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Md. State superintendent explains why virtual programs “don’t do things when it comes to student success”

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Maryland’s new state superintendent of schools, Mohammed Choudhury, told state lawmakers he intends to see school systems stay open throughout the upcoming school year.

Maryland’s new state superintendent of schools, Mohammed Choudhury, told state lawmakers he intends to see school systems stay open throughout the upcoming school year.

Choudhury told members of two Maryland House committees: “One of the first things to know is that we are coming back to full-time in-person learning, five days a week.

He is aware that the delta variant of the coronavirus has raised safety concerns, but he said, “That won’t stop us” from opening schools.

Twenty-two of the state’s 24 school districts will offer some level of virtual learning, but Choudhury has made it clear that he sees the virtual model as inferior to classroom instruction.

Referring to the virtual programs, Choudhury said that nationally it is very clear: “They are not good; they don’t when it comes to student success.

Virtual learning works for the few students who are highly motivated who are good at managing time and who don’t hesitate to ask for help when needed, Choudhury said.

In Maryland, he noted, there are standards for virtual education that require teachers to be certified and that education should adhere to the school district’s curriculum.

Of the. Carol Krimm, who represents Frederick County, asked Choudhury if local education agencies would be allowed to switch to “total virtual learning” if the COVID-19 measures got “totally out of control”.

Chouhury told him that there is currently nothing to stop a school system from moving to a fully virtual format, but added: “I just don’t see why this should be happening.”

Examining the learning loss, Choudhury told lawmakers to expect student scores to drop, in some cases dramatically. He provided data from Texas, where he previously worked as an associate superintendent in the San Antonio District, which showed years of academic progress from students shattered by the impact of the coronavirus.

Choudhury said it was important for the public to keep in mind that before the pandemic, only about 20% of students achieved mastery. “What we were doing before will not be enough,” he said.

Masks, vaccines and more

Of the. Darryl Barnes, whose district is in Prince George County, told Choudhury that face coverings are a major concern for returning students.

Barnes asked about protocols for students to take breaks, where they could, for example, remove their masks outside. He said a lot of the schools are old and have ventilation systems “which are not as good as we would like”.

Choudhury told Barnes that schools should follow guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but said there was no warrant. He also said school systems could use federal funds for heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems and that only 20% of federal funding for education was mandated for educational purposes. Although Choudhury added that in the short term, schools should consider ways around ventilation issues.

Of the. Jared Solomon said he was concerned that many students in his community who are learning English have given up during the pandemic, in some cases, to go to work and help families make ends meet.

Choudhury told Solomon that there was no reason these students couldn’t come back and do well in school.

“Maryland needs to know this. It’s no mystery about how to educate English language learners, ”Choudhury said, adding that this is an area of ​​particular concern to him.

“I started out as an ESL teacher in college in Los Angeles, so I have a bullet on my shoulder on how to do this well,” Choudhury said.

Sean Bulson, Harford County superintendent and current legislative chairman of the Maryland Association of Public School Superintendents, also presented at the Wednesday afternoon hearing with members of the Ways and Means and Appropriations Committees of the Room.

Bulson was asked what kind of support schools and teachers can expect to enforce mask policies in schools.

“We haven’t announced our stance on masking yet, but it’s something we’ve talked about,” Bulson said, adding that wearing the mask could be treated like any other disciplinary issue.

Of the. Kirill Reznik raised the issue of vaccinations, asking if there had been any discussions among superintendents about the call for mandatory vaccinations for school staff, “So that our children are protected.”

Bulson said it was something that had to happen at the state level, calling it a “very difficult subject.”

Reznik said he shouldn’t be.

“Every person in this Zoom, when they went to school, was vaccinated against measles, mumps, rubella and other diseases,” Reznik said. “It shouldn’t be a difficult subject.

Maryland State Education Association president Cheryl Bost told lawmakers the association is leading the campaign with its members to get everyone eligible for vaccination, calling it “an essential tool to eliminate the virus.”

“I want to be crystal clear today, there is nothing more our members want than to return to in-person learning this school year. … To do this, we must all work together to ensure safe and healthy learning and working conditions.


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