If you are or know a parent of a school-aged child who has been forced into remote learning, you probably realize just how very little education is actually taking place these days.
With the start of 2021, children in the US have had their regular schooling interrupted since March of last year. Many students haven’t set foot inside a classroom in months. It is all getting to be a little too much for the kids as well as their families.
Back in June of last year, the New York Times ran an article with the headline, ‘It Was Just Too Much’: How Remote Learning Is Breaking Parents that describes parent after parent in New York City reaching their breaking point, even to the extent of tears. Since the article was published, NYC has been a patchwork of policies dictating when public schools can open and who may or may not attend in-person classes.
It is not just the scheduling conflicts and childcare confusion that the constant reshuffling of closures that angers parents; it is the low level of quality instruction and teacher engagement. In a poll conducted at the start of the current school year by EdSource, 75 percent of respondents felt that remote learning was worse than in-person instruction, and over a quarter stated that remote learning was “not at all effective.” Twenty-four percent of parents are so frustrated with the situation that they said they were planning on withdrawing their children from public schools and enrolling them in private or charter schools instead.
It is not only parents who have issues with remote learning; teachers are also frustrated. According to Chalkbeat, Ana Barros, a sixth-grade social studies teacher at a Tulsa, Oklahoma charter school, more than a quarter of her 86 students were failing. Barros’ students are not alone. Across the country, more students than ever are failing, and instead of addressing the problems of existing in remote learning, many districts are modifying their grading system to prevent students from failing classes or providing extra projects to help bring up their grades.
But how much longer can public schools continue to shortchange students when it comes to getting a good education? It is evident that the best solution is to get everyone back into the classroom. Yet, even when schools reopen, many teachers are not showing up. The Chicago Public School system planned to begin reopening schools for in-person teaching, but perhaps, not surprisingly, the Chicago Teachers Union criticized the reopening plan. About 40 percent of teachers and staff failed to report to in-person instruction after the Christmas break.
It is difficult to believe that we will see a significant increase in the number of public schools returning to regular instruction soon. Despite Trump-led Operation Warp Speed being successful with proven COVID-19 vaccines from several companies, an increase in coronavirus cases and increasing Democratic influence probably means that families will have months of remote learning in their future to struggle through together.