Op-ed: Stressed mom of four children decries BCPS distance learning system
Posted by Sherri Schaffer on 5th May 2020
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BCPS gets a failing grade from yet another parent. (Photo credit/BCPS)

(Publisher’s Note: This guest column echoes the sentiments of other BCPS parents published by The Baltimore Post.)

I’m going to lay it all on the line. The BCPS digital distance learning system is a complete and absolute waste of time and money.

Then again, from what I’ve seen at some of these schools, the instruction given to the children in the classroom was a joke as well. The stories I will share here back up those claims.

I have a 5th grader that has been in school every day since September with “qualified and well-trained” teachers. Yet, two weeks into digital learning, I learned that my child has no reading comprehension! Sadly, I discovered she cannot share anything with me about an 86-word story from a first-grade English Language Acquisition (ELA) lesson after reading the story five times.

How in the world didn’t her teachers pick up on this? She was with them every day, but they never gave any indication about what she was going through. But two weeks of distance learning and her issues suddenly arise?

I looked at her and cried because I felt like I was failing her as a parent.

My next move was to do what any good parent would do: I asked her teacher to call me to discuss the issue. On that call, the teacher told me that she noticed the same issues with my daughter.

I wondered why I wasn’t told, or why someone who could help my daughter at the school wasn’t notified. Instead, the teacher said she found my child worked better in a small group setting, so the teacher put my daughter in that type of setting to ‘help’ her.

This confused me even more. You can’t get any smaller than the one-on-one learning my daughter is doing at home, but nothing is sinking in when it comes to her reading comprehension. I asked the teacher if there is any way for me to get help for my daughter. The teacher said she would email the Support Team and copy me on the message.

I conveniently got left off the teacher’s email and didn’t hear a word for a week and a half. Finally, I “crashed” my daughter’s class at the end of their Google Meet session (during which the class was playing a game) to ask the teacher for an update. She said, “Well, they did get back to me, but they aren’t doing any of the testing or anything at this time.”

I made her repeat that answer so I could make sure I heard what she said.

I was livid. This is unacceptable. It’s bad enough that after seven months of “teaching” my 5th-grade child isn’t able to comprehend a first-grade text. It’s bad enough that I didn’t learn about the problem until my daughter was distance learning for two weeks. But now I learn that the school system’s Support Team is unavailable to offer support?

UNACCEPTABLE!

My daughter’s teacher did offer to “go over things” with my child, but that would have to wait because the teacher needed to go attend another Google Meet session.

I have sent emails to my daughter’s principal and the Board of Education pleading my case. I’m hopeful someone will step up and help my child.

Sadly, BCPS is continuing to fail its students with this whole digital distance learning situation. They are overloading and overwhelming students with assignments rather than actually teach the students.

Each class has two ‘lessons’ that require students to visit a discussion board and post an answer to a question (or, from what I’ve seen, several questions). Each student also has to reply to other students’ posts. Then there are two sets learning material to complete. First, the students have to complete “Try Its” where they use what they learned to complete a few worksheets, post to yet another discussion board, or research information. Then, students complete “Show What You Knows” where they take tests and complete projects.

If that doesn’t seem like a lot, think again. My 10th grader has six classes, and each class requires six assignments. (Even my ‘old school” BCPS education taught me that 6 x 6 = 36, and that’s not counting his two electives. All told, his total number of weekly assignments, due each Friday, is 42.

That many assignments each week, in addition to the required 30 minutes of instruction time per day for each class (that is, God willing, if he can log on), is absurd.

Is BCPS considering the students’ mental health at all? What about their family dynamics? What about the stress on students who have parents that are essential workers?

There are other factors BCPS should be taking into account as well. What are they doing for children who have an Individualized Education Program (IEP) or 504 learning plan (e.g., stemming from the Rehabilitation Act of 1973)?

Is the school system taking into account that children who were just plain lost when school was in session are now even more lost in the new digital distance learning system?

Also, why BCPS gave teachers the ability to grade students on a “pass/fail” system in a time like this is beyond me. It’s bad enough the teachers are bombarding the students with work. Now, if the teacher doesn’t believe a student fully understands what the text is teaching, will that student fail the third/fourth marking periods? That’s just ludicrous.

Finally, I’m guessing, with the state-require standardized tests not taking place, the administrators feel it is acceptable to throw the students to the wolves. Especially since the school system won’t have to answer to anyone about poor test scores.

From what I’ve seen, the whole system is pathetic. I am beyond disgusted.

 

Sherri Schaffer is the mother of four students in the Baltimore County Public School system

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