Distance Learning isn’t Going the Distance!
In neighborhoods across multiple school districts there are conversations about distance learning, many of them abstract, theoretical discussions regarding how to improve the quality of the experience given the current necessity of utilizing this learning model as a result of Covid-19.
In low income neighborhoods, however the impact of using distance learning to deliver standard curriculum and the challenges associated with this modality are not theoretical. They are immediate and these challenges have a negative impact on low-income students and their families.
“Many low income families do not have internet”
They do not have computer or tablets, parents are monolingual Spanish speakers, parents do not have enough experience with computers to manipulate the learning platform, don’t possess the skill set needed to assist their kids or they work and are not able to be at home with their kids. Some of the children expected to participate are mono-lingual Spanish speakers whose teachers do not speak their language.
Most school districts including Los Angeles Unified School District have been aware of these problems since last March. Yet their approach to dealing with these challenges is inept and punitive. In the LAUSD model children are expected to be present when the teacher calls the role or they will be marked absent. There is no consideration of whether the child is home alone because his/her parents are at work and consequently has to navigate this process without support. In fact the student as well as his/her parents are threatened that absences will be reflected in a lower grade and in some cases absences will be regarded as neglect and the family will be reported to the LA Department of Children and Family Services.
There is enormous and irrational variation in each child’s schedule. Some kids have class from 9am to 9:45 and a break until 11:30 and then another class from 11:30am to 12pm. Imagine if you are home with 4 kids in a two bedroom apartment trying to comply with LAUSD’s rules and schedules. Rules and schedules you were not allowed to have any input into nor any control over. Imagine how you would feel at the end of the day. Imagine if it were 100 degrees in your apartment and there was no air conditioning. Imagine how angry you would be that the LAUSD administration and teachers created these arbitrary schedules without any obvious consideration of the impact they would have on family and child well-being. In this time of crisis academic compliance is not the most important aspect of anyone’s life.
During the first week of school for LAUSD students, SBCC received a number of calls from distressed, angry parents regarding the absurdity of the expectations of LAUSD teachers regarding students conduct during distance learning. These were parents who had enrolled their children in SBCC’s summer program. They told us kids were talking to each other through their devices, kids were crawling on the floor, under their table or desk and starring off into space. One Mom sent us a video of her son losing his mind.
SBCC is very skilled at responding to resident’s concerns and issues in real time. SBCC staff met the first week school was opened to determine how we could support our families. By the second week of school SBCC was conducting a learning pod in our parking lot. The kids were socially distanced, wearing masks, with hand sanitizer at each table. Each Child had a computer connected to the LAUSD platform. SBCC was working with kids K through high school. Two full time SBCC staff and six interns were working individually with children. When kids were not on the LAUSD platform they were engaged in projects developed by SBCC staff. Between classes the kids had a chance to be physically active and have fun. SBCC also provided lunch and a snack every day. The feedback SBCC has received from parents and kids is very positive. The kids tell us they look forward to coming to school here in the SBCC parking lot.
SBCC is a small grassroots non- profit with very little discretionary funds. Ask yourself how is it that in less than a week, SBCC set up a environment that was safe, inviting, fun and accommodated the needs of both parents and kids to engage in distance learning. LAUSD has billions of dollars and 5 months to devise a plan to meet the needs of their families, and LAUSD failed. What does that say about the leadership of LAUSD what does it say about the teacher’s union? Where have they been since March? Who can hold them accountable because LAUSD does not care what parents and kids think and they do not believe they are accountable to anyone for the billions of dollars they waste every year.