Where Do We Go From Here?
As I sit down to write this blog, I am reflecting on where we are and where we go from here? Since March 13th we have witnessed the shutdown of all brick and mortar schools state by state in the US. As of today, April 21, 2020, the majority of states have closed for the rest of the 19-20 academic school year. The interesting thing is, not all schools are closed. Many students have felt minimal effects on their schooling because they are already attending an online or virtual school. There are approximately 2.7 million students across the US that are participating in virtual or online learning. (Forbes) This is still a small percentage when you consider that as of 2019 there were 56.6 million students attending K-12 schools. (Educationdata.org) What is interesting to me is 57% of students in the US, before COVID19, were using digital learning tools daily in 2019. (Statista.com) We as a country, have the technology and means to move students into the digital world of education.
As the CEO of Lighthouse Therapy, I have been directly involved in the provision of online therapy services for the last 9 years. I have been a Speech-Language Pathologist for 26 years. My children were also homeschooled for part of their education and 2 of those years they attended an online school fulltime. These experiences have provided a wealth of knowledge regarding the world on K-12 online education. In an effort to assist educators and administrators, I have been providing a free 6-week webinar series titled, From Brick to Click. The sessions have been short 30-minute sessions with 15-20 minutes of content and the rest of the time set aside for Q&A. You can find these on our YouTube channel if you are interested. Lighthouse Online Therapy
I have also been attending other webinars to discover what other educational experts are doing to service the 50 million-plus students that are now having to do all of their schoolings at home. The results have been varied and the provision of educational services has been inconsistent. Some districts have been able to implement a plan quickly and put systems in place to service most of their students extremely well within a short amount of time. Other districts and schools have had to figure it out on their own and have had some success. Then there are those that feel overwhelmed or uninformed as to how to make a good decision to move forward. Unintentionally their inaction is having a trickle-down effect that is hurting the parents and students. The parents feel abandoned and the students are falling through the gaps. There is definitely an “Inequity” of education happening in the midst of this crisis.
There is also the concern of serving students with disabilities during this time. I have heard comments like, “We cannot do online assessments and get a standardized score.” and “I don’t know how to scale or tailor my lessons to the needs of different students’ disabilities.” There have been some influential professionals recommending that assessments are put off and students not be tested at this time. I disagree! Education professionals have become so focused on standardized scores, but we can do diagnostic assessments. We know how to determine where a child is struggling. Assessments can be given digitally, via screen share, or with a documentation camera. It takes practice and familiarity with the digital platform you are using but it can be done. Many will argue that it is not standardized. This will be true for some assessments but not for others. If we get stuck with paralysis of analysis, then none of the children we should be serving are going to get the help they need. A score on a test isn’t going to let the parents and teachers know where the deficits are in the area you are looking at anyway. Make sure your staff reports the method with which the assessment was given and whether they believe this is an accurate representation of this student’s skills and abilities.
Just because we cannot report a standardized score does not mean students should not get services. We are all challenged by a difficult and unexpected situation, but there are virtual and online schools that have been qualifying students for years. Even the Woodcock-Johnson IV has been partially opened for digital testing. If we are proponents of IDEA, we need to serve our students, not wait until September (or whenever we return to face to face) to provide services. It breaks my heart for these families and their children. Please!!! Let’s be a part of the solution. We have the skills and the children need us!
It is clear we have a long way to go before we are through this difficult time. The education of our children will be forever altered by this crisis. If we embrace the changes and figure out how to provide education and services in a blended model, this generation of students will be well served, and we can and will thrive.
Here are some additional links and information about assessments available for online administration and what some of the publishers are doing to help.
At Lighthouse Therapy, we understand that you want to be equipped to handle this crisis that has gripped our country and our schools. To do that, you need staff with the expertise to transition easily to online services. We believe no one should have to handle this crisis alone, which is why we have a waitlist of experienced online therapists ready to work for you. We can cover the increasing number of compensatory sessions and help your staff to navigate online therapy services by partnering with you. All you have to do is:
- Schedule a phone consultation by clicking here.
- Get a proposal for services only based on your student’s needs.
- Your students receive online therapy services.