Our Lives, Our Schools, Our Rules!

Mayor Bill de Blasio, Chancellor Richard Carranza & The Department of Education

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As New Yorkers battle the COVID-19 health crisis, the Department of Education (DOE) launched a remote learning program to continue classroom engagement while social distancing. However, students, parents, teachers, and administrators face ongoing challenges with this program that threaten to leave young people behind.

Many students, especially those whose families are low-income or homeless, still don’t have access to technology or the internet in order to receive school work. Many others are struggling with the transition to remote learning, as they are overwhelmed with work and lack adequate support. Students, parents and teachers are balancing the harsh realities of unemployment, loss of family members, isolation and much more while attempting to keep up with Remote Learning. These challenges underscore the lack of care for and constant disinvestment in Black and Brown families in a system that prioritizes expediency over equity.

We call on the DOE to establish a universal system that maximizes social and emotional support and learning for students for the duration of the school year.

Sponsored by

To: Mayor Bill de Blasio, Chancellor Richard Carranza & The Department of Education
From: [Your Name]

As New Yorkers battle the COVID-19 health crisis, the Department of Education (DOE) launched a remote learning program to continue classroom engagement while social distancing. However, students, parents, teachers, and administrators face ongoing challenges with this program that threaten to leave young people behind.

Many students, especially those whose families are low-income or homeless, still don’t have access to technology or the internet in order to receive school work. Many others are struggling with the transition to remote learning, as they are overwhelmed with work and lack adequate support. These challenges underscore the lack of care for and constant disinvestment in Black and Brown families in a system that prioritizes expediency over equity. We, the undersigned, call on the DOE and Mayor Bill DeBlasio to make significant shifts to their Remote Learning Program to ensure students and parents receive the flexibility and support needed to successfully continue young people’s education at home.

Our demands are the product of input from parents, teachers, and students--the most directly impacted by these decisions. As this platform cannot address every family's circumstances, we ask for ongoing responsiveness to their individual needs. We call on the DOE to establish a universal system that maximizes social and emotional support and learning for students for the duration of the school year.

Our Demands

1. City and State officials must establish clear and transparent communication with families that includes a DOE-approved system for ongoing communication between teachers and students and regular updates on the status of reopening of schools in a timely fashion

2. The DOE must issue a week-long shutdown that provides teachers, administrators, parents, and students time to rest, be with their families, and care for their mental and emotional well-being. In addition to this, the DOE must issue a two-to-three-day re-calibration period similar to CUNY in order for school administration and teachers to:
a. Reach out to students and families who have been least active in remote learning, collect feedback on their needs for effective engagement, and make adjustments as needed.
b. Identify students who are struggling academically and draft a plan to maximize their academic growth.
c. Readjust coursework expectations and formalize their grading policies in light of the challenges students face during the pandemic.

3. Schools must establish expectations for manageable and sustainable instructional time for all students that include the following:
a. At the high school level, live lesson time should be no more than 30 minutes per class. While Subject classes should have a flexible schedule that meets the needs of students and teachers, students should not be expected to attend more than two classes a day. Teachers should give no more than one to two assignments per class per week.
b. At the elementary and middle school level, teachers should give no more than three lessons/assignments a week.
c. At the kindergarten level, teachers should give no more than one lesson/assignment a week.
d. Schools should offer at minimum one to two days of optional live academic support and community building discussions time with educators.
e. Deadlines for assignments should be flexible and considerate of the realities of online learning.

4. Schools must ensure every student with an IEP has a remote learning plan that was developed with full input from the parent/guardian. Teachers and school officials must:
a. provide weekly check-ins with the family of students with significant behavioral health needs,
b. provide parents with a progress report every two weeks that also documents any missed sessions or services, and
c. review these plans monthly with parents and students,

5. Teachers should take attendance weekly, rather than daily, given that not every student has received access to technology in a timely fashion.

6. The DOE should send guidelines to all NYC schools to ensure a fair and non-punitive grading system for the duration of the program. These guidelines should include:
a. All students must only receive passing grades and credit
b. the use of exams or quizzes as extra credit rather than to penalize students' grades,
c. the elimination of penalties for late assignments,
d. the establishment of a clear grading policy per-school/class by May 1st,

7. English-language learners must receive additional support in the following ways:
a. Teachers should make visual and voice calls to ensure ELL students see and hear what they need to learn.
b. Schools should provide consistent material to all students and parents in their native languages.
c. The DOE must establish a hotline in various languages to support parents with language concerns.

8. School officials must increase social and emotional support through the institution of:
a. School-wide community circles, for students to express their challenges and build connection and resiliency in the distance. Additional funding and training must be provided to ensure schools are successful at this.
b. A form for students and parents to request a call from a teacher or staff member to identify additional social and emotional supports needed and how frequently they want to be reached out to by the school.

9. Class of 2020 must graduate! Graduation is a major milestone for students and families. The DOE and school administrators must commit to:
a. in a timely manner communicate with high school seniors’ academic standing and graduation requirements in light of the cancellation of State exams and Regents.
b. hold graduation ceremonies when safe to do so,
c. increase college and career readiness support systems for high school seniors

10. Chancellor Carranza, Mayor De Blasio, and school administrators MUST meet with students, parents, educators and community members to develop a plan to reopen schools with a racial, economic and health justice lens.

We ask for your commitment to protect students’ mental health and emotional well-being and to promote their academic needs through the fulfillment of our requests.

Best Regards,
The Students & Families You’ve Ignored For Too Long.