The world’s response to COVID-19 has forever changed the way we think, work, and relate to each other in every aspect of our lives. In our effort to learn from this crisis, the failure to resource rapid and effective distance learning modules to our students exposes a critical flaw in Hawaii’s broader economic and educational systems. In a state racing to be a leader in 5g accessibility and in a ‘full-information’ world with the power of web-based learning literally at our fingertips, we were slow to respond with resources and regressed to learning modules focused on ‘enrichment’ and ‘retention’ and not knowledge growth. While recognizing the COVID-19 situation is rapidly evolving, HawaiiKidsCAN offers the following policy principles as a pathway to resilience in the short and long term.
“Best effort” learning
- “Equity” doesn’t mean we take learning to the lowest common denominator. While some students may lack access to quality virtual or home learning opportunities, the Hawaii State Department of Education (DOE) shouldn’t restrict learning opportunities for the rest of students who may have access. The DOE should serve the most students possible immediately and figure out creative hybrid solutions for the rest, including approaches such as school busses reconfigured as mobile wireless internet hot spots.
- DOE schools should make every effort to provide continued quality academic instruction for grades and credit rather than only providing enrichment activities.
- The Hawaii State Board of Education (BOE) must provide a minimum hourly standard for student school work. This can be differentiated across grade levels and should establish a high bar of continued learning for all students.
- Parents and guardians must be given a road map for their child’s success that includes daily and weekly assignments for their children.
- The BOE must create a process to honor academic credits obtained through means outside of one’s assigned public school. This means students may get academic credit for courses completed through online platforms such as Khan Academy and local and national schools providing distance/virtual instruction, including charter and private schools.
- Where DOE schools are creating academic materials, the DOE should encourage system-wide “master teachers” to create a shared set of materials for use across DOE schools, with other teachers serving in a coaching/support role. This will help increase alignment and minimize duplication of efforts.
Community collaboration and input
- Our community is facing incredibly challenging and complex times requiring significant community collaboration and feedback. We encourage the Hawaii State Legislature to establish Community-Led Education Task Force to catalyze public-private collaboration and create an action plan that holds our state agencies accountable and solicits a range of funding sources for 1:1 digital devices and other tech needs.
Filling policy gaps
- The BOE must set guardrail policy to offer guidance to the DOE regarding how to move forward with issues such as distance learning, individualized education plans (IEPs), school accountability, and English Learner students. To our knowledge, current BOE policy does not address these issues under COVID-19 school closure circumstances.
Meet families where they are
- In order to better ensure equity, the DOE should work with community partners to meet families where they are in terms of access to food and academic materials, including bringing those items directly to homes.
- To further increase access to meals, we encourage Governor Ige to apply for a program included in the most recent stimulus package called the Coronavirus Pandemic EBT.
- The DOE and BOE should prepare to provide trauma-informed social-emotional supports to students once school returns to normal status this school year or next.
Parent and student bill of rights
- The BOE/legislature should consider passing a “parent and student bill of rights” that ensures quality academic instruction and special education and English learner services during times of school disruptions.
- This bill of rights should stipulate that all “at home” learning supports designed for parents must be provided in multilingual translations.
- The DOE must collect and report data showing how many students are actually partaking in academic and comprehensive services and offerings.
School year extension
- There are 68 days between the scheduled end of the current school year and part of the next. We encourage the DOE to use as many as needed as make up days to in order to ensure the equivalent of a full school year.
Flexible and Innovative Systems
- These are extraordinary times requiring extraordinary solutions. We encourage the legislature to provide the DOE with the authority to temporarily suspend any restrictions held in place by collective bargaining or procurement that impede the DOE’s ability to provide quality educational or support services.
- The DOE must provide flexibility in communications to school staff who need to contact students for important college access concerns such as FAFSA completion.
- The DOE must provide flexibility to students participating in career and technical education or career academy programs to partake in employer work from home opportunities.