October 23, 2020—The New Jersey School Boards Association today issued “Reopening Schools: Online Learning and the Digital Divide”—the third in a series of special reports on education during the pandemic. The report looks at challenges facing school districts in providing remote instruction, including overcoming the digital divide caused by shortages of devices and lack of broadband connectivity.
To develop the report, NJSBA reviewed published articles and studies, conducted more than half a dozen surveys of school officials, and interviewed local board of education members and superintendents. The report makes several recommendations for action by the state and local school districts, including updates on state efforts to close the digital divide, assessment of student learning during periods of remote instruction such as this past spring’s statewide school closure, and initiatives to improve online instruction.
“New Jersey’s school leaders and educators have done an exemplary job guiding their school districts through this difficult time, identifying the right combination of in-person instruction and virtual learning, balanced with safeguards for the health of students, staff and families,” said Dr. Lawrence S. Feinsod, NJSBA executive director. “They deserve the highest commendations for their creativity, flexibility and dedication to their students.”
“Now is the time to move forward with what was learned and to incorporate discoveries into the curriculum,” states the report’s conclusion. “Teachers and school districts should be supported so that this historically difficult period in our history leads to a re-imagining of the way educators connect with students and parents, taking full advantage of the many positive aspects that technology has to offer.”
Since March, NJSBA has committed its resources to helping local boards of education meet the challenges of the pandemic through training, advocacy, direct services and research. In addition to “Reopening Schools: Online Learning and the Digital Divide,” NJSBA has issued the following reports on education during the pandemic:
- Searching for a ‘New Normal’ in New Jersey’s Public Schools: How the Coronavirus Is Changing Education in the Garden State, May 20, 2020, addresses the safe reopening of schools, students’ mental health, academic and extracurricular programs, budgetary issues, and preparations for the future.
- Choosing the Best ‘Road Back’ for Our Children, August 31, 2021, provides an advocacy agenda for public education during the pandemic, including state and federal funding, assistance in securing personal protective equipment and technology, financial flexibility, and critical changes in law and regulation.
A fourth report, on the impact of the pandemic on students’ health and wellness, is expected to be issued in early 2021.
“The information contained in our series of special reports will prove valuable to local boards of education and school administrators and will help inform public policy on education during the pandemic and beyond,” said Feinsod, describing the purpose of the research projects.
“Reopening Schools: Online Learning and the Digital Divide,” NJSBA’s October 23 report, can be accessed at www.njsba.org/digital-divide2020.