Seth Bartley, 14, tunes into a class from his Denver home as his mother, Dipti Nevrekar, looks over his shoulder and his father, Brad Bartley, focuses on his own work on Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. Nevrekar is a proponent of Colorado schools conducting CMAS testing this spring to understand how remote learning has affected kids' education. (Erica Breunlin, The Colorado Sun)

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To give schools room to experiment, the State Board of Education passed new rules this summer that give Colorado districts full funding this year and next for students enrolled in any type of online program. In exchange, districts must share data showing that those students are actually learning.

Members of the State Board acknowledge they’re taking a risk with students’ education and that it will take time to know what is and isn’t working, but they believe it’s worth it.

“I guess I’m willing to take the risk as opposed to snuffing out the innovation,” State Board member Steve Durham said.

Like most states, Colorado has seen an increase in the number of students learning online since the pandemic began. But the emergency programs created during COVID varied widely and didn’t follow all of the state’s pre-pandemic rules for online programs. Some students worked on paper packets from their schools, while others learned on alternate days. In some districts, students worked online for part of the day and in-person for another part of the day. The amount of interaction students had with teachers varied significantly.

Some teachers, parents, and students complained that efforts to re-create the classroom online were leading to Zoom fatigue and hurting student learning. Some students, including older ones who might be caring for siblings or working a job, valued the flexibility of asynchronous instruction.

As districts look to integrate online learning and technology into their post-pandemic school days, the state wants to know which programs are working before setting the rules for future learning models.


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