Education leaders propose extended school year in 2021, outlines online learning problems | KOB 4
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Education leaders propose extended school year in 2021, outlines online learning problems

Tommy Lopez
Updated: October 29, 2020 03:01 PM
Created: October 28, 2020 10:16 PM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — New findings reinforce what many parents in New Mexico already know—online learning is not going well for many families.

On Wednesday, the New Mexico education leaders proposed extending next school year to compensate, and they're pushing to get more kids back to learning in-person.

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In a presentation to the New Mexico Legislative Finance Committee, leaders showed a plan to state lawmakers to add more days to next year’s school calendar, statewide. There would be 25 added days for younger kids and 10 for higher grade levels. It would cost $138 million.

Experts who provide program evaluation and policy recommendations to the legislative committee said surveys and focus groups show a wide range of issues with online learning, and they believe it could even lower graduation rates. They told lawmakers that way more students are failing classes than in a typical semester.

“Students aren’t just failing, they’re failing badly due to not doing the work,” said Ryan Tolman, a program evaluator with the Legislative Finance Committee.

The education officials reported a lack of engagement from students, saying 1 in 3 public and charter school students are not regularly participating in live instruction, and there are issues with testing on top of that, including parents doing their kids’ work.

In their presentation, leaders said national data shows that online-only learning widens socioeconomic achievement gaps, and New Mexico teachers report that more than a third of their students are experiencing social-emotional issues due to the pandemic.

Less than a third of kids in grades K-through-5 are going in-person at all in New Mexico. PED leaders say state officials need to keep working on a “roadmap” to get more students back in the classroom.

Some lawmakers agreed, listing the problems they’re hearing about.

“We need to get our kids back in school,” said Sen. Gay Kernan, (R-District 42).

An APS spokesperson said the district is reviewing the new information presented Wednesday, and it’s too soon for it to comment on it.

It’s week six for some Rio Rancho students going in-person in a hybrid model. Teachers say there are still many struggles with online learning, but Jayla Trombley, a 9th grade Rio Rancho teacher, has had success online—a rare bright spot. She says attendance is nearly 100%.

“As far as engagement, we’re looking between anywhere like 75% to 85% of kids on asynchronous days, which seems low but it’s actually really good,” Trombley said.

She says she’s sticking to what’s manageable for both her and her students.

“We’re just keeping things simple for them, and then also maintaining consistency, and then I think part of the reason our kids are coming a lot to our Google Meets and being really responsive is because we’re kind of silly with them,” she said.

PED leaders say they’re increasing their efforts to get districts ready to go in-person and to do so safely, including regular meetings with districts.


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