Georgia groups push Kemp for virtual-learning microgrants | WALKER COUNTY MESSENGER

Georgia groups push Kemp for virtual-learning microgrants | WALKER COUNTY MESSENGER

Georgia groups push Kemp for virtual-learning microgrants | WALKER COUNTY MESSENGER

ATLANTA – Several groups are pressing Gov. Brian Kemp to start divvying out small federal grant funds aimed at helping families pay for school supplies, child care and other expenses while their children are taking online classes amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

In a letter sent Tuesday, Sept. 15, groups including the American Federation for Children, the Down Syndrome Association of Atlanta and GeorgiaCAN urged Kemp to reserve more than $20 million in federal COVID-19 funds for microgrants, which cover small one-time expenses.

 

Along with several educational and disability-advocacy groups, the letter was also signed by a handful of conservative-leaning organizations including the Americans for Prosperity’s Georgia chapter and the Faith and Freedom Coalition of Georgia.

The Georgia Public Policy Foundation and the Georgia Center for Opportunity also signed the letter.

Read the full article here

 

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

COVID-19 Makes the Case for Educational Flexibility Even Stronger

COVID-19 Makes the Case for Educational Flexibility Even Stronger

COVID-19 Makes the Case for

Educational Flexibility Even Stronger

By Benjamin Scafidi 

With respect to school openings during this COVID-19 pandemic, a public health professor recently observed, “There are no ideal solutions here. No matter what schools do, they won’t make everyone happy.” Of course, that is true in the monolithic K-12 education system we have now.  But we can move away from a monolithic system. We can move to a system that empowers parents with more choices.

Calls for giving families choice in K-12 education go back to Thomas Paine in the Rights of Man, John Stuart Mill in On Liberty, and—the modern father of choice in education—Milton Friedman. Instead of giving government exclusive control over taxpayer funds for the education of youth, Paine, Mill, and Friedman suggested that taxpayer funds should go directly to families of school-aged children—where families would decide where their children are educated. The core issue is this: Who decides how taxpayer funds for education are spent—the government, as is largely the case now, or families?

 

Many reasons to support expanded educational opportunity

There are so many reasons to give families more choice in K-12 education. The balance of the extensive empirical research finds that choice programs have improved student achievement and educational attainment for students who exercise choice and improved outcomes for students who remain in public schools. Further, private schools appear to do a better job of providing students with important civic virtues like tolerance and volunteerism, and private school choice programs have promoted integration. And choice programs, including Georgia’s tax credit scholarship program, have been designed to save taxpayers money

Giving parents control over where their children are educated allows them to choose school and non-school offerings that are tailored to their children’s interests and needs. Under such a choice system, prospective schools and other education providers are incentivized to provide customized educational and social environments that meet the interests and needs of students and their families. And the evidence—including evidence here in Georgia—suggests that families that exercise choice are overwhelmingly much happier with the services in their students new schools of choice. 

In this era of COVID-19, there are now additional reasons to support educational opportunity—families have different health risk tolerances; families, students, and teachers have different underlying health conditions; and families have different health preferences. Public school districts going fully online do not permit families to sort their children into schools (and teachers to sort into schools) based on their varying health preferences. When entire public school districts go entirely online, they are providing what many families desire, but they are not providing what many other families want or need. 

As an example, a family with (a) one parent who can stay at home or work part-time from home; (b) a family member with an underlying health condition; and (c) older children may be delighted that their public school is fully online.

However, other families may not be happy with fully online schools. A family with one parent who works full-time outside the home; (b) young children; and (c) no underlying health concerns may desire five-day, full-day, face-to-face schooling with safety precautions. Online schooling may force some parents to quit their jobs. Of course, families of children with special needs may be subject to the most hardships with online schooling.

It is impossible for a one-size-fits-all approach to health concerns to meet the needs of all families. Meeting the diverse educational and social needs and interests of children—and now the differing health needs of students and their families in this era of COVID-19—is only possible in a choice system. 

 

What can states do to provide more educational choice to families? 

First, to the extent permitted by federal law, states should use existing and forthcoming federal education funds to offer families choice. South Carolina and Oklahoma are using federal CARES funding to provide scholarships for school-aged children. South Carolina is providing scholarships to defray private school tuition costs up to $6,500 for 5,000 students from low- and middle-income families, where $6,500 is just over half of what taxpayers spend to educate students in their public schools. 

Second, states should create new choice programs or expand existing ones.

The track record of existing education choice programs in the United States is strong. COVID-19 only makes the case for choice stronger. Hopefully, policymakers will rise to the occasion and give students and families an educational lifeline during these challenging times. 

 

BenJamin Scafidi

BenJamin Scafidi

Benjamin Scafidi is the director of the Education Economics Center at Kennesaw State University and a Friedman Fellow at EdChoice.

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

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