Re-Inventing Education: BPS Remote Learning Plan Starts This Week, Many Elements Will Remain in the Future

With more than 40,000 ChromeBooks now delivered and in the hands of students all over Boston, Supt. Brenda Cassellius told the media Boston Public Schools (BPS) are ready to roll out Phase 2 of remote learning that will play out until the end of the school term in June.

That plan will also be bolstered by robust summer learning opportunities provided by BPS and many community partners throughout the city.

“We know the last month has been really, really hard on our families our teachers and our staff,” she said. “We want to bring back some predictability in the next plan. Phase 2 of remotely learning is what we hope it will be until the end of the year.”

One thing they are hoping the new Phase 2 home learning program will bring is a standard across the city in every school with more uniform expectations. One complaint over the last month has been that some schools came up with a very robust, fun and challenging curriculum very fast with daily assignments. Meanwhile, other schools struggled to simply contact families and provide simple instructions.

“This will bring more predictability because we created structured learning,” she said. “We also have master schedules so there are no duplicate times scheduled…Some were reporting they had two classes at the same exact time. This schedule should clear that up.”

The general flow for the online day will be from 9 to noon in the mornings, with a one-hour lunch break, and then back to work from 1-4 p.m. However, different schools have structured their time with some variation – particularly by grade level. The idea, she said, mostly with that timeframe is to provide a little more structure than has been provided so far.

The Boston Teacher’s Union (BTU) has an agreement with BPS in a memorandum to their contract to provide at least three hours of synchronous (Google Classroom/non-live) learning per day, and one hour of a-synchronous (live classes, face-to-face) learning per day.

Teachers across the district are being asked to differentiate their students by using information they already have gleaned from September through March – prior to COVID-19 closures. That will result in three tiers of instruction. Tier 1 will be general instruction, with live classes and Google Classroom postings and recorded videos. Some students will need no more than that. However, Tier 2 will involve students who need interventions in subject matter, supports or are struggling with material. They can be helped in one-on-one meetings or in small group meetings with the teacher or a specialist. Meanwhile, Tier 3 will be students who have not signed into online school or the teacher cannot contact.

Attendance will be different, and will be done in K-5 by classroom teachers, and done in grades 6-12 by subject matter. Attendance will be counted if a student attends a face-to-face class and checks in appropriately, or if they successfully turned in homework and assignments – even if they didn’t participate in the live classes.

For the senior class – the Class of 2020 – Cassellius said they have something very special in the works, but are not able to release the full plan yet.

“We’ve been spending a lot of time talking with our students, our teachers and out headmasters about this,” she said. “They would like to have in-person graduations because it’s a major part of the year and a huge milestone. Right now, it’s not fully ready. We have said we’re committed to doing something very special district-wide for the Class of 2020.”

She said it will be something that is in conjunction with outside partners in the city. It will include a commencement with entertainment, signing and other special touches. It will be announced soon, she said.

Moreover, she said what they have learned overall is that education – maybe more than the other parts of life – will be radically changed. The trial by fire transition to technology will change how parent-teacher conferences are held, how classroom space is allocated, and how parent engagement is handled.

“I think right now we are reinventing education,” she said. “We are learning so much from this process. It presents such an incredible opportunity to learn and innovate. We’re going to be 1-to-1 with technology. The way we now engage with our community and parents is going to probably expand…What is here is to stay.”

Meanwhile, BPS officials said they would be offering a robust learning experience during the summer, doubling their normal offerings with community partners like the Private Industry Council and others. That will help students who want to continue on to catch up or to not fall backward – which is going to be inevitable.

“We are prepared to offer a lot of summer learning experiences,” said Lindsa McIntyre of the BPS leadership team. “We plan on doubling what we normally do.”

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