Top Education Stories You Don’t Want to Miss: April 4 – April 10, 2020

South Side teacher creates #LearningNeverStops to engage students academically during pandemic


“Many students across the Chicagoland area are now doing their school work from their homes. One Noble Charter educator is making sure students and teachers stay engaged with a social media campaign called #LearningNeverStops. “We created a social media campaign, #learningneverstops just to encourage our students to submit videos and pictures and things like that to show us how they are being engaged,” said Chivon Ford, educator at Johnson College Prep. Students submit a picture or video of them doing or finishing up one of their virtual assignments on their social media pages with the hashtag. For Ford, it’s about not forgetting the underprivileged students. Ford shared that Noble Charter schools service low income students who are primarily African American or Hispanic. She said often these students have a hard time accessing the internet or computers.”

In responding to coronavirus shutdowns, Chicago charter schools go their own way

By Yana Kunichoff for Chalkbeat

“Three weeks since Gov. J.B. Pritzker ordered schools closed, some Chicago charter networks and schools like Mansueto have Chromebooks and detailed spreadsheets of Google lessons by grade and subject. Other networks are still tinkering with remote learning plans and have not delivered hard copies of assignments, leaving some students sitting at home, without activities and little communication from their schools. In this uncertain period, charter schools are concerned about a range of issues from accreditation to funding, said Andrew Broy, president of the Illinois Network of Charter Schools. One of the most common questions from charter schools in Chicago, Broy said, has been how this could affect the district’s review of their quality. But as standardized testing has been waived this year around the country, the district also is putting its school ratings on hold.”

Amidst COVID-19, America’s Schools Don’t Need A Hall Pass

By Jeanne Allen for Forbes

“While the impact of the pandemic on education doesn’t have an official start date in the United States, by March 11th, many of Washington state’s schools, including in Seattle, were closed for business. Meanwhile in neighboring Northshore, Washington, whose schools had closed a week earlier out of precaution, 23,000 homebound students were notified they would be continuing their education remotely. The initiative was short-lived. Northshore was told to halt its remote program a mere week later by the state, and instructed to make any work done by students supplemental, arguing that if they couldn’t reach or guarantee learning for everyone, they shouldn’t expect it of anyone. In that one week test drive, “attendance” in school increased dramatically. Northshore Superintendent Michelle Reid reports that on a normal week in school, more than 7,000 are absent. When she opened up online learning, fewer than 500 students were “absent.” Despite positive signs that both students and parents want to continue their education in whatever way it can be delivered, in just 3 short weeks, the country has witnessed states and districts actively banning “school” even where online platforms are readily accessible for use, and where educators are vocally up for the task. ..In Chicago, the Learn Charter Network noted, “[We] have been in constant communication, by phone and email, with each of their families to answer questions and help with any challenge a child or family may be facing.”  That’s the attitude we all need right now as we are increasingly confined to our homes and endure weeks more of this virus and daily devastating news. And as cases spike in major cities like Chicago, the network’s early responsiveness to connectivity between teachers and families will prove to be a game-changer, should the virus continue to keep students at home, learning.”

Chicago plans to give 100,000 tech devices to students. Here are the rules.

By Cassie Walker Burke for Chalkbeat

“Chicago is set to loan its families up to 100,000 laptops and other tech devices across the next few weeks, and priority will go to special education students, English language learners, and students in eighth grade and higher who don’t have devices at home, according to a letter to principals this week from district leaders.  Dibs also will go to children in temporary living situations and students who are taking online Advanced Placement or dual-enrollment courses at Chicago’s City Colleges and other area institutions, the district said.  The effort will still fall short of reaching every student who needs a device, leaders acknowledged to principals, since surveys estimate need at around 115,000 children. “We are committed to finding additional resources for students,” the letter said.   Loaner devices will go first to students at schools in neighborhoods that score highest on a “hardship index” developed by the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Great Cities Institute. Chicago Public Schools is repurposing about 65,000 devices from technology carts and its campuses and purchasing another 37,000 Chromebooks that are currently back-ordered but set to arrive in a few weeks. Fewer than one-third of Chicago’s district-run schools equip each of its students with devices, according to Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s office.  The large-scale device distribution is unprecedented for Chicago, which, like districts across the country, is grappling with how to kickstart learning remotely while schools close indefinitely amid the global coronavirus pandemic. Two-thirds of district leaders in Illinois said in a recent survey that they cannot implement a full e-learning plan because of a lack of devices, technology, internet access, and teacher training. Chicago Public Schools leaders have said they face similar roadblocks.”

CPS estimates 115,000 students need computers for e-learning as it tries to close ‘unacceptable digital divide’

By Hannah Leone for The Chicago Tribune

“Chicago Public Schools will distribute computers to the highest-need students, with priority given to eighth graders, juniors and seniors, who are all at critical moments in their educational careers. Priority is also recommended for students in temporary living situations, students with special needs, English learners and those in Advanced Placement or dual credit courses that require e-learning, according to guidance given to principals late Thursday. Financial need is also a factor, but with three-quarters of CPS students coming from low-income households, principals are facing tough decisions.”

Remote learning in Chicago: Review or new content?

By Mila Koumpilova for Chalkbeat

“Chicago biology teacher Bryan Meeker had planned a photosynthesis experiment he would conduct at his kitchen table, with students watching via videoconference.  But only a portion of Meeker’s students have the technology to tune in. Going forward with the demonstration would not be fair to the rest, he decided, and threw away the perishable kit. As Chicago schools prepare to step up remote learning after this week’s spring break, the district has recommended schools stress revision and enrichment rather than forge full speed ahead with new material. That’s also the approach embraced by some charter schools, such as Meeker’s Garcia High in the Acero network.  Some district schools — generally early adopters of a device-for-each-student approach — do plan to introduce new concepts, a move leaders there say is key to maintaining academic momentum. But other schools say they will emphasize holding the academic line in fairness to students who don’t have access to devices or the internet, or are too preoccupied by weathering the coronavirus outbreak to focus on learning. “I really grapple with this because there was so much I wanted to do with my class this spring,” said Carla Jones, a teacher at Cook Elementary on Chicago’s South Side. “But we need to see our families for who they are and where they are before we can push the academics.” District leaders say allowing each school to tailor a remote learning plan to its student body makes sense even as some parents and educators worry students across the city will have markedly different experiences.  Ensuring that the coronavirus outbreak and school closures don’t magnify learning inequities is a daunting task: Even at schools that stick with enrichment, students who engage with the material this spring will pull ahead of peers who tune out school amid the upheaval.”

CPS Remote Learning Begins Monday. What That Looks Like Depends On Where You Live.

By Sarah Karp for WBEZ

“Chicago Public Schools leaders point to the digital divide as a key reason why moving classes entirely online is impossible. To attempt to close that, it is in the midst of trying to get 65,000 computers and laptops moved from schools to student homes. Additionally, in the coming weeks, it will distribute 37,000 new computers to fill in the gaps.”

Grades can’t count against kids during Illinois’ coronavirus school shutdown. Does that mean less incentive to do the work?

By Hannah Leone and Karen Ann Cullotta for The Chicago Tribune

“…newly issued by the state that strongly advise districts not to give Fs or use any measurement that would lower a student’s overall grades. Since schools were shut down statewide on March 17, they’ve taken a variety of approaches to educating homebound students, with the majority of the work not graded. But with Illinois’ 800-plus school districts now making the formal transition to remote learning, they’re tasked with figuring out how to fairly and equitably assess students’ work. To help, the Illinois State Board of Education has issued guidelines. They call for teachers to use a pass-incomplete system that doesn’t give failing grades, doesn’t punish kids for lack of participation and gives all students opportunities to redo or make up any assignments, with more chances to raise their grades over the summer or next fall. “The emphasis for schoolwork … during the remote learning period is on learning, not on compliance,” the guidelines state.”