New GCO poll: 81% of parents support educational microgrants during COVID-19

New GCO poll: 81% of parents support educational microgrants during COVID-19

New GCO poll: 81% of parents support educational microgrants during COVID-19

 

By David Bass

The Georgia Center for Opportunity (GCO) today released the results of a parent opinion poll that found 81 percent of respondents in favor of using federal emergency relief funds to help parents cover some educational costs during the coronavirus pandemic.

The poll, taken of a random sample of 721 Georgia parents, also found that such microgrants would encourage parents to make alternative educational decisions for their children: 59 percent of respondents reported that a one-time microgrant of $1,000 would either prompt them to send their child to a different school or help out in their existing decision to do so.

Recently, a coalition of education reformers sent a letter to Gov. Brian Kemp urging him to use the remaining portion of the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) Fund to directly support students through the challenges of virtual learning. Currently in Georgia, the governor’s office is the only entity in the state with the ability to provide families with this desperately needed help.

The poll results back up what we already know: Offering direct payment assistance to Georgia families is the best way to keep vulnerable students from falling further behind during this crisis. A one-size-fits-all approach to education never works. We must offer as many families as possible maximum flexibility in their education decisions this year. Empowering parents directly with funds puts them in the driver’s seat and cuts out bureaucratic obstacles. This step simply takes available additional federal funds and gives parents the most help, the fastest, right when they need it the most.

Megan and teacher at table

A Survey Of How The Average Georgia Family Is Navigating Education During The Pandemic

These microgrants would help students like Hannah Foy, a 13-year-old with Down syndrome. Hannah has been isolated at home since March and is falling behind. “Putting education dollars directly into the hands of parents means that our children have a greater chance of not falling behind,” wrote Hannah’s mother, Elizabeth, in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “The funds will come nowhere close to meeting the needs of students like my daughter, but they will help to bridge the gap until schools can fully reopen again.

Other key findings from the poll include:

  • 57 percent said their children learned “far less” or “somewhat less” than they had when they were in their pre-shutdown school.

  • Only 12 percent of respondents said their school did “badly” or “very badly” during the coronavirus crisis. Thirty-three percent were neutral and 55 percent said their school did “well” or “very well.”

  • Only 18 percent of respondents thought that their schools did not provide enough resources to their children.

  • 33 percent thought that there was “much work” or “far more work than I imagined it would be” to teach their children because of the shutdown.

  • Only 6 percent are considering homeschooling their children when last year they were not home schooled.

Equitable Options In Education

Equitable Options In Education

Equitable Options In Education 

By Shana Burres 

Ashley* is a middle-class mom. She is married with three kids and, through a scholarship, has her children enrolled in a local well-respected private school. She was pleased to be able to provide her children with an excellent education and believed they were gaining an advantage in their academic career. 

A few years into elementary school her son, John, was excelling academically but struggling with basic social and life skills. After a series of tests and meetings with doctors and experts, John was placed on the Autism spectrum. He was diagnosed as high-functioning, with a high IQ and all the potential to learn how to navigate a neurotypical world. 

Ashley immediately withdrew John from the private school and enrolled him in the local public school. 

Why? “Because Ashley believed public schools would offer better services for her child with special needs.” This is due, in part, to the Federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which provides funding to public schools specifically to meet the needs of students with disabilities and learning barriers. 

Fostering Public Health

Long before the IDEA legislation, public schools were used as a way to foster public health and welfare. The earliest integrations of public education and welfare were introduced during the progressive era, starting in the 1890s and continuing into the 1930s. Progressive leaders advocated for the school curriculum to address matters such as health, recreation, and mental health (at the time called mental hygiene). On the heels of the progressive movement, the Truman administration signed the 1945 National School Lunch Act, which provided free or low-cost nutritionally-balanced meals to school children. Coupled with the work of the Freedman’s Schools established in the Reconstruction Period (1865-1877), the education system in the United States has a deeply established pattern of being a source for public health and welfare. 

While there are certainly many middle-class students like John who have benefitted from the services established and developed in the last 150 years, the vast majority of students who rely on the school as a public health arena are living near the poverty line.  According to The US Census report on poverty, one in six children live in poverty, making them the poorest age group in our nation. Children are also most likely to suffer the long-term effects of poverty such as poor educational outcomes, higher instances of injury and chronic illness, and diminished mental and emotional capacity. Each of these factors feed into a poverty loop that increases the likelihood of the next. For example, when a student has a chronic illness and diminished emotional capacity, they miss more days of school and are less able to make up the work from the time missed. Consequently, they fall further behind and are less likely to earn high enough grades to graduate and move into vocational training or college education. So the cycle begins again, as they are trapped in unstable and low-wage jobs, poor health care, and poor outcomes. 

Georgia’s Educational Challenges

In Georgia, sixty percent of the student population qualifies for free or reduced-cost lunch. While free lunch may be offered at private schools, the marker is used to represent the over one million students who face a statistically higher risk for the long-term effects of poverty. And, as noted at the beginning of the blog post, the public school is a key welfare access point. When the public schools are inaccessible to families already facing significant barriers, the children lose not only academic instruction but a cascade of critical services. Safety, health, learning or development support, and nutrition are among just some of the key services that disappear along with daily instruction. 

Those types of cascading losses have been brought into stark relief as the nation responds to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. It appears we have built a system that relies too heavily on a physical building for the delivery of services. And while new programs like Georgia’s P-EBT have begun to respond to the nutrition gap created by school closures, there remains the questions of how students will catch up academically, who will observe and report domestic abuse, and how students will access mental and social services. 

A Better Way Forward

And these questions bring the focus toward a golden opportunity. As Georgia is forced to look at programs and services differently, we can disentangle the various services to improve the delivery and outcomes across the board. For example, under the old framework, any student could access free- or reduced-cost lunches at their local public school. However, some districts and schools provided a greater complement of services for students with individualized education plans (IEPs). The variances in services provided from district to district contributes to the cascade of poorer outcomes for students living in chronic poverty—but we have the opportunity to change this reality. In fact, Georgia already has systems in place that disentangle the range of services while ensuring the optimal outcome for the individual student through their state school, charter, and virtual school programs.  

The public school will likely always be a public health arena but, as we are quickly learning, equitable public education and social services cannot be bound to the physical local school. We can and should continue to improve the academic, health, and social outcomes for the students of Georgia through creative, flexible, and more open methods of delivery. 

Interested in how you can help support flexible and equitable options? Click here.

Name changed to protect the identity of the individual

Shana Burres is an educator, foster parent, and speaker. She holds a Master’s degree in education and, as the former executive director of DASH Kids, is a fierce advocate for equitable outcomes for children of all backgrounds and experiences. Shana currently is an adjunct professor, learning development consultant, and her local Mockingbird HUB home for foster families and their youth.

DISINCENTIVES FOR WORK AND MARRIAGE IN GEORGIA’S WELFARE SYSTEM

Based on the most recent 2015 data, this report provides an in-depth look at the welfare cliffs across the state of Georgia. A computer model was created to demonstrate how welfare programs, alone or in combination with other programs, create multiple welfare cliffs for recipients that punish work. In addition to covering a dozen programs – more than any previous model – the tool used to produce the following report allows users to see how the welfare cliff affects individuals and families with very specific characteristics, including the age and sex of the parent, number of children, age of children, income, and other variables. Welfare reform conversations often lack a complete understanding of just how means-tested programs actually inflict harm on some of the neediest within our state’s communities.

Microschools, hybrid options, and online classes: Education during COVID and beyond

Microschools, hybrid options, and online classes: Education during COVID and beyond

Microschools, hybrid options, and online classes: Education during COVID and beyond 

 

By Eric Wearne 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the afternoon of Monday, July 20—just a few weeks before schools would normally be opening—the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta announced that their schools would in fact all be opening for live classes in August. The Superintendent’s statement suggests “…the benefits of in-person instruction, compared with remote delivery, far outweigh the possible risks involved.” Families uncomfortable with in-classroom instruction may choose online instruction, following individual school plans.   

Just a few hours before the announcement from the Archdiocese, Gwinnett County Public Schools—the largest public school system in the state—announced that they would be starting the school year completely online. Though the system had announced earlier that it would give parents the choice between in-person and online learning, the most recent statement says, “The current COVID-19 situation required a change in those plans.” This has led to significant online anger and multiple protests at the system’s central office.

Both the Catholic Archdiocese schools and Gwinnett County Public Schools say they based their decisions following federal and state health guidelines and the advice of medical and educational experts. Why, then, such opposing decisions from the two school systems? Are the health guidelines contradictory? Are the Archdiocese and Gwinnett cherry-picking the medical and educational experts they listen to?     

Likely none of the above. What we may instead be seeing is simply that smaller entities can be more nimble. And that larger entities would be well-advised to do what they can to learn from that agility. 

At an event earlier this month, the founder of the growing microschool network Prenda, Kelly Smith, suggested that an important lesson all school systems might learn from smaller organizations—especially given the large health, economic, and educational issues presented by the pandemic—is  that they should accept and in fact facilitate more segmentation among their constituents. This may be particularly true for public school systems like Gwinnett, which encompasses a relatively large geographic area and serves over 180,000 students in 141 different schools. Many students would benefit from more choices in schooling even under completely normal circumstances. At a time when everyone’s circumstances are even more unique and individualized because of the differential impact of the pandemic on families, more flexibility is even more important.

A major complication in this debate is that the reasons families want to return to school vary so much.  That is, for some families, the dynamics of learning at home simply do not work well. As examples, some families have students with special needs who require particular kinds of attention. Some families must work outside the home to survive financially. (A number of services are cropping up around Gwinnett County and elsewhere to facilitate online learning or simply childcare, set up by gyms, YMCAs,  performing arts centers, or other places that are typically not full during the school day. While this is an example of civil society and the market responding to fill a need, it comes at a cost—sometimes a few hundred dollars per month, which many families cannot afford). 

Some believe any school openings for face-to-face learning means the school/system will not adapt no matter what circumstances arise and that such decisions are consigning people to die.  Of course that is not true. The Archdiocese of Atlanta and other private and public schools who are offering face-to-face schooling will continue to monitor schools and said they will close down quickly if necessary.

It is too early to know whether opening schools in-person will lead to a worse health crisis, or keeping them online will lead to even worse economic and psychological crises.  Other creative solutions, like moving as many classes as possible outdoors, or operating on a hybrid home school-style schedule (2-3 days per week) might be worth exploring to a greater extent than they have been so far. 

One thing both public and private schools should absolutely do in this moment is learn to be more responsive to smaller groups of constituents, rather than imposing singular, large-scale solutions.  Families must, one way or another, find their way through this school year. They are already building solutions for themselves, outside of the constraints of their school systems. Legislators in Colorado, among other states, are considering whether to fund families directly in response to school closures. School leaders need to adapt, quickly, or risk being left behind.

 

Eric Wearne is a faculty member in the Education Economics Center at Kennesaw State University.

He is also the author of Little Platoons: Defining Hybrid Home Schools in America, forthcoming from Lexington Books. Learn more about Eric. 

EVERY CHILD WITH ACCESS TO A QUALITY EDUCATION

 

A quality education is key to a child’s future success. Academic achievement paves the way to a good job, self-sufficiency, and the earned success we all want for our children. To learn more about education options in Georgia click here

Children excited as they leave school

How Can I Support My Child’s Virtual Teachers This School Year?

How Can I Support My Child’s Virtual Teachers This School Year?

How Should I Prepare My Child for Virtual Schooling?

 

By Jennifer K. Hale 

 

“Supporting virtual teachers is just as important as supporting traditional classroom teachers and making the connection with the virtual teacher will be key to your student’s success.”

Making the swap from brick-and-mortar schooling to a virtual setting might be a challenge for some families. In fact, it may seem daunting. But with a few simple tips and reminders, families can make virtual schooling feel as normal and natural to the family lifestyle as traditional school ever was.

 

There is one crucial factor that makes a student successful in the virtual setting—an involved parent or learning coach. After years as an educator, the last seven of those at a virtual school, I know for certain that the students who adapt to virtual schooling, achieve high grades and test scores, and make advancements in their education are those who have a support system at home to help them and encourage them. This is true of a traditional brick-and-mortar school setting as well, but it is especially vital in the virtual setting. Because the teachers, faculty, and administration have physical barriers in the virtual setting, it is imperative that the student have someone in the home environment who can serve as their support system, advocate, and daily encouragement.

 

Not only is this support system key for the student, it helps the teachers as well. Supporting virtual teachers is just as important as supporting traditional classroom teachers and making the connection with the virtual teacher will be key to your student’s success.

 

One of the main things you can do as the new school year begins is remember to treat the virtual teacher with the same respect that you would a traditional classroom teacher. These are professionals, trained and certified in the exact same way as traditional classroom teachers. Most, if not all, have been traditional classroom teachers at some point in their careers. In fact, in many school districts, the virtual teachers will actually be the classroom teachers who are now moving to virtual platforms due to the pandemic. Be respectful of their knowledge, passion, and drive to see your student succeed.

 

So what else can you, as a parent and learning coach, do to support your student’s virtual teachers?

 

  • Read all emails and communications. Pay attention to details, updates, deadlines, expectations, and requirements.

 

  • Set calendar reminders for yourself to help remind your student about important deadlines, etc.

 

  • Communicate with the teachers frequently. Don’t be afraid to send an email or pick up the phone to ask clarifying questions.

 

  • Learn the virtual platforms. This may seem overwhelming but learning at least enough to check your student’s gradebook and communicate with the teacher will go a long way. Parent training on this should be provided by your school district.

 

  • Check regularly to make sure your student is logging in and completing work on time.

 

  • Check your student’s gradebook weekly, at minimum.

 

  • Attend any online open houses, orientations, and/or parent conferences. Take the opportunity to get to know your student’s teacher.

 

  • If you want to show appreciation like you occasionally would in the traditional classroom, send the teacher a kind email, voice message, or even a gift card via email.

The greatest thing you can do to support the virtual teacher is show patience. Parents feel uncertainty right now and have many questions. Teachers have these same feelings and questions. Some teachers face the same issues that you do—how to work while their own children are home and educating virtually, how to balance the work/family dynamic, and how to live day to day in a nation swirling with insecurity. Showing patience as we move forward together sets a wonderful example of resilience and bravery for our students.

 

Teachers who are passionate about their profession will meet the challenges of educating virtually in a pandemic with courage and ingenuity. They will create engaging, exciting lessons for your student and will do everything in their power to form relationships with your child, exactly as they would in a traditional classroom.

 

Take the time to reach out with any questions and concerns, but your encouragement is also appreciated. Let your student’s teacher know how much you appreciate their hard work and preparation for a challenging school year that will certainly turn out to be historic. Make a commitment now with your student and the teacher to work together to make the virtual education experience exciting, engaging, and an integral part of your child’s development.

 

Virtual education was once a wonderful option for families, but in this pandemic has become a requirement for many who weren’t expecting it. We’re all learning together and a positive attitude will go farther than anything else. We teachers encourage you to take advantage of this time in our history to make memories with your child so that one day they will look back on this time not remembering what they “missed” by not being in a traditional classroom, but what they gained by having the opportunity to learn virtually. Certainly history will reflect that the option of virtual schooling provided a nation of students the education they needed in a time when caution was most important.

 

Jennifer K. Hale is an Assistant Principal at Georgia Cyber Academy High School. She is passionate about student success through high quality teaching and best practices. Originally a history teacher, she is also passionate about helping students to become active, knowledgeable citizens of our nation.

 

 

EVERY CHILD WITH ACCESS TO A QUALITY EDUCATION

 

A quality education is key to a child’s future success. Academic achievement paves the way to a good job, self-sufficiency, and the earned success we all want for our children. To learn more about education options in Georgia click here

Children excited as they leave school

What Your Virtual Teacher Wants You To Know

What Your Virtual Teacher Wants You To Know

How Should I Prepare My Child for Virtual Schooling?

 

By Jennifer K. Hale 

 

It is a different world. Things are changing daily; numbers, statistics, and educated guesses are becoming the norm. It is in this climate that we are attempting to educate a nation of children in an unprecedented way—virtually.

 

Many states have had virtual schools for some time now, but not many states have attempted virtual education through large school districts all at one time like we are seeing in our nation as we approach a new school year. Each district has different plans and expectations, but all have the same goal—to give your student the highest quality education and help them achieve academic success.

 

As the school year begins, there are some things that your student’s virtual teacher will want you to know, prepare for, and pay attention to. In order for your child to be successful, give these points some careful consideration.

“…all have the same goal—to give your student the highest quality education and help them achieve academic success.”

  • Virtual teachers are real teachers. In most schools, teachers have extensive training, certifications, and degrees in education and content. They continually attend professional development to hone their craft and they are professionals who are passionate about what they do.

 

  • Virtual teachers are still learning. Every day new technology is developed that can help engage your child in exciting lessons and teachers are constantly learning how to implement these tools into the classroom.

 

  • Please read all messages from the teacher carefully. Information is easy to come by if you commit to reading messages, emails, announcements, and communications from your student’s teachers, school, and school district.

 

  • Your child is expected to be in class. Just because the platform might be virtual does not mean that the schedule is flexible. Students need to stay on the schedule set out by the district, school, and teacher.

 

  • Teachers want your support! They need you to be engaged and aware of what’s going on in the virtual classroom so that you can be your student’s support from home.

 

  • Teachers want to communicate with you. They are available to answer your questions and address your concerns—just reach out!

 

  • Students need a calm learning environment free from distractions. When learning virtually, it’s very difficult for teachers to compete with the TV, cell phone, or other distraction at home. Please help keep those to a minimum during learning time.

 

  • Teachers don’t expect perfection—just engagement! Students who show up, try, and make an effort are those who will reflect the most success.

 

  • Virtual education can provide everything your student needs—if your student is willing to take advantage! Relationships can be built in a virtual setting just like in a traditional school and what’s more, your student can form relationships with students and peers they might never had have the chance to know otherwise!

 

  • If your student is struggling, please let the teacher know. Typically your teacher will already be aware, but please don’t hesitate to reach out for extra help, support, and guidance.

 

  • While there are certainly challenges that many families will have to address, don’t forget the advantages of virtual education:

 – Some flexibility in location for your student to learn

–  More quality time at home making family memories

–  Certified teachers who will be teaching your child, no matter if your student is at home    with you or in a childcare setting

–  No parent has to create their own curriculum—it’s all provided by professionals

–  Meeting new people in the virtual classroom they might not have the opportunity to meet otherwise

–  Saving money on school clothes and supplies

–  Exploring classes that might not be offered in a traditional school

–  Learning new technologies via the virtual classroom

Virtual education was once a wonderful option for families, but in this pandemic has become a requirement for many who weren’t expecting it. We’re all learning together and a positive attitude will go farther than anything else. We teachers encourage you to take advantage of this time in our history to make memories with your child so that one day they will look back on this time not remembering what they “missed” by not being in a traditional classroom, but what they gained by having the opportunity to learn virtually. Certainly history will reflect that the option of virtual schooling provided a nation of students the education they needed in a time when caution was most important.

 

Jennifer K. Hale is an Assistant Principal at Georgia Cyber Academy High School. She is passionate about student success through high quality teaching and best practices. Originally a history teacher, she is also passionate about helping students to become active, knowledgeable citizens of our nation.

 

 

EVERY CHILD WITH ACCESS TO A QUALITY EDUCATION

 

A quality education is key to a child’s future success. Academic achievement paves the way to a good job, self-sufficiency, and the earned success we all want for our children. To learn more about education options in Georgia click here

Children excited as they leave school

How Should I Prepare My Child for Virtual Schooling?

How Should I Prepare My Child for Virtual Schooling?

How Should I Prepare My Child for Virtual Schooling?

 

By Jennifer K. Hale 

 

Many of us got a little taste of what virtual schooling could feel like back in the spring when the spread of Covid-19 forced nationwide school building closures and a shift to virtual education. At that time, our nation’s educators faced a mountain of challenges: lack of information, lack of understanding of virtual platforms and how to make them work for students, lack of preparation, and for many students, a lack of reliable internet or computer resources in the home. Parents faced a lack of education themselves while also confronting issues with childcare. The shift came without much warning and the unpreparedness teachers felt was not their fault. Many veteran virtual educators came together to develop resources to help new online teachers become successful.

Students got a taste of virtual education in the spring as well, but as we prepare to return to school in the fall, the expectations of virtual education will be different and you should prepare your child for the changes and enhancements they will see in the virtual setting.

The key to preparing our students to have a successful school year is in how you present the information. Your student will react to your attitude, so the more excitement and enthusiasm you show, the more likely your student is to feel the same way. Positivity is key when facing a new challenge. What a wonderful thing it is that we live in a time when virtual education is an option to keep our nation going during a pandemic!

Here are some things that you and your student should know:

  • Teachers have received more virtual education training. At this point, brick and mortar school teachers have had and continue to receive training about virtual platforms and tools and how to use them.
  • Administrators have developed a detailed plan. Students and teachers have been virtually paired together with intention and scheduling has been taken into consideration.
  • Teachers are now aware of more resources to help build a strong virtual classroom and are adding new resources daily.
  • Platforms for live teaching have been purposefully obtained by school districts. Live sessions will be held on a schedule and with the purpose of live instruction.
  • Successful virtual schooling requires support from parents and learning coaches.

So what should you do as a parent to help your student prepare?

  • Once you have your student’s schedule, go over it with your child. Make sure your child knows when to log into live sessions. Set alarms, write it out and post it somewhere close to the schoolwork space, etc. As a parent, you’ll also need to look at your own schedule, childcare plans, and create a calendar that supports your student. Keep in mind virtual schooling will require student attendance and participation daily.
  • Create a workspace at home with minimal distractions. Keep the TV off and the phone put away when students are working on schoolwork. This is absolutely vital for student engagement.
  • Get your student excited about live sessions! Remind them that they will be able to talk to their teacher and engage with their peers, similarly to how they would in a traditional classroom.
  • Communicate with teachers regularly. Read all emails from teachers and be aware of expectations, plans, and updates. This is key to your student’s success.
  • Discuss expectations with your child. Virtual schooling may be challenging for some—learning on the computer is certainly not what they are used to. Talk about why it’s important to pay attention to the teacher, complete work on time, participate in class, and treat virtual education just as seriously as they would if they were in the traditional classroom.
  • Create moments of rest and fun. During breaks from class, make sure your student is up and moving around, getting proper hydration and nourishment, and taking breaks from screen time.
  • Be realistic. We live in uncertain times and plans change from day to day. Give yourself and your student grace and praise for getting through each day and accomplishing daily tasks.

Prepare your child for virtual education by encouraging them with positivity about the situation. Make the new schedule exciting. While you might not be shopping for back to school clothes or lunch boxes, make virtual schooling just as fun in other ways—new school supplies for home, allowing them to decorate their workspace and color their own calendar, etc. Allow your student to choose their “first day of school” outfit for their first day of live classes on camera and help them feel excited about the new way the nation is learning. Remind them they are not alone—millions of children across the country will be learning virtually this fall.

We’re all in this together. Thanks to technology, our children can continue their education with qualified teachers uninterrupted. With gratitude we can take on a whole new view of our current situation and the outlook of our nation. While tomorrow may be unknown, the future is still bright for our students.

Jennifer K. Hale is an Assistant Principal at Georgia Cyber Academy High School. She is passionate about student success through high quality teaching and best practices. Originally a history teacher, she is also passionate about helping students to become active, knowledgeable citizens of our nation.

 

  

EVERY CHILD WITH ACCESS TO A QUALITY EDUCATION

A quality education is key to a child’s future success. Academic achievement paves the way to a good job, self-sufficiency, and the earned success we all want for our children. To learn more about education options in Georgia click here

Children excited as they leave school