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Friday, December 4, 2020

5 Things We've Learned About Virtual School In 2020 | 89.3 KPCC

5 Things We've Learned About Virtual School In 2020 | 89.3 KPCC
5 Things We've Learned About Virtual School In 2020

Deborah Rosenthal starts her virtual kindergarten class on Zoom every morning with a song — today, it's the Spanish version of, "If You're Happy and You Know It." Her students clap along. There's a greeting from the class mascot (a dragon), yoga, meditation and then some practice with letter sounds: "Oso, oso, O, O, O".

Rosenthal teaches Spanish immersion in a public school in San Francisco's Mission District. Most of the families are low-income, and many are now affected by COVID-related job loss. She has taught kindergarten for 15 years, and she loves how "hands-on" "tactile," and "cozy" it is to work with 5-year-olds.

But this year, she's spending 10 or 12 hours a day on, basically, her own home production of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood En Español. "It's a very two-dimensional experience," she says.

Few people would tell you that online kindergarten was a good idea, or frankly even possible. That was, before 2020. The number has fluctuated as cases rise across the country, but throughout this fall pandemic semester, between 40 and 60 percent of students have been enrolled in districts that offer only remote learning, according to a tracker maintained by the company Burbio.

And even in hybrid districts, some students have been learning remotely, either part or full time. In short, online learning is the reality for a majority of students this fall.

We are still starved for data on what this all means. The earliest standardized test scores coming out show modest learning loss for students in math, but there are worries that the most at-risk students are not being tested at all.

For this story I talked to educators in six states, from California to South Carolina. For the most part they say things have improved since last spring. But they are close to burnout, with only a patchwork of support. They said the heart of the job right now is getting students connected with school and keeping them that way — both technologically and even more importantly, emotionally. Here are five lessons learned so far.

1. The digital divide is still big and complex.

Eight months after schools first shut down, how many students still can't sign on? We don't really know, and that's a problem, says Nicol Turner Lee, director of the Center for Technology Innovation at the Brookings Institution. "We've not done a CONTINUE READING: 5 Things We've Learned About Virtual School In 2020 | 89.3 KPCC