LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — During a year when stakeholders say education has been flipped on its head, the Prichard Committee spoke to more than 4,000 teachers and families about their experience with virtual and hybrid learning compiling data across Kentucky to present to state lawmakers.
The Prichard Committee is a Kentucky organization aimed at studying issues and informing "the public and policymakers about best practices" to improve education for Kentucky.
Prichard Committee President and CEO Brigitte Blom Ramsey said this research project, including families and teachers, illuminated issues that public educators already knew were problems such as Kentucky being 42nd in the country for the digital divide among communities.
"Families, teachers within those families and students within those families are struggling with challenges accessing the internet because of the digital divide, but also lack of appropriate devices or enough devices in their home and adequate broadband in their home so that they can each work remotely and learn remotely," Ramsey said. "And then on top of that, mental health issues. I think that we're all struggling with but that came through as an acute and chronic issue as well."
Garris Stroud is an 8th-grade language arts teacher in Hopkins County where hybrid learning is the model during the fall 2020 semester.
"I think the logistics of managing online learning for any teacher, no matter where you are rural, urban, suburban is difficult because our pedagogy has been so fully immersed in in-person learning," Stroud said. "Making that giant switch to remote learning and learning these digital learning platforms has been difficult for all teachers."
He worked with the Prichard Committee to listen to parents and teachers in western Kentucky. With the challenges of an unprecedented year of teaching, Stroud encouraged teachers to reflect on their mission and why they got into teaching in the first place.
"One of my favorite authors, Viktor Frankl, had this amazing saying. He was a Holocaust survivor, he was imprisoned at an internment camp a concentration camp, and he said that people can survive any 'what' as long as they have a 'why.'" Stroud said. "And for me, my 'why' is my students I love seeing the 'aha' moments when they learn something new. I love knowing that I get to be a part of their educational experience in a really meaningful way."
For parents who are worried their children will be left behind, Ramsey said two-way communication is key.
"It's really about the community and the school district coming together right now to identify plans to make sure that no student is left behind, that no family is left behind, and identifying those students and families who are most at risk and finding out what their needs are," she said.
She also encouraged parents to become involved in making policy change in Kentucky.
"Find out who your local representative or senator is and send them a note," Ramsey said. "Let them know the issues you're dealing with, and why it's really important to make sure families have adequate access to broadband and why supports for mental health supports into education and childcare are really important to keep our state moving forward."
Read the Committee's full report including their recommendations they plan to make to Kentucky lawmakers this fall and into the next legislative session here.