HARTFORD—State Rep. Laura Devlin (R-134) and State Senator Tony Hwang (R-28) joined their legislative colleagues in a call for critical legislation aimed at establishing clear minimum guidelines for remote learning for Connecticut students.
Rep. Devlin, who is a member of the legislative Education committee said, “The lack of clear minimum standards for remote learning has led to unacceptable discrepancies between different school systems. While virtual learning serves a public health goal, it may not be contributing to achieving the state’s educational goals. We need to make sure every school district provides a quality education and doesn’t let students learning remotely slip through the cracks.”
Sen. Hwang shared, “I will gladly add my name to legislation aimed to provide consistent, statewide policy on handling during- and post-pandemic education. While it is all our hope to have students safely back in the classroom as soon as possible, it is imperative that we deal with the entire reality of distance learning. That reality also includes the crucial component of social emotional development, and I hope that these efforts will take that into account as well.” Senator Hwang has been actively communicating with the State Department of Education since the onset of the pandemic to gain clarity and provide guidance to local education leaders and families alike.
The Fairfield legislators say they are concerned that the inadequacies of remote learning will erode years of legal and policy efforts aimed at narrowing educational inequities between communities. In Connecticut’s 10 lowest-performing Alliance districts, nearly 61 percent of students have been learning remotely compared to the statewide average of 33 percent. Absenteeism is a serious problem too—a December media report, for example, indicated that 1 in 3 public school children in New Haven had missed 10 percent of school days during the pandemic. Overall, the two Republican legislators say that more consistency is needed to measure student participation and engagement once children are logged into a virtual platform. Logging in and submitting work are the dominant metrics.
The proposed legislation would require:
- Uniform minimum requirements to be set by the State Department of Education for distance learning that would require online classroom participation by students, while also requiring virtual settings to feature the same amount of teacher instruction time as classroom settings;
- Minimum standards for students and educators for classwork as well as assigning grades for completed work;
- State-supported teacher training in remote/distance learning;
- In-person education for special needs students unless the school can demonstrate that their educational requirements can be met through distance learning;
- The State Department of Education to provide periodic review of whether such minimal standards are being met;
- Towns to use the first three snow days as traditional snow days with school off and allow subsequent snow days to be substituted for virtual learning that may be counted towards the school’s 180-day requirement.
The proposed legislation would not prohibit local school districts from establishing more stringent standards if they chose to do so.