Maryland to survey school districts to assess attendance, engagement during closure

Maryland’s school districts will be surveyed by the state department of education to “assess and report student engagement” across the state. That includes trying to track attendance.

The issue came up during the April 28, meeting of the board when board member David Steiner asked State Superintendent Karen Salmon, “What can you tell us concretely about percentages of students who are actually attending virtual school?”

He called it a “crucial question.”

Salmon said that she would be addressing that question in a call with superintendents across the state.

“Many of our school systems have it down pat. They have contact with all of their students every day. Many of the larger ones are having difficulty with contacting and documenting student attendance,” Salmon said, adding that it is an issue on the agenda to discuss, as well as finding out just what those percentages are.

As for the difficulty of tracking student participation, Maryland State Education Association President Cheryl Bost said, “I’m sure some of this has to do with the inequities of access to equipment and internet service.” The association represents teachers across the state.

School districts, including Prince George’s County, have been trying to bridge the digital divide by distributing Chromebooks and establishing hot spots where families who don’t have access to internet service can get the connectivity they need to carry out lessons.

Bost said it is not just teachers who are trying to track attendance. She said pupil personnel workers, paraeducators, even school secretaries were involved in checking in with students.

“Not only to see if they could engage in the learning, but are there needs? Are they in need of food or medical care?” Bost said.

In a document from the state’s department of education on how education would be carried out during the COVID-19 closures, teachers are told that students can be “counted present if engaged in activity sponsored by the school and personally supervised by school personnel including homebound instruction.” The same document explains, “Students may be counted present based on the amount of time they are expected to be engaged in school sponsored activities.”

More Coronavirus news

Kate Ryan

As a member of the award-winning WTOP News, Kate is focused on state and local government. Her focus has always been on how decisions made in a council chamber or state house affect your house. She's also covered breaking news, education and more.

Federal News Network Logo
Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up