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Carroll County school system gives more catch-up time for students and teachers

Parents and teachers had been calling for an asynchronous learning day to allow students and educators alike time catch up on work. An entire day could not be granted, but the school system is allowing for more catch-up time during virtual instruction on Wednesdays.

“Although a whole day is not asynchronous … we are going to have more time for teachers to work with students who may need more assistance and guidance,” said Cindy McCabe, chief of schools.

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Asynchronous learning is when students do work on their own time, while synchronous learning occurs at the same time the instructor is teaching. Maryland public school students must have 3.5 hours of synchronous instruction every school day.

When all students were virtual at the beginning of the school year, Wednesdays were a full synchronous learning day. Hybrid learning — which offered two days of in-person learning and three days virtual before being suspended due to spiking cases of COVID-19 in the community — also did not have time allotted to planning or catching up. But after hearing from students and teachers, Carroll County Public Schools made the change a couple weeks ago.

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“Since going back to virtual, we still expect [all schools] to have flexibility on Wednesdays,” McCabe said.

She said she’s reached out to school principals to recommend it’s implemented.

“Teachers would still benefit from a modified asynchronous day due to the demands of instruction through technology,” Teresa McCulloh, president of Carroll County Education Association (CCEA), said in an email. “Many teachers have to create lessons and find technology support in this new mode of instruction. Students would have an opportunity to review and practice skills, complete assignments or fine-tune their work.”

She said CCPS has supported a modified asynchronous day. And principals have discretion on how the day is designed at individual schools. The CCEA president said teachers are handling virtual learning with “grace” and “eloquence” despite the challenges.

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The topic of asynchronous learning came up during the Nov. 11 board of education meeting. Board member Patricia Dorsey suggested planning time for teachers and work catch-up for students on Wednesdays.

Superintendent Steve Lockard said he’s heard from parents and teachers about the desire for an asynchronous day, but “we can’t just be completely asynchronous on Wednesdays.”

McCabe suggested at the time, moments after the Board of Education voted to continue hybrid learning for another week (before subsequently suspending hybrid learning Nov. 18), that they could allow for time at the beginning of class for students to review work with teachers.

Board member Marsha Herbert said a time for asynchronous learning would be positive for the county and for her as a grandmother. She helps her third and sixth grade grandchildren with online work and noticed the third grade student owed 22 assignments.

“I know I’m not the only grandmother or parent out there with difficulties on certain days,” she said.

She said if a teacher meets with some children but also allowed her time to get her grandchild caught up, it would be helpful to both the teacher and the student.

Commissioner Dennis Frazier, R-District 3, ex-officio member of the board, said, at that meeting, the entire day should be asynchronous.

“From what I learned from teachers, they would like that option,” he said. “What you’re doing right now is not sustainable.”

Board member Ken Kiler said that day when he spoke to educators at several different schools, he heard the opposite. He mentioned later some students do not have a parent or guardian present during the school day to keep them on track if a day of asynchronous learning was granted.

Student member Devanshi Mistry said at the time the student opinion on asynchronous learning varies by grade level. High school students she spoke to were on board with an asynchronous day but elementary students would benefit from having a teacher present.

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