Wednesday April 22, 2020
Furlough: day 10
Stay at home: day 21
Corona: day 93
I’m at midweek of my second week of furlough and things are beginning to get real. By “real” I mean “hard.”
Because of unexpected complications I was not able to go to Christ Chruch on Monday. That complication was the Federal Way School District. They suddenly began their distance learning experience for families on Monday. They did so with practically no advance warning to families. On Sunday evening my niece saw an email unveiling the work that my grand nephew is being asked to do.
A series of emails followed from several teachers asking for various kinds of work on various subjects. The email arrived with missing information, non-functioning websites, broken hyperlinks and poor instructions. It was an uncoordinated mess that was dumped on families with very little assistance available to them.
My sister and my niece have worked hard to sort out the disaster that is the Federal Way School District Distance Learning Experience. They have done their best with this avalanche of poorly thought out materials. Together they have worked out what is actually doable for my grand nephew.
More so they have had to work out what they can teach him. For of all the failings in this roll out is the central idea that parents are no expected to be classroom teachers. New information and new learning is now the sole property of parents with little help from professional teachers.
This is going to lead to a system wide education failure. I expect basically four responses:
Some parents will be overwhelmed by the sudden onslaught of materials and will not even try. This will be especially true of those for whom English is not the primary language and those who have to work full time.
Some parents will try and will simply give up after a short while. This will happen in families of well intentioned parents. However they will run into the limits of their own lack of teaching skills. They will come up against the resistance of their children to learning at home. They will fall behind in the schedule o assignments. They will just quit the effort and tell the kids that summer vacation has started
Some families will soldier on through the whole thing. However they will focus on only a small bit of the flood of materials coming at them. School will become a few minutes of education related activities each day and that’s about it.
Some (the smallest group) will succeed. They will have the teaching skills. They will have kids who love learning and love school. They will eat this up and will actually grow academically. This will by far be the smallest group.
That’s my prediction. The overall effect will be the loss of half of the academic year. However worse than that will be the fact that the great majority of students will lose half a year of academic progress. For many students I expect that loss will be even more. I also expect that the loss will disproportionately effect kids of color and poorer families of whom the Federal Way School District has plenty.
I know I’m painting a grim picture here, but I’m trying to be realistic. This school system is on the brink of a serious failure. In many ways they are not to blame. The Corona crisis has been horrible for education. In my opinion this school system never had a chance. It is understaffed, underfunded and under supported. It has a student population that has too many special needs kids and ELL children to serve well even under the best of circumstances. Now an impossible task has been given to it. I feel that the best that families can do is baton down the hatches, prepare for a hurricane and be ready to start the rebuilding process in the fall.