Legislators push for minimum remote learning standards

Trumbull’s representatives in the State House, David Rutigliano, R-123rd, Laura Devlin, R-134th, and Ben McGorty, R-122nd, joinedother House Republicans in calling for legislation aimed at establishing minimum guidelines for remote learning.

“As many school districts continue remote learning due to the COVID pandemic, we need to ensure that all Connecticut children have equal access to quality education,” Rutigliano said. “Setting a baseline with minimum expectations, will help students achieve critical educational benchmarks while also preventing the opportunity gap between suburban and urban school districts from growing wider.”

Devlin, who is a member of the Education Committee said the lack of clear minimum standards for remote learning has led to unacceptable discrepancies between different school systems.

“While virtual learning serves a public health goal, it may not be contributing to achieving the state’s educational goals,” she said. We need to make sure every school district provides a quality education and doesn’t let students learning remotely slip through the cracks.”

McGorty said he had heard from some parents and educators that 2020 was a “lost year” for students.

“I’m getting behind this initiative to make sure we don’t lose 2021,” he said.

In Connecticut’s 10 lowest-performing Alliance districts (school systems with at least 1,000 students that rank among the bottom 33 in the state measured by the Accountability Index) nearly 61 percent of students have been learning remotely compared to the statewide average of 33 percent. Absenteeism has also been a serious problem during the pandemic. Overall, the three representatives said more consistency is needed to measure student participation and engagement once children are logged into a virtual platform. Logging in and submitting work are the dominant metrics, they said.

The proposed legislation would require the state Department of Education to establish minimum requirements for distance learning that would require online classroom participation by students and also require virtual settings to include the same amount of teacher instruction time as classroom settings.

The proposal also includes setting minimum standards for students and educators for classwork, state-supported teacher training in distance learning, in-person education for special needs students and periodic state reviews of whether the standards are being met.

Under the proposed legislation, school districts be allowed to substitute some snow days for virtual learning that could be counted toward the 180 school day requirement.