This Charter School Prepared for Distance Learning Ahead of Time and It’s Paying Off For Students

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As COVID-19 has forced schools across the country to adapt to remote learning, Perspectives Charter School teacher Andrew Rosenblat has led a recent technological revolution at his campus.

A Chicago native, Rosenblat spent the last few years teaching in Australia, where he was trained in how to help struggling learners catch up to grade-level. This work involved using technology to ensure that students had more access to classroom content from any location—no matter how remote. 

Pre-Coronavirus: Building a Base to Learn from Anywhere

Earlier this year, Rosenblat brought these strategies to his new job at Perspectives’ Rodney D. Joslin campus where he teaches English language arts to freshmen and sophomores. Rosenblat put all of his classes on Google Classroom so students can learn and understand the structure and flow of the content from anywhere. Rosenblat said,

I strongly believe in giving students access to materials, lessons and support. For me, this goes beyond just the classroom. One of the biggest things for me is missed work because of absences. I know that there are always family struggles, sleepy days, mental health days and/or sick days that cause students to miss school. I never want those days to cause additional stress for students to make up work and play catch up.

After he taught his lessons, Rosenblat would post his PowerPoint presentation, along with any related assignments, on Google Classroom. Students could then complete their assignments at home or anywhere they have Wi-Fi. Little did he know, these actions would soon move from a convenience to a necessity for Perspectives students.

Preparing for Pandemic: Setting up the school for remote learning

As the world moved into February and nervously watched the Coronavirus pandemic sweep across the globe, teachers and staff knew it would only be a matter of time before the virus came to Chicago, an international travel hub. In mid-March, Perspectives school leaders proactively surveyed students to see who had access to technology at home and came up with a plan to print thousands of take-home packets for students. Perspectives leaders asked Mr. Rosenblat to share his Google Classroom setup with school staff, in the case that some students could have access to the internet. Rosenblat said,

We were able to move to online remote learning easily and efficiently. We already had some discussions about using a better digital system to give students access to the material. So I think the admin team was already in this mindset when they realized the schools would be closing. We got all the students on Google Classroom quickly before the closure happened.

While school administrators covered his classes, Mr. Rosenblat went from classroom to classroom, getting every single student signed into an account. That was the week before schools closed. 

COVID-19 shuts down Chicago schools: The first two weeks

By Tuesday, March 17, all Chicago public school buildings were closed, but thanks to the prep done by Perspectives, most students logged into their Google Classrooms and resumed learning that week. Because they had a strong structure while they were in school, they were able to maintain that same learning structure outside of school. While state- and city-level leaders grappled with how long to keep students out of school, Perspectives teachers taught their two weeks of lessons that they planned earlier in the month. Rosenblat said,

Our leadership had extraordinary foresight that schools would be closing, The leadership took that time to develop materials to send home to students, while the teachers worked on carrying out the work they already planned. It took a lot of stress off our backs during the initial closure and allowed us to focus on our students, socially and emotionally.

Running remote into the spring

Students in Illinois will not be returning to their schools this school year and it is unclear what school will look like this fall. What is clear, though, is that Perspectives teachers are prepared to continue to deliver on their mission of preparing students for college and life. The week before Spring Break, teachers met (remotely) to discuss what classes would look like after the week off. They decided to take an ambitious approach and teach their students the same new content that they were planning for the spring, but modify it to be virtual. 

Mr. Rosenblat had planned on teaching a unit of argumentative essays, but he shifted to focus on argumentative analysis and more project-based learning that involves as much student interaction as possible while they’re spending so much time apart. They’re planning to watch a play and debate parts of it online. 

I am not a big fan of learning online, I like that face to face interaction, the socialness of it. I wanted to bring some of that to what we were doing online. Lots of collaboration, digital creations, using materials the kids already love and are passionate about … Project-based, real applications are the way to go with digital learning.

This rapid shift to remote learning is something that most teachers around the world are grappling with right now. They’ve had to reimagine what education looks like. But at Perspectives, they had a head start. And that head start has allowed for more students to continue their education and a sense of normalcy throughout this crisis.

Source: This Charter School Prepared for Distance Learning Ahead of Time and It’s Paying Off For Students

Students With Disabilities Deserve More During Distance Learning

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At Alliance College-Ready Public Schools (Alliance) in Los Angeles, when we say that all scholars can learn and achieve, we mean all. That’s why, in 2018, we launched a multi-year organization-wide effort to ensure that every scholar, especially our English learners and scholars with disabilities, have equitable access to rigorous grade-level materials, social-emotional support, and mental health resources needed to meet their academic and career potential.

Once the COVID-19 pandemic hit and schools pivoted to distance learning, our network faced a stark choice of action or inaction regarding special support services, since special education policies were not explicitly mandated by the district or state. We could either choose to put all scholar needs first or disregard the needs of scholars with disabilities and English learners who represent 12% and 15% of Alliance’s 13,000 scholars, respectively.

In alignment with the Alliance mission of educational equity, we chose action.

Alliance Marine Innovation and Technology 6-12 Complex
teachers send a message to their scholars during distance learning.

First, the Alliance special education team mobilized to provide instructional and academic resources regarding scheduling, accommodation tools in a virtual classroom, and co-planning facilitation guidelines between general education and special education teachers. Immediately after, the team crafted legal guidance with action items for our schools to follow to ensure that Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) compliance efforts were efficient, concise, and in the best interest of scholars and families. 

As part of the action plan, schools communicated with all 1,547 families with scholars receiving special support services to explain the shifts in support during distance learning. Next, we assessed each individual scholar’s needs and addressed their educational services through personalized prior written notices and virtual IEP meetings. These steps were of paramount importance, as they closely aligned with the network’s agreed-upon distance learning principles:

  • Consistency: A flexible and accessible asynchronous approach to online teaching. 
  • Connection: We prioritize relationships and individualized support.
  • Compassion: Our community is facing unprecedented and uncertain challenges.
  • Readiness: Our modified curriculum focuses on preparing all scholars to matriculate to the next grade.

I am proud to say that by April 13—less than two weeks after the launch of distance learning—Alliance was able to offer 100% of related services such as occupational therapy, counseling, speech, and vision, through virtual means. We are also continuing to offer our academic and instructional support through our special education resource specialists and instructional aides, utilizing such tools as online office hours, small group instruction and one-on-one tutoring sessions. Our ability to offer any of the above-mentioned services must be credited to the Alliance operations and technology teams for providing over 1,000 Wi-Fi hotspots to families in need for use with Alliance-supplied Chromebooks. 

We aren’t doing it perfectly and definitely have room for improvement, but we’re choosing action because this is what scholars need and deserve. Yes, Alliance benefits from the flexibility of a public charter school and a large support staff, but if your district or charter network is not meeting the needs of all scholars during distance learning, ask them why. Alliance has high expectations for all scholars, and we know our families have high expectations of us. You have a right and responsibility to advocate for your child to ensure that the SB 117 funding provided to each pupil is being utilized in their best interest. 

Collaboration will be key to ensuring that students across California—not just Alliance scholars—are able to succeed during this unprecedented period. Given the importance of partnership, Alliance is participating in a public webinar co-hosted by several California Assemblymembers, Senators, and the California Charter Schools Association on May 19 to share our best practices in serving scholars with disabilities during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is my hope that our findings will spark action. Our scholars’ futures depend on it

Source: Students With Disabilities Deserve More During Distance Learning

I See Humanity in ‘Full Bloom’ in My COVID-19 Classroom

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I used to leave my phone at the front of the classroom in case of emergencies at home. Of course, I didn’t advertise its place there, but also of course, the students found it and would snag it during community time. They couldn’t access the contents—a teacher knows to keep everything locked down—but they could access the camera, and they would snap whole reels of pictures. At first I stopped them, but as the year went on, our relationships deepened, and I stopped resisting.

Why? Well, one night, my kindergartner son opened my phone and scrolled through, and he found all those pictures. “Who’s this?” he asked. “That’s Lariah,” I said. “Brandon. Dylan. Sofia. Comfort.” And so on. He wanted to know all about them, and so I told him how goofy and smart and kind they are, and we talked about my classroom and my life as a teacher, about middle school and growing up. So the pictures became a bridge to join the twin joys of my classroom and my home. They allowed my son a glimpse of the life of a “grown up” student and made real for him the far-future prospect of teenagerdom. His murky sense of his father’s day clarified, and so it clarified for me, too, my relationship with these students, my identity as a teacher.

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p>In a quiet moment of these distance learning days, I scrolled through the pictures, overcome with new gratitude for their existence, gilded though they are in a peculiar aura now. We’ve been out of the classroom for a month—only a month—and the pictures already seem a transmission from a distant era, a past that won’t be recovered. The ache of having been ripped from a space that I had grown to love pulsed with each pictured flicked past, each captured moment impossibly gone. And yet, paradoxically, they drew me in closer than ever before. The simple humanity of my job rushed back in.

I have much to celebrate as a teacher at Blackstone Valley Prep

These moments of humanization amidst the turmoil of our current moment can’t be overstated. To be sure, I have much to celebrate as a teacher at Blackstone Valley Prep (BVP). Over this month, I have felt intense pride at my school’s approach to the challenges of distance learning, one shot through with consistent love and meticulous rationality. During a professional development session only days before Rhode Island transitioned from traditional schooling, our CEO outlined plans for that eventuality, and while the planning seemed thoughtful and cohesive, I’m sure I was not the only one with doubts about a meaningful experience for our students.

Such doubts were unfounded. From the top down, BVP’s commitment has been awe-inspiring. We enjoy a bevy of resources, virtual and real. We’ve provided books and technology to those in need. We rolled out a comprehensive digital curriculum with no gap, and we’ve been given the means to supplement core lessons with myriad programs. We’ve received training and support. Due to this scaffolding, we boast incredible engagement from our students, no small feat right now, but that scaffolding speaks half the story.

During a recent Zoom staff meeting, teachers chimed in with their success so far in distance learning. I considered all of the work done by colleagues, by the students, by our families, and I could have mentioned any of it, but a greater truth towered over all of that. I thought of those pictures again. Dylan and Brandon, arms slung over each other’s shoulders. Sofia wagging her finger at me, my eyebrows raised, a slight smile. Marcus, Daniel and Nataly tossing a ball, chatting and laughing. I thought of the many ways we had all become human to each other in the few short months we spent together, how simple it was to capture the ease with which we bonded and grew together. I thought at last about my son, about the morning he stumbled into frame during my Zoom office hours and offered a shy hello to faces he’d only seen before in still, and the chorus of hellos he received in return. And so I thought of the surprising vibrancy of my distance learning experience, and I know my experience is one among many similar at our school.

Distance learning requires us to be humans in an inhuman situation. We can’t simply provide lessons and assessments; we have to bridge this digital gap and carry some sense of humor and goodwill and community through the cold wiring. If we’ve succeeded in even a modicum of that task, we owe that to the success in the months prior when we created something special. A school family. A community that could rely on itself, that could flourish even in isolation.

Every day, I receive work from students who manage to learn in the midst of trying environments. Students who don’t have their own room, their own computer, students anxious for themselves and their families. And it’s good, thoughtful work, but it wouldn’t be possible without the other stuff I receive. The phone calls from students who just want to connect. The TikTok videos poking gentle fun at ELA teachers. Groups texts where my students and I hash out which dress a student should buy. That’s the human stuff. That’s stuff education is meant to nurture, and it’s here in full bloom.

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p>We’ll remember these days in coming years, the isolation, the struggle for a new normal. In many ways, of course, these memories will be traumatic. But I think our school has done something special for our community, the foundation for which was laid way back in August when we prepared for all this, unaware we were doing so. We made each other human to each other. We found reasons to laugh and share and love. And as the world fights to balance itself, the most crucial gift of the BVP family is that we, in so many ways, are still as right as we ever were.

This post originally appeared on Projet Forever Free as “I See Education and Humanity in “Full Bloom” in my COVID-19 Classroom
Photo courtesy of the author.

Source: I See Humanity in ‘Full Bloom’ in My COVID-19 Classroom

KIPP Schools’ Response to COVID-19 Went Way Beyond Academics

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You often hear that a crisis usually brings out the best in people, and it was certainly the case at KIPP Schools around the country. I am certain countless other schools have a similar story to tell. 

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p>All of our schools experienced early on that COVID-19 exacerbated the equity issues that our students, families and educators who are Black and Latinx already face. They are facing illness and loss of loved ones at higher rates, unemployment, food insecurity and lack of adequate health care. This has a direct effect on the ways our community, most importantly, our students (and teachers) will continue to interact with our schools and with each other. Our response from the start recognized that continued learning required us to meet essential human needs.

As COVID-19 was looming and school closures became a possibility, our teams set up operations to make sure that our more than 100,000 students, 90% of whom are from low-income families, would continue to have access to food. Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have served over 700,000 meals.

Our teams also responded to the challenge of providing remote learning. In North Carolina, where we have schools in rural Halifax and Gaston, we sent our busses out on a 93-mile ride to deliver instructional packets, knowing that at least half of our students don’t have access to Wi-Fi. From California to Texas to NY and Massachusetts, we worked overtime to do all we could to address the digital divide. We delivered over 40,000 Chromebooks to our families and thousands of Wi-Fi hot spots.

We Reached Out to Our Alumni

The KIPP Alumni Emergency Fund was created within days of colleges announcing they were closing their doors because of COVID-19. We raised close to $150,000 with the sole focus on ensuring our alumni in college have what they need to stay in school and achieve their post-secondary goals. We have awarded over 530 grants to KIPP alumni across the country for food assistance, technology, transportation, housing and lost wages.

We had cases where homeless alumni were left to fend for themselves when college doors shuttered and left without a source of food when their cafeterias closed. We had students who did not have enough money to get home, and others for whom the loss of on-campus jobs or part-time jobs was devastating because it was the only source of income for their own daily expenses, and for many their families’ as well. 

We Reached Out to Our Families and Our Communities

Our regions also made sure to take care of KIPP families and the community around them. They rushed to create emergency funds to help our families weather hard economic times. In Columbus, our schools partnered with Kroger to give families $50,000 worth in gift cards for groceries. In NY, our high school runs a food bank for the community where they have been able to give out thousands of pounds of food and household items such as dish sets, gloves and boots to the community. 

Our staff in New Orleans, Massachusetts and New York gathered gear from science classes to donate to local hospitals to help our first responders deal with the onslaught of patients from the virus. Teachers at KIPP Central City Academy in New Orleans are volunteering their time to make personal protective equipment (PPE) for medical personnel fighting COVID-19. In partnership with Delgado Fab Lab, these teacher-makers are cranking out hundreds of 3D-printed face shields, masks, ventilator splitters and more. 

Our alumni also made sure to support each other through this crisis. One of our alumni, Ashley Copeland, Director of Stacks and the City, a media company centered on financial literacy for millennial women. held a virtual workshop on managing finances during COVID-19 for our more than 33,000 alumni nationwide. She focused on knowing the rights of tenants with landlords and debt collectors, prioritizing financial obligations and planning ahead for the months to come. As teams found best practices, our organization decided to create and compile an open resource library to help with academics, strengthen teams, guide leaders, and support students and families. We’ve always believed in sharing what we know. 

Throughout all of this, we worked overtime to stay connected. In Southern California, we have had contact with almost 100% of our students, through 86,000 connected moments to date during school closures. In Washington DC, our teachers sent 150,000 texts or calls to families with an average of 22 text/calls per student since March 16.

These are just some examples—there are a million stories of how our teachers went above and beyond to reach out to students, from car parades to calling students daily to creating fun ways to learn through music videos. For many of our students staying connected meant having a lifeline to the outside and for some the only way to get mental health assistance—even if it was by phone. 

As the reality of the pandemic has settled into our daily lives, we’ve adapted to create a new kind of stability—shifting crisis-level response to thinking about delivering all needed services to our KIPP students and families for the foreseeable future in new and innovative ways. When we go back to the school buildings, we must make plans to support our students, families and staff in a way that go beyond academics just like we have done in the last two months.

Source: KIPP Schools’ Response to COVID-19 Went Way Beyond Academics

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hi all x today’s post is inspired by clara from midnight mind. she takes the most beautiful photographs and has such amusing, deep, quirky posts. if you would like to read the original post that has inspired today’s post, please read it here. my heart feels warms seeing and responding to the incoming notifications from … Continue reading one, two, three