Massachusetts education board votes to modify the definition of remote learning in regulations

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The state education board on Tuesday voted to approve amendments to regulations around how students go to school safely during a declared state of emergency, as officials said they plan to monitor the quality of remote learning in the coming months.

Massachusetts has been in a declared state of emergency for six months amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. After schools abruptly went online in the spring as virus cases spread, districts across the state now have a mix of in-person and online learning models.

The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education voted unanimously to approve amendments to regulations for student learning during an emergency, which call for districts to define remote learning and have plans that include a system for tracking attendance and participation, a policy for grading students’ remote academic work and a requirement that teachers and administrators regularly communicate with students’ parents and guardians, including providing interpretation and translation services, among other measures.

Amendments to the guidelines based on public comment include:

  • Adding a definition of “synchronous” and “asynchronous” learning to provide clarity on the scope of the concepts
  • Modifying the definition of remote learning to include that students have opportunities to regularly interact with teachers to address the concern that remote learning could consist of asynchronous learning only
  • Including “students” to the requirement that teachers and administrators regularly communicate with parents and guardians

Education officials continue to work with the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families to make sure both departments are aligned on what is considered habitual truancy. With many students learning online full- or part-time this year, some have limited broadband internet access that could impact attendance online.

Officials said they are continuing to monitor remote learning to ensure students’ needs are being met.

BESE Chair Katherine Craven said the board will take up