School leaders and teachers in New York City and across the state have been struggling to set up routines for remote learning; finding schedules that can be replicated and bring continuity to lessons, coordinating with teachers on their grade, conferencing with the school leader; it s been challenging and schools are slowly working out the kinks, until the decision to cancel the Spring recess and in New York City to cancel closing schools on Holy Thursday and Good Friday and move from Zoom to Microsoft Teams, a totally different platform (See Chalkbeat article here with the Department explanation). The teacher union, the UFT sharply disagreed with the decision to cancel the spring recess, to no avail, the Department did agree to add four days to each teachers’ cumulative absence reserve (“sick days”) and allow the days to be used for religious observance.
What exactly is supposed to happen instructionally next week is unclear. Principals and teachers are angry and frustrated, and, for good reason. Next week could have been used to clarify the many complexx questions as well as contunie upgrading teacher remote learning challenges.
UFT President Mulgrew’s letter,
The schools chancellor has informed me that Mayor Bill de Blasio has decided to keep New York City public schools open on Thursday, April 9, and Friday, April 10, even though those days are major religious holidays.
I told him flat out that I disagreed with that decision, but the city is going ahead with it anyway. Under the state of emergency he declared in New York City, the mayor has the authority to do that.
With this step, Mayor de Blasio shows that he does not recognize just how hard you have been working during these stressful and anxiety-filled times. I know how seriously you take the role you are playing in this pandemic. You have kept learning alive and been a social and emotional lifeline for 1.1 million students and their families. You met this challenge head-on while taking care of your own families and no one can question your results.
I can assure you that there has been an outpouring of thanks from parents and from first responders and health care workers. Meanwhile, the silence from City Hall has been deafening. Never once during this crisis has the mayor thanked you for your service. Instead, he diminishes your work by describing it only as a vehicle to keep children at home.
I warned the chancellor that since so many members and the families we serve observe those two days, it will cause disruption. New York City schools have always been closed for the start of Passover and Good Friday, which are among the most important religious holidays of the calendar year.
On Monday the Board of Regents will have their monthly meeting, by phone conference. The posted agenda does not contain any information in regard to whether school will be resumed or any of the myriad questions regarding grading, Regents Examinations, high school graduation requirements, and others.
The State Education Department did provide guidance for teacher preparation programs modifying the requirements so that no prospective teacher will be harmed by school closings; Regents Cashin and Collins responded admirably.
Hopefully there will be further guidance provided at the meeting,
Item # 1 on the agenda for Monday’s Meeting.
Department Response to Coronavirus (COVID-19) – Department staff will provide an update on guidance issued to schools and institutes of higher education regarding COVID-19.
Other states have published specific guidelines,
How many hours of instruction should we expect each day?
Continuous learning focuses on critical standards and the skills needed for grade advancement. Our recommended guidelines for maximum student commitment in terms of direct instruction each day are as follows. Additional reading time or storytelling is always encouraged.
- Pre-K : 30 minutes
- Grades K-1: 45 minutes
- Grades 2-3: 60 minutes
- Grades 4-5: 90 minutes
- Grades 6-12: 30 minutes per teacher (3 hours max in a day
- How will this work for students who receive special education services?
Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) may NOT be universally modified. There is no waiver from IDEA requirements, including IEP and eligibility timelines. Schools should take into consideration alternate methods for providing educational services to children with disabilities age 3-21 who are receiving IEP services, such as, teleservices, learning packets, or virtual/online lessons.
Special education teachers and related service providers will continue to work on IEP and evaluation paperwork within required timelines. IEP meetings may be held via phone or in another video conferencing format such as Zoom or Google Hangouts as appropriate. LEAs must ensure that, to the greatest extent possible, each student with a disability can be provided the special education and related services identified in the student’s IEP.
- What does this mean for high school seniors?
High school seniors will earn credits and achieve eligibility for graduation by completing a locally designed demonstration of competency, which may include:
- Passing a locally designed test,
- Completing a locally designed series of assignments,
- Achieving a set cut score on a college entrance exam,
- Demonstrating applied work experience.
- Will high school graduation requirements be waived?
The SED waiver will remove the requirements for seniors to attend a minimum of … hours of instruction. All students are still required to complete at least 24 credits of required and elective coursework. End of semester final grades should be calculated, reported and transcripted. SED is encouraging schools and districts to adopt a pass/no credit grading system for the last grading period.
- What do I tell my senior who is concerned about meeting graduation requirements?
Schools must identify students in danger of not being able to demonstrate course completion and focus support on them. Students will have an extension until June 19 to demonstrate competency. Those who fail to do so will be offered credit recovery in the summer and will have the ability to appeal to the local school board and to the Secretary. No student can be denied graduation due to lack of access to demonstrate competency.
The guidance above was released on March 26th, from New Mexico, and, the sooner guidance is provided to local school districts the sooner the districts can target their remote instruction models to meet the needs of their students.
Districts should be given latitude, our 700 plus districts range from the Big Five (including NYC) to high tax suburban districts to hundreds of low tax rural districts, one size, this time, does not fit all.
Grading should be pass or no grade.
There is no way a school or school district can provide a classic grade, and, providing any grade would be enormously challenging. No student should fail; if a student, for whatever reason, does not complete work a “no grade” would be sufficient
Graduation Requirements for High School Seniors
The only Regents examinations required for graduation should be Algebra 1 and English. Students usually take Algebra 1 in the 8th or 9th grade and the English Regents in the 11th grade. I suspect the vast percentage of high school seniors have passed both exams; if a student has not passed both exams and is a Student with a Disability the safety nets can be applied, a passing grade of 55 or if the student cannot achieve a 55 the superintendent determination can apply.
Districts should be given wide discretion in determining attendance and grading procedures
Once again, the technology challenges among districts and schools are enormous, allow districts to establish policies under the general guidance of the state, which means the policies do not require approval; however, the state can intervene if required.
Inclusive Planning Moving Forward
We have no idea what the future holds, it is essential that all stakeholders are in the loop. I suggest that the Board of Regents immediately convene a council of stakeholders, the teacher and supervisory unions, the school board association, the superintendents association and state and regional parent bodies. Weekly meetings of the council with weekly updates, an ongoing “conversation” among the representatives of the most concerned with schools and students.
I’m sure you could add to the items I addressed above, you should have a portal to ask questions and suggest policies.
And, of course, the unanswerable question: When will the “All Clear” sound? If there is an “All Clear.”
Let’s finish with Rhiannon Giddens, “Come Love Come”