School's Back In Session... Except Maybe When Students Have To Quarantine

Plus all-new episodes of Future U and Class Disrupted

School is officially back in season—well, mostly. According to this article in The 74, when students have to quarantine—which is happening a fair bit—there’s no remote learning option for them in a significant number of school districts. So they are just absent from school, with no learning option. Period. Only 5 of the 100 districts the Center on Reinventing Public Education reviewed offer remote learning to quarantined students. “One Vermont district will provide remote instruction if an entire class must quarantine; otherwise, students are marked absent, with no instruction.”

What’s more, while much of the media trumpets that in-person schooling works better for most children and several politicians and policymakers have banned all virtual schooling options (their de facto theory being that it’s worse than no learning option at all?), there are letters and stories like this one in the Boston Globe where parents know that an in-person option isn’t right for their family.

How to address concerns that families will avail themselves of the virtual option when it’s not the right choice for their child? Although some will dismiss this concern out of hand, it seems to me there’s a commonsensical path forward.

(1)   On the front end, for any student desiring the remote option, ensure that an adult—a parent, guardian, or a custodian at a microschool or pod-type arrangement—will be present and engaged in supporting the learning.

(2)   Once enrolled, require that the child show at least a minimum level of progress—or else they will have to find another option.

Bottom line? I’m not advocating for hybrid arrangements in which educators are teaching in-person and remote students synchronously and simultaneously. That’s a terrible option. A remote option at the K–12 schooling level must have a dedicated team of teachers. But the one-size-fits-all, “best practices” approach to school was flawed before the pandemic, and it’s even worse now.

Making Remote Learning Work

I joined Jed Kim, host of the Million Bazillion podcast at Marketplace by American Public Media, to talk about how schools are doing as a third school year with COVID dawns—what lessons have been learned, what are some of the struggles, and how might schools offer a viable remote option (and how to do it well). You can listen to the MarketplaceTech episode or read the transcript here, at “Covid tested our ability to teach during a crisis. As a school new year begins, how are we doing?

Class Disrupted and Future U Are Back

As schools restart for the academic year, so, too, have my podcasts Class Disrupted with Diane Tavenner and Future U with Jeff Selingo.

At Class Disrupted, check out Episode 1, which we broadcast live from the ASU GSV Summit, titled, “What’s on a school leader’s back-to-school shopping list in the time of COVID?” There’s also a brief preview episode here, and I’ll add that we’re thrilled to be partnering once again with The 74, which will be hosting our podcasts here.

Over at Future U, we’re back in session with two meaty episodes. The first is our “Kickoff To Season 5,” in which we break down the major headlines from a summer in higher education—everything from mergers and acquisitions to big changes in college athletics and, of course, COVID news. Then in our second episode, “Transforming A Prestigious HBCU,” we had the chance to interview the president of Morehouse College, David Thomas, in-person at the ASU GSV Summit, which you can listen to here.

As always, thanks for reading, writing, and listening.