Why are students entering the classroom from 7,000 miles away

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Why are students entering the classroom from 7,000 miles away

Faika Naqvi, a 15-year-old freshman at a New Jersey public high school, enters all her remote classes every night from Pakistan in the time zone nine hours ahead.

Max Rodriguez, who also attends school in New Jersey, joined his advanced placement history class for about two months from Guayaquil, Ecuador, a port city on the coast of South America.

Max’s classmate, 16-year-old Naobe Maradiaga, attended classes in northern Honduras.

In the midst of the pandemic, in a year when almost nothing has been normal about the school, administrators and teachers are grappling with a new layer of complexity: students accessing virtual classrooms from outside the United States.

Facing financial stress related to the pandemic at home or the health needs of relatives abroad, some students from immigrant communities are entering school from thousands of miles away.

It is not clear how widespread this practice is. But logins out of the country have become increasingly common since late fall, as comfort levels have risen with air travel and popular holidays for overseas trips draw near, according to educators in New York and New Jersey. As far away as Florida and California.

Some families said they took advantage of the new mobility afforded by remote instruction to plan extended trips with relatives they hadn’t seen in years.

Others have left the country temporarily to care for sick relatives, and some have asked headmasters and teachers to send their children abroad because they needed childcare help to continue working in such jobs. which cannot be done from home.

“Absolutely new immigrants – they have it hardest,” said Aixa Rodriguez, who teaches English as a new language at a middle school in Manhattan. “They don’t have anyone here to help.”

At least one of his students logged in from outside the United States in the past several months.

Nate Floro, a high school teacher in Brooklyn, said three of his students were entering the class from Yemen, Egypt and the Dominican Republic.

The practice, Ms Rodriguez said, is an open secret among teachers as parents struggle to navigate the limited days and hours in which students attend instruction in person and school closures related to Covid-19. There is a constant danger of

“The reality is that parents can’t handle this discrepancy,” said Rodriguez, who lives in the Bronx and is the leader of a social justice advocacy group within the teachers union, MORE, or the Movement of Rank and File Educators. . “These parents have to work and have no choice.”

The desire to place a child in the care of a relative in another country in the midst of a pandemic, she said, “tells you of unmet need and desperation.”

Experts say that by adding a level of complexity to distance learning, the pattern has the potential to reduce learning losses, especially in poor and minority communities that are already plagued by achievement gaps.

“It’s one thing to say that kids can log in anytime, anywhere,” said Mike Magee, chief executive of Chiefs for Change, a nonprofit national network of education leaders. “But if they’ve gone somewhere where they need to be logged in at 2 a.m., that doesn’t seem ideal.”

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Danielle Filson, spokeswoman for the public schools in New York City, the nation’s largest district, where classes are now open to students of all ages, said she could not provide data on students who log in from outside the country. are.

In New Jersey, officials from the state’s two largest districts, Patterson and Elizabeth, were able to provide a snapshot of students who were logging in with IP addresses outside the United States. Schools in both cities have been closed for over a year and all instruction is given remotely; Elizabeth expects to reopen to some students next week, but Patterson reversed plans to resume face-to-face instruction on May 3, and did not set a return date.

In Paterson, a recent one-day sample of 5,400 students showed that 306 children were logged in from outside the country, said deputy superintendent Susanna Perone. The district educates approximately 25,000 kindergarten to 12th graders, and the actual number of students learning from outside the United States may be much higher.

“Certainly we don’t encourage that,” Ms Peron said. “But the families here have faced so many challenges during the pandemic.”

“I want them to learn from wherever they are,” he said, “no.”

Elizabeth, a city of 129,000 residents about 20 miles southwest of Midtown Manhattan, is one of the most immigrant-rich communities in the state. Census data shows that more than 75 percent of households speak languages ​​other than English at home, and nearly one in five residents have an income below the poverty level.

One day in early March, 679 of the district’s nearly 28,000 public school students had entered from outside the United States, said Pat Politano, a spokesman. Several weeks later, just days before the start of the one-week spring break, 767 students — about 2.7 percent of students — were attending a class from one of 24 countries, records show.

Most were tuned from Caribbean countries; The Dominican Republic was the most common location. But Kenya, Moldova and Bangladesh had one child each. Five students, including Faika, were in Pakistan.

“I had some domestic issues,” Faika said in a series of emails, “so I had to come to Pakistan for a while.”

She and her sister and parents left New Jersey in early March and plan to return on April 20. Due to the time difference in a country 7,000 miles away, FACA ends its virtual school session every day at around 9:30.

“It’s hard for me,” she said. Still, one teacher said that Faika, who hoped to become a doctor, was often the first to answer questions.

States have residency rules that require students to live in the district where they attend school.

But it is reasonable and legal to offer flexibility related to a child’s physical location during virtual instruction, as long as the child has residency in the district and plans to return, said Bruce de Baker, a national expert in education funding who He teaches at Rutgers University Graduate School of Education.

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Tendra Peralta said she decided to move her 4-year-old and 14-year-old to the Dominican Republic for a month to give them a break from the monotony of online schooling from an apartment in Elizabeth – and help with child care Can you “There’s more room for the kids, and there’s more space,” she said from relatives there.

In Elizabeth, families must show that they rent or own property to have international login access, Mr Politano said, and they must provide proof of a return date.

“It is a thirst for education on the part of the student to enter the school from Egypt or Kenya,” he said. “It takes dedication from teachers, staff, school boards and administration to do this.”

Many teachers said that erratic Wi-Fi is the most common problem faced by children abroad.

But Mr. Floro said students often contact him after their Internet access returns, asking for guidance or instructions about homework; He said two out of three students who log in from outside the United States are doing as well or better than their classmates in Brooklyn.

“Many of them, if they hadn’t told me, I wouldn’t even notice,” said Mr. Floro, who teaches English as a new language and Arabic for native speakers at a high school in Bensonhurst.

In New York City, officials said it is possible for students to log in from anywhere in the world without special approval.

“We recognize that the challenges of the pandemic have temporarily changed circumstances for our families, and New York City schools are providing strong virtual instruction to those who have worked remotely,” district spokeswoman Ms Filson said in a statement. chose to learn.” .

Superintendent Rosa Diaz said that in Carteret, NJ, a diverse 4,000-student district in central New Jersey, about 20 to 30 students had been entering regularly over the past several months from outside the country.

But after a series of “Zoom bombs” — interruptions by strangers hacking into several online classes — the district began blocking access from IP addresses outside the United States in mid-March, she said. In addition to securing the network, there was also a desire to encourage students to return to individualized instruction.

“We want people to know: We are open for business and we expect these students to come back, or at least be here locally,” she said.

Max Rodriguez, 16, in Elizabeth Frank J. A student at the Sicarel Academy, just before Christmas went to Ecuador with his mother and sister to visit his grandfather, who had suffered a heart attack. He met cousins ​​for the first time and practiced his Spanish.

“A cousin, she will sit with me,” he said. “We almost taught each other a lesson. I will teach him English. And she was teaching me Spanish.

He said he was grateful that he was able to enter class by the time he returned home at the end of February.

“Missing two months of school is really important,” he said. “Two months could have been really bad.”

Juliana Kim contributed reporting and Ellen Delaquerry contributed research.

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