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State Board of Education votes to create standard for amount of synchronous instruction

Virtual learning
Posted at 5:00 PM, Sep 01, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-01 17:00:52-04

BALTIMORE (WMAR) — "This is all about trying to make sure we have the best we can offer in our school systems," said Carol Williamson, Deputy State Superintendent for Teaching and Learning.

Tuesday, there was special meeting of the Maryland State Board of Education to discuss student engagement and address parent concerns about the amount of time their kids are in contact with teachers. That's called synchronous learning: online learning that happens in real time and is teacher-led, including teacher instruction, small groups, collaborative or large groups, assessments and office hours.

School districts submitted data to the state that included estimates in the amount of hours per week that students would have sychronous learning and when compared, there are discrepancies.

For instance, Baltimore City estimated high schoolers will have synchronous learning for 27 hours a week versus 17.5 hours a week in Carroll or Frederick counties.

Tuesday, the board passed a recommendation to bring consistency for all students across the state. School systems will have to provide 3.5 hours of synchronous learning a day on average across the grades.

"To be able to get everyone on a level playing field with all kids so we can make sure equity is being provided across the state," said Dr. Karen Salmon, State Superintendent of Schools.

Some counties will have to adjust and add more hours of synchronous learning. It has to be implement by the end of 2020.

"Half the year is going to be gone in some cases potentially for students to be getting what other students are getting in other districts so we want to work as quickly as possible," said Salmon.

The recommendation also asks local school districts to reevaluate in-person learning and submit plans by the third week of November.

"It really helps and I know it helps our parents, definitely our students as well, to have them back in school as soon as possible," said Dr. Vermelle Greene, a member of the board.

The Maryland State Education Association president said in a statement that these conversations would have been useful months ago and while this gives districts time to meet new standards, they are concerned with discussions about looking to expand in-person learning without also expanding resources or measures to protect health and safety.

The State Board of Education will meet in 3 weeks and one of the things they will address is how to meet the needs of special education students and others who are not succeeding with the all-virtual model.