There won’t be a teacher at the head of the classroom like we’re used to, but the state wants schools to get as close to that as possible.
To replace a school day that’s typically seven hours long, the Illinois State Board of Education said in its Fall 2020 Learning Recommendations that schools must ensure at least five hours a day of instruction and student work time. Educators from across the state collaborated in writing this report.
The five hours does not have to be led by a teacher. However, the state “strongly recommends” that at least 2.5 hours of the time include real-time interaction and instruction between students and teachers.
The goal is clear: track as closely to traditional school as possible and make sure students are advancing. In addition, the state’s recommendations are tightly focused on helping students who are expected to return to school this fall with significant learning gaps after a spring of rocky remote learning.
To make up for that learning gap or — at a minimum — to minimize falling further behind, the state is calling on schools to assess students so teachers know where they are academically. It’s also encouraging teachers to set individual student growth goals and dig deep into academic material while resisting the urge to go “back to the basics.”
Chicago Public Schools is also stressing that last point. When discussing the district’s proposed back-to-school plan in late July, CEO Chief Education Officer LaTanya McDade discouraged a focus on remediation. We are “trying to combat low expectations,” she said.
It’s not clear yet exactly how much teacher instruction will take place in Chicago when it goes back to school on Sept. 8 with remote only classes.
But in announcing remote-only plans on Aug. 5, CPS said students should expect “several hours” of live instruction daily as well as independent learning and small group activities. Special classes, such as art and physical education, will also take place. District officials said students and teachers will be engaged for a full day that mirrors a traditional school day. More details are expected on Friday.
After the first quarter ends on Nov. 8, CPS hopes to move to a hybrid model for most students that mixes two days of in-person instruction and three days of remote learning.
This preliminary model includes little real-time instruction during remote learning.
On the three remote days, CPS says there would be live instruction for only three hours on Wednesdays.
On the other remote days, students are slated to work independently. CPS has so far only offered general guidance on what that might include, such as pre-recorded lessons and projects.
For CPS students who aren’t comfortable returning to school buildings at all, the tentative all-remote plan calls for almost all independent learning and a mere three hours of teacher-led instruction each week. CPS says the final plan will be based on how many students opt to learn from home exclusively.
While some school districts have proposed plans similar to CPS, other learn-at-home plans call for more teacher interaction, including using remote teachers or live-streams of in-person learning.
When asked about falling short of the state’s recommendation for real-time instruction in its preliminary plan, a CPS spokeswoman last week said, “This is an area we have received and continue to collect feedback from families and we are evaluating opportunities to determine if we can provide additional real-time instruction/interaction for students, especially for those who opt-out of in-person learning.”