Live instruction to increase for virtual learners

The goal aims to improve academic performance among secondary students by having them interact with teachers and classmates throughout the school day as if they are sitting in the classroom.
Posted on 12/07/2020
Stock photo of a student's desk at home with a computer and notepads.

By Gary Weckselblatt

Beginning December 9th, secondary schools in the Quakertown Community School District will increase the live instruction requirements for virtual students. The philosophical change from opportunity to expectation comes after discussions with parents, teachers, and the School Board about the need to improve the district’s online learning model for students, and examining QCSD data on student performance.

“The national data is not good right now,” said Assistant Superintendent Dr. Lisa Hoffman, who leads QCSD’s Office For Teaching and Learning. “We are seeing real serious dips in learning loss across the nation.”  At the December 3rd School Board meeting (3:03 mark), she said too many district students have followed the national pattern. “ While we are doing much better than most, we have to take this next step to improve learning,” she said.

Part of the district’s challenge is that many students are not signing into Canvas to get their assignments or attending their teacher’s Google Meets. “This is not acceptable to the School Board or to me!” Superintendent Dr. Bill Harner said. “For months, teachers, counselors, and administrators have been reaching out to parents for check-ins.  We are definitely seeing greater student participation and achievement, but not enough.”

With this change to the instructional model, the belief is student academic growth will continue.

Students at Quakertown Community High School, Strayer Middle School and the Sixth Grade Center will have required synchronous learning times for each class. The idea is to have virtual students interacting with their teachers and classmates throughout the school day as if they are sitting in the classroom.

“The main purpose of this next step is to further provide a platform for meaningful connection and build relationships between teachers and students, and students among each other,” QCHS Principal Mattias van't Hoenderdaal said.

Schedules are different for the high school (seven periods) and middle schools (four periods). Students at QCHS will be expected to attend a live stream for 15 minutes of every period of the school day. At the middle school level, the expectation is 25 minutes (15 minutes for first period). Teachers will be offering opportunities for their students in school to collaborate with those learning from home. 

“This is not a heavy lift for Strayer, many teachers have been doing it already,” said Strayer Principal Dr. Jennifer Bubser. “We are always looking for ways to enhance the instructional environment for students. We’re moving forward and this is the next step. It’s really cool that teachers have embraced the technology so students can have a better experience.”

Exceptions could be made for students who have extenuating circumstances. Parents who believe an exception is warranted for their child should speak with a school counselor or principal. At Strayer, Dr. Bubser has asked parents to reach out to her or to Assistant Principal Greg Lesher to discuss their situation.  At the high school level, the exception request would be made to the student’s respective counselor and/or assistant principal.  They look forward to that parent engagement and discussion.  

“We have great teachers, and our parents have asked us to provide their kids more access to them,” Dr. Hoffman said. “We believe that connection through more of a live learning experience will be helpful.”

Gary Weckselblatt, QCSD Director of Communications, writes about the people and the programs that impact the Quakertown Community School District. He can be reached at [email protected].

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