TEACHER VOICE: Why remote learning isn’t working, particularly for students in special ed — and summer school is unlikely to fix it

HECHINGER REPORT | I work for a nonprofit charter school in Chicago, teaching special education to third-graders who attend general-education classes. I serve students who are poor, black and live in a violent area.

When the coronavirus struck, my school switched to remote learning. Now third grade is almost over, and districts are announcing their plans for remote summer school.

Experts like former Education Secretary Arne Duncan have suggested mandatory summer school for all. I teach in the nation’s third-largest school district, where Duncan previously served as CEO.

Since the switch to remote learning, I work twice as hard and twice as long as I ever did when I was teaching in a classroom. And I was working very hard then. The switch to remote learning means I develop lessons from scratch that comply with indivdualized education program (IEP) goals.

I also grade assignments, attend multiple weekly school meetings and produce reports on missing assignments. I document all contact with parents, children and service providers and produce school-requested reports. I supervise a first-year paraprofessional with no technical skills. And on it goes, often 12 hours a day.

I just don’t think remote learning works.

When kids look at screens, they are used to animation, games, characters, music; they are either playing games or watching lively television.

There is no way a teacher on Zoom can compete with that. Now that we’ve switched to remote learning, I see teachers turn themselves inside out trying to engage students, but it isn’t working.