Key Decisions for More Effective Distance Learning in the Fall

Writing for Future Ed, David Rosenberg, a partner at Education Resource Strategies, offers a commentary on how school districts can change the way they administer online learning to improve schools. 

Through ERS’ work with district leaders to develop COVID Comeback School Models, the organization has identified three key decisions district leaders must make about remote school that have outsized impacts on cost and feasibility-and big policy implications.

Decision 1:How should remote school be staffed? For instance, rather than having 10 calculus teachers teaching remotely, the most engaging teacher could teach all the students online and the other 9 teachers could work with small groups or in tutoring roles. 

Decision 2: Will remote learning be linked to each student’s school or operate across multiple schools or the entire district? A scaled approach to remote instruction could enable a system to offer richer, more robust instruction to more students. Classes that some schools might struggle to sustain due to low enrollment could attract larger numbers of students, making such offerings financially feasible at a system level.

Decision 3:  Who will conduct the remote instruction? In order to most effectively determine who will conduct the remote instruction, school leaders need flexibility with:

  • Rigid class size maximums. Hard-and-fast cut points prevent school leaders from organizing resources in ways that best address student need.
  • Rigidly defined teaching roles. In both in-person and remote school models, the most effective teachers have the potential to create powerful learning experiences for more students and lift the practice of whole teams of teachers—but only if leaders have the flexibility to create these differentiated roles.
  • Rigid expectations for seat time. Remote models can make it possible for teachers to engage more students in more diverse ways, leveraging synchronous and asynchronous approaches that mirror how students work online.

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