SACRAMENTO — State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond recently outlined ways in which the California Department of Education is helping schools implement and strengthen distance learning in the weeks leading up to the new school year, including guidance updates and virtual professional development, and ongoing efforts to connect school districts to resources that can close the digital divide.
“With school starting in a matter of weeks for many districts—and with as many as 97 percent of students expected to begin in distance learning — CDE is leaning into this moment to help make sure our educators are ready,” Thurmond said.
“Whether we are helping schools close the digital divide, or providing guidance and webinars to understand new requirements, I am proud of the work our team is leading to help educators have the resources and responsiveness they need to make critical decisions in real-time,” he said.
With most of the state’s students beginning the next academic year in distance learning, Thurmond said during a virtual media briefing on July 29, the need to ensure all of them have the basic technology to access their learning grows increasingly urgent.
More than 700,000 students still lack computing devices and another 300,000 lack hotspots to connect to the internet. The CDE has begun reaching out to school districts across California to ensure they are aware that California schools are receiving $5.3 billion to acquire devices, strengthen distance learning and address learning gaps. This funding makes it possible for most school districts to immediately close the digital divide and remove inequitable barriers to remote learning.
Schools can apply now for their share of the Learning Loss Mitigation Funds, authorized by the 2020–21 state budget. The CDE has posted online each school district’s initial allocation of Learning Loss Mitigation Funds and answers to Frequently Asked Questions.
In the meantime, the CDE has released its first set of answers to Frequently Asked Questions regarding distance learning, which are designed to help school districts better understand new state requirements for live instruction, daily participation, and steps for re-engagement when students have not connected with their schools.
During today’s media briefing, the State Superintendent also provided an update on CDE’s timelines and planned recommendations for a revised Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum. The CDE will post its recommendations for a revised Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum on Friday, July 31.
The CDE’s recommendations will be made after reviewing thousands of comments, consulting with ethnic studies subject matter experts and thought leaders, working closely with educators and state leaders, and engaging with students in a series of virtual classroom webinars focused on ethnic studies.
Thurmond said the recommendations will focus on the four foundational disciplines of ethnic studies: African American Studies, Asian American Studies, Chicano Latino Studies, and Native American and Indigenous Studies. He said the recommendations will also include educator resources for engaging in expanded, critical conversations that combat hate, prejudice, and bias by utilizing the History-Social Science Framework to make connections to ethnic studies and broader social justice issues.
“Our recommendations will come at a time when communities across the nation are demanding recognition for the roles and contributions of people of color from the institutions that have been historically designed to minimize them,” said Thurmond. “This has been the central focus of the ethnic studies movement for decades. And the diverse cross-section of students we have engaged in recent weeks through our virtual classroom series have been clear about their expectations for ethnic studies: that racial justice is overdue and should begin in the classroom.”
California is required by law to develop a model curriculum in ethnic studies that can be used as a guide for districts or schools that want to develop their own curriculum. The recommendations will be submitted to the Instructional Quality Commission (IQC) for discussion at its next meeting on August 13, 2020, kicking off a new process for public input and recommendations to the State Board of Education, which must take final action on the curriculum guidance by March 31, 2021.
An archived broadcast of the full media check-in can be viewed on the CDE’s Facebook page.