Legislation Seeks to Improve Distance and Blended Learning for K-12 During COVID-19
US Senator Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaiʻi), along with her colleague Senator Cory Booker (D-N.J.) announced their plan to introduce the Learning Opportunity and Achievement Act or LOAA, which seeks to improve distance and blended learning in public schools during the coronavirus pandemic.
The senators say LOAA combats instructional loss, particularly for at-risk and marginalized students, by providing support for professional development and training programs for teachers, tutoring and academic services, research and best practices, and other initiatives to enhance equity and access for all students.
Specifically, the bill provides funding to address instructional loss for at-risk and marginalized students, including low-income students, minority students, children with disabilities, English learners, migratory students, homeless children and youth, and children or youth in foster care.
“Over the past few months, I’ve heard from students, parents, and educators across Hawaiʻi who are doing their best to adjust to distance learning during the coronavirus pandemic. My own education was fundamental to my success, and this generation of students deserves a quality education—regardless of the challenges the pandemic poses. LOAA provides vital resources so educators can support their students, particularly those who are most at risk for instructional loss. I will continue to advocate for robust funding that supports healthy and safe learning environments for students in Hawaiʻi and across the country,” Senator Hirono said.
The legislation provides funding for current professional development and training programs, and new grant funding for professional development, training resources and student support services, innovation programs, and learning hubs to support at-risk and Native students.
LOAA also requires the US Department of Education, through the Institute of Education Sciences, to conduct research and identify and disseminate best practices for addressing instructional loss due to COVID-19—especially for at-risk and marginalized students.
“Our teachers are amazing, but even amazing teachers need support with new online platforms, the various technologies needed, and ways in which to convert in-person instruction to an online form, while ensuring it is impactful and engaging for students at the same time,” said Corey Rosenlee, President of the Hawaiʻi State Teachers Association. “This bill would allow funding for this type of professional development for our teachers who want it. This bill would also provide more funds for the technology needed, such as more hotspots and laptops, so all our students, regardless of their zip code, have access to online learning during this pandemic.”
“Parents for Public Schools of Hawaiʻi supports the Learning Opportunities and Achievement Act (LOAA), which will provide much needed funding to support public education during the pandemic,” said Dr. Lois A. Yamauchi, President of Parents for Public Schools of Hawaiʻi. “It is clear that COVID-19 has increased the educational inequities in our communities. LOAA will provide funding to promote educational innovations that address the new limitations of schooling and support the learning and educational engagement of our most vulnerable students.”
“The Learning Opportunity and Achievement Act is an important bill that helps to address the gaping digital divide that has been exposed by the COVID-19 health crisis. This digital divide is directly contributing to educational inequity, and McKinsey & Company estimates COVID-19-related learning losses will directly result in the average K-12 student in the United States losing $61,000 to $82,000 in lifetime earnings, which translates into an estimated impact of $110 billion annual earnings,” said David Miyashiro, Founding Executive Director of HawaiiKidsCAN. “By investing in school and system capacity, LOAA will help to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on learning loss, while helping our schools more boldly take a step forward into the future of learning. As an organization committed to promoting equity and innovation in Hawaiʻi’s schools, HawaiiKidsCAN urges the swift passage of this bill to provide critical supports to schools, students, and families.”