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Posts from the ‘Education news’ Category

Teaching SEL Remotely: CEA Teachers Share Strategies

Student anxiety and mental health issues were a serious concern before COVID-19 and are even more so now that schools are not physically in session. Distance learning is no substitute for in-person interaction and emotional support, and many educators are struggling to support students and colleagues during this difficult time.

Earlier this month, more than 800 educators attended a webinar hosted by Marc Brackett, Director of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence and Betty Sternberg, Director of Connecticut’s Teacher Leader Fellowship Program, a collaborative program run by CCSU, CEA, and AFT-CT. The webinar, titled, “SEL Best Practices for Supporting Educators and Students During Distance Learning,” featured 23 teachers and administrators from around Connecticut.

Three CEA teachers were featured on the panel. Anthea Groton, a kindergarten teacher at Birch Grove Elementary School in Tolland, shared strategies to help elementary school students deal with anxiety and feelings of isolation and loneliness. She focused on the importance of warm connections between teachers and students and engaging learning activities like Lego Challenges and Living Room Fort Construction. She spoke of the challenges of distance learning and the emotional toll it is taking on teachers, and reminded colleagues, “What you are doing matters. It matters a lot.” Read more

Car Caravan Rally and Budget Meetings: Stamford Community Supports Teachers, Opposes Cuts to Education

Hundreds of Stamford students, teachers, parents, and other community members showed their opposition to plans to cut the school budget by more than $15 million during a car caravan rally yesterday afternoon and at a virtual Board of Finance meeting last night.

“The community’s show of support is amazing,” said Stamford Education Association President Diane Phanos. “Thousands of residents have been actively involved in speaking out at four virtual town budget meetings, and hundreds attended today’s car caravan, urging city officials not to cut the education budget.”

Increased class sizes and the reduction or elimination of positions—including reading teachers, media specialists, technology teachers, social workers, school counselors, EL specialists, and art, physical education, and music teachers, as well as security personnel and paraprofessionals—are just some of the changes in store if Stamford Pubic Schools Superintendent Tamu Lucero’s budget-cutting plan is adopted. That plan has been proposed unless teachers accept $15 million in concessions, including a two-year salary freeze and $4 million in unspecified additional cuts or a 10% increase in the teacher health care premium cost share.

“As we try to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, our students will need more resources. These proposed cuts will jeopardize their education, their emotional well-being, and their future. We urge our elected leaders to listen to the public and do what’s right for Stamford,” said Phanos. Read more

What Will School Look Like in the Fall?

A virtual panel hosted by Special Education Equity for Kids (SEEK) of Connecticut discussed the need for safeguards and protocols to be in place before in-person schooling resumes.

Connecticut’s elected officials, health experts, education stakeholders, and others agree that when school resumes this fall, it is unlikely to look like school pre-COVID. Safeguards will need to be in place to protect students and staff against exposure to a virus that has no available vaccine and is still not well-understood. Protocol will need to be developed to assess and remediate against learning loss, trauma, and other by-products of the global pandemic.

But what will those safeguards and protocols be, and will they be consistent from district to district? Those were a few of the questions raised during a virtual panel discussion hosted by the nonprofit Special Education Equity for Kids (SEEK) of Connecticut.

As the state works on guidance and plans for reopening schools, SEEK is looking to teachers, administrators, parents, and others for potential strategies and concerns, particularly when it comes to students with special needs. Panel discussants, who answered questions submitted via Zoom, included CEA President Jeff Leake, Old Saybrook Superintendent of Schools Jan Perruccio, Connecticut Association of Boards of Education (CABE) Deputy Director and General Counsel Patrice McCarthy, Connecticut Counselor of Administrators of Special Education (ConnCASE) Executive Director Dave Scata, and Norwalk parent advocate Geraldine Fleming. SEEK board members Andrew Feinstein and Jennifer Laviano moderated. Read more

Survey: Tell Us About Distance Learning Inequities

photo-of-girl-smiling-while-holding-tablet-computer-4144103Teachers are rising to the challenge and educating their students in the most extraordinary circumstances.

As disruptions to daily life continue, teachers are doing all they can to help ease the transition for students and families. The move to distance learning has exposed huge inequities among our school districts and often between students in the same district.

We want to hear about those equity gaps. What are your students and their families facing?

Take Survey ►

Some students don’t have laptops or Internet service. Others face food insecurity or issues related to health and safety. Please take a few minutes to tell us what is happening in your district. We want to hear how these issues are impacting teaching and student learning. Your answers can help us shape decisions regarding the reopening of schools.

The survey is completely anonymous. You do not have to identify yourself, unless you would like to provide contact information to discuss these issues further.

Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts on how the pandemic is impacting public education.

Stamford Teachers Speak Out Against Draconian Cuts During Coronavirus Pandemic

Increased class sizes, the reduction or elimination of positions, including reading teachers, media specialists, technology teachers, social workers, school counselors, EL specialists, and art, physical education, and music teachers as well as security personnel and paraprofessionals are just some of the cuts Stamford Pubic Schools Superintendent Tamu Lucero outlined last night during a virtual Board of Finance (BOF) special budget meeting. Lucero threatened the cuts if teachers refuse to accept $15 million in concessions, including a two-year salary freeze and $4 million in unspecified additional cuts or a 10% increase in the teacher health care premium cost share.

“Penalizing teachers by requiring concessions and eliminating essential positions—including social workers—when we need them more than ever is penny-wise and pound foolish,” said Stamford Education Association President Diane Phanos. “Making drastic cuts is not the right course for our residents or our community during these unprecedented times. When we return to school, our students will need more resources, not fewer, and we have to be prepared to provide remediation and handle students’ emotional trauma caused by the pandemic.”

The SEA successfully organized members to participate in last night’s BOF virtual meeting, with hundreds of teachers among the 800 participants. Despite the record numbers, however, the board allowed only eight participants to speak, cutting off public comment after just 40 minutes. All eight speakers were Stamford teachers who spoke out against the budget cuts, while dozens of others submitted written comments echoing concerns that the cuts would be devastating to students now and in the future, compounded by the trauma and chaos caused by the coronavirus. Read more

Funniest Home Videos—Teachers Share Trials, Tribulations, Tips, and True Stories from Distance Learning

A virtual forum hosted by CEA brought elementary school classroom teachers, special education teachers, media specialists, literacy coaches, school social workers, and others together to share tips, tricks, and challenges—and a few laughs—related to distance learning.

Among the hurdles teachers reported:

  • “Different schools and districts are comparing themselves to each other, but we don’t all have the same capacity and resources.”
  • “If we have to do this in the fall, we need time—teachers need time, teams need time—to really plan and make this work. We are already finding ourselves working long days and nights, often until 11 p.m.”
  • “The level of documentation for special education teachers is through the roof. It took me four hours to update my assignment log and parent contact log. I’m working 10-to-14-hour days, seven days a week. It’s a good thing my own children are grown, but many of my colleagues also have school-age children at home.”
  • “Some Facebook groups have become pretty hostile, so set your boundaries.”
  • “One student told me she left her apartment yesterday for the first time in eight weeks. How can that be good?”
  • “My own son has regressed a little bit during this time, needing me—his parent—around all the time.”
  • “I’m afraid we’re either going to see a zillion new referrals for special education in the fall or none at all. And neither is a good scenario.”
  • “Student engagement has not been tackled or figured out, so grading is going to be a challenge.”
  • “There is a huge difference in live versus asynchronous learning within and among districts. Some districts have legal guidance prohibiting certain things, such as live video conferencing, while others allow it. There’s no consistency.”
  • “As a school media specialist, I’ve been on the tech end of it, rolling out Chromebooks, figuring out how to get them handed out, helping students and parents learn how to use them, getting families access to Wi-Fi. Not every parent or child has the same facility with technology. Not every family has the same access.”
  • “I had a parent say this about his student: ‘I had no idea he would be like this. I am so sorry.’”
  • “You can definitely tell that some students are getting a lot of help from parents while others are left on their own.
  • “In the beginning, we were told that we didn’t have to track students’ assignments, but now we are having to track all of this and to pick standards for grading first-graders with all these varying degrees of help at home.”
  • “Sometimes you are seeing students who were having trouble composing a complete sentence and are now submitting whole opinion pieces with an introduction, body, and conclusion. I had a parent admit to me that she’s been doing all of her second-grader’s work all week.”
  • “What is this going to look like in September, if we are still doing virtual learning and I have five-and six year olds that I don’t know? At least with this class, I had more than half the school year to get to know these little ones. I just am so concerned about what’s going to happen when these very young children are new to this, and I’ve never met them and have to teach them this way.”

Read more

What Will School Look Like When the COVID Closure Ends?

Governor Lamont and the Commissioner of Education have made it clear that when in-person schooling resumes it is unlikely to look like school pre-COVID. A variety of proposals have been made to protect students and staff, including masks, temperature checks, smaller class sizes, gradual opening, half days, and more.

Register now for a May 19 webinar where CEA President Jeff Leake and other education stakeholders will explore these proposals and discuss their ramifications.

They will particularly emphasize how the measures that have been discussed could impact special education and the parents of children receiving special education services.

This webinar will be co-moderated by Special Education Equity for Kids (SEEK) of Connecticut Board Members Andrew Feinstein, Esq. and Jennifer Laviano, Esq.

Panelists include:

  • Jeff Leake, President, Connecticut Education Association
  • Jan Perruccio, Superintendent of Schools, Old Saybrook
  • Dave Scata, Executive Director, Connecticut Counselor of Administrators of Special Education (ConnCASE)
  • Geraldine Fleming, Parent Advocate, Norwalk
  • Patrice McCarthy, Deputy Director and General Counsel, Connecticut Association of Boards of Education (CABE)

 

Stamford Teachers Voice Opposition to Proposed Budget Cuts

The Stamford Board of Finance met last night to discuss cutting the education budget.

Teachers are working tirelessly to provide distance learning during an unprecedented pandemic and are keeping students engaged and learning while providing a slice of normalcy and stability for them and their families. When schools reopen, students will need additional supports to catch up and deal with the trauma caused by the pandemic. Now is not the time to cut the Stamford education budget and eliminate teachers and resources students need. 

That was the message teachers delivered in the first half-hour of last night’s Stamford Board of Finance meeting. Despite a $14 million budget surplus, Stamford officials are planning to cut the education budget and are asking teachers for concessions and pay freezes or they will eliminate positions and resources and increase class sizes.

The Stamford Education Association (SEA) organized teachers to join the virtual meeting to voice their opposition to plans to cut the education budget and explain why any cuts at this time would be catastrophic for students, teachers, and the district.

SEA President Diane Phanos said that taking a pay freeze will amount to a pay cut for teachers, because health insurance costs will continue to rise while teacher salaries remain stagnant. Read more

America’s Schools Would Get Billions in Relief from HEROES Act; House Set to Vote Today

On the eve of a critical vote that could provide $100 billion in direct funding to America’s schools, the National Education Association hosted a tele-town hall urging teachers and other education supporters to ask Congress to pass the HEROES Act.

A $3 trillion COVID relief package proposed by Congressional Democrats, The Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act would stabilize education funding so that cities and towns—already reeling from the current health and economic crisis—would not have to cut their school budgets.

More than 12,000 teachers and education supporters participated in Thursday’s call, which featured guest speakers Senator Kamala Harris and Congresswoman Jahana Hayes.

Rise together

NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia introduced NEA’s We Rise Together campaign and issued a national call to action, warning that that as tax revenues vaporize in cities and towns, we could face a 35% reduction in educator jobs from pre-K through higher education, with areas such as music, art, sports, and foreign language first on the chopping block.

As budgets are lost to the global health crisis, she said, “We are at risk of not having an entire village of educators serving students when we return to school.” She added, “There’s something we can do about that. Rise together and act.” Noting that a bill to support businesses passed overwhelmingly with bipartisan support, Eskelsen Garcia said, “The HEROES Act should too. Schools are the foundation of their communities, where students are safe and have a fair shot at making their dreams come true. Go to nea.org/covidaction to see how you can stand up for students.”

NEA Vice President Becky Pringle echoed Eskelsen Garcia’s call to action, saying, “We need hundreds of thousands of emails to rain down on our members of Congress. So get everyone who likes or loves you or intends to keep living with you to rise together with us. Our students are depending on you to do what’s right. Let’s bridge the gap we know is coming.”

Pringle urged teachers to text the word ACTION to 84693 in order to get alerts about important legislation affecting education and instant action steps to take.

Voices for teachers

Calling Kamala Harris a powerful champion of public education and our students, Eskelsen Garcia asked the California senator to address town hall participants in last night’s call.

“Thank you for paving the path for our future,” said Harris, who has proposed an average increase of $13,500 in salaries for teachers, pointing out that they earn 11% less than similarly educated professionals.

Characterizing COVID-19 as both a health crisis and an education crisis, she pointed out that 55 million students are currently at home.

“Our educators are participating in educating not only their students in this remote environment but often their own children as well, carrying a heavy burden,” Harris said. “Your job is difficult enough, and

now you have a pandemic that has exposed deep, pre-existing inequities in our education system. We need immediate funding to expand access to broadband at home, to support EL students and students with disabilities, and to ensure that in the fall, schools have PPE for a safe working and learning environment and the funding and flexibility to develop modified school calendars.”

Harris said passing the $3 trillion HEROES Act is critical to ensuring that schools are properly staffed with teachers and support staff when they reopen.

Congresswoman Jahana Hayes, a former Connecticut teacher who became the 2016 National Teacher of the Year, called the HEROES Act a “bold, aggressive plan to infuse much-needed funds into our education system so that municipalities don’t have to consider cutting teachers or services when they plan their budgets.”

She told town hall participants, “Everyone talks about how much they love teachers and says they’re our heroes, but legislators need to show it, not just say it. They need to support direct funding for education, which the HEROES Act will provide, prioritizing our schools to be sure they’re not left behind. Reach out to legislators and show your unity,” she urged.

Hayes expressed deep concerns about high numbers of students experiencing trauma during the pandemic and then returning to schools “that are stretched and underresourced.”

She said, “You cannot support students without supporting teachers. We need to come out with that rallying cry.” She added, “Kids will need the arts, humanities, and academic enrichment more than ever when they return to school, and the HEROES Act acknowledges that and provides the funding.”

The House is expected to vote on the HEROES Act today. Go to nea.org/covidaction or text ACTION to 84693 to push for passage of this critical bill, and ask likeminded friends and family members throughout the country to do the same.

Teachers in Farmington Successfully Organize to Prevent Concessions

Organizing can be more difficult when members can’t meet face-to-face with each other, or with town officials, but that’s not stopping teachers around the state. Farmington Education Association (FEA) members are a recent example of what’s possible when teachers commit to working together.

Thanks to teachers in Farmington and the community of parents and residents who support them, the Town Council gave up pursuing concessions for next year, and the town also agreed to greater transparency in its public meetings going forward.

“We want to thank our FEA Council and all of you for tirelessly working together to make this happen,” FEA President James McNamara wrote in an email to members.

FEA just negotiated a new contract last fall but the town came asking for concessions in order to guarantee a zero percent tax increase for the coming fiscal year. Read more