This past Wednesday Jason Glass and his staff presented their ‘DRAFT’ Fall Restart plan to the Jeffco Board of Education.
To put it mildly, the ‘Plan’ was, as expected, a disaster. In fact, it wasn’t a plan. It was more like a few general and high-level concepts. And, as previously pointed out, there was no discussion in the ‘Plan’ regarding the myriad education related issues.
There was no discussion of educational best practices, standards for teachers or standards for students. It didn’t discuss how the District will know if ALL teachers are doing their jobs and doing them effectively. It didn’t discuss how the District will identify, motivate and train poorly performing teachers, before kids are negatively impacted. It didn’t discuss how or when the District will know if students are learning at the same rate as they did in the pure classroom model. It didn’t discuss how low performance/growth will be corrected. It didn’t discuss the projected impacts on achievement. It didn’t discuss how the District will know if students are even attending class, particularly since the currently used ‘engagement’ standard is worthless.
It was only after Susan Miller asked several education related questions that we heard some of what Glass and the District were thinking. We heard that testing would be conducted early in the semester, we heard about the possible use of Flipped Classrooms, we heard that the District may consider teaching fewer subjects simultaneously but for longer times in a Block model and we heard that the District is considering identifying teachers who are good at Remote Learning for teaching students who will not physically come into the school.
All of that sounds good, from a high-level.
But Glass and Jeffco don’t have a lot of time. They need to use resources effectively. Glass always talks about innovation, it’s time he shows some of that innovation! Just as importantly, Glass and the District need to maximize their resources, including time.
Jeffco infamously prides itself on local control. However, in this pandemic period, it’s time for the District to consolidate resources and exercise central control over teachers and curriculum.
To put it mildly, the upcoming semester will be a nightmare for teachers. Teachers will either be teaching remotely or teaching using a hybrid model. Again, on the surface, that sounds good, but in practice how does that work out for students? What are students doing on the days they are remote but the teachers are devoting their attention to the students in the physical classroom? Personally, I don’t see that working well, unless everyone is willing to concede that the amount of material covered during the course of a semester will be significantly decreased. Another possibility would be team teaching. That could work out nicely for the A/B model, but in the A/B/C or A/B/C/D models the remote teacher would likely become the primary teacher.
The Flipped Classroom offers some possibilities, but when do teachers have time to create those needed videos while also doing the in-classroom teaching? Shoot the video during the in-classroom day is a possibility, but an awful amount of equipment will be needed District wide for this.
I just don’t see this working well and I suspect teachers will tell Glass and District staff this is going to be unworkable.
However, another possibility exists. Why can’t the District choose some of the best teachers and pay them, over the summer, to create the Flipped Classroom curriculum and record lessons? This is incredibly efficient and relieves a tremendous amount of stress on teachers. Instead of potentially 100s of teachers individually performing the exact same task, at varying degrees of competency, the District now has a uniform standard for what is taught. This material can now be delivered to every student on the same day so that students will be learning at the same pace. There’s a lot to like about this model.
To take this a step further, Kris Schuh has said that Jeffco has been meeting with other Front Range school Districts. Why not share some of the Flipped Classroom curriculum development with them? Again, this would maximize the use of resources and reduce individual Districts’ costs. There are some drawbacks to this approach, but it is something to consider.
In addition, there are consulting firms with experience in curriculum development. One example would be the curriculum developed for EngageNY.
In any case, time is of the essence. Chaos, low quality and low standards will ensue in the fall if the current incarnation of Remote Learning, morphed into Hybrid Learning, is allowed to continue.
Another area ripe for Innovation in the Hybrid Learning Model proposed by Glass is the sharing of teachers across schools. Right-sizing classroom sizes may be difficult due to some students preferring the Remote Learning model over the Hybrid model. This will most likely result in significant resource allocation issues for individual principals, especially at smaller schools. Why not share teachers? In essence a remote teacher could teach students from more than one school. To avoid total confusion schools could pair up with a single other school so there would be some consistency for the students in who they interact with. This could even be framed as an exchange program.
There has not been a more appropriate time for Innovation. Does Glass have what it takes to walk the walk? Or, let’s hope the teachers are more innovative than Glass has been with the worthless Restart Plan he presented to the Board on Wednesday.