Too Many Schools Leave Learning to Chance During the Pandemic

Research Rundown Issue: June '20
Publisher: Center for Reinventing Public Education
Date Published: June '20


The Center for Reinventing Public Education analyzed approaches to distance learning in a nationally representative sample of 477 school districts and determined that many districts have not provided the level of support needed for meaningful student learning during the COVID-19 closures. Their analysis found:

  • Only one-third of districts expected all of their teachers to continue to engage and interact with all of their students around the curriculum content,
  • 37% of districts required teachers to check in one-on-one with their students on a regular basis, and
  • Only 42% expected teachers to collect student work, grade it, and include it in final course grades for at least some students.

Their analysis also found some glaring gaps between rural districts and their urban and suburban counterparts. In particular, they found glaring differences between the internet infrastructure, which creates huge barriers to distance learning. Moreover, they found that only 27% of rural and small-town districts expect teachers to provide instruction, compared to over half of urban districts. The researchers concluded that school districts must prepare now to limit learning loss and address individual student needs.

Why This Matters in Minnesota

In mid-June, the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) issued planning guidance for public schools for the 2020-21 academic year. And MDE asked districts to develop three potential scenarios: in-person, hybrid, or full distance learning. As districts develop their plans, it’s critical that they do them in concert with families and students, while also elevating best practices. An important part of this is understanding emerging models and trends from spring distance learning plans. We conducted a local  analysis of 91 Minnesota districts’ distance learning plans, honing in on those with the largest low-income student populations, and found that:

    • 41% of Minnesota districts offer student’s office hours,
    • 23% specifies that students will have access to live instruction,
    • 40% describe their grading policy, and
    • 36% indicate that students will be taught new content.
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