be perpetuated.
4. Teachers need support and clear expectations in the time of remote learning from their school and training in areas reflective of parent/student needs.
Communication, remote learning schedules,online assignments and progress updates all need to be addressed explicitly from administrators and should be aligned with the asks/needs of the parents and students they work with.
Relationship development with their students is more critical now than ever and must be emphasized. Specific time and efforts should be dedicated to ongoing check-ins and relationship-building activities. These relationships must also extend to the families of their students, and language barriers must be accommodated with translation.
It is the responsibility of the district to give teachers the support they need to be successful at their new roles as remote educators while ensuring that the same high expectations from pre-COVID learning be enforced in this new setting. There should be ongoing feedback from the community and teachers to the district to address issues as they arise and to work together to find effective learning/communication tools and solutions.
This is a living document - if you are a parent or caretaker who believes there is something that should be added or changed, use your voice to advocate and let us know. If we stand together as leaders and change makers in our community, we can hold hold our education system accountable and ensure that our children receive the quality education they deserve.