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.

Field Trips in the Time of COVID

Field Trips in the Time of COVID

Field Trips In The Time Of COVID

 

By Heidi Holmes Erickson

 

We all remember a time as students when we boarded a bus, a brown paper bag with a smashed sandwich in hand, anxiously waiting as our teacher gave us information about the day’s field trip. Field trips are a long-standing tradition in K-12 education and may be some of our most vivid memories from school. Butin the  COVID-19 era, field trips may be non-existent for the upcoming school year as many school districts across the country prepare for fully virtual instruction.  

Many parents are already looking for ways to supplement the virtual education experience. Families are forming academic/learning pods; joining (and forming) homeschool co-ops, hybrid homeschools, or micro-schools; and searching out anything that will help enhance their children’s education and expose them to a world outside of their own home (and, let’s be honest, keep parents’ sanity). This is where museums and other cultural institutions can help.

There is a growing body of research that finds that culturally enriching field trips to art museums, the theater, and other such institutions are an important part of education.Students experience significant educational and social emotional benefits from such culturally enriching trips, including greater tolerance, empathy, higher academic achievement, and greater school engagement, with some evidence that economically disadvantaged students experiences the largest gains

The Importance of Field Trips

Why do students see such significant benefits from field trips? There isn’t a clear answer, but one theory is that arts expose students to a broader world beyond their own. Art exposes all of us to people, places, ideas, cultures, and history that we didn’t know before. In a time where students have limited interactions outside of their own homes and neighborhoods, arts and other cultural institutions can provide connecting experiences. 

Art museums typically see thousands of school groups throughout the year. With social distancing guidelines, however, it seems impossible to take an entire class of young children anywhere, let alone on a bus to a theater. Yet many museums and some theaters have now reopened and are offering tours for small groups, limiting capacity inside, or moving to outdoor venues. 

For example, here in Georgia, the High Museum of Art is open daily with reservations, and the Alliance Theatre is preparing for the 2020-21 season which includes multiple productions for youth as well as young children. Museums can easily and safely accommodate “academic pods” with a few children and parents. Now, attending museums with family and friends is not something new, but it may play a more important role in enhancing students’ education this cloistered year than it has previously.

 

The Power of Experience

These in-person cultural experiences are more important for student learning than some might expect. There is some evidence that field trips done “virtually” or in an at-home or in-class setting are not as impactful as when students visit the actual institutions. For instance, a recent study found that students who attended a live theater performance had greater command of the plot than students who saw a movie version of the same play. Another study found that students who visited an art museum asked more complex questions about works of art and recalled the experience in more detail than students who saw the same art but in a classroom setting. This evidence suggests that an in-person experience has a unique importance that isn’t always transferred to other settings. 

With the 2020-21 school year looking nothing like anyone could have predicted, parents and students should embrace the change and enjoy educational experiences that are not limited to something on a computer screen. Taking time away from instruction in core subjects isn’t going to harm student academic performance—it might even help!

Heidi Holmes Erickson

Heidi Holmes Erickson is a faculty member in the Education Economics Center at Kennesaw State University.

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

The Power of Second Chances

The Power of Second Chances

The Power of Second Chances

By David Bass

Imagine stepping from a life of homelessness characterized by desperation and deprivation to a full, rich life in which you can contribute and build a future.

That was Jonathan’s story of transformation. As a graduate of CKS Packaging’s Second Chance Program, Jonathan went from homeless to employed in an entry-level job with a solid upward trajectory, allowing him to support his family,  save money for the future, and continue job training and education.

“What the Second Chance Program did was provide discipline, provide structure, and provide a lifeline,” Jonathan shared.

We love stories like these because they demonstrate so vividly this truth: When people are desperate, they need a sense of control over their lives. Without it, they are more likely to fall back into old bad habits and ways of doing things, such as substance abuse, crime, and homelessness.

A job with an upward trajectory is a key way to restore control and confidence in someone’s life.

 

Find out our full analysis of this
Second Chance Program.

A second chance

CKS Packaging is an Atlanta-based company that manufactures plastic containers for such clients as Coca-Cola, Chick-fil-A, and Kroger. The company created the Second Chance Program in 2016 to partner with service organizations in the Atlanta area with the sole purpose of recruiting struggling individuals who need a second chance at employment. 

Georgia Center for Opportunity recently published a research report on the impressive results from the Second Chance Program.

According to Lloyd Martin, the VP of manufacturing and leader of the Second Chance Program at CKS Packaging, many service providers in the community deal with surface issues without addressing the root cause of a person’s problem. In contrast, the Second Chance Program recognizes that a job, and the stability it provides, is a vital plank in rebuilding a foundation for a fruitful life.

Another graduate of the program, Greg, shared that Second Chance provided him a job after hundreds of companies had rejected him due to his criminal record. “When so many other people have said no to you, and then someone steps up and gives you a chance and has faith in you, it makes you want to give it 150% every day,” Greg says. He now plans to stay with the company until retirement.

CKS Packaging didn’t just provide a second chance for Greg. It provided a career.

Doing good while making a profit

CKS Packaging and the Second Chance Program show that it’s possible to do good business while doing good for the community. In fact, they go hand in hand.

According to CKS Packaging, the Second Chance Program has allowed the company to fill the gap in labor they were facing with long-term, dependable employees who otherwise may have not gotten a chance to turn their lives around. In the last five years, the company has hired 473 people through the program.

That impact extends beyond a company’s bottom line and individual lives to enrich an entire community.

 

To learn more about what Georgia Center for Opportunity is doing to help get Georgians back to work check out our Hiring Well, Doing Good initiative.

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