With the coronavirus, schools across America are scrambling to put together a hodgepodge of solutions to continue teaching for learning while their buildings are closed. Many are valiantly attempting to leverage technology to create on-line and virtual learning opportunities.
Unfortunately, weaknesses in technological infrastructure, teacher preparation shortfalls, inequities among students, and ill-equipped students and parents are barriers to success. The information highway has more than one virtual flat tire.
You might ask why is a Judge addressing this issue?
Reason first, the collapse of meaningful learning threatens our social fabric, the rule of law, and self-governance. One of the major reasons justifying K-12 public education is to ensure that our students are well-equipped to be informed, participating citizens to preserve our freedoms and liberties. We cannot maintain our republic if we fail to understand its generating history, the Declaration of Independence, and the Constitution. Hence, my co-founding of Patriot Week with my then 10 year old daughter Leah (www.PatriotWeek.org).
Reason second, as a then member of the State Board of Education, I led a Task Force on Embracing the Information Age which produced a groundbreaking report. (https://www.michigan.gov/documents/embracing_119435_7.pdf) The Report was released on November 15, 2001 – yes, over 18 years ago, i.e, before the students who are seniors today were even born.
The Task Force recommended a four prong strategy:
Educator Preparation and Development. All educators and administrators will be prepared to use Information Age tools and learning techniques and processes.
Standards and Assessment. State and local academic standards, benchmarks, and assessments will reflect the knowledge and skills necessary for success in the Information Age.
Transcending the Four Walls. Schools will transcend their four walls and districts – distance learning and other learning resources will be integrated into the learning community.
Virtual Districts. Chronically underperforming schools and districts will form collaborative partnerships creating virtual districts by which all partners share best practices and resources.
We presented these recommendations using video conferencing between the Superintendents of the Detroit and Birmingham school districts, as well as online interacti