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Maryland schools pursue innovative solutions for the fall | READER COMMENTARY

In Howard County, schools will remain empty this fall as the school board recently decided to rely on virtual learning for the first semester.
In Howard County, schools will remain empty this fall as the school board recently decided to rely on virtual learning for the first semester. (Jeffrey F. Bill/Baltimore Sun Media)

Online and blended learning will indeed play an increasingly important role in education for Maryland students in the future and it is already succeeding in some cases (”Schools reopening: Here’s how Maryland jurisdictions are planning for the fall amid the coronavirus pandemic,” July 23). One excellent example is the grade 6-12 College Park Academy, a public charter school in Prince George’s County that offers a post-pandemic model for middle and high school education across the state. CPA was founded in 2013 through a coalition of county, state and University of Maryland support. Students enroll via lottery system and represent diverse racial and socio-economic backgrounds, as well as special needs/disabilities. CPA’s model allows for face-to-face and online learning by providing a blend of a traditional classroom with online instruction. About a third of the classes are completely online with the rest taught on site by teachers using online curriculum. The online curriculum opens up a wide range of courses that otherwise may not be available at a typical school. CPA also offers extracurricular activities to provide a well-rounded educational experience. Parents, students, and faculty are generally enthusiastic about CPA’s approach and results. They also appreciated the fact that CPA didn’t miss a beat when classrooms closed in March. Most of this year’s graduates are college-bound and several have already earned University of Maryland credits.

That’s just part of a developing and positive story for the future of public education in our state. While the current pandemic has introduced serious challenges for school systems, it has also created new opportunities for embracing technology to improve access, innovation and outcomes. Here in the University of Maryland College of Education, The Center for Educational Innovation and Improvement is working to develop strong partnerships between local school districts and university researchers in order to solve the tough, real-world problems confronting K-12 education. Our researchers are working to identify best practices for effective and equitable remote instruction, and to understand the knowledge and skills that educators need to be successful with all students in virtual learning environments. We are collaborating with school system partners to prepare and support teachers for effective remote/blended education. We are committed to research that is responsive to the needs of our schools and districts — and beyond.

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Overall, as The Sun’s editorial board notes, (“Smart people in Baltimore have good ideas for remote learning; schools should listen up,” July 23), perfection is always elusive, but at the University of Maryland and other educational institutions and in our counties and districts, we will not settle for “good enough” in educating our students and future citizens.

Jennifer King Rice, College Park

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The writer is dean of the College of Education and professor of education policy at the University of Maryland College Park.

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