We convened a brainstorm between the Cincinnati Public Schools Curriculum Team and parents who do not have reliable access to computers or tablets.
1. Parents need more time to stabilize their households, make sure they have what they need, and develop routines before they can fully commit to at-home instruction. Teachers should therefore ease students into deadlines for assignments, creating windows to turn in work that narrow over time, as parents figure out a system.
“We just became homeschool parents overnight, so a lot of us don’t have the training to do this. We need help and instruction for how to do this.”
2. CPS needs to establish clear expectations about take-home packets and online assignments, and whether there will continue to be some information exclusively communicated online. Parents are concerned that their children will fall behind if they only rely on the printed packets, so they need clear and concise guidance from teachers and schools about whether everything will be communicated via packet.
3. There is a tremendous need for donated tablets and computers, as parents are concerned that wealth inequality is only going to exacerbate existing academic disparities. There is already a disparity in access to quality education, and many parents are worried that their kids are going to fall even further behind because they can’t get them access to the online educational materials.
4. Regular channels of communication between parents and teachers and CPS administration would help alleviate a lot of confusion. Parents are seeking daily texts, emails, and regular phone calls with consistent messaging from CPS staff and teachers to help them feel like they are heading in the right direction.
5. Establish office hours for teachers and tutors to work with kids during the day, and to communicate with parents in the evening. Parents need help balancing the fact that they have to both work from home, feed their children, and provide instruction for their kids. Employers should allow parents to do more work at night, and teachers should try and establish office hours with parents in the evenings.
Summary of Key Concerns and Potential Solutions
Concern: Take home packets don’t have enough schoolwork to keep kids occupied Parents were concerned that after 7-10 days, their kids won’t have enough school work to keep them occupied, and there hasn’t been a clear plan established with them for how and when they can continue to receive schoolwork.
Potential Solution: Establish clear expectations for how long each packet of work is expected to take, and give parents and kids a schedule for when to complete each section of the packets. Also, options for additional, non-computer work would help mitigate.
Concern: Parents don’t have the tools to be able to properly teach their older kids the materials, and lack of access to online educational materials is a huge barrier. Parents feel that they are ill-equipped to teach their students more complex subjects.
“There are lots of things we may not be able to teach as parents - if the child isn’t grasping the concept, it doesn’t seem right to be failing them, because no one is teaching it to them.”
Potential Solution: Volunteers and tutors helping teach higher level subjects over the phone. Instructions could be done using smart phones, which most families have, if the teachers/tutors would facetime their kids, and images of the schoolwork could be texted back and forth.
Potential Solution: Create a centralized “homework help” hotline, staffed by teachers and volunteers, that parents and students can call into for help.
Concern: The assignment deadlines are not realistic, and create unnecessary stress for parents.
Potential Solution: Encourage teachers to “ramp up” to stricter assignment deadlines, and provide windows for assignment deadlines, rather than clear end dates. Also, decrease penalties for late work.
“Longer deadlines for assignments for kids who don’t have access to computers would be helpful.”
Concern: Students with no access to online materials will fall behind those who have access.
“My son doesn’t even have a packet. His school said he has to be online to do his schoolwork.”
Potential Solution: Coordinate a large-scale device donation and loan program for parents, or ensure that all teacher-assigned work will be exactly the same online as it is in packet form.
Concern: Parents are worried they are out-of-step with CPS and teacher expectations, and don’t know how to keep up.
Potential Solution: Create a culture of “We’re here for you, let’s connect.” at every level, from teachers to CPS administration.
Potential Solution: Create a district-wide “Class Dojo” style app for every parent to download.
Concern: Parents are struggling to establish a sense of routine and order because they have to balance work, childcare, food, and instruction.
Potential Solution: Create a flow-chart of needs and expectations for each parent e.g. “Do you have a device? If no, then do X, if yes, then do Z.” Include clear instructions for how to accomplish easy task in the flow chart.
Potential Solution: At the start of each week, have teachers send parents a calendar for the week, with sample schedules for each day. Include time and guidance for how to handle non-academic time.
Concern: Parents whose kids require specialized learning environments feel especially vulnerable and confused.
Potential Solution: Create instructional videos and office hours specifically for parents with kids in IEP programs and other specialized learning classrooms.
Potential Solution: Facilitate support groups and chats between parents in similar situations, both to help share best practices and vent frustrations.