GUILFORD COUNTY, N.C. — Guilford County Schools Superintendent Sharon Contreras raised concerns about pod-based learning throughout the COVID-19 pandemic during a virtual town hall.
“We have to be very careful about this because what it does is exacerbate achievement gaps, and that will ultimately cause a decline in educational outcomes because what people are doing is hiring teachers who should be working in school districts, who have been paid with taxpayer dollars to work, who will not then serve the poorest children,” Contreras said.
Some families are seeking pod-based learning where they hire educators for small groups of students.
“Wealthy families will take these teachers, provide for their children, and then the racial achievement gap will increase, and life outcomes will ultimately decline because the educational outcomes for students will decline. So please, I ask you all do not participate in…pod-based education at all,” Contreras continued.
School board member Pat Tillman said Friday he’s heard from families considering the option, but he shares some of the concerns presented by Contreras.
“We’re already going to be faced with a widening of the achievement gap given how long our students have been out of the classroom with traditional instruction,” he said. “If, and that’s a big if, our teachers are essentially being lured away from the classroom, that’s a whole other issue we would want to address.”
A retired teacher told FOX8 he was initially looking to lead a pod but reconsidered for several reasons. First, he’s concerned about the potential health risks. He’s also worried about inequity when some families can afford more personalized attention.
“There’s really no way to keep up or monitor all the innovation and ideas. Some ideas won’t be as good as others, and people might try things that might not work, but certainly we want to be aware of the equity part of that because that’s very important to the district but again we can’t control what families do,” Tillman said.
Tillman said board members are working on other ways to address inequity, including securing devices for students to continue remote learning this fall.
So far the district has secured more than 70,000 devices, but that’s still not enough for every student to be ready for online learning on the first day.