The state's expectation that remote teachers will work from their school classrooms amid the coronavirus pandemic is getting slammed by the head of the Massachusetts Teachers Association. MTA President Merrie Najimy said the union is rejecting the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education's recommendation that teachers conduct remote instruction from their school buildings. "It is paternalistic and punitive and has no bearing on the quality of education that the real experts -- the educators -- provide so masterfully," Najimy said in a statement. "This new guidance is clearly designed to force local educators' unions to agree to in-person learning regardless of the condition of the school buildings in their districts, indoor air quality, testing capabilities or area COVID-19 transmission rates. "The guidance also demonstrates Education Commissioner Jeffrey Riley's fundamental lack of trust of educators, most of whom are women," she added. "While parents entrust the lives of their children to teachers and other staff, the commissioner's guidance implies that educators are not capable of doing their jobs without being told how -- and then supervised to make sure they follow orders." She noted that people across the country, including at DESE, have been successfully working from home during the coronavirus pandemic. "As Governor Charlie Baker has said frequently, if you can work from home, you should work from home to reduce the transmission of coronavirus from one community to another," Najimy said. "Educators can conduct remote learning remotely." The guidance is DESE's recommendation and still has to be negotiated with local unions, the MTA president said, adding that the MTA is "100 percent behind any of our locals that choose to reject this recommendation." "Although some educators may prefer to work out of their school buildings and have that right if it is safe, no one teaching remotely should be required to do so from a school building," Najimy said. Riley on Friday released the guidance for teachers and critical support staff in remote learning districts, writing that having teachers in the school will benefit students, teachers, staff, and administrators for several reasons. "It allows students to develop and maintain a level of familiarity with a classroom environment, which will be beneficial when students transition back to in-person instruction," Riley wrote. "It provides more consistency for students, which is especially important for some students, including some students with disabilities.
The Massachusetts Teachers Association is blasting education officials for suggesting on Tuesday that districts in the red zone should stay open until there is coronavirus transmission in school buildings. "If a community decides that remote learning is the best way to ensure the health of students, families and educators, the governor, the commissioner and the education secretary need to respect that rather than resort to trying to bully its residents into compliance," read a statement from the MTA. Education Commissioner Jeffrey Riley, joined by Secretary of Education James Peyser, said during a Joint Committee on Education hearing Tuesday that schools "are encouraged to remain open even if their community is red." He said such districts offering in-person or hybrid learning models should continue to remain open "until there is any evidence that there is transmission happening in a school." MTA called the declaration "reckless," saying, "Fortunately, neither Riley nor Peyser has the authority to compel communities to take steps that compromise the public safety."
Teachers unions in Massachusetts are proposing a phased reopening for schools that includes computers and internet for all, no MCAS testing and full funding for personal protective equipment. "Our schools cannot go back to the conditions under which they operated before COVID-19 or we will fail our students, families, educators and communities at the time of their greatest need," reads the proposal from the Massachusetts Teachers Association, Boston Teachers Union and Massachusetts AFL-CIO. "This moment provides us with an exciting opportunity to transform public education to adapt to our new reality," the proposal says. The proposed four-phase reopening plan from the unions starts with teachers and other personnel in school buildings to make preparations, followed by educators meeting with students and families in person or remotely to go over new health and safety protocols. The next phase includes the resumption of learning in person, remote, or hybrid, with a focus on building relationships, setting expectations with students and developing new routines.
Dramatically shortened testing times for grades 3-8 and the ability of this year's seniors to graduate without passing are among a host of pandemic-related changes being proposed by education officials to the state's upcoming MCAS tests. "The sudden shift to remote learning last spring, and the continuation of hybrid/remote learning this school year has likely led to significant learning loss for students around the country. The extent of the learning loss in the Commonwealth is not yet known," Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Jeff Riley said in a Tuesday memo to superintendents. Many Bay State students continue to take classes remotely and some haven't been inside a classroom since the pandemic began. Despite citing issues about learning loss, Riley said, "The Department continues to believe the MCAS test is a crucial diagnostic tool to promote student success and educational equity and we remain committed to administering the assessment this spring, while recognizing the need for adjustments and flexibility."
Color-coded coronavirus metrics based on case counts in a given community were set by the state education board and will be used to inform school reopening plans, indicating many communities should have remote or hybrid models. The codes, outlined in a letter from Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Jeffrey Riley to superintendents are based on a system of red, yellow, green and "unshaded" colors. Communities in the red zone, those with average daily case counts of eight or more per 100,000 residents should have remote learning, according to the metrics. Those in the yellow zone, with daily average counts of four to eight per 100,000 residents should operate on a hybrid or remote plan, while communities in the green with less than four cases per 100,000 can have an in-person or hybrid model. The "unshaded" color code relates most to very small communities with fewer than five total cases over the past two weeks.