Most Students Aren’t Being Instructed In Real Time, According To Plans Submitted To State

Apr 27, 2020

All Pennsylvania school districts have now submitted plans to the state Department of Education detailing how they are or will teach students remotely.

Under Act 13 signed into law March 27, districts were obligated to do so by April 17 and are to post those plans online. Every Allegheny County district except Pittsburgh Public Schools has posted its plan to its district website. The PPS board is expected to vote on a grading policy this week and will post the continuity plan after the vote.

Learning looks very different now with all Pennsylvania school buildings closed through the end of the year. A vast majority of students in the region will be responsible for guiding their own learning as much of it won’t happen it real time.

A majority of Allegheny County’s 43 school districts have directed teachers to establish office hours or other ways to connect with students with phone or video calls. Teachers are asked to record and upload lessons or email out weekly assignments. Students are to finish that work on their own time.

As teachers are preparing lessons, they’re adapting to a completely different way to do their jobs. The state has directed the 29 regional education agencies to help teachers with the transition. Tyler Samstag is the director of instructional innovation for the Allegheny Intermediate Unit. He’s led a series of webinars for teachers educators learning to teach remotely.

“Our goal is that teachers can take sessions that they can navigate, they can learn the platforms alongside sessions that are focused on solid pedagogy and grounded in standards-aligned curriculum,” he said.

Samstag said the AIU is also launching workshops for parents who are now guiding students through their coursework.

Jenn Beagan is a senior program director with the AIU. She leads Waterfront Learning, an online academy. She said she is confident that students will have meaningful learning experiences in a home environment.  

“This is just a different modality of learning,” she said. “But there are still really great learning opportunities and time that can be spent in this space as well and not just in a brick and mortar or face to face environment.”

She says what will delay new learning is the training process for teachers and making sure all students have access to technology.

Districts leaders for Pittsburgh Public Schools say teachers are trying to get through new content, but the focus is on preventing learning loss.