As teachers and students become more and more situated to remote learning, a group of Bronx public charter schools recently released a guideline on the best practices for distance education.
Titled “Best Practices for School Continuity During COVID-19,” it is a guidebook demonstrating that “academic success can and must remain a high priority for schools in a time of distanced learning,” something claimed to have seen recent success at Bronx charter schools as New York State test scores showed the academies skyrocket between 12 and 15 percentage points last year.
“When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Bronx charter schools were determined to continue the story of their students beating the odds,” the charter school group stated in a release.
In order to beat those odds, these educators advise the following guidelines:
Balancing Full-Grade Classes and Small-Group Instruction
Claiming that distanced learning provides “the unique opportunity for large groups of students to receive education from a school’s most skilled teachers and educators,” it is advised that schools can start instruction with large class lecture-style learning from a lead instructor prior to breaking out students into smaller groups led by same subject teachers.
Ensuring a Feedback Loop
The schools claimed one benefit to virtual classes is allowing instructional coaches to seamlessly dip in and out of online classrooms.
“That enables instructional coaches and master teachers to witness lessons more frequently. Teachers can get feedback electronically and in real-time, improving instruction almost immediately.”
It is that feedback loop where “observations are celebrated and growth-oriented,” that has importance for both long-term instructional success and developing a “healthy virtual school culture.”
New Virtual Tools and Field Trips
Let’s be honest, field trips are the best days of the academic year for students and these Bronx charter schools emphasize that virtual instruction doesn’t have to prevent schools from engaging in their regular trips and site visits.
At Classical Charter Schools in the south Bronx, teachers invited guests like Harlem Globetrotter Hebert “Flight Time” Lang, Navy Blue Angel pilot Scott Moyer and a local newscaster to diversify instruction and continue to expose students to real world professionals.
Embracing Arts and Music
One of the most difficult challenges for schools has been incorporating arts and music learning into remote instruction, but the Bronx schools say they are “indeed critical to differentiating the day and keeping students engaged.”
Bronx and upper Manhattan based Zeta Charter Schools offers violin lessons to all of its students and worked with New York Philharmonic violinist Kuan Cheng Lu to offer a virtual lesson during the height of the pandemic in New York City.
Cultivating Community and Virtual Celebrations
“Schools are truly the anchors of the communities they serve, and the only way to navigate the COVID-19 crisis emotionally is to make sure students, teachers and families feel a bond within that community,” the charter schools claimed.
They recommend educational events, family trivia nights, movie nights, can offer academic benefits while simultaneously bringing your community closer together at a time when families need it most.
“Having families film and photograph their students describing different academic projects they’re working on at home encourages academic curiosity, connects school communities, increases attendance and motivates students to continue learning.”
Social Service Supports
The COVID-19 pandemic has shined a bright light on how schools act as a plethora of social services and supports for families in need, the charter schools said.
“During a remote learning period, just as schools may conduct an inventory of families’ technological needs, it’s important to constantly gauge how families are weathering this public health and economic crisis.”
The schools suggested regular check-ins with parents to help ensure that families and children have what they need, especially with food insecurity.
“If needed, schools should work with food vendors to deliver or provide pick-up days for families to get their meals from a reliable location during the week.”
The Bronx charter schools said that communicating ways to get access to meals alleviates a real burden for families and allows children to focus on learning.