Connecticut State Department of Education Releases Guidance to Districts on Remote Learning and Dual Instruction
(Hartford, CT) – Today, the Connecticut State Department of Education (CSDE) released guidance that clarifies the parameters of remote learning as well as dual instruction, which is the simultaneous instruction by a teacher to in-person, in-the-classroom students and to students who are interacting remotely. This guidance follows the enactment of Public Act 22-80, Section 25 –codified as Connecticut General Statutes Sections 10-4w(c) & (d) -- which prohibits “dual instruction as part of remote learning.” In accordance with Section 10-4w, this new guidance prohibits dual instruction in remote learning models authorized by Section 10-4w and underscores that such remote learning models must comply with the CSDE’s Standards for Remote Learning. The guidance also outlines certain, limited situations in which such instruction is permissible:
- If a Planning and Placement Team determines that remote, interactive engagement constitutes the least restrictive environment in which the student could receive a free appropriate public education as required by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004, 20 U.S.C. §§1400, et seq, or should a Section 504 Team determine that a student with disabilities requires remote, interactive learning as an accommodation to access the child’s education in the least restrictive setting under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. §§701, et seq., both federal laws would supersede conflicting state laws.
- Shared programming between or within districts as a tool that serves to reduce racial isolation and enhance learning opportunities, particularly for students in underserved districts or those in systems with limited advanced-course opportunities. Providing such inter-district or intra-district access is a matter of fundamental equity, for no students should be precluded from pursuing their educational goals due to a lack of opportunity. Such programs predate the enactment of – and do not constitute the systematic, highly structured, and detailed remote learning programs contemplated by -- Section 10-4w.
This new guidance also provides that districts may, but are not required, to provide students who are at home due to COVID or similar illnesses with the opportunity to virtually monitor their classes. Although they cannot interact with their teachers or classmates and are still deemed absent, as would any student who was absent due to illness, this virtual monitoring enables them to listen to lectures, take notes, and otherwise maintain continuity of instruction while out of school ill. Virtual monitoring can only be used in situations of student illness, and there is no obligation for teachers to direct instruction to such students, answer their questions, or otherwise interact with them; rather, it is simply a pedagogical tool designed to help students maximize their learning.
“We recognize the challenges that both educators and students faced during the pandemic, and this guidance, as well as the recent legislation upon which it is modeled, ensures that we will not be returning to that model of teaching. The guidance reiterates the prohibition of dual instruction as legislated while applying the knowledge we gained during the pandemic about remote learning to ensure opportunities remain for all our students,” said Education Commissioner Charlene Russell-Tucker. “We must continue to emphasize the importance of in-person instruction while ensuring students farthest from educational opportunities are not left behind.”
“With the passing of Public Act 22-80, it was never the intent of the legislature to limit advanced and special education course opportunities for students who are racially isolated or who attend school districts with fewer resources. The legislation, crafted in partnership with community stakeholders, is always made in the interest of doing what’s best for our children, especially when it comes to in-person and remote learning. This guidance makes clear that these course-sharing programs can continue,” said State Senator Douglas McCrory.
“Students in small districts often don’t have access to specialized learning opportunities. This innovation provides vital pathways for students to learn and thrive. Plus, it helps support educators to teach what they love and stay in a role that would otherwise be financially difficult to maintain by a single district,” said ConnCAN Executive Director Subira Gordon. This is a prime example of SDE using the latest research and trends in education to make innovative decisions for our kids and educators”
“While we all know that the dual instruction experienced during the pandemic didn’t work, we support the continuation of cooperative programs within districts and between districts to expand choices offered to students from diverse backgrounds,” said Educators for Excellence Executive Director Daniel Pearson. "These virtual programs have proven to be successful prior to the pandemic and we want to ensure that this model can continue well into the future.”
“The SDE guidance on dual instruction is a significant step forward for all of our students in Connecticut. Students will now be able to stay current with their class during isolation due to illness or medical treatment.” said CAPSS Executive Director Fran Rabinowitz. “The intra-district and inter-district educational programs can again move forward which allow our students to engage in innovative, diversified, and creative learning - better preparing them for their educational future in both college and career.”
“Leveraging virtual educational access by way of inter-district and intra-district course sharing is an integral part of the landmark Sheff settlement agreement approved by both the General Assembly and the Connecticut Superior Court,” said Center for Children's Advocacy Executive Director Martha Stone. “It encourages integrated educational experiences and expands access to advanced and college-level classes among choice programs, particularly for those students who would otherwise be deprived of the opportunity to benefit from them.”
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