Last fall I was blessed to meet a community of parents who felt a commitment to advocacy for the choice of in person public education not only for their own school-age children, but for all the students in our district, county, and state. While we amassed a large online following for this movement, there is a core group of us who worked (and continue to work) on behalf of our community. This work was not just about social media posts and comments, there was an incredible amount of research, networking, brain-storming, and most importantly listening to the stories of the families that we met along the way. In an effort to both raise awareness of the criticality of supporting choice for in person education we worked with educational and mental health experts to put together a virtual Town Hall that showcased a wide breadth of considerations, strategies for navigating the various impacts, and resources for how to address the educational equity gap that results from remote learning.
A replay of the event is available here:
Personally, what I find most compelling is the fact that we put this together months before we had the WCASD academic data which unequivocally shows that remote learning not only impacted all students’ performance, but that it disproportionately impacted our minority student population with the most decline occurring with Hispanic & African-American students. These facts were initially disputed by WCASD despite the data coming directly from them, and when confronted about their claims that the data was illegitimate the response was that is was unfair because it didn’t include acknowledgement of what the district was doing to address it. Since that initial report additional data has been published by the district, and while they have re-framed the metrics the result is still the same…
As a parent, and as a candidate for School Director, I find that response concerning. I am concerned that the current WCASD administration and School Directors are first and foremost concerned about how this data reflects on them or that they get credit for how they are “trying” to fix it. That is a response of hubris and hurt pride and not one of accountability.
To then go one step further and try to discredit the parents working tirelessly to raise community awareness… to call them bullies or discontents. To falsely discredit them by telling principals and board members that these advocates are named plaintiffs in a “open schools” lawsuit when they are not. This is one of the many reasons I have stepped forward as a candidate for School Director. There is no room for hubris in public education nor is this the time for participation awards. Our childrens’ future is too important to sacrifice for the pride or ego of a few.
If you agree, and want to see a representative for Region 3 that believes academic excellence & equity begins and ends with truth, transparency, and humility then consider me when you cast your vote for WCASD School Director – Region 3 on May 18th!
Additional Information on the Town Hall: Educational & Emotional Impacts of Remote Learning
Wayne Lewis, Jr., Ph.D. highlighted the known-nature of remote learning impacts parents have been sharing and news media is beginning to pick up; the lack of transparency to the public of these impacts; the exacerbation of social inequity / achievement gap; and warned that the long term implications will be “irreversible” for many. He advocated for a balanced look at risks (covid, anxiety, depression, suicide, academic, disparate impact) rather than the current binary narrative of kids being “safe at-home or at-risk in-school” which he called fallacy and unfair to kids. Margaret Crane, M.A., covered social and emotional risks with tips for parents on validating kids feelings, encouraging progress over grades, keeping a pulse on stress levels, and modeling coping behaviors.
Select Quotes from Dr. Lewis, Dean of Education and Professor at Belmont University and the former Commissioner of Education for Kentucky:
- “I don’t think we’ve done as good a job as we should of making sure (the public) understands the implications of keeping kids in a remote learning environment, particularly as long as we have”
- “We should not be surprised that we’re dealing with mental health challenges, the rate of disengagement, greater academic challenges than we have in the past, particularly with underserved populations. We shouldn’t be surprised by these outcomes”
- “Unless we’re willing to face up to the reality of what’s happening and do some strategic and strong interventions… I’m afraid the long term impacts on children and families are going to be irreversible”
- “The binary message of either ‘kids are safe at-home or at-risk at-school’ is fallacy… Just not true… All informed folks know there are tremendous risks to kids staying at home”
- “We need a more nuanced discussion on balancing risks (medical, covid, anxiety, depression, suicide risk, academic, achievement gap)… It can’t be presented as a binary option of ‘safe at-school or at-risk at home,’ It’s so far from reality. It’s so unfair to kids to present it that way”
- “We need to completely reinvent the system to ensure kids are served appropriately. Absent that, there is no way we don’t see long-term incredibly negative effects for children and families with the worst being for kids of color, low income kids, and kids where English is not their first language”
- 0:00 Intros
- 2:11 News reports of Remote Learning Impacts not a surprise to our speakers
- 5:44 Learning over a screen: limitations & lack of fit for most kids
- 8:31 Confidence impact on kids who struggle; kids calling themselves “Stupid”
- 12:11 Parents struggle with dual-role of Parent and Teacher & recommendations
- 16:52 Importance of Social/Emotional learning & finding safe ways for kids to interact
- 21:45 Recommendations for managing Screen Time
- 26:50 Signs of Stress: When parents should worry, engage, seek help
- 30:49 On failing grades, recommendation to follow grades and stay connected with teachers/schools
- 36:04 Achievement gap: remote learning significantly exacerbating social inequity
- 40:37 What should the educational systems be doing to catch-up the learning gap?
- 42:30 Trend of kids starting to embrace remote for all the wrong reasons
- 49:40 Can communities help the social-inequity exacerbation?
- 50:42 Binary view of kids “safe at-school or at-risk at-home” a dangerous fallacy, harming underserved communities worst
- 52:25 Tremendous long term risk
- 58:11 How to keep kids hopeful
- 1:00:00 Closing
Family Impact testimonial video (not part of the town hall, but worth a watch to see context of local family impacts)