La. Education Department: Disparities Remain in Distance Learning

Little Boys Attending To Online School Class.

BATON ROUGE – Every public school system in Louisiana is providing some form of distance education to students kept home by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a state Department of Education survey.

The responses indicate progress when compared to a survey conducted last month shortly after campuses were first closed, officials say. But the results indicate “significant challenges” remain “in ensuring equitable education for all students now and in the future.”

Louisiana’s classrooms have been closed by executive order since mid-March and will remain so for the rest of the academic year, which means students will miss about two months of class time.

“[O]ur school systems need additional support related to technology access for students; services for students with disabilities; and professional development for teachers to successfully provide continuous education using high-quality and standards-aligned curricula,” interim State Superintendent Beth Scioneaux said in a prepared statement. “We must innovate and work together to overcome these barriers to ensure every child, including those most vulnerable, have access to a quality education.”

The survey asked about the types of continuous education taking place, the learning materials being used, the frequency of communication among teachers and students, access to technology for both teachers and students, staffing, school calendars, and additional areas of need.

Survey take-aways highlighted by state officials include:

  • All 192 local school systems responded, and all reported offering some level of continuous education opportunities to students, though the type education and level of engagement vary by system. Though not a direct comparison to the more recent survey, a month ago, only 39 of 69 parish and city school districts indicated they were offering these opportunities.
  • About 17 percent of respondents are using the curricula typically used in classrooms, while 4 percent are using only supplemental or different materials and 79 percent are using some combination of both. Many students are reviewing content previously covered in the school year, and that content does not always span all subjects, officials say.
  • Approximately 32 percent of school systems are connecting with students every day, 38 percent are connecting weekly, and 30 percent indicated another frequency. Fourteen percent of school systems indicated students in at least one grade band – PK-2, 3-8 or 9-12 – are not receiving feedback on their learning, amounting to an estimated 24 percent of public school students statewide. State officials say best practices include daily contact among teachers and students and at least weekly feedback on students’ work.
  • On average, 28 percent of students do not have access to a school-issued or personal tablet or computer, the survey found, while 66 percent of students have home internet access, 78 percent of students have access to a phone that could be used for conference calls and learning, and 93 percent of staff have the necessary technology, including internet access and devices, to work from home.
  • Currently, 70 percent of respondents are contingency planning on offering summer school, but only 28 percent are considering starting the next school year earlier.
  • School systems reported needing additional assistance in expanding technology access for students, providing supports and related services to students with disabilities, and providing professional development for teachers to successfully provide continuous education. 

The state education department has offered local systems guidance about how to ensure students continue learning and stay on track to reach the next grade, including presenting case studies of both high-tech and low-tech distance education approaches.


By David Jacobs of the Center Square

Categories: Education, Today’s Business News