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School districts reevaluate grading, finals amid stay-at-home order

While physical buildings may be closed, online classrooms have remained open to provide students with ongoing educational resources in the midst of social distancing mandates.

For staff members in the Rockwood and Parkway school districts, the past few weeks have been filled with conversations about how to proceed with routine school business such as grading, finals and even the format of the school week.

[Source: Adobe]

Rockwood School District

In response to COVID-19, Rockwood launched an Alternative Learning Program [ALP], which continues educational lessons online and affords students the opportunity to turn in assignments that better their grades. Those grades are entered into the district’s Infinite Campus [an online resource for teachers, students and parents] in a specific ALP section.

During this phase, Rockwood has also adopted a “hold harmless” approach – meaning a student’s semester grade cannot be lower than the grade they had based on assessments assigned prior to the ALP. Any new assignments can be used to improve the semester grade, but not lower the grade.

Incomplete assignments will be marked, but there will be no impact on students’ grades. The purpose of entering grades into Infinite Campus is primarily to provide feedback, the district said.

A recommended amount of 30-60 minutes of actual work per day is recommended for students in kindergarten through fifth grade [or a maximum of five hours per week]. For students in grades sixth through 12, or those with seven courses, an average of 90 minutes per class per week [or 10.5 hours of classwork per week] is recommended.

According to Dr. Shelley Willott, Rockwood’s assistant superintendent of learning and support services, the ultimate goal has been to provide students with educational opportunities that are flexible enough to accommodate various at-home schedules.

“It could be a little less in some of their elective classes and a little more in some of their core classes, but we try to aim for 90 minutes [per class, per week] on average,” Willott said.

The district was able to implement its online learning regiment quickly because many students have access to take-home Chromebooks. The district also purchased over 300 hotspots to make sure families had internet access.
According to Willott, the district is sticking to its five-day school workweek schedule for both students and teachers.

“We felt it was really important to keep that consistency,” Willott said.
Looking forward, the district made the decision to suspend final exams for spring 2020.

Parkway School District

Parkway has adopted similar policies, but there are a few differences. For example, Parkway will shift to a four-day eLearning schedule as of Monday, April 13. Students will engage in online eLearning lessons Monday through Thursday while Fridays will be set aside for teachers to use as a workday. The district uses the Schoology app, a virtual learning environment, as its eLearning platform for students and parents. Larger meetings or discussions take place through online forums like Google Meet. Parents can access Schoology to see what work students have been assigned.

Grades for middle and high school students will be entered into Infinite Campus in a specific “eLearning” category and count for 5% of each student’s semester grade. To improve their overall grades, students have the opportunity to complete, revise or use alternative ways to demonstrate mastery of learning that occurred prior to spring break. This work will be entered in the original category in which it was assigned. [The district entered into its COVID-related closure immediately out of spring break.]

Grading expectations vary by grade level.

According to the district website, third trimester progress reports for elementary students will be replaced with ongoing feedback. For those students, a focus is placed on priority standards for English/language arts and math. Throughout all content areas, the instruction emphasis has been shifted to focus more on exposure and guided practice with mastery not being expected. In subjects like science and social studies, student assignments focus on the skills of scientists and social scientists that students had learned about earlier in the school year.

Ultimately, each district came to slightly different decisions regarding how to present e-learning. However, it’s likely that the decisions made during this time period will impact the structure of school far into the future.

For example, students will be better equipped to tackle assignments during future emergencies or even snow days, continuing their education online.

“Last year, when it was said that all kids could take online learning [Rockwood Online], I think there was a lot of fear about that and a lot of angst,” Willott said. “We’ve kind of embraced that, and we have some kids [for whom] that environment works really well. Personalized learning has really shown itself as a concept in this environment, and I really hope we can keep trying some of these things long-term in our system.”

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