by Justin Tedaldi, Senior Director of Partnerships, Newsela
Teachers continue to manage a combination of distance and in-person learning—and as schools embrace this new reality, the question of how instructional materials will transition between home and the classroom is increasingly top of mind.
While it’s necessary that materials are flexible to accommodate remote teaching, that flexibility can’t come at the expense of quality and rigour. A study conducted by the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) between March and May of this year found that just one in five schools had distance learning instruction that met their definition of rigourous, and over 40% of schools had programmes classified as “perfunctory”.
Materials Must Be Equally Available—and Accessible—Online and Offline
Ultimately the key is equal availability and access for all students, including those with disabilities. EdReports released a remote learning planning tool last year that asks schools to make sure they provide print options (for students without reliable access to technology), and to check that content can be accessed virtually through multiple devices. They also provide a checklist for multilingual learners, and students with Individualised Education Plans. When it comes to learning platforms, many are stepping up to provide support: Newsela content meets WCAG AA standards to support students with disabilities, and can be shared and accessed via digital assignments, a student mobile app, or a “print & package” option.
Platforms Should Align with Standards and Support Reporting
Fears of learning losses and achievement gaps are growing as the pandemic continues, especially for schools in higher-poverty and lower-academic achievement areas (which are more likely than their wealthier counterparts to have remote learning plans classified as “perfunctory”). To assess performance and adapt in the moment, it’s critical that instructional content is standards-aligned and has reporting baked in.
It’s undeniably harder for teachers to monitor student work when teaching remotely, but the reflection and planning tool encourages schools to consider materials that “provide formative assessment opportunities” to support instructional decisions. The ability to support academic rigour remains dependent on standards alignment and activity reporting, and without that learning gaps will only continue to widen.
This year will present challenges like no other, pushing students, teachers, and school leaders to be flexible at every turn. Ensuring that instructional materials match that flexibility—while maintaining quality and supporting assessments and reporting—will help schools address learning losses and transition successfully between in-person and remote learning.
A Senior Director of Partnerships, Justin Tedaldi has been with Newsela since 2015, working to provide meaningful instructional content for all students. Prior to that, he served as a specialist for education technology solutions for Apple, and business development manager of US operations for Benesse Corporation.
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To learn more about how Newsela can help your school, schedule a call with Justin here.
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