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Detroit schools to launch "enrichment-based" online learning

DPSCD Superintendent Nikolai Vitti
Detroit Public Schools Community District

The Detroit Public Schools Community District will start making assignments and teacher instruction videos available next week, according to the district’s superintendent, Nikolai Vitti.

Online course materials will be posted on the district’s website. Paper copies will also be available at sites throughout the district, starting at its food distribution centers.

Online teacher feedback will be available, but assignments won’t be graded and are not mandatory, Vitti said.

“It won’t be required learning. The Michigan Department of Education made that clear,” Vitti said. “It’ll be enrichment-based. But we are going to reach as many families and as many students as possible.”

Vitti said that’s because while most Detroit students have some kind of internet access, it’s often not robust enough to support online learning tools.

“The challenge is the depth of the data plan,” he said. “The data plans aren’t broad and deep enough where they can do a lot of learning at home.”

Vitti said that only around 10% of students have been consistently using the online learning tools, such as Khan Academy, that the district recommended. DPSCD is teaming up with corporate partners to provide tablets to all students, and is also working on ways to provide families with better internet access. But those plans are still in the works.

Vitti said for the current school year, students will be graded as pass-fail only. Grades will depend on how they were doing in their courses before schools shut down.

Vitti admitted this is a major setback for the district, particularly for its most challenged students. He said he’s confident that students and teachers will return with a renewed sense of energy and purpose in the fall.

But, “We can’t replace the positive impact that a teacher has, and face-to-face instruction,” Vitti said. “It’s nothing like being in a classroom. Anyone who tells you that our students are not going to miss a beat is just telling people what they want to hear.”

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Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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