By David Larson
I am sure many of you have seen the overwhelming support and appreciation for the educators in our communities and across the nation for their creativity, problem solving, and commitment to supporting students through distance learning.
In Miami County alone, I could provide hundreds of examples of teachers, teaching assistants, support personnel, food service, related service providers, principals, and district employees doing amazing things for our students. I have never been more proud to be associated with this educational community. I have also seen, firsthand, some of the challenges of educating children from home.My daughters are in third and fifth grades at Covington Exempted Village Schools and my wife teaches first grade for the district. We have been blessed to have strong internet access and a mom that can work from home; not all families have those benefits.
Unfortunately, the current distance learning environment is highlighting immense disparities in student opportunities and experiences. Educational leaders have long been concerned about the achievement gaps that exist based on the home environment of students. Recently, equity has become a key word in the business of education.
As educators, school districts, and the greater communities of Miami County, let’s not overlook that lack of equity is a significant factor we should be considering as we make decisions about education. In the event that we will have continued distance learning next year, what can we do to attempt to negate these concerns? Moreover, what considerations should we make when we return to traditional school? Can we continue to partner with community organizations to provide technology support, homework hotlines, and internet access to families and students? Should we consider leaving our schools open longer to allow students to take advantage of resources before and after school? It is my hope that we do not let the lessons we learn from our current situation be lost when we return to “normal”. We need to remember that the home environment plays a crucial role in student success and growth. If we return to a system that ignores the family environment and compares school districts as though we are all on an equal playing field, shame on us.
What we can also learn from our current experience is that our educators will work hard to meet the needs of kids even without the threat of state assessment accountability and school district report cards! Many of us have seen with our own eyes that the educators in Miami County are working hard, day in and day out, to serve our students. This often means focusing on meeting the social-emotional needs of students in addition to (and sometimes in lieu of) content instruction. Let’s keep all of this in mind as we move forward to make sure school experiences are even better than they were before.
Thank you to all of the educators, families, and school districts for making this experience as positive as possible for our children. I hope and pray that we will have our students back in their respective schools as soon as it is safe for our communities. We know that our students need the positive adults they work with at school. We also know that those adults miss their students. Stay safe and healthy. David Larson Miami County ESC Superintendent
David Larson is the superintendent of the Miami County Educational Service Center. He can be reached at (937) 339-5100