Remote learning and school districts’ responses to the COVID-19 pandemic were in the spotlight Wednesday at a Senate Education Committee and Higher Education Committee joint hearing.
The hearing was the latest in the Black Caucus’ agenda-building series of hearings focusing on education, criminal justice and health care.
Robin Steans, president of the education policy and advocacy organization Advance Illinois, said it is challenging to determine whether or not a teacher is reaching a student when they are not in the classroom.
“Just showing up and logging in is very different,” Steans said. “It is so much more challenging for a teacher to be able to understand whether a kid is really engaging in the material when you are trying to do things like hybrid fashion, remote, etc.”
Steans said being out of the classroom is causing kids to fall behind. She cited research that showed schools affected by Hurricane Katrina and long-running teacher strikes in Argentina had lasting effects on students, including lower incomes when they became adults.
“What you see in those events is that kids were, in fact, affected over time,” Steans said. “When things got back to normal, they didn’t necessarily get back on track.”
Dr. Barry Clark, executive director of Illinois Association of School Administrators, said it is a goal to get all Illinois students back into the classroom as soon as possible. To achieve that, he said schools will need access to a state-sponsored rapid response testing program. They will also have to prepare for the future.
“We need to think about what it is going to look like when there is a vaccine for COVID-19,” he said. “Is that going to be a requirement? If so, is it going to be a requirement to be in person