Published May 29, 2019
By MARK SARDELLA
WAKEFIELD — While acknowledging that a year with only one snow day does not provide a lot of data from which to draw conclusions, members of the school administration did provide an update on the “Learn Anywhere” project at last night’s School Committee meeting.
Under the Learn Anywhere project, on days that school is cancelled because of weather, students work on assignments that they access online. Teachers communicate expectations to students ahead of time and are available to communicate with students during the snow day regarding their assignments.
Under the Learn Anywhere system, school days cancelled due to weather do not have to be made up at the end of the year.
Assistant Superintendent Kara Mauro and Wakefield Academy Director Matthew Carter have been working with a Learn Anywhere Committee comprised of parents, teachers and administrators. Last night, they reviewed the results of a survey that the committee formulated and sent out to parents and students last month.
Carter said that 78 percent of teachers reported that the percentage of work completed on the Learn Anywhere snow day was at least similar to a standard school day. Eighty-nine percent of teachers said that they were mostly successful in communicating with families during the Learn Anywhere snow day.
Sixty-eight percent of elementary school parents said that their child was able to locate the Learn Anywhere assignment independently, Carter reported. He said that 39 percent of elementary parents did not know if their student received feedback on their Learn Anywhere assignment.
Carter noted the 73 percent of elementary parents said that they felt that their child’s Learn Anywhere assignment was a continuation of the school day, and 80 percent of parents reported that they “liked” the Learn Anywhere program.
Carter said that, among elementary students, surveys were given to second, third and fourth graders to complete. He reported that 67 percent of those students reported liking their Learn Anywhere assignments. Eighty-seven percent of elementary school students reported that they spent 90 minutes or less on Learn Anywhere assignments during the snow day.
Among secondary school parents, 97 percent reported that their child “knew what to do” in terms of their Learn Anywhere assignments. Eighty-seven percent of secondary school parents felt that their child’s Learn Anywhere assignments reflected a continuation of what they were doing during the school day. Fifty-eight percent of secondary school parents said that their child spent two hours or less on their Learn Anywhere assignments during the snow day.
Carter reported that 91 percent of secondary school students completing the survey said that they had a clear understanding of the expectations in all or most of their classes during the Learn Anywhere snow day.
Sixty-eight percent of secondary school students reported that they received feedback in all or most of their classes during the Learn Anywhere snow day. Seventy-eight percent of students said that their Learn Anywhere assignments were a continuation of the school day in all or most of their classes. Sixty-eight percent of secondary school students reported spending two hours or less on their Learn Anywhere assignments during the snow day.
Mauro outlined the areas that the Learn Anywhere Committee felt warranted further attention, including continued communication with parents to ensure that they are clear on expectations. There was also concern about elementary students’ independence with assignments and missed peer interactions.
Another area for continued attention is deciding if there should be a maximum number of days that should be identified as “Learn Anywhere” days.
School Committee member Colleen Guida asked if there had been a separate special education survey created. Mauro and Carter indicated that with only one snow day this year, they felt that there would not have been enough data from which to draw conclusions.
There was some discussion among School Committee members as to whether the Learn Anywhere program should be formalized as an established policy and an on-going school practice. It was noted that the School Committee had previously voted to continue the program through the next school year, at which point it will be evaluated again.
Given reports of students spending less than 90 minutes on Learn Anywhere assignments, School Committee chairman Christopher Callanan wondered if there was a problem with calling Learn Anywhere days “school days.”
School Superintendent Douglas Lyons responded that it was more about the quality of the work than the time spent. He said that kids learn well outside of school and the content they produce is often impressive even if it didn’t take as long as a school day to complete.
“It has never been a minute-by-minute equivalent,” he said.
Other School Committee members pointed out that so much of a school day is spent on transitions and a student at home does not have the distractions that a school day may present.
School Committee member Thomas Flynn suggested adding a question for a future survey related to student-to-student interactions during Learn Anywhere days.