WASHINGTON—American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten has launched an initiative to engage millions of students marooned at home during the coronavirus crisis with a capstone project to bring closure and completion to an interrupted school year.
Nearly 53 million of America’s 57 million K-12 students are at home because of school closures. Twenty-three states have canceled standardized tests, and many more will apply for waivers under new Department of Education guidelines announced yesterday.
This “new normal” has left teachers, children and families adrift. Educators are desperately trying to bring structure to school days with remote learning, home schooling and grab-and-go lunches—but for the most part have been building the plane while flying it. A capstone project could land that plane.
The AFT’s Weingarten launched the proposal this morning on “CNN Newsroom” and later issued this statement:
“We know kids, families and teachers are tired, stressed and anxious right now amid the uncertainty unfolding around them. But there is a way teachers can help students sum up their academic progress, help kids focus, and bring closure to the year. Our capstone plan gives teachers the option and latitude to work with their students on a specific project alongside other activities and assessments to create engagement and demonstrate learning.
“Students love to show what they know to people who matter to them. So we need to trust teachers, in consultation with their principals and colleagues, to design meaningful, educationally appropriate ways to show what students have learned.
“This school year is not a wash—we’ve had seven months of instruction, and students have learned and experienced so much already. We’re holding out hope we can bring a sense of completion and finality to kids and families and end this unprecedented year on a positive note.”
The plan has numerous possible permutations depending on a student’s grade level and interests. For example:
- Elementary students could complete a composition on the favorite book they read this year, and that could be sent back on the same bus that is delivering grab-and-go meals (following proper paper-handling guidance from public health experts).
- Middle school students could hold a virtual debate on the internet or interview a relative for a family history.
- High school students could research a topic they now won’t be covering in class and submit their research via video on their phones.
- Because of the digital divide, many students do not have access to computers, smartphones or internet hot spots, so the tried-and-true writing with pen and paper, or drawing the next Picasso, or composing great sheet music should be envisioned as well.
An essay by Weingarten discussing the full initiative can be read here.