Our Turn: What Edelblut doesn’t understand about remote learning

Published: 5/21/2020 6:00:33 AM

The day after Mother’s Day, Commissioner Frank Edelblut penned an op-ed asserting – once again – that our public education system needs an overhaul (Monitor Opinion, May 11). He introduced a “redesign and reopen” task force to take up the charge: “We need to learn what this period of remote instruction has to teach us.”

Make no mistake that the “opportunities” he sees – a primarily online work environment for students, “flexible” schedules for students or other top-down initiatives that will displace local control with state mandates – are a thinly veiled attempt to advance an agenda that will put mothers at an even greater disadvantage in the workplace, and at home, than we are now.

During this stay-at-home order, 28% of full-time working women say they are working less since shifting to working from home, compared to 19% of full-time working men. The commissioner wants more students to learn from home, which could lead to more women leaving the workforce.

Remote learning is a necessary stopgap during a public health crisis, not meant to change the school model as we know it. We should be using this time to recognize how this is impacting families, particularly women who, we know, are bearing the brunt of this, and evaluate how we can better support working parents when this is all over.

We should also be using this time to contemplate how to better support the social and emotional needs of all students. Part of the beauty of being in a classroom with other children is that children learn resiliency skills and how to be kind members of their communities. This is almost impossible in a remote-learning setting but is an incredibly important part of any public school education.

Teachers – also primarily women – are to be celebrated and applauded at this time. Instead, the Department of Education’s task force announcement states, “It would be very easy to imagine that the pre-COVID-19 instructional model functioned without any downside, while we know this to not always be the case.” This type of comment could be lost in a 52-page document, yet it is not the only time he has diminished the work of teachers. When he began to announce his Learn Everywhere pet project, he included on the fact sheet: “The assumption that a credentialed educator always results in a better educational outcome is not born out by the underlying data.” Guess what, Commissioner. Our state is filled with non-credentialed “educators” right now doing our best from home – so it turns out the data is pretty compelling.

Many teachers have children of their own, meaning they’re simultaneously teaching their own classes, meeting with students and families, planning and retrofitting their curriculum to adjust to a remote model – all while helping their own children with their class work. A commissioner of education who is using this global pandemic as an opportunity to further his anti-public-school agenda – and diminish the hard work teachers are doing every day – is condemnable and, frankly, appalling.

We stand with teachers, we stand with families, we stand with women, and we stand with students who are doing the best they can during a global pandemic. We will not let Commissioner Edelblut change the education system to further disadvantage mothers and women. Not on our watch.

(Jenn Alford-Teaster, a scientist, geographer and mom, is a candidate for New Hampshire Senate in District 8. Becky Whitley, a lawyer and mom, is a candidate for New Hampshire Senate in District 15.)

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