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Metro Detroit educators fear remote learning will cause some students to fall behind

Educators share what keeps them up at night

DETROIT – There is no simple solution to educating children while Michigan is shut down due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis.

A team of Metro Detroit educators is taking a hard look at how to make remote learning work, and they shared the worries that keep them up at night.

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It’s been 30 days since a mandated shutdown of schools, and some districts are still figuring out plans to educate students from a distance.

Local 4′s Paula Tutman pulled together 13 educators to talk about how to keep students from falling behind -- a challenging and frustrating issue for teachers. But there are also opportunities for learning in non-traditional ways.

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Zachary a 12-year-old boy who goes to Pontiac Middle School loves school and has big dreams.

“I’m worried about my education,” he said. “I want to do what all the other kids are doing. I want to fulfill my dream of being a scientist.”

He’s an A and B student in middle school, but now he has almost no access to remote or distance learning. It’s been that way since school ended in March.

“I’ve tried to contact my teachers,” he said.

A PlayStation is cheaper than a laptop, so that’s what Zachary has. He’s proof that in the age of COVID-19, there’s no such thing as 100% education for all.

Paula brought 13 educators from culturally and economically diverse districts into the same Zoom room and worked to find answers to an inevitable education gap for many of Metro Detroit’s children.

“We are going to lose instructional time,” Detroit Public Schools Community District Superintendent Nikolai Vitti said. “Our students are going to fall behind because of this crisis.”

“For now, it is what keeps me up at night,” Walled Lake Consolidated Schools Superintendent Kenneth Gutman said.

Educators agree that COVID-19 has ripped off the bandage and exposed massive gaps in Michigan’s education system.

“This really puts a spotlight on the inequities,” Macomb Intermediate School District Superintendent Randy Liepa said. “Not every student needs the same level of support.”

A barometer of need and immediate digital access can be measured by how many students are on free and/or reduced breakfast and lunch programs.

In Macomb County, 50% of students have food insecurity. In Oakland County, the number is 34%. In Wayne County, it’s 60% of students.

If you solely examine Detroit, however, the number balloons to 90%. Wayne-Westland Community Schools and Pontiac schools is at 80%, while Novi schools are only at 9%.

Superintendent Wanda Cook-Robinson, of Oakland Schools, said the challenges can also be opportunities.

“We educators look at education as a total environment,” Cook-Robinson said. “Parents are our first educators.”


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