Apr 20, 2020

Results Highlight Progress and Areas in Need of Support Amid COVID-19 School Facility Closures

BATON ROUGE, La. -- The Louisiana Department of Education today released survey results that show progress in the number of school systems offering some level of continuous education to students amid the extended closure of public school facilities to curb the spread of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). But the results, informed by responses from all 192 school systems, also illuminate the significant challenges that remain in ensuring equitable education for all students now and in the future.

"We appreciate the ingenuity and leadership our local educators have demonstrated. They have adopted their own unique strategies to engage students academically, socially and emotionally, and more importantly, they have provided necessary stability for many in an uncertain time," said Acting State Superintendent Beth Scioneaux. "But our school systems need additional support related to technology access for students; services for students with disabilities; and professional development for teachers to successfully provide continuous education using high-quality and standards-aligned curricula. We must innovate and work together to overcome these barriers to ensure every child, including those most vulnerable, have access to a quality education."

Continuous education, also referred to as distance or remote education and learning, is the ongoing and regular teacher-initiated interaction for the purposes of teaching, evaluating, and providing assistance throughout the duration of the course and curriculum delivery. This may include but is not limited to synchronous or asynchronous instructive interaction, including emails, videoconferencing, satellite learning, online chats, phone calls, and feedback on homework and assessments.

The survey posed questions about the types of continuous education taking place, the learning materials being used, the frequency of communication among teachers and students, access to technology for both teachers and students, staffing, school calendars, and additional areas of need.

The results, now available online, represent all survey responses received by April 17. Among the key takeaways:

  • More school systems are offering continuous education now than one month ago. All respondents reported offering some level of continuous education opportunities to students. The type of continuous education and level of engagement vary by school system. This shows progress from one month ago, when school facilities were first closed. Though not a direct comparison to the most recent survey, at that time, 39 of 69 parish and city school districts indicated they were offering these opportunities.
  • Louisiana must continue the use of curricular materials typically utilized in the classroom. Approximately 17 percent of respondents are using the curricula typically used in classrooms, 4 percent are using only supplemental or different materials, and 79 percent are using some combination of both. Many students are reviewing content previously covered in the school year, and that content does not always span all subjects.
  • The frequency at which students engage with teachers and receive feedback on their work may need to increase. Approximately 32 percent of school systems are connecting with students every day, 38 percent of school systems are connecting with students weekly, and 30 percent indicated another frequency. Fourteen percent of school systems indicated students in at least one grade band--PK-2, 3-8 or 9-12--are not receiving feedback on their learning, amounting to an estimated 24 percent of public school students statewide. The best practice includes daily contact among teachers and students and at least weekly feedback on students' work.
  • Many students and teachers do not have the right technology to maximize learning. Respondents reported, on average, 28 percent of students do not have access to a school-issued or personal tablet or computer; 66 percent of students have home Internet access; 78 percent of students have access to a phone that could be used for conference calls and learning; and 93 percent of staff have the necessary technology, including Internet access and devices, to do their jobs from home.
  • Expanded learning time may be necessary to accommodate lost time this year, as well as in anticipation of possible facility closures in the future. Currently, 70 percent of respondents are contingency planning on offering summer school, but only 28 percent are contingency planning on starting the school year earlier.
  • School systems need additional support to serve all students. School systems reported needing additional assistance in expanding technology access for students, providing supports and related services to students with disabilities, and providing professional development for teachers to successfully provide continuous education.  

To address these challenges and to support educators:

  • The Department released a suite of resources for educators and families to support continuous education for all students, including students with disabilities and English learners. Resources include but are not limited to: listings of academic resources organized by subject and curriculum provider; case studies of effective distance education models in Louisiana for low- and high-technology contexts; sample daily schedules and communications structures; information on how to continue direct student services, like speech therapy or counseling; and guidance to ensure special education compliance. Guidance on supporting students with significant cognitive disabilities is forthcoming.
  • The Department provided guidance to school systems on how to secure discounted technology and broadband for students. There now exists a step-by-step guide for school systems on how to identify local technology needs, how to determine which device to purchase, how to provide technical support for devices, and how to determine the best Internet options for students based on coverage area. 
  • The Department will facilitate programmatic support to ensure a strong start to 2020-2021 school year. The Department will soon provide guidance to school systems on how to identify every child's learning level; implement a plan to ensure every child is ready to build on that learning level, including strategies for extra academic time and continued use of high-quality curricula; and support the Class of 2020 in the successful transition to life after high school graduation.

For more information and to access all resources, visit the Department's COVID-19 web page.

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