The disastrous teaching model of Zoom school is being revived in the post-COVID era — with a twist.
Rural or poor school districts struggling to attract talent are hiring teachers to appear virtually in front of a physical classroom of students, the Wall Street Journal reported Friday.
“It is no longer unheard of for a district to spend $1 million in a year for virtual teachers,” the Wall Street Journal said.
Schools are connected to the teachers through nonprofits or educational companies. For example, one Alabama nonprofit, Ed Farm, is working to provide science, technology, engineering, and math teachers to the state’s poorest schools. The teachers are then projected onto screens at the front of classrooms and use technologies like cameras and tablets to communicate with students. For instance, in rural Prescott Valley, Arizona, Jessica Palomo of North Carolina beams in every day to provide high school students with Spanish instruction.
Forcing children to sit at home and stare at a screen all day was wholly effective during the pandemic. In poor districts where a majority of students qualify for a free or reduced-price lunch, students were set back in math by an average of two-thirds of a grade level. Kenneth Shores and Matthew Steinberg have estimated that it will cost $700 billion to remediate lost learning caused by pandemic school closures.
Advocates of this novel in-classroom virtual model argue that its approach is different from pandemic online instruction because it aims to patch existing holes in poor school districts. Ed Farm told the Wall Street Journal that the schools to which it will provide teachers have an 11 percent proficiency rate in math. Students in these schools will receive the benefits of qualified teachers who wouldn’t otherwise move to these poor, rural towns. The advantage for the teachers is that they can work from the comfort of their homes.
For really struggling communities, these virtual teachers could provide a temporary lifeline for courses that could not be taught through other means. But if we learned anything from COVID, it’s that it would be an injustice if the education we give students is just a series of livestreams.
We need more good teachers — and way less screens.
This article is excerpted from The American Spectator’s Spectator P.M. newsletter. Subscribe to receive the entirety of the newsletter.