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State Encouraging School Districts to Develop 'Remote Learning' Plans
Staff Reports,
10:35PM / Monday, March 30, 2020
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BOSTON — School districts throughout the commonwealth this week are deciding how they will act on remote learning guidelines issued by the commissioner of education last week.
 
After consulting with a range of stakeholders, including the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents, the Massachusetts Teachers Association and the Massachusetts Parent Teacher Association, Jeffrey C. Riley sent districts a three-page memo outlining his guidelines.
 
And he stressed that they are only suggestions.
 
"Please note that the guidance below is a set of recommendations and does not constitute a requirement for any district or school," Riley wrote, italicizing the word "recommendations."
 
"We encourage districts and schools to view the remote learning guidance below as a baseline or starting point, which they can modify in collaboration with local stakeholders to fit their unique contexts, capacities and needs. We expect that you will customize our recommendations for individual districts and schools and for individual students within them."
 
Riley's guidelines note that "remote learning" does not necessarily mean "online learning" and that schools should include lessons that help students engage with the natural world.
 
He emphasized the state is recommending districts support student engagement for "approximately half the length of a regular school day."
 
And he said that teachers should emphasize reinforcing skills already taught in the classroom. If districts decide to present new material, they "should consider the equity of access and support all students."
 
Riley cited as possible remote learning tools large group video or audience confernece calls, one-on-one phone calls, reading lists and online learning platforms.
 
He also recommended that course work during the current school closure period be graded on a "credit/nocredit" basis.
 
"Before moving forward with any determinations of “no credit,” we strongly urge districts and schools to consider whether the students have had equitable access to learning opportunities during this closure, keeping in mind the variety of technology, health, disability and language challenges that could occur."
 
Many Berkshire County school districts and individual teachers already put in place over the last couple of weeks suggested activities for children in various grade levels. But last week, after Gov. Charlie Baker ordered the closure to continue at least through May 4, Riley and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education reassessed and encouraged a more structured remote learning model.
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