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Should Virtual Classes Replace Snow Days in New Jersey?

Online learning yet to be recognized by state as replacement for in-school session.

For the most part, all students and teachers love snow days.

Until the closures amount to the point where previously scheduled extended weekends, week-long breaks, and even graduation dates are compromised. 

That's what's happened throughout much of New Jersey this winter season, as the winter storm season kept many students snowed in and schools closed. For one school district in Bergen County, however, a nor'easter wasn't going to stand in its way of education.

Pascack Valley students spent Thursday, Feb. 13 snowed in but still learning, as the district held a day of virtual class, nj.com reported. Each student has a district-issued laptop they were able to use while learning from home, the report said.

The day of schoolwork, however, has yet to be considered a class day, as virtual schooling is yet to be approved by the New Jersey Department of Education, the report said. 

So, should New Jersey recognize out-of-school virtual learning as class time?
S. Jono February 24, 2014 at 08:11 PM
The system is "broken" in some places because we are too cowardly as a society to acknowledge the fact that a good education is very expensive (even though we accept this notion on a college level). Good teachers and good facilities cost money. The warped logic of many is that we will get a better product by slashing budgets and making teaching less and less attractive to as a career choice for highly qualified people.
Tom February 24, 2014 at 10:19 PM
Competition is necessary to provide excellent service at a FAIR price... Slashing BLOATED budgets is NOT a bad thing...Private enterprise would be running a tight ship and students would be educated on the subjects taught....VOUCHERS PLEASE
Clare Johnson February 24, 2014 at 10:38 PM
@Jeff R. I wrote such a comprehensive reply that I got timed out and lost the whole thing. I will repost when I have more time and a little more energy. This is certainly a hot topic.
Kristin DiStefano February 25, 2014 at 06:54 AM
The other issue people should consider is children with special needs. I teach a population of middle school students with emotional, learning, and behavioral issues, including ADHD. When working on a computer in class and monitoring them closely, it is hard to keep them from getting distracted by the other things the computer does, such as music and games. It would be very interesting to see them attend and actually learn anything without anyone constantly watching them. Many, due to their Oppositional Defiance Disorder, would even refuse to log on. Many of these students couldn't hold attention for more than 20 minutes... I know these kids are not the majority of kids, but I know my own daughter in Kindergarten wouldn't be able to log on, stay focused, and do work. She can't read yet! I am not poopooing the whole idea. I like the idea of posting digital assignments to be ompleted while at home and even some pre recorded videos, but just a lot of things really need to be considered before adopting such a plan. Also, the negative comments about teachers are really awful. As a teacher of 14 years, I am still working every night off the books in my own home grading papers and planning lessons until I go to sleep. I do this on weekends, days off, and summers. I am required to constantly take new classes and stuff. I buy tons of stuff with my own money to help my students. I am not complaining about my job - I love it. But don't make negative comments about teachers unless you have lived a day in their shoes. I work just as many hours as a lawyer or doctor at times, but definitely don't make what they do.
Kristin DiStefano February 25, 2014 at 06:57 AM
And online learning can be wonderful. I got my masters that way - however it requires a lot of self discipline and is really NOT for everybody. We all learn differently, and some people definitely need more interaction to learn.
Tom February 25, 2014 at 06:18 PM
Kristen don't break your arm patting yourself on the back. The truth is the education system is failing the people they are to serve... And the people who pay the people responsible have every right to point out the deficiencies. If a teacher cannot handle the disciplinary issues in their classroom they should not be teaching. I think a great place to start is eliminating Tenure and permitting vouchers
pdslippers February 25, 2014 at 06:37 PM
No. Forcing kids to learn online requires too much screen time for 1 day. Kids learn differently and don't need the extra pressure of having to learn online vs. in person. Another option to make up the day is to modify a 4-day weekend with a Friday and make Friday a 12:30 day instead of the whole day off.
Clare Johnson February 25, 2014 at 08:47 PM
@Tom - I'd laugh if your post wasn't so hostile and off the mark. You have no idea what you are talking about. Where do you think those kids' behaviors come from? They come from their home lives - too little sleep, too little connection, too much screen time, no one reading to or with them, parents who are too strict or parents who are too permissive, etc. Many kids are stressed, disconnected and out of sorts and it only takes one to really upset a very fine apple cart. There are many ways to neglect a child. Poverty creates some , and so does affluence. So you send these kids to school and expect the teachers to unravel all of that and also teach them everything they need to know to pass tests that are mandated by politicians? What the hell do they know about education. Oh, and by the way, there are questions and topics on those tests that are not included in curricula so the kids are tested on things that the teachers are not "programmed" (and I almost mean that literally these days) to teach. Then the teachers get the backlash for all of it. The education system is failing alright, and there are so many reasons for that, and teachers are not at the top of that list. Go sub, Tom! Go volunteer in a classroom! You go manage 25 kids in a room for 5 hours a day with various levels of competencies and special needs and let us know just how that is. Then you take the papers home and grade them and read their work and prepare for conferences, and write progress notes, and fill out report cards, and answer emails, and return phone calls during your evenings and weekends. It's so easy to be critical when you know nothing about the topic. What's your occupation? Let me tell you all of the things you are doing wrong. Let me tell you how you are failing and how much better you could do. Let me criticize you and shame you and let's see how well you do your job. Let's see how much better you do when you are threatened and berated. I'm sure that making teachers feel a whole lot worse will make them do a whole lot better.
Tom February 25, 2014 at 10:37 PM
Claire I am glad we agree that the education system is failing... And the tax payers money is being wasted... I don't want to entertain the rest of your nonsense/excuses... Something needs to be done... A simple solution is to eliminate Tenure and permit Vouchers...
Clare Johnson February 25, 2014 at 10:55 PM
It's C-l-a-r-e (all you had to do was copy). Surely you can do better than begging off - oh, wait - you don't have a counter argument. Point made. Your "simple solution" is much more complicated than you can begin to understand because you have no idea what you are talking about.
David Schwartz February 25, 2014 at 11:55 PM
Clare you must either be a teacher or a board of Ed hack but know this your day and others like you are numbered. Education has failed the children of this country. We as a nation have overpaid for the quality of The education received. Children graduation cannot compete in the global economy we live in. The Chinese,Koreans and Indians have surpassed us and I blame the over vacationed overpaid union education system where you cannot fire a person for being incompetent.
Jeff B February 26, 2014 at 12:13 AM
Clare, you and Tom might wish to Google an article in the NY Post today, "Opting For Failure". The statistics given are shocking. Talk about "disparate impact". While a START might be to eliminate tenure and permit vouchers, so this service industry is like every other, with accountability and competition, schools have a legally mandated customer base. You can't refuse to "serve" someone. Society long ago decided that even psychopaths - who used to be segregated in "600" schools - are entitled to be mainstreamed. Try managing a class with someone like that in there.
rosemary conte February 26, 2014 at 12:14 AM
I think virtual time could be valuable IF there is advance planning done, and if parents would enforce same. That could be enforced by having the students work judged and marked and if they didn't do the work, there should be some sort of negative consequence.
Clare Johnson February 26, 2014 at 06:09 AM
David, I am neither. I have had experience working in school districts in another capacity. I posted earlier that I am not up to the job of classroom teaching - in my opinion, it is the 2nd most demanding job second only to stay at home parenting when done with intention. You can blame the union all you want! As far as I can tell, they do very little to support teachers and you are right, they are overpaid - as politicians are and sports figures are - what do we value in the country? I can tell you it is not schooling. The union antics = an unfair reflection on those who are in the trenches with kids every day. Teachers CAN be fired. It takes a couple of years now, but provisions are in place in NJ and are sweeping the country. I have no problem with that. If you are doing a poor job, anyone should be let go. In the countries you named, education is a top priority, period. For starters, parents make sure their kids do their homework by themselves. That said, too much pressure and kids start to jump in front of trains ("The Road to Nowhere") or turn to alcohol and drugs as an escape. My niece graduated at the top of her class from a "Little Ivy" and went into a teaching program. She loves the kids and has received wonderful reviews as a teacher. With 30 kids in her class and no aide, no support from administration, constant testing, etc., she is opting out for another choice. She said it is $100,000 of stress for a salary of $40K. The only way to earn more money is test scores, classroom observations, and a survey given to students - hers are 3rd grade bilingual kids from impoverished backgrounds who take standardized tests that include topics like sailing in Cape Cod. Gee, that's appropriate. Those kids are lucky to have breakfast in the morning. In Singapore, the education system offers teaching jobs to the top 20% of all graduating seniors and compensates them very well. Teaching is a well respected profession. In the USA, the unfortunate saying, "Those who can, will and those who can't, teach" is definitely going to become a reality and those with a lot of potential are going to make other choices. If you are going to be chastised, you might as well do it as a lawyer than a teacher making little money and few opportunities for advancement. I have teacher friends who are in favor of year round education, but that will never happen here. It's too progressive, but may be the answer. Criticizing, berating, and disparaging teachers is not the answer. The system is antiquated and needs to be overhauled. I do not blame the teachers for that. Everyone has some responsibility, beginning with politicians and parents, and let's not forget social media which has ensnared our kids into hours of senseless drivel. The APA recommendation for screen time is 0 under the age of 2, and beyond that, it is 7-10 hours per WEEK. I know kids who are plugged in (at the expense of all else) for 7 -10 hours per DAY. We have a lot of troubles in this country, and education is one of them, but to blame teachers is shooting the messenger and that is blatantly unfair. They are easy targets like ducks in a barrel, but it's not right, nor is it representative of the big picture. This problem is immense and circles back to money and organizations like the corporations who create the standardized tests, the Princeton Review, those who write curricula that is not developmentally appropriate for developing brains - more is not better. Cramming information into the minds of preschoolers is counter productive. In Germany, for example, the kids don't learn to read until they are almost 7 and that is when they are ready. Here, we start in Pre K. I'm rambling now - the problem is huge. My objection is holding teachers responsible (and being so pointedly disrespectful) for a problem that has so many dimensions it would make your head spin - dimensions that have zilch to do with teachers.
Kristin DiStefano February 26, 2014 at 07:13 AM
Tom, I am not "patting myself on the back" as you say. I work hard and I do it because I love it. No wonder why our country has so many people with a poor work ethic- work hard and you get criticized by others who don't know the first thing about your job and then get accused of "patting" oneself on the back. No wonder why students don't respect their teachers. They come in to school with the disrespect they hear from people with these exact attitudes. And I didn't say that I can't handle the disciplinary issues in my classroom. I am actually quite adept at handling them. But when a kid is learning virtually, they are not in my classroom and that is what I was commenting on. Again it shows your ignorance as these disciplinary issues you are talking about are more than that. Do you know what ADHD and ODD and emotional disturbance are? Do you know that sometimes the best teachers in the world can't "control" these kids because of their disability? I as the teacher did not cause their problems. These are deep rooted and I am not going to "blame" anyone. But the educational system has failed many of these kids, I agree with that, but virtual learning is definitely not going to be the miracle solution for these kids. And Tom, I am not a union teacher - I work at a private school for kids with special needs. I don't have tenure and have to work hard to keep my job every year. I am at the kind of school where parents have to fight legally to get their kids to go to and a voucher system would help many of the students I serve. So before you go and put me down, maybe you should see that what I do as a teacher is not so different than what you are actually advocating for. Clare, thanks for all your excellent points and support as a non-teacher.
Tom February 26, 2014 at 07:48 AM
Kristen just because you love what you do and work hard does not mean you are capable... Everyone should get a trophy "mindset" Clair I agree you are not "up to teaching"I am glad you did not choose the field as it would be nearly impossible to fire you...comparing a stay-at-home parent and teaching as being the most demanding job...just shows how out of touch You are. I support eliminating tenure and school vouchers... And I believe if people truly cared about children's education they would too
Clare Johnson February 26, 2014 at 08:25 AM
Tom, Clearly, you have no idea what stay at home parenting involves, either. You, and people like you, are such a huge part of the problem, but are too out of touch to know it. Please tell me your occupation so I can rip it, your performance, and your potential to shreds. I'm sure I know zilch about it which would put us on more equal footing.
Tom February 26, 2014 at 09:01 AM
Clair Your willingness to rip on me or anyone else at disagrees with you speaks volumes about you... And you have demonstrated it doesn't matter what my occupation is... Very petty and immature...
Clare Johnson February 26, 2014 at 10:08 AM
That's right, it doesn't matter what your occupation is b/c I am only good at what I do. I would say, Tom, that your criticism of my willingness to rip on you or anyone who disagrees with me can be applied to yourself as well, but you cannot see that. We have a fundamental difference of opinion that will not be fixed so we have to agree to disagree. I am finished responding and reacting to you b/c it doesn't do anyone any good. If you want to have the last word, you are welcome to it.
La Quin February 26, 2014 at 10:11 AM
virtual classes on snow days IS a good idea, daily ... for some it works for some it doesn't... i think the regular class room can extend worldwide with virtual classes... but that is another discussion...
Clare Johnson February 26, 2014 at 06:40 PM
Here's how they do it in Finland. BTW, their ranking has dropped to 12th. Nevertheless, I'd love for US schools to be 12th in the world. http://www.businessinsider.com/finland-education-school-2011-12?op=1
Clare Johnson February 26, 2014 at 06:47 PM
Korea is #1. Yes, I cherry picked what I am sharing. The kids are in school in shifts from something like 8 to 4 and then again from something like 5 - 9. They get good test scores, but at what price to the kids? Korea has the highest suicide rate of people under 40 years of age. If you read the article, you will see that they are rethinking the pressure and want to address creativity and social emotional skills. I'm officially finished with this topic and will not post again. "The huge investment in education has also resulted in an economy that's grown at an astonishing rate since the end of the war with North Korea 60 years ago. South Korea has in two generations gone from mass illiteracy to being an economic powerhouse. Brands like Samsung and Hyundai, Daewoo and LG are internationally known. The country has built itself up through the sheer hard graft of its people. But it's come at a big cost. The relentless pressure means Korea holds another much less enviable record, that of having the highest suicide rate of industrialized OECD countries. We still have a long way to go but we are doing some soul-searching in our society, and our goals now are about how to make our people happier” The most common form of death for the under-40s is suicide. The government understands the pressure, and in 2008 a curfew of 10pm was imposed on hagwons in Seoul. The Education Minister Nam Soo Suh said the government was trying to redress the balance: Korea has achieved miraculous growth within a short period of time. I think no other country has achieved such rapid growth within a half century as Korea. And naturally, due to that, we focused on and emphasized achievement within schools and in society, so that students and adults were under a lot of stress, and that led to high suicide rates. We still have a long way to go but we are doing some soul-searching in our society, and our goals now are about how to make our people happier. Prof JuHo Lee, himself a former education minister, and now an academic at the KDI think-tank in Seoul, says intensive education may have been right while Korea was growing its economy, but now it's time for a new strategy. Test scores may be important in the age of industrialization, but not anymore. So we look into the ways to reform our education system, not based on test scores, but based on creativity and social and emotional capacities, says Prof Lee. South Korea's success is built on an extraordinary work ethic that has delivered rich economic rewards, but that's exacted a heavy price from its people and particularly its children. It's a price the country is now gradually starting to weigh up."
Tom February 26, 2014 at 08:05 PM
Excuses excuses excuses Let's get rid of tenure Let's give vouchers
Kristin DiStefano February 27, 2014 at 06:58 AM
And Tom - you have no idea if I am capable or not- you have never seen me teach, nor met me, so I again don't know what the basis of your comment is. I am a capable and successful teacher and should not have to defend myself to you when my teaching evaluations, test scores, students and parents, etc. say otherwise. I, too, am done with responding to you.
Tom February 27, 2014 at 12:56 PM
Kristen Interesting points Cameras in the classroom would be helpful (we have them everywhere else) along with eliminating tenure and permitting full vouchers... The goal is a decent education at a fair cost and employees/students that perform as instructed.
Kristin DiStefano February 28, 2014 at 06:29 AM
Tom, I have no problem with cameras. And I believe in school choice. And as I said earlier, I don't have tenure as a private school teacher. Many of our ideas are not so different...
Social issues in Morristown Blog March 02, 2014 at 10:18 AM
http://socialissuesinmotown.blogspot.com/ please visit our blog on illegal immigration!
Social issues in Morristown Blog March 02, 2014 at 10:18 AM
http://socialissuesinmotown.blogspot.com/ please visit our blog on illegal immigration!
Bob Roberts April 21, 2014 at 10:30 AM
Don't stop at snow days; replace the entire mess with online learning.
Bob Roberts April 21, 2014 at 10:37 AM
@ Kristin DiStefano - Your grammar is atrocious and have you heard of paragraphs? P.S. you are a teacher, not a counselor - stay in your own lane. That is the biggest problem with the façade that is today's "teaching profession". Today's schools are nothing but codependent social engineering facilities.

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