Online instruction is detrimental to student success

The war on covid is looking better than ever as vaccinations rise and people return to their normal lives with in-person school, work and socialization.

The bars are open. The theaters are seating guests. Restaurants are opening their doors. While the pandemic clings to what ground it has left, we are making tremendous progress on all fronts.

One thing that has not appeared to change, however, is teachers’ reliance on online instruction methods and tests.

While children across the country have returned to the classroom for in-person learning, their lessons, homework and
tests still seem to follow methods used by teachers during the height of the pandemic.

The “new normal” we dealt with for over a year is finally coming to an end, yet some teachers feel the online approach is still appropriate as the default in classrooms. Whether it’s more convenient for them to grade or less work overall, it is failing students who need the hands-on, pencil and paper approach to mathematics.

While some students thrive with the online approach, they are a quiet, unaffected minority. I have been working with students from over a dozen diverse families of various needs since the pandemic began, and this one concern has not changed.

The students I have worked with have voiced their frustration and confusion time and time again with online math lessons and homework.

Many have gone so far as to claim that they aren’t even being taught the process of solving different types of problems in the classroom, they are simply instructed to complete a lesson and assigned homework problems on their Chromebooks.

It goes without question that online resources complement any educational program, but substituting paper quizzes, lessons, notes and homework is only asking for failure and heightened stress across the student body.

I endured fully online instruction for an entire semester during the darkest days of the pandemic. Most of us did.

While I was a hard-working 4.0 student throughout high school and the beginning of college, my grades plummeted when covid hit.

Charles Darwin once said that it was not the strongest nor the smartest of species that survived, but the most adaptable to change. This couldn’t be more true in academia. Even the smartest of students could not adapt to the online format, nor could those with the highest level of grit.

Middle schoolers have been hit the hardest.

Highly capable students have failed because middle school math is not simply the memorization of times tables and addition sets.

It’s unit rates. It’s percentages and decimals. It’s fractions and conversions. It’s the Pythagorean Theorem. It’s parabolas and slope-intercept and graphing and careful calculations and formulas and inequalities and exponents and PEMDAS. It’s a series of complex concepts and processes that require a written-out approach, not drag-and-place questions and answers.

A student says the answer is 4.2? Incorrect. The lackluster computer system only recognizes 4 and one-fifth. There’s one point off their final grade.

Parents have grown tired of seeing poor test scores on report cards only to find out from their child that there was no work to show because the test was fully online.

Many parents have no way to access the tests themselves for they become locked, so their child has no way to review what they got wrong with their parent or tutor. There are highly capable students who need handwritten notes and paper worksheets to help them navigate complex operations and show their work visually. I have worked with them.

The question every parent should be asking themselves is why teachers insist on continuing with this virtual approach to middle school mathematics.

We must remind ourselves that we were assured this would be temporary – a mere covid precaution. Most American schoolchildren have returned to the classroom.

Why has online learning returned with them? Why are they still relying on cheap Chromebooks distributed by the school to complete their homework? Why are they still glued to Google Classroom to keep track of and submit their homework and tests?

Don’t these children get enough screens in their daily lives?

It must also be understood that children are not stupid. While not every child is dishonest, many have found ways to cheat and get away with it. Googling the answers to an online test is but one of a myriad of examples of cheating in online school.

Without in-person accountability, cheating ran rampant in 2020. Many kids learned next to nothing. Many fell asleep during meetings with the excuse that their webcam “wasn’t working.” This will continue unless parents reject the forever virtual future many teachers and school districts are encouraging across the country.

While technology may make life easier in many respects, and paper and pencil may go the way of the dodo, many aspects of schooling must return to the way they were before the pandemic.

Otherwise, we will see in years to come the detrimental effects of this continued push for online learning on our American youth.

It’s time we push back against the online approach to middle school math. It’s time we advocate for our children’s education.

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