We’re all homeschoolers now: Lindsey Burke
In the fight against coronavirus, 33 states have closed some 64,000 schools, affecting more than 32.5 million students, Education Week reports.
Texas is waiving state testing requirements for school districts, New York is relaxing state requirements for how many days a year schools have to be open, and, in California, the Los Angeles Unified School District announced a partnership with PBS to put school lessons on television for students at home.
The District of Columbia and Puerto Rico also have closed schools to help curb the spread of the new coronavirus disease, which health experts call COVID-19.
Like other institutions, schools should implement social-distancing policies. Keeping that policy in mind while trying to help needy students, some schools—including those in Ohio, Michigan, and New York—have begun providing pick-up breakfasts and lunches at designated places for eligible students.
A rapidly flourishing market of online resources is beginning to meet the content needs of millions of students across the country.
Numerous companies such as Zearn and STMath are providing their materials online for free during the coronavirus outbreak. Existing options such as Khan Academy offer a wealth of educational resources for families navigating homeschooling for perhaps the first time. Prenda microschool is offering its coursework to families for just $100 for the remainder of the year.
Here is a fantastic list of online learning resources that every family should bookmark on their computers during this pandemic.
National School Choice Week has online resources categorized by content area. You can find online tools such as communications platforms, math, social studies, English language arts, and foreign language education.
Be sure to check out “Daddy School” while you’re at it.
Also available are virtual visits to museums, including the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., the Guggenheim Museum in New York City, and 2,500 other museums that have partnered with Google to make their art and virtual tours available online.
The Met will offer opera performances online for free beginning at 7:30 every evening through March 22. When you have a chance, check out some 450 online courses available for free from Ivy League universities.
Many of these online learning providers have been doing this for a long time, and traditional school districts should look to either imitate them or work with them—so that districts don’t try to create something from scratch and then realize it doesn’t work.
The list of online resources for families and teachers is growing as social distancing becomes the necessary, new normal. But policy actions by officials in school districts and state governments, as well as at the federal level, can maximize health and safety and provide learning opportunities for students.
District and State Level Policies
- States and school districts should put online learning resources on their websites. They could include links such as those above to existing private resources and tools, along with links to virtual platforms (such as Blackboard) enabling families to contact teachers directly, access lessons, and stay in touch virtually with classmates.
- State restrictions on teacher certification should be lifted temporarily to free up the supply of online tutors, allowing anyone with a bachelor’s degree to provide instruction online.
- States should restructure per-pupil K-12 education funding in the form of emergency or temporary education savings accounts for families of children with special needs, so that they may continue to receive the therapy they need. Five states currently have ESA options in place. (Parents receive a portion of their child’s per-pupil public school funding in a restricted-use account that they then can use to pay for any education-related service, product, or provider of choice.)
- At the federal level, Congress should immediately but temporarily make funding authorized under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act both student-centered and portable, allowing children with special needs to access learning services to which they’re entitled under federal law. These IDEA funds could be used to pay for in-home tutors and behavioral therapies, among numerous other allowable uses, to help children with special needs continue to have access to service providers that are so critical in their lives.
- The Elementary and Secondary Education Act requires every state to administer reading, mathematics, and science assessments annually to all students in tested grades, the outcomes of which are used in state accountability plans. Although the U.S. Department of Education currently is providing targeted waivers to federal testing provisions under ESEA, it temporarily should provide a blanket waiver to all states, enabling them to postpone testing until this pandemic has subsided.
The coronavirus pandemic has created unprecedented health challenges, which have affected schools from the earliest grades through college. These temporary measures can provide some relief and flexibility, helping schools to better meet the needs of families during this challenging time.
And the growing body of online learning resources can help parents as they navigate this new normal.
Lindsey M. Burke researches and writes on federal and state education issues as the Will Skillman fellow in education policy at the Heritage Foundation. This column originally appeared in The Daily Signal.