State education superintendent Carey Wright told the Stennis Press Forum that assessments of remote learning will be completed soon.
Thanks to an infusion of $200 million in federal Covid emergency money, 390,000 online devices have been given to students throughout the state. Online access has been greatly improved through new wifi hotspots, new cell towers and data plans. School districts throughout the state have learned rapidly how to teach online as well as in the classroom.
State Superintendent of Education Carey Wright, speaking to an online Stennis Institute press forum, said, “No other state procured what we procured because we were able to buy in bulk.” Wright said school districts around the state, with state help, have moved rapidly to embrace online education as a supplement to in-class learning.
The state Department of Education has 90 people working on professional development, training educators to effectively teach online. The progress has been breathtaking, driven by advances in online streaming technologies.
What remains to be seen is whether the online advances have improved education. Assessment tests were suspended last year. Wright says it is critical to not skip assessments for two years in a row. The state is still gathering statistics on enrollment and attendance in this new online world. Anecdotal evidence indicates many students have been lost through the cracks. Like so many aspects of the Covid crisis, educators are learning as they go and the jury is still out.
One thing is certain: There are far more computer devices in the hands of students. Given the importance of computer skills in all professions, this is bound to improve the computer skills of young students, making them more employable and better equipped to embrace a digital world.
In addition, advances in online learning may allow students to keep up when they are unable to attend because of garden variety illnesses once Covid is gone. Having online as a supplement to in-class may become a standard feature of our education system going forward. What remains to be seen is whether online can ever be as effective as in-class learning in the actual transfer of knowledge.