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By In education, Hawaii

To Test Or Not To Test

In a few weeks, schools will start administering the Smarter Balanced Assessments (SBA) to students in third through eighth grades, as well as high school juniors. For the uninitiated, these are the standardized tests designed to measure student competency of Common Core standards.

This year, since students are returning on a staggered, blended schedule, students will take the SBAs for two hours per day over the course of two weeks.

Teachers, too, have been dedicating a number of hours to the test, with meetings about protocol and procedure as well as a surprisingly thorough training module to become certified to run an official test.

This is not a complaint – all of it was genuinely useful and necessary – so much as an accurate accounting of how much total time these tests require.

The purpose of standardized tests is to see what students know and what they don’t know under a given set of standards, then to track that progress over time. But after a pandemic year, this data serves another purpose: delineating the learning gap that has almost certainly occurred during distance learning…

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By In education, Hawaii

It’s Time For Some Kids To Start Learning In Person Again

I recently saw some of my students for the first time this year. Saw them in person that is, as opposed to a floating head on a screen – or worse, a black square with a name on it when the computer camera is turned off.

After two months of distance learning, a select few students have started coming to school. They still participate in the same virtual classes, but they are sequestered in small groups on campus where they have more reliable internet access, quick tech support and adult supervision.

This is a good thing. While everyone has had to make adjustments this year, for some students and their families there are simply no conditions under which distance learning is going to work. Their disabilities are too incompatible with the independence required to succeed in this format; or their home environments are too unstable to be effective classrooms; or they are left alone while the parents are at work and they never really show up to class…

Read more at Honolulu Civil Beat

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By In education, Hawaii

COVID-19 Gives Us A Chance To Change How We Teach. Let’s Not Waste It

Somewhere between the initial uncertainty of the pandemic and the current ongoing delirium of it, there was a brief moment of clarity, a few weeks where hope for the future felt rational.

In the face of a crisis unseen in over a century, everyone seemed to get it. People complied with emergency orders and Congress managed to pass stimulus legislation in days – proving the previous gridlock to be a matter of conscious decision, not political necessity.

People collected their $1,200 government checks, and Gov. David Ige appeared to be getting most of the major responses right: clearly communicating how to apply for unemployment and small business relief, putting a moratorium on evictions. National poverty fell, and Hawaii’s case numbers steadily dropped.

People came together to support small businesses. Restaurant and grocery store workers were regarded as the vital pillars of community they’ve always been but for which they were rarely appreciated. Countless commuters were given back hours of their day as they began working from home. Summer vacation was on the horizon for students, presumably granting enough time for the Department of Education to learn from its abrupt pivot to online instruction and prepare for the fall.

It felt, briefly, like a saner world. The pandemic shook society by its ankles, holding us all aloft long enough for us to see what fell out of our collective pockets and wonder what, if any of it, was worth salvaging. Evidently, we don’t need to be at our job every day to get our work done, and yes, all of those meetings could just be emails instead.

But … of course, there’s a but…

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By In education, Hawaii

This Troubling Distance Learning Program Tells Us A Lot About The DOE

The more we learn about Acellus, the more flagrant and alarming its real mystery becomes.

What we know about the Department of Education’s primary distance learning curriculum is not great. There’s the inappropriate content that spans several isms, the inexplicable use of “gun” to teach phonics – did Gordy Gorilla retire? – and lessons so bowdlerized their only educational value would be in a “spot the error” exercise.

A simple Google search raises a legion of red flags about the program’s creator Roger Billings. He either left or was excommunicated from the Mormon church over his belief that “it was the will of God that men should have more than one wife.” Afterward, he founded his own religious sect – The Church of Jesus Christ in Zion – in which he was the “patriarch and prophet…”

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By In education, Hawaii

Getting the hang of distance learning

As I was leaving school last Friday – the final day of work before distance learning began – I asked the teacher in the classroom next to mine how she felt about classes starting on Monday.

“It’ll be a disaster!” she said through her mask, an audible smile in her voice.

I was heartened by her response. I felt the same kind of conflicted: somewhere between acceptance and resignation, excited to meet my students but still not quite sure if I was adequately prepared to teach in a purely digital setting…

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