On September 27, 2022 the Connecticut State Department of Education [“CSDE”] released Guidance on the recent legislation surrounding Remote Learning and Dual Instruction [“Guidance”].
The Guidance reiterates that Sections 10-4w(c-d) prohibit dual instruction as part of remote learning. “Dual instruction” was defined as “the simultaneous instruction by a teacher to students in-person in the classroom and students engaged in remote learning.” In turn, “remote learning” was defined as “instruction by means of one or more Internet-based software platforms as part of a remote learning model.” Conn. Gen. Stat. §§10-4w(a)(1) & (2).
This means that legally recognized remote learning models must be limited to solely online students. Students cannot have a blend of online and in person learning. Conn. Gen. Stat. §§10-4w(c). The remote learning models must also comply with the criteria outlined in the Commissioner’s Standards for Remote Learning Grades 9-12 [“SRL”], published in February 2022. Note that while these standards specify Grades 9-12, the legislature later included similar language regarding dual instruction and remote learning that applies to grades K-12 as of July 1, 2024, in Conn. Gen. Stat. §§10-4w(d).
What are the Remote Learning Model Requirements?
The CSDE Guidance pulls from the definition of model and highlights that remote learning models should be systemic, virtual instructional programs. Further, they should be designed to promote “opportunities for learner-instructor interaction.” Learners and instructors are not the only parties involved in SRL-compliant remote learning models. The SRL indicates that parents, guardians, and families should play a part to establish “routines in the home that are like an in-person school day” and “workplaces in the home for students to engage in learning.”
Special Education, Accommodations, and Remote Learning Models
The Guidance goes on to clarify that, while the ban on dual instruction applies to all students, there are situations where dual instruction may be permissible for students under the IDEA or Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. For example, transitioning a student with an IEP back to fully in-person learning by utilizing dual instruction whose anxiety has resulted in school avoidance may constitute the least restrictive environment for that student to receive a free appropriate education. Dual instruction may also be an appropriate accommodation under Section 504.
Dual Instruction vs. Virtually Monitoring Classes
The Guidance differentiates from dual instruction and virtually monitoring classes. Virtual monitoring, where the class is streamed to a remote student, is a one-way process, lacking the active participation between learner and teacher that would be necessary to meet the criteria for remote learning. Having a student virtually monitor a class is an option along with asynchronous instruction, tutoring, or class materials being bade available online or by other means when a student must remain home for an illness. This helps balance the needs to limit the spread of disease, provide a link to the school for the absent child, and avoid learning regression. Schools are not mandated to provide a virtual monitoring option, and students who participate would still be marked absent.
Inter-District and Intra-District Courses
Lastly, the Guidance contrasts between inter and intra-district course sharing and SRL-compliant remote learning models. Course sharing serve legislative priorities like reducing racial segregation, providing greater access to advanced courses, and providing students opportunities to learn with students from different backgrounds. However, these course sharing programs are much more like co-taught classes, where students must be actively supervised by instructional staff or support staff working in conjunction with instructional staff, as opposed to SRL-compliant remote learning, where students are supervised by someone in their home.