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Pennsylvania Pilots School Flex Days

The state of Pennsylvania is making a foray into a new program that will allow schools to offer "flexible instructional days," in which students won't have to attend school in person in order for the work to count towards instructional days. The program is intended to provide a continuity of instruction on regularly-scheduled school days where an alternate approach is needed, such as during a bout of bad weather. The pilot has many restrictions, but it is open to any school or district in the state.

As the initiative is structured now, districts need to apply to become part of the test by submitting a summary of their programs to the state Department of Education that demonstrates how they will manage the program, what curriculum and instruction they'll use and what form access by students and teachers to technology and supports will take. The program can be online, offline or a combination; however, if "public broadcast" or the Internet is required, schools also need to offer "comparable alternatives" for people who can't access those resources due to a lack of power, technology or connectivity. Options must also take into account requirements under the federal Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act.

A checklist lays out other stipulations. For example, the education agency — either the school or district — needs to obtain "stakeholder support" and communicate "expectations" to staff, students and parents. It must also have procedures in place for "identifying and resolving inequitable off-campus student and teacher access to" the Internet and have acceptable use policies and other measures in place "to ensure the Internet safety and security of students accessing school services and resources."

Also, no school can use flexible instruction in this way more than five days during the school year without Department of Ed approval. The state requires each school to deliver at least 180 days or 900 hours of instruction to grades 1-6 or 990 hours of instruction for grades 7-12.

"As we continue to advance through the 21st Century, our education system is adapting to and actively using technology for the delivery of instruction and educational materials," said Acting Secretary of Education Carolyn Dumaresq. "The Flexible Instructional Days program offers schools the option to deliver instruction through the use of digital technology when students are prevented from physically being in the classroom."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal and Campus Technology. She can be reached at dian@dischaffhauser.com or on Twitter @schaffhauser.

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