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Connecticut teachers say 'no' to dual teaching for students

Kate Dias, Connecticut Education Association President with the American Federation of Teachers Connecticut hold a press conference calling on the State Department of Education to revoke its remote learning and dual instruction guidance at the Connecticut State Capitol in Hartford, Connecticut September 28, 2022.
Joe Amon
/
Connecticut Public
Kate Dias, president of Connecticut Education Association, and the American Federation of Teachers Connecticut hold a news conference calling on the state Department of Education to revoke its remote learning and dual instruction guidance at the state Capitol in Hartford, Conn., Sept. 28, 2022.

Connecticut teachers are not happy with new state guidelines on remote learning and dual instruction released by the Department of Education on Tuesday.

Educators gathered at the state Capitol Wednesday afternoon to explain why they think bringing back dual instruction, where a teacher is simultaneously teaching in-person and remotely, is a bad idea.

“You cannot split a teacher in half like that, it’s unacceptable,” said Kate Dias, president of the Connecticut Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union. “We want to be solutions. We want to help break down barriers. This is not the method for doing that.”

Union leaders said the state legislature prohibited dual instruction earlier this year. State education officials said their new guidance clarifies the parameters of remote learning and dual instruction as an option for limited circumstances, like for special education students and shared classes between or within districts.

Mike McKeon, legal director for the state’s Education Department, said giving special education students the option follows federal law, which supersedes any conflicting state law.

“Let’s say you have a student who won’t come to school because of crippling anxiety. Their educational team might say we need to work with the student to transition them to regular school. But we don’t want them untethered out there,” McKeon said. “The educational team might say the students are best served getting their education through actively participating and interacting with their classmates remotely.”

“It also serves the federal mandate that disabled kids are entitled to and should be educated to the greatest extent possible with their non-disabled peers,” McKeon said.

Westport teacher Faith Sweeney speaking during the Connecticut Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers Connecticut press conference calling on the State Department of Education to revoke its remote learning and dual instruction guidance at the Connecticut State Capitol in Hartford, Connecticut September 28, 2022.
Joe Amon
/
Connecticut Public
Westport teacher Faith Sweeney speaks during a news conference in which the Connecticut Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers Connecticut called on the state Department of Education to revoke its remote learning and dual instruction guidance at the state Capitol in Hartford, Conn., Sept. 28, 2022.

But educators argue that there are better ways to accommodate those students, like extra tutoring, programs in schools, homebound instruction and supplying work for absent students.

Mary Yordan, American Federation of Teachers Connecticut divisional vice president, said the very students who would benefit the most from in-person instruction are the special education students.

“There are many ways to approach this on a case-by-case basis,” said Yordan. “Dual teaching doesn’t belong in the same educational toolbox with these more effective and demonstrated instructions.”

McKeon said the state has always maintained that in-person instruction is the best for students. But with the winter season approaching, he said the guidance is also meant to help when sickness starts to spike.

In cases where students are home because of illness, they may have the option to virtually monitor their classes. The state said students wouldn’t be able to interact with the classroom and are still deemed absent, but it’s a way to allow students to continue learning without falling behind.

“Teachers don’t have to offer it. But it’s a tool to keep kids engaged.” McKeon said.

Lisa Cordova, who teaches kindergarten at Glastonbury-East Hartford Elementary Magnet School, said she’s not convinced.

“From my own experience, dual instruction doesn’t help anyone at any level,” Cordova said, stating that both teachers and students can’t focus in a distracted environment. “That doesn’t help any learner at all.”

While both the teacher unions and education department continue to refine the guidance together, Dias said her peers in the teacher’s union still want the dual instruction portion to be rescinded by the state.

Catherine Shen is a Connecticut Public’s education reporter. The Los Angeles native comes to CT Public after a decade of print and digital reporting across the country.