New distance learning guidelines have been issued by the Michigan Department of Education (MDE), taking into account that 500,000 of the state’s 1.5 million students – one-third of the K-12 school population – do not have home internet access.
Mostly teacher written, the document is designed to help district administrators and local union leaders who are required to negotiate and approve a Continuous Learning Plan (CLP) to provide students with learning opportunities while buildings are closed.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer outlined the requirements in an executive order issued last week which closed school buildings for the remainder of the school year in response to a global pandemic.
The recommendations are built around guiding principles encouraging educators to be flexible and collaborative to help students not only maintain but continue their learning during this unprecedented time; maintain a focus on students’ mental and emotional health; and continue learning best practices through professional development.
For students without access to technology or wifi, districts are given suggestions for providing offline learning opportunities and alternative ways to communicate with students and families. No child should be penalized for being unable to participate in remote learning, under Whitmer’s executive order.
The guidance does not attempt to mimic face-to-face education, said state Superintendent Michael Rice in the introduction.
“Education is interpersonal and is made possible and indeed joyous by students, teachers, counselors, specialists, social workers, support staff, and administrators interacting with one another at close range,” Rice wrote. “Those who work in schools do a terrific job of providing for the needs of children, often under extraordinarily difficult conditions.”
Largely authored by the 10 Michigan Regional Teachers of the Year with assistance and feedback from various MDE staff and school administrators, the guidance includes links to online instructional resources broken down by grade level, subject area, and special needs areas – such as English learners, students with disabilities, early childhood, and Career Technical Education.
“We all need to improve what we do for children and how we do it in this challenging time,” Rice said. “The longer that this crisis goes, the more we need to learn from our experiences and to improve how we serve children. This document seeks to help ALL districts improve learning at a distance: those with a lot, some, and little technology.”
Read the MDE’s Learning at a Distance Guidance.