ST. PETER, Minn. (KEYC) — Now that school districts statewide are planning for distance learning, many have used this week to figure out how to measure academic success outside of the classroom.
What that means looks different for both general education and special education.
Distance learning can provide a unique challenge to how special education and other services are provided to students, according to John Lustig, executive director for the Minnesota Valley Education District.
“We just need to work closely with parents to try and figure out those answers, because our students have such individualized needs," Lustig said.
Lustig, who also serves as the special education director for seven local school districts, said measuring student progress will still work with the foundation of special education.
The student’s team works together to find ways to meet their needs and helps them access their education.
“Students’ individualized plans all have goals that have objectives and benchmarks, so progress reporting’s going to be really important," Lustig said.
Lustig said there will need to be increased communication between students and teachers during distance learning.
“It may also involve an increase in communication between teachers and parents," he added.
According to the Minnesota Department of Education, distance learning plans cannot include having staff members physically in the same location for specialized instruction.
Some requirements will be easier to transfer to a distance learning model.
For example, the DOE says tele-services could be used for speech and language services.
Other services that require a hands-on approach might provide more of a challenge.
“So some of that may transfer or translate into more consultative, rather than actually direct, service," Lustig said.
From a broader perspective, both Lustig and St. Peter Public Schools Interim Superintendent Jeff Olson said it will be important to take students’ mental health into account, too.
School districts are working on plans to provide material to students through a variety of different methods, including learning packets and online learning that can help provide feedback to students in real-time.
“We’ve really been working hard on our plans for how we can connect with all families, how we can deliver hot spots to families who perhaps don’t have access," Olson said.
Lustig said that when it comes to measuring student success in general, a lot of it will mirror what happens in the classroom.
“You know academically, I think it’s going to be really focuses on what are those specific objectives and outcomes do we want students to focus on," he said.