For Immediate Release: Group run by homeschool alumni promotes research on distance learning and supporting socially isolated students
05/12/2020—The Coalition for Responsible Children (CRHE) believes research on homeschooling and online schooling has much to offer educators as they hone their distance learning offerings during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has closed schools across the country. “We have spent years researching at-home education,” says Dr. Rachel Coleman, executive director of CRHE, a national nonprofit focused on child advocacy. CRHE has created a report, At-Home Education & Distance Learning: Educators Responding to COVID-19 School Closures, to share what it has learned with educators.
Coleman points to recent research on achievement gaps among students enrolled in online charter schools and district-run virtual learning and distance education programs such as Alaska’s popular public “correspondence” programs. “Students who are educated in the home experience a ‘math gap’ whether they are enrolled in online programs or homeschooled independently,” Coleman says. Her organization is urging teachers and school districts to pay special attention to math education when implementing remote learning programs.
Coleman also points to concern that school closures may accelerate inequities in education based on students’ socio-economic status or race. “While these concerns are reasonable and understandable, a growing body of research suggests that students who are educated via online learning or homeschooling may actually see the racial and economic achievement gap narrow,” Coleman says. While she urges caution — noting that we don’t know the reasons behind this finding — her organization is advising educators to approach all parents as competent and interested partners, and to avoid making assumptions about families based on demographic factors. “We want to see all children succeed,” she says.
What other advice does Coleman have for educators? “The research is clear: online instruction is not an adequate replacement for in-person instruction,” she says. “Educators should create synchronous learning experiences that involve live interaction with students.” Coleman also notes that the distance learning programs that involve a high level of parental involvement and input tend to be the most successful. “Parents should be engaged and included,” she says.
CRHE’s report also covers the challenges socially isolated school-age children can face, as well as a list of recommendations for how educators can support students during what is admittedly a challenging time. “Our goal is to share what we have learned from our own advocacy with educators,” says Coleman. “We understand the public health reasons behind school closures, and we want to see both students and their teachers succeed.”
The Coalition for Responsible Home Education empowers homeschooled children by educating the public and advocating for child-centered, evidence-based policy and practices for families and professionals.