In the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, and in an effort to curtail the spread of the virus in Oregon through our public schools, the Oregon Department of Education has released distance learning guidance that asks school districts to transition from providing supplementary education to providing "Distance Learning for All" of Oregon’s students.
In this moment of uncertainty - educators have been asked to take on a monumental challenge in order to provide our students with some sense of stability in their education.
The emergency closure of Oregon schools through this academic year demands a different approach to tracking and monitoring student learning and progress and considering how to assign grades to student work. Since the announcement of the Oregon Department of Education’s Distance Learning for All plan, OEA has advocated aggressively for a statewide approach to grading, awarding credit, and student learning that operationalizes equity, honors family circumstances, and promotes connection with students.
We are in a global crisis. Students are not in ideal learning conditions for teachers to make summative judgements of student learning and those judgements are not culturally responsive or trauma informed and can cause undue stress on students already under extreme stress and pressure. Further, many students will not have access to learning materials, support from a caregiver and/or resources; therefore, to judge their work with a letter grade is to end up grading their home circumstances during a global emergency. At the same time, we all remain educators. Our passion is to help students learn and feed their natural curiosity and creativity. We still want to do that even if we are doing it from afar.
OEA's Best Practices for Grading is intended to provide information about ODE’s guidance and share best practices to ensure equity and care for students during this time.
Our public schools are more than just a place where students learn – they are essential infrastructure and our communities wouldn’t be the same without them.
Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA)
Recent federal legislation may provide you with emergency paid leave for certain reasons related to the current COVID-19 crisis. Click below to access clear guidance around the different types of leave available under FFCRA, and who might be eligible to utilize each program. This document has been prepared for OEA members by OEA's Legal Counsel.
Distance Learning Legal Guidance
OEA's Legal Counsel has prepared a memo outlining best practices around how students should be contacted, under what circumstances, and what to do in the event a student shares information that is of concern. Click here to read the memo.
- Best practice is to contact students using pre-existing district communication methods – school-provided email addresses, web sites, etc.
- It is best to not to use text messaging, Twitter or Face Time for distance learning purposes.
- Refrain from one-on-one phone calls, if possible. If you do engage in one-on-one phone conversations, write contemporaneous notes of the call, and save the notes in a secure place. Maintain the confidentiality of the notes.
- If districts expect direct communication via private email addresses or text messaging, be sure you copy parents/guardians on all communications or consider group messaging to all students at the same time.
- Be sure your communication is related to schoolwork and is not overly personal. If you feel the need to inquire about a student’s health or well-being, be sure you ask all students the same questions.
- It is advisable to not record and post a Zoom meeting (or other video-platform meetings) on your web presence for students who may have missed it. FERPA, confidentiality, public-records issues, and other considerations come into play. If you do record virtual meetings, consult with your administration about best practices for addressing these issues.
CAUTION – A participant in a Zoom meeting, and in some other distance-learning platforms, can record the meeting without others being aware.
ADVICE – If you learn that a student recorded a virtual meeting without your permission, immediately alert your administrator in writing, and notify your Association if the issue is not resolved or becomes an ongoing problem.
OEA's Commitment to Equity in Distance Learning for All
The distance learning guidance spends a great deal of time acknowledging the serious equity issues associated with distance learning, but so far, has failed to provide any real solutions to address the issue. In essence, “Distance Learning for All” willfully leaves many of our students behind.
However, despite these deeply rooted inadequacies, educators will do what we have always done: we will take the resources available to us and we will provide our students with the best learning experience we possibly can. We will make sure that our students feel loved and acknowledged in a time of national crisis. And we will make space for families who are already struggling to keep their heads above water, providing them with empathy and understanding as we ask them to take on an even larger and more direct role in the education of their children.
Ethical Guidance from TSPC
Even for the most tech savvy educator, providing quality, equitable instruction to all students will be a challenge in this new Distance Learning model. Distance learning requires careful consideration of the ethical principles we maintain as professionals. New dilemmas may require us to consider unique strategies to meet our students’ needs within these principles. The usual educator ethical and competent standards apply to Oregon educators on a virtual platform. Maintaining those professional standards on screen or in digital communications is critical.
TSPC has prepared guidance on ethical standards of quality teaching in this new environment. Read the guidance in full here.
Read TSPC's agency response to the COVID-19 school closure here.