The ongoing COVID-19/Coronavirus public health emergency has challenged us to find new ways to support our students in their journey through K-12 education. A longer than expected closure of our schools – currently through at least April 14 – means students’ at-home learning will continue for the foreseeable future.
While instruction will not be the same as in a traditional classroom, our goal is that students will have opportunities to be engaged and continue learning new material guided by their teachers, in preparation for a return to their regular classrooms.
In support of this endeavor, our district has collaborated with Capital Region BOCES and its 23 other component school districts to curate and/or develop high-quality, standards-based lessons and resources focused on the most essential curriculum for our students in K-8 ELA and math, middle-level science and social studies, and Regents courses. The concepts and lessons provided are those that are foundational to students’ future learning. We will transition next week to using these resources in our district as a springboard for our teachers to customize their own lessons with their students as appropriate.
The platform for this learning will be primarily digital. Teachers will create and/or share meaningful learning opportunities for students with assignments that can be completed easily while students are at home:
- The instruction will focus on key learning standards for the discipline or grade level.
- Students may watch instructional videos created by their own teachers, videos created regionally or instructional videos from Khan Academy, WMHT or other vetted, high quality sources for the discipline.
- Assignments will be able to be completed with limited resources. For example, you will not need poster boards, craft supplies, etc.
- Resources will be directly linked to Google Classroom or shared via email.
- Teachers will continue to be available and accessible during the regular school day hours, email being the best means of communication.
At the onset of the closure, Chromebooks were made available to students, and student emails were enabled; guidance for use and access was provided, and is posted on our web page. In the event you are unable to, or are having difficulty accessing the digital platform, please make your child’s teacher(s) aware, so we can provide needed assistance.
As a region, we have also collaborated to define reasonable and practical expectations for students’ at-home learning, given these less-than-ideal circumstances. This includes significantly reduced expectations for how much time students spend on at-home learning each week and a simplified, non-traditional model of grading based on measures of student learning.
Our expectation is that students’ at-home learning time (including time spent learning new material, watching video lessons, participating in class discussions and completing assigned work and activities) fall within these recommended time allocations:
- Grades K-2: 2.5 hours total per week for ELA and math, with an additional one hour per week for learning in other disciplines (3.5 hours per week total)
- Grades 3-5: 4 hours total per week for ELA and math, with an additional one hour per week for learning in other disciplines (5 hours per week total)
- Grades 6-8: 2 hours each per week for ELA, math, science and social studies, with an additional 2 hours per week for all other subject areas (10 hours per week total)
- High School Credit Bearing Courses: Algebra, Earth Science & Spanish 8: 3 hours per week for each (9 hours per week total)
- A daily condensed schedule will provide structure and routine for students and parents, while also giving students flexibility to work outside of scheduled times. Students may choose to review and practice new skills in excess of these suggested times, but are under no obligation to do so.
For our K-5 students, primary guidance and direction relative to instruction will come from your classroom teachers. They are working in conjunction with special educators, ENL teachers and other service providers to meet the needs of all students. For our 6 – 8 students, our middle school team of teachers and service providers is coordinating their instruction and expectations aligned to the above parameters. All grade level teachers are coordinating with special area teachers and those teachers have created and made available opportunities. Please know, these are not the primary focus, nor are they required.
We will also forgo “formal” grades while schools are closed. Instead, students will be assessed using the following two options:
- Evidence of Learning = The student has demonstrated learning of essential curriculum based on what was taught and assigned.
- Not Yet Learned = The student has not completed an assignment, or work completed does not yet demonstrate learning of essential curriculum. The student will be given the opportunity to redo and resubmit work to demonstrate learning.
The most important expectation we hold for our students is that they participate daily and connect with their teachers so that learning can continue. As parents and guardians, you are important partners and digital role models for your children to help them develop new routines to remain engaged in their learning during these unprecedented times.
Together, we can continue our mission on behalf of our students.
Dr. Maureen Long