The inherent difficulties that have arisen in the wake of COVID-19 are numerous, and we commend the district for their adaptability, especially as suggestions and instructions from national and statewide officials fluctuate rapidly.
The district’s openness to feedback regarding future grading systems and graduation scheduling has provided students and parents with a platform to voice their concerns and opinions through a survey sent out in March.
As for ensuring that students do not lack essential resources for online learning, the district has worked to provide technology through the distribution of wifi hotspots and Chromebooks. We also commend the PTSA and The District Teachers Association for working to provide meal vouchers and gift cards for district families in need of food. Giving a 2 week period before starting new content in classes was a needed decision to prevent students who needed these resources from unfairly falling behind in their classes.
When phase 2 started, the addition of more block days improved manageability and overall we feel that teachers are being incredibly understanding of personal or academic needs their students express. Additionally, the weekly slates posted each Monday and designated times for each period throughout the week have generated more consistency across all classes. These standardized methods of communication and scheduling have been helpful in decreasing the confusion of multiple classes having multiple online structures and expectations.
We believe all of these actions have shown a clear and genuine effort on the part of the school and district staff to help district students and families adjust to this time. However, with any transition, there are ways to improve. Below are a few suggestions guided by our experiences and student survey responses for how to ease confusion or worry for the remainder of the semester:
- We believe there should be more transparency in terms of what counts for credit and what does not. Although the guidelines emailed to students and families stated the criteria for an “engaged” grade for the school week, not all teachers consider every assignment or check-in question as counting for engagement or for credit. Because of the new credit/no credit grading system, it would be advantageous for students if teachers indicated exactly which assignments or check-in questions counted in the gradebook through the weekly slates. A color-coding system for which assignments receive credit and which don’t could greatly benefit students. That way, students can prioritize their homework and create an efficient schedule that works best for them.
- While we believe that Zoom calls maintain connections and give students a chance to express their questions, teachers should coordinate scheduling. In our experience on several occasions, students have been double booked and as a result are in danger of becoming behind on school work or receiving an unengaged grade unfairly. Teachers should try as much as possible to schedule synchronous meetings and office hours to fit their designated time slot based on the schedule provided by the district.
- Perhaps all due dates should be standardized to eliminate any scheduling conflicts. While some teachers consider work on time if turned in by 11:59 p.m. on a certain day, others may have other definitions such as by 3:30 p.m., or by the beginning of the class period. When each class has a different expectation for what time work should be submitted on a particular day to count as on time, we have experienced it can be easy to unintentionally submit an assignment late because of confusing one teacher’s due date time with another’s. If the administration creates a school-wide definition for due dates confusion can be avoided. Some examples of standardization are defining that all class due dates be the beginning of their next respective period, or having 11:59 p.m. on the day it is due be the standard time cutoff.
- In a recent survey administered by the Oracle, 50% of students reported none of their teachers have addressed the topic of testing or retakes for the rest of the year. To alleviate stress, we believe it is necessary for all teachers to provide students with guidelines and information regarding testing or lack thereof.