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Dean of School of Education Offers Advice for K-12 Virtual Learning

Gary Ritter, Ph.D., Dean of the School of Education, was interviewed in March on St. Louis on the Air on NPR, a radio show dedicated to bringing listeners the stories of St. Louis and exploring the challenges confronting the region.

Ritter spoke with Sarah Fenske, the show’s host, and St. Louis Public Radio’s education reporter, Ryan Delaney, about the best practices for K-12 virtual learning and how teachers and parents can prepare their students during the COVID-19 pandemic and the resultant school closures.

Ritter began by discussing the effects of conducting classes remotely and the potential that it will lead to a more pronounced “summer slide”—wherein students lose the academic progress they’ve made during the school year. He reflected on the fact that students from less advantaged or affluent backgrounds are more likely to experience this shift, due to their lack of access to crucial resources. Ritter and Delaney both spoke to the experiences of parents who are now expected to, in some ways, assume the role of a teacher, and they concluded that the most important thing is to keep students engaged with learning and to hold reasonable expectations.

During the interview, the topic of homeschooling children with autism or other disabilities was brought up by a listener. For these children and their families, support can be sought from the  Center for Autism Services, opened this past year in the SLU School of Education.

Ritter also shared Saint Louis University’s Resources for Home Learning During the Quarantine, a site which details a running list of resources for students, parents, and teachers to utilize in this time of virtual learning.

“One of the key pieces of best advice is don’t expect perfection,” Ritter noted.

He added that educators and parents should be willing to be gentle on themselves and on their students, and if they would like to be connected with a faculty member who might be helpful to them, they are welcome to contact slued@slu.edu.

As the school year reaches its conclusion, it is likely that there will be multiple opportunities for students and families to find tutoring or other forms of support to prepare students for the 2020-21 school year. Just as students will face challenges in fall 2020, teachers and school leaders will be seeking strategies to help students make up for the instructional time that was lost this spring. Faculty and staff from the School of Education are currently developing strategies to deliver tutoring to local students (virtual or otherwise) and professional development for local educators (again, virtual or otherwise) in response to these challenges.

To listen to the full conversation, please visit St. Louis Public Radio’s website and keep an eye out for news from the School of Education related to tutoring or professional development opportunities.