Training teachers for distance learning has been a focus for all three local school districts. Now that the upcoming school year has officially been moved to distance learning, local school districts are trying to make sure teachers are more prepared this time around.
“I like to use the analogy, we were building the plane as it was moving in the air,” said Mike Kint, Director of Professional Development and Teacher Support for Desert Sands Unified School District.
Kint described last year’s transition to distance learning. Now, the districts have time to train teachers on how to best engage students using virtual tools before the year begins. Palm Springs Unified School District has already rolled out optional workshops.
“Those opportunities have filled up so rapidly. Our teachers are so wanting to learn as many techniques and strategies as they can so that they can most effectively address their students,” said Mark Arnold Director of State and Federal Programs for PSUSD.
Training is not just available for teachers, but also for parents and classified staff to help support students who might be struggling.
“It really came down to giving the teachers and the students and the parents what they need because they’re all at different levels,” said Kint.
DSUSD is also launching a program called i-Ready, a diagnostic universal screening for students to take at the beginning of year to see where they stand as far as grade level standards are concerned. Kint says this will help teachers and staff focus teaching when working with individual students, particularly in breakout groups.
Unlike the end of last year, Coachella Valley Unified School District says students and teachers will be held accountable for their work.
"Last year’s distance learning was focused on providing enrichment opportunities to our students as they would be held harmless on their grades for the second semester. This year’s distance learning will be providing rigorous instruction where both the teacher and student will be held accountable for attending classes and the work that is being produced," said Dr. Maria Gandera, CVUSD Superintendent.
Administrators will keep tabs by visiting virtual classrooms and providing feedback as they normally would.
The school districts haven’t forgotten about traditionally hands-on classes, like physical education and science labs.
"Physical Education and Science Labs will be conducted by providing videos showcasing activities or experiments. Students will be able to participate in a variety of ways – following the modeling done by teachers or on some occasions being able to do their own experiment at home with supplies sent home by the schools," said Gandera.