High schools in Chicago Public Schools must continue with remote learning second quarter
today at 10:32 am
By the end of week six, Chicago Public Schools needs to make a decision about remote learning for second quarter, I argued in my summer editorial. The sixth of the ten-week quarter ends tomorrow. For second quarter from November 9 to February 4, high schools in CPS need to continue with remote learning during the pandemic.
Let’s take it quarter by quarter.
A recent Atlantic article explains that, with the holidays coming up, “small gatherings are safer in places that “have a test-positivity rate less than 5 percent.” As I write this, Chicago’s rate is 4.5%. Bringing back high-school students to in-person learning–even if it’s only hybrid for 9th and 10th graders–does not amount to a small gathering. My high school, my son’s high school, has about 500 freshmen and sophomores.
To make teaching and learning more manageable during second quarter’s remote learning, high-school teachers need to organize a vote in favor of block schedule. This way, students do not have seven 50-minutes classes every day. Instead, they have three or four 90-minute or so classes each day. My 2016 blog post for the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards explains the value of block schedules.
In order for these votes to happen, the Chicago Teachers Unions needs to make sure members are well informed about the schedule-vote process explained in our contract.
As also mentioned in my summer editorial, the district’s remote-learning plan should include ways to bring small groups of students into the school building if they need additional support: students with Individualized Education Plans, English learners, academically struggling students, students with significant social-emotional issues, and students without secure housing.
CTU–as a socially conscious organization–needs to advocate for this and be part of the group creating the safety plans.
My argument focuses on high schools.
As I said in my WTTW commentary a few weeks ago, “High schools, middle schools, elementary schools, and pre-k programs are all different worlds. Inflexible, universal policies [on either CPS’s or CTU‘s side] won’t do our students any good.”
Remote learning remains far from perfect–but we are living a reality far from perfect. Europe is closing schools after virus cases escalated with in-person instruction. We need to learn from the world.
Good teachers know that good learning cannot happen if students feel emotionally uncomfortable. As good teachers, we cannot do our job well if we are not emotionally well. A remote learning plan for high-schools that continues into second quarter allows more opportunities for teachers to support students academically and emotionally during these difficult times.
Back in March, one parent I spoke with shared the difficult economic times their family faced. But the parent told me holding back tears, “As long as we have our health, we’ll be fine.”
During these difficult times, we cannot support a CPS back-to-school plan that risks the one thing that should matter the most.
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