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It’s not just digital: Four out of five Illinois school districts use devices and paper packets, too

A boy holding a pencil and completing a math worksheet. Annie Spratt/ Unsplash

More than 80% of Illinois’ school districts assigned students worksheets and paper packets in the early days of school closures — meaning the shift to remote learning has not been wholly digital, according to a survey by Illinois State Board of Education.

The survey results were included in the state board’s agenda for its May meeting Wednesday. The board did not meet in April.

Illinois expects to receive more than $670 million from the federal government to offset the cost of coronavirus-related emergency spending. A Chalkbeat and Better Government Association survey of five of the largest school districts in the state showed that the bulk of expenses so far have been related to technology.

But clearly the vast majority of districts relied on some paper-based learning in the early days of the closures, when the state encouraged remote learning but did not require it. According to the survey, which was conducted in late March, 82% of the 655 districts that responded said they were providing lessons via a mix of devices and worksheet packets.

More than a third of school districts said they delivered paper packages by buses or mail, while 63% asked parents to come to schools to pick them up.

Almost 90% of school districts communicated with students using email, while 81% used digital platforms like Blackboard or Class Dojo. School districts also reached out to students by phone.

For activities, 57% of school districts used video lessons led by staff while a small portion used television shows, books, group projects and research projects to try to engage students in learning.

Nine percent of the districts responding said they were delivering remote instruction via digital means only and 9% said they did not currently possess the ability to deliver any remote instructions via digital means.

Updated: This story was updated to reflect that the survey was taken before the state officially required districts to implement remote learning.

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