Farmington Schools parents: Online is awesome, awful

Dr. Kelly Coffin
Dr. Kelly Coffin (Farmington Public Schools)

Among the myriad public comments at recent Farmington Public Schools Board of Education meetings, parents have shared high praise and troubling complaints about how teachers have handled remote learning.

While some have applauded teachers’ extraordinary efforts, others have complained that some are distracted by caring for their own children during virtual classes. Some parents have said their children are doing beautifully, others describe constant software glitches and distracting background conversations during live meets.

Principals monitor

Assistant Superintendent of Innovation and Strategic Initiatives Dr. Kelly Coffin said the district communicated specific expectations of teachers at the beginning of the school year.

“Their classrooms are open and available to them, and we encourage that,” she said. “There are teachers who are taking those opportunities.”

Whether they work in buildings or at home, teachers provide a weekly learning plan that building principals monitor. Principals also tap into live meets as they’re happening and take samplings from all of their teachers, Coffin said.

“They are monitoring before these live meets happen… and they’re also monitoring it in real time,” she added. “Of course, they’re working with all staff in their building, and they may be missing some of these things parents are experiencing.”

Two-way interactions

Coffin said the first few weeks of the school year have focused on social/emotional learning, as well as easing students into Canvas, the new learning management system.

“This is working for some students and families very well, and for some, it is not their best mode of learning, and we recognize that,” she said.

Under new pandemic learning regulations, Coffin explained, Michigan teachers must document at least two weekly, two-way interactions with students. Currently, the district has a 99 percent or greater average interaction rate.

“It’s not just, ‘Hi, how are you?’,” Coffin said. “It’s based on content, with a clear focus on targets and learning goals. Teachers do a significant amount of record-keeping… (they) monitor that every day.”

Connecting with kids who need help

Coffin said that the district also takes a “multi-layered approach”, implemented when buildings closed in March, to identify children who might need extra help. When a student doesn’t show up for live meets or stops turning in work, she said, “it’s really an all-hands-on-deck to see who is connecting with this child.”

At this point, Coffin said, a handful of students across the district still have issues with internet access. In September, the district announced a dedicated tech “help desk” for parents and guardians.

Coffin said parents who have concerns about their child’s teacher should talk first with their building principal. Above all, she wants parents to know, “We’re here, and we want to support this work.”

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