Distance Learning makes a comeback in PUSD

At the September 9 school board meeting, Dr. Cheryl Wozniak, Assistant Superintendent, Educational Services gave a presentation on a recent survey to students, parents, and staff regarding distance learning (DL) experiences during the first three weeks of instruction. Some 700 parents, 327 middle and high school students, and 134 staff (paraprofessionals, teachers, and specialists) participated in this survey.

Half of the parents reported an overall positive sentiment with another 8% reporting overwhelmingly positive experience with DL. The percentages for staff were similar. However, these numbers were lower for middle and high school students with 36% reporting overall positive, and another 2% overwhelmingly positive experiences. Nearly 4 out of 10 students reported a mixed or overall neutral experience with DL and 5-6% of parents and students reported overwhelmingly negative experiences with DL.

Parents were asked more descriptors for DL and nearly a third of parents felt DL was more manageable than they had anticipated, another 22% felt DL was going surprisingly well and another 24% felt DL was challenging but believe it will get better. A significant 22% of parents felt that DL was extremely challenging and unsustainable.

Distance learning can be broken down into two major categories, asynchronous learning, and synchronous learning. Synchronous learning refers to students learning together over video calls and asynchronous learning is akin to independent learning using recorded video or homework reading and assignments. Parents were participating in both types of learning with 54% of parents involved in their child’s asynchronous learning most of the time and another 23% involved some of the time. Likewise for synchronous learning, 74% of parents participated most of the time, and another 14% some of the time.

Dr. Wozniak reported positive attitudes from elementary school children who are happy to log on and see their teachers and classmates each day. Middle and high school students are reporting better-organized instruction, a more predictable schedule, and learning a lot more than last spring.

This is a major win for the school district negotiating with teachers and parents to dramatically improve the experience of distance learning. Families are putting in a lot of time to support their students in distance learning and it is easy to wonder how sustainable this will be going forward.

This survey was not meant to measure learning loss compared to previous years as that will take a lot more time and analysis. The district is currently reviewing vendors who test for learning loss. An individual student's measured learning loss will not be shared with parents or students but will be shared with teachers and administrators for planning purposes.

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