The shift to distance learning has created countless new challenges. However some challenges, like student engagement, are not new. School closures have widened the chasm of disengagement, spotlighting access, disparity and equity issues. TEA has provided ongoing guidance regarding procedures for students who have not connected with school staff. It echoes our guidance to districts to take attendance as a way to measure engagement, communicate & connecting with families to identify barriers to engagement, and tracking data as important imperatives for districts. TEA’s FAQ and Best Practices for Attempting to Make Contact with Uncontactable Students provides key steps to districts, I’ve highlighted a few that I think are significant:
District leadership awareness - School district leadership, including the superintendent, should be aware of the absolute number and percentage of students that are considered uncontactable. In addition, they should be developing or adopting best practices to organize and track the efforts used to locate the uncontactable students. Such best practices should include a district-wide method to capture the information listed in the above FAQ”
Connect & Communication
Daily teacher contact with students - All participating teachers and staff should be supplied with scripts for initial conversations with parents and students. For example, when talking with students, the scripts begin with an affirmation telling them they are missed, and then contain prompts regarding how to inquire about supports they might need to stay engaged in school. Every time they reach a student, the educator should log notes of the call in a secure database— for example, if a student is having problems connecting to online learning or if a family member lost a job putting the family into further crisis mode. Subsequently, counselors, principals, and case managers should use such notations to connect the families to additional support resources.
Q: Should school districts be tracking the number and percentage of uncontactable students?
A: School districts should be tracking the number and percentage of uncontactable students. More specifically,
School districts should track the number of students who are infrequently engaging in their distance learning instruction under COVID-19 circumstances.
School districts should be tracking the number of students who they have been unable to contact since school closures began.
School districts should be tracking the number of students they had difficulty contacting for multiple days, reengaged in their continued learning activities, but then lost track again.
School districts should also record the above information in terms of the various categories of special population students such as those that live in foster homes and the homeless.
Finally, all the foregoing information should be collated demographically to include gender, race and grade level in order to ascertain whether there are disparate impacts that also need to be addressed.