By Kevin Boneske
ASHWAUBENON – The school board heard Wednesday, Sept. 30, from a group of parents unhappy with the district’s choice for an all-virtual learning program in grades 6-12 known as Edgenuity.
During the board’s public comment period, parents stated they didn’t like the program’s pace, content, terminology and amount of quizzes.
Sara Salas, who has a son attending Parkview Middle School virtually, said Edgenuity “has much left to be desired as an online educational platform.”
“After the first week of school, I chalked up the initial user issues of Edgenuity to growing pains – essentially transitioning to a new schedule and new learning environment,” she said “The second week fared much worse with my son still spending over 4-6 hours per day on coursework and failing multiple quizzes.”
Salas said the time allotments given for each subject are inadequate for the amount of daily work assigned in Edgenuity.
“There is absolutely no way a student can complete the coursework in the suggested time frame,” she said.
Salas said she was pleased the district made adjustments to the seventh-grade science curriculum with some content removed, but was disappointed with the pace of the program.
She also read a letter submitted to the board from Stephanie Juelich, the parent of a sixth-grader, who called Edgenuity a “substandard choice for our students with the way it is currently being implemented.”
“This program is ‘teaching to the test’ for lack of a better term,” Juelich wrote. “My son was taking copious notes in hopes of passing a quiz: not to truly absorb or understand the material.”
Juelich asked whether district staff could make Edgenuity more consistent with in-person learning.
“I sincerely hope the ASD reconsider the use of this program or at least provides the staff some time to make it more manageable for students,” she said.
Some of the comments the board received questioned how well the program was vetted and took exception to wording it used.
A letter from Shane and Sarah McDonough said “Edgenuity has a known history of including racially insensitive content that is contributing to systemic racism, contains explicitly religious content, and has admitted in writing to using 11th-grade English language arts materials in its middle school social studies curriculum.”
Their letter further called for completing a comprehensive review and vetting of all materials before releasing any content to students.
Joy Mandich said she has five daughters using Edgenuity, with them spending as much as 12 hours on school during a day and none of them on track with the daily progress trackers.
“I urge you to strongly reconsider what mediums are being used to support our virtual students,” Mandich said. “They deserve the same quality education, access to resources, and attention to areas of concern as in-person/blended students.”
When asked following the board meeting about the district’s response to the concerns parents raised with the Edgenuity program, Superintendent Kurt Weyers said adjustments were made, such as in the science content.
Out of the hundreds choosing all-virtual learning, Weyers said the district received complaints from about 10 parents who have students using Edgenuity.
Given the amount of lessons with the program, he said the district wasn’t able to vet every single lesson before the school year.
Though Ashwaubenon districtwide switched to virtual instruction through at least Oct. 16 because of the pandemic, he said small groups of students will attend classes in-person on Wednesdays during that time.
Weyers said students who began the school year virtually will still have the same program for the two-week period, while students who had in-person classes will have remote learning four days a week on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday.
He said the district won’t have the same instruction for all students at this point because the switch is temporary.