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When we return from remote…

November 15, 2020 pm30 4:48 pm

Will New York City public schools switch to all remote? Wrong question. First of all, it’s not “will we go remote?”, but “when will we go remote?”. But that’s not the right question either.

When we return from all-remote, how will we return? Because blended learning sucks. There’s the question. In the real universe, in person regular school is best. Remote is bad. But blended is the worst.

Already there are schools that have made their instruction remote, and do academic, emotional and social support in school. There are other schools where students come into the building, and sign onto zoom classes. There are other schools which are blended in name only, where instruction only happens when the kids come to the building. And then there are schools where the teachers are assigned to teach in person AND remote. Many of those teachers will burn out.

Blended, the way Carranza and de Blasio defined it, and the way Mulgrew pitched it, is not the reality in most NYC schools. Didn’t make sense. Couldn’t be.

The hand off between two teachers per class was unrealistic. The erratic in school / out of school schedule is problematic. Curricula were not redesigned for this strange modality. And the agreement to almost double class size for blended remote was ridiculous.

What other options do we have? My question is about what happens when the positive rate in NYC drops back down.

Short version:

  • Expand the RECs
  • Banish Blended. Bring some students in full time. Teach the rest fully remotely.
  • Real PD, practitioner-led, for remote teaching.
  • Lower class size
  • Adjust curricula. Adapt curricula.
  • Expand prep time.
  • Go easy on the kids.
  • Suspend standardized testing.


  1. Expand the Regional Education Centers. “Staffed by DOE employees and community-based organization partners, the centers provide children with three daily hot meals, remote learning time with their teachers, and activities like art, music, and physical education, as well as social and emotional support.” The RECs do not replace school. But the REC centers provide social and emotional support. They provide social interaction. And they free up schools, during this dangerous time, to focus on teaching.
  2. Banish Blended. Didn’t work. Instead of giving 100% of our students (actually more like 28%?) a bizarro part in-school part at-home experience, let’s create something that comes much closer to normal for  our students with greatest need (based on age, ability, or academics), and focus on doing the best we can with remote for the rest.
  3. Return to regular, in person, daily learning for select schools, grades, or groups of students. This will involve a lot of staff, because social distancing demands the groups stay small. Prioritize younger grades and groups of students who most need regular instruction.
  4. Keep entire grades and schools fully remote. The schools already doing this are reporting that fully remote works far better than blended.
  5. Develop real PD for remote teaching. That means teachers who are actually teaching sharing best practices. Some schools have done a good job with this. But Carranza is not chancellor of some schools, he is chancellor of NYC public schools, and he is responsible for ALL of them. That means a mandate for real remote PD, teacher led, across school lines (by District, Affinity Group, Borough, Content Area, Grade, etc). It’s so frustrating that we did not use our time in June for this, or at the start of September. But Carranza needs to create the time.
  6. Return remote class sizes to DoE limits. Better, lower them to 24 across the board, so that a full class (plus teacher) fits on a small zoom screen.
  7. Recognize how hard remote school is on students. Set reasonable screen time expectations and workload expectations.
  8. Recognize how hard remote school is on teachers. Expand preparation time. Minimize non-teaching responsibilities.
  9. Recognize that teachers cannot teach as much, students cannot learn as much, in a remote setting as in a regular setting (both of which, by the way, are better than blended).
  10. Clarify that this year we are not teaching to tests. If teachers are held responsible for standardized test scores this year, they will be forced to press too much work on their students.
  11. The DoE should suspend test-based components of teacher evaluation for this school year.
  12. The DoE should advocate for the Regents to announce that 3 – 8 testing is suspended for the year, now. The Regents are likely to get around to it, but by not making the announcement early, they put unfair curricular pressure on students and teachers.
  13. The DoE should advocate for the Regents to announce that June Regents are suspended for the year, now. The Regents are likely to get around to it, but by not making the announcement early, they put unfair curricular pressure on students and teachers.
  14. Get the College Board out of our schools, and let them take their AP exams, which they will once again make last minute changes to, and once again flub the administration of, with them. (Failing that, the NYC DoE should bill the College Board for administrative costs associated with registering students for the exams and supporting exam administration.)

There’s a question that’s bothering me. Where did blended come from in the first place? The DoE insiders I talk with have insisted that “blended” was not a DoE proposal, but that it came directly from the UFT leadership. They’ve certainly stubbornly defended it. I’d love to hear directly from the UFT leadership.

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