By Michael Piccirillo, Ed.D, CASDA Executive Director
As the month of April closes, I want to express my gratitude and respect for all the educators throughout CASDA member districts and across the state and nation. These are extraordinary times and you have all gone above and beyond to meet the needs of your students, their families and each other. More than ever, I am proud to consider myself an educator.
CASDA has been hard at work these past two months adjusting its programming to meet the needs of educators near and far, providing webinars on a variety of topics. In fact, we have facilitated nine webinars for approximately 1,500 participants. I want you to know that CASDA has learned a lot about the needs of educators through this time of challenge and how best to meet these needs. In addition to recognizing the viability of webinars, we are in the process of developing a series of asynchronous trainings; self-paced professional development expected to roll out in the months ahead that will be relevant and affordable.
Over the past year, CASDA has focused much of its work on the issue of equity. In this issue of our newsletter you will find a podcast with Dr. Delicia Greene, Assistant Professor in the Department of Literacy and Learning at the University at Albany, discussing existing issues of equity related to literacy and language practices as they impact black girls. Dr. Greene’s comments align to what we have been hearing from the field in many instances. A takeaway from the revealing conversations about teaching and learning we have participated in recently, is how the current crisis has exacerbated the issues surrounding access and opportunity to culturally responsive curriculum.
As you are aware, many of your students and their families are struggling to meet their basic needs and often lack access to the internet and technology. These circumstances were acknowledged in comments made at a recent New York State Board of Regents Meeting, “While school buildings have remained closed, NYSED has closely monitored and supported the shift to virtual teaching and learning across New York State. The Interim Commissioner made a special point to mention that one of the major lessons she has learned from this experience is the inequity that still exists across New York State with regards to the access students have to technology. She expressed her hope that the COVID-19 crisis will push New York toward establishing more technological equity for students in the future (April 6th Board of Regents Meeting).”
There are issues of equity that are technical and issues that are curricular. We applaud the efforts of districts, schools, and individual educators to identify and address inequities. As you know, inequity is not a new issue and perhaps what we learn through this experience can assist us in devising plans for how to address the needs of students and their families going forward. A bright spot already evident is that we are hearing from teachers and leaders that some students and families, often difficult to reach, have engaged with school far more than ever before. How do we ensure this level of engagement continues? In a second podcast included in this newsletter, I engage in a conversation with CASDA Faculty Mike Pipa about engagement by design. We discuss the importance of student and teacher relationships, clarity of lesson design and challenges. Engagement in a remote environment is challenging for teachers and students, but provides an opportunity for individualizing feedback, perhaps paving the way for relationships to develop that might not have in a bricks and mortar classroom.
Finally, CASDA held a webinar with 14 area leaders recently to provide a space for sharing experiences and making connections with colleagues. To the credit of these leaders, many shared stories of inspiration as they work to connect with students and families in our current reality. In addition to the theme that we all need to engage in self-care during these stressful times, there was a sentiment that education in the future needs to be shaped by the experiences of today. I hope through our experiences we can all agree that equity needs to be front and center in our work in every school district moving forward. CASDA has been and will continue to be of service to the educators of the Capital Region. Be well!