Mayor Bill de Blasio’s decision to ditch distance learning for next year solves a big piece of the back-to-school puzzle, but he has yet to provide other key details, including what might look like. his $ 500 million “school recovery plan”.

The mayor and other education department officials, however, have dropped clues in recent weeks.

Online learning can still play a role – after school. Schools will use assessments in the fall to determine which students may need “high dose” tutoring. Reflecting on what type of material is most appealing to children, the city says it will focus on a program that more reflects its students in a system where nearly 85% are children of color.

Even though this effort is focused on nearly one million students in the city, Linda Chen, chief studies director of the city’s schools, recently said she wanted to prioritize students who struggled before the pandemic.

“We have pre-pandemic students that we are working to support,” Chen said last week at a city council hearing. “When it comes to our work and our action on equity, we want to make sure we double down and support those who had not received what they needed before and especially with the pandemic, now all of these disparities have been absolutely exacerbated. “

She also pointed out that while the Ministry of Education prepares a roadmap, many decisions will be made by principals and their communities.

But many questions remain. Ministry officials said they had no more details to share on Tuesday, including the breakdown of spending, how they plan to prioritize hard-hit communities, or which assessments they would use.

The financing of the academic recovery plan is part of the budget proposed by the mayor, which the city council must approve no later than July 1, the start of the next fiscal year.

Distance learning beyond the school day

The mayor had previously hinted that the city would rely on one-on-one online learning outside of school hours to fill learning gaps due to the disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic. He reiterated this week that he expects students to use the half a million devices the city has acquired for distance learning.

“One of the ways we are closing the COVID achievement gap is to use after-school digital education to expand opportunities for every child in a very individualized way,” de Blasio told the Loudspeaker this week. interior of NY1 city hall.

“Ask the children who received them in this huge distribution …”, he added, “to continue working with these devices and more [their] education beyond the normal school day. “

Personalized learning is not a panacea, many watchdogs pointed out, and some programs fell short of their promises.

It remains to be seen how teachers will integrate these tools or how they will be responsible for determining what programs students might need and how those programs will fit into other homework assignments they assign. This could pose additional difficulties. Last summer, when the city created a distance program for students who had the most difficulty with distance learning, it didn’t go well. Almost a quarter never even logged in. About 72,000 students entered this fall and need to resume last year’s classes while balancing new work for the current year.

Assess the children at the start of the year

City wants to ensure schools have ‘approved’ basic screening agents and other low-stake diagnostic tools so that schools can determine early on where students might be struggling or falling behind in proficiency English and math. There will also be assessments and interventions tailored to the needs of English language learners and students with disabilities, Chen said.

She likened the screen to a temperature control, giving “high level” information about whether students are at grade level or meet subject standards. Then schools can use diagnostic tests “to take it a step further,” she explained.

“If students have trouble reading, we might not know why they can’t read at grade level. Is this a decoding issue around phonetics or phonemic awareness or fluency, or is it some kind of sense-based situation around comprehension and vocabulary? ” she said.

Chen said the tools would help teachers “be more specific” when deciding how much extra support students need.

Neither Chen nor the department’s spokespersons had details of the brands or testing companies they were considering.

The emphasis on – and possibly the high price – assessments has “horrified” United Teachers ‘Federation president Michael Mulgrew, who told city council on Tuesday that the teachers’ union had a different proposal.

The union plans to create “intervention teams”, made up of a social worker, a counselor, an academic specialist and a psychologist, who would be assigned to around 250 to 300 students. The team would perform an individual analysis of each student. Such a process is similar to the “Response to Intervention” program that most schools use when a child may have academic or social difficulties that cannot be addressed only by the classroom teacher. The child is referred to a school team and then receives help from an academic intervention teacher or a small group.

High dose tutoring

District officials believe the assessments would help schools target students who need extra support the most.

The goal, Chen said, is to have a “comprehensive look at high-dose tutoring that complements and complements the work teachers do” in their basic education for all students.

High-dose tutoring involves students having multiple 30-60 minute sessions each week. Many school districts are investigating this approach, which research has found effective in boosting results. For such tutoring to work well, there shouldn’t be more than four students in a group and the lessons should reinforce what is taught in the classroom, according to a guide created by Carly Robinson, a researcher at the Annenberg Institute of the ‘Brown University.

High-dose tutoring was 15-20 times more effective than less frequent tutoring, according to one analysis.

Culture-appropriate education

The education department is also focusing on the program itself, although it doesn’t force schools to use anything uniform.

Schools Chancellor Meisha Porter stressed the importance for students to see themselves in what is being taught, and Chen told city council members that this approach can help strengthen learning.

“Their ability to be confirmed for who they are helps them learn and accelerate these ELA and math skills, in particular,” Chen said.

Some studies have shown that culturally relevant education and targeted support for students of color shows promise in terms of reducing dropout rates or increasing attendance and grades.

City officials did not share further details on how they would support schools’ use of a culturally appropriate curriculum.

Alex Zimmerman contributed.

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