Orland Unified School District

Grades and Credits During the COVID Pandemic

<div>Grades and Credits During the COVID Pandemic</div> icon
Grades and Credits During the COVID Pandemic

21 January 2021

Defining the Issue:
The educational research is clear in terms of how learning is best achieved.  Students learn best when they have immediate access to a trained teacher and their peers. Engaging instruction, well planned, and processing of information with others, is key to stimulating new neural connections and retaining important information.  That is the basis of learning.

During the COVID - 19 pandemic, students are, with good reason, kept apart during distance learning, and to a lesser degree, even in the classroom.  While this lowers the risk of infection, it also negatively impacts their learning. The requirement for distance learning adds a new twist by making students’ access to fast and reliable internet a factor in how much they are able to engage in learning.

Grades are used for multiple purposes within and outside schools.  Promotion / retention decisions, credits and fulfilling graduation requirements, and Grade Point Average / Scholarship eligibility all depend on grades.  

How then do we fairly and equitably assign grades?  This question has been the focus of multiple formal and informal discussions across the District.  It has been discussed by teachers in their grade / subject level meetings, during site-wide staff meetings, and during district level leadership meetings.  Practices implemented in other districts have been reviewed, and the thoughts shared by parents considered.

Guiding Principles
  • Our approach must be based on what is best for students.
  • Communication between the teacher and parents is a key component of formulating any plan.
  • We increase our capacity to create solutions by working with all stakeholders.
  • During the pandemic, equity should guide us, not a rigid adherence to an outmoded one-size-fits all approach.
  • The options for students must consider their specific circumstances.
  • A student’s right to privacy, and our commitment to confidentiality cannot be compromised. 
  • Accountability must be expected for all students.  The level of accountability must match the developmental level of the student. 
  • The impacts of our decisions on the future of the students must be a consideration.
Short Term Interventions for Grades and Credits 
  • Additional focus on Social and Emotional Supports in classes and throughout the district.
  • Frequent communication with parents regarding grades or credit concerns.
  • Continued emphasis and support on the needs of Special Education, English / Spanish Learner, Foster, and Homeless students.
  • Extended teacher availability for individual or group support: in-person and virtual.
  • Modification of pacing to allow students more processing time.
  • Increased focus on covering essential standards in greater depth.
  • Increased focus on reteaching when necessary.
  • Modifications to class grading scales, or weighting grades differently. 
  • Increased focus on demonstrations of mastery - retesting, correcting or showing mastery via an alternative method.
  • Incentives for students to complete assignments.
  • Decreasing or modifying assignments, projects, homework.
  • Extended time for submitting assignments.
  • Recording lessons and encouraging students to review recorded instruction. 
  • Absent students watch the recording of actual lessons.
  • Curated supplementary lessons from the internet offered as a resource.
  • Creating individual “catch up” plans or grade modification “contracts”. 
  • OHS Freshman Seminar classes focus on grade / credit recovery.
  • OHS Students will receive partial credit depending on final term grade, reducing the amount of work necessary for credit recovery.  (30-39% = 1Credit; 40-49% = 2 Credits; 50-59% = 3 Credits; 60%+ = full 5 Credits.) 
  • Seniors will get priority and additional supports to keep them on graduation track.
  • Immediate access to on-line credit recovery proctored by a teacher.
  • Elementary teachers focusing on language arts and math; other subjects serve as context.  
  • Learning loss which is seen frequently at a grade level will not be considered a reason for retention.  
Middle and Long Term Interventions for Grades and Credits
  • Adding additional capacity for students who function better in an Independent Study atmosphere.
  • Extended learning opportunities: extended day, additional day, additional sessions.  
  • Continued access to on-line credit recovery, and teacher oversight of this process.
  • Seeking staff and proposing short term additional teachers; particularly in the core areas of ELA/SLA and Math.
  • Gathering data on Learning Loss and planning for interventions during the 21/22 school year.
  • Focusing on data analysis and revised needs assessments to create the district’s long term strategic plan.  (LCAP)
  • Beginning a conversation about how we might change and improve grading practices systemically for the long term. (Grading for Equity by Joe Feldman is the basis for a county-wide discussion on this topic.)
  • Allocating resources based on these priorities.
January 21, 2021 Superintedent's Report to the Board

<div>January 21, 2021 Superintedent's Report to the Board</div> icon
January 21, 2021 Superintedent's Report to the Board

In addition to the normal and necessary business operations of the district here is what the Leadership Team and I have been working on:
New Board member training. Making arrangements for further training.
Organizing the search process for our CBO. 
Next steps for improvement planning (Will be discussed later in the meeting under item 5.4)
Attending county - wide trainings on grades and grading during the pandemic and beyond. ( Will be discussed further under item 5.3) 
Planning for activities to occur this spring and summer focused on mitigating learning loss.
Tutoring services
Saturday school
Summer school
Discussing Dual Immersion plans for upcoming school year.
Staying updated on the Governor’s Budget Proposal and financial planning for the upcoming school year.
Please refer to 19 January letter from ACSA, CSBA, CASBO, SSDA, and CCSESA to Governor Gavin Newsom.As you see in the letter, there is united opposition to this portion of the plan. 
Safe Schools for All plan and associated “grants” are, in the words of one local legislator, “unduly burdensome” and “unworkable”. (Rep.Gallagher)
7 largest districts in the state made a public statement opposing those restrictions.
$450 / student Grant mandates weekly testing of all students and staff. 
We want the community to know that this is logistically impossible.
At this point I would like to speak to the work we have been doing to maximize in-person learning for as many students as possible and as long as possible each day.  
  • Our focus is always putting the needs of students first.  
  • A top priority in this district is always the safety of our students and staff.
First I’ll ask Jennifer Cox, Director of Student Services to speak to the issue of supports we’re offering to meet the needs of our students during these stressful times.
(Presentation by Jennifer Cox, Director of Student Services) 
  • Another priority is to remain transparent in our operations and open to suggestions for improvement.  I would like to thank the parents and community members who have taken the time to make their thoughts and concerns known. 
Data / Information 
1,627 students In Person
778 Distance Learning
Distance learning is a mixture of approaches, again based on what we think is the best available option for students based on their developmental level.  
OUSD Teachers instructing DL classes
OUSD Teachers instructing blended classrooms IP and DL for a few
OUSD Teachers instructing blended classrooms (OHS A/B track)
OUSD Teacher supervising accredited online classes - Edgenuity
OUSD Teacher offering instruction through the Independent Study Program
A typical In Person day for students starts at about 8:15 and runs to about 12:30
For OHS students the IP and DL students get the same minutes each day. Teachers at OHS really serve three groups each day, A, B, and DL.
DL students get a mix of synchronous and asynchronous, but always above the state mandated minimum 230-240 minutes per day
We have increased Independent Study by 1FTE substitute teacher
Assessment Data
Basic Phonics Skills Test results:12 - 16 % increase in students scoring below the cut point
Number of students reading at level in grades 1&2have fallen by 16 - 20% 
At CKP A’s and B’s have dropped 65-67%, while F’s increased 2-6X
At OHS A’s and B’s have dropped 9-29%, while F’s increased 2-4X
Now I would like to speak to the process we’ve used to evaluate options:
Communication to stakeholders.
Inputs and ideas are relayed up and down the chain of command.
Staff and department meetings.
Grade level and content area meetings
Instructional Staff
Support Staff
Site Leadership
District wide leadership
Negotiations are frequent and in-depth
Every idea is considered, regardless of where it originated. 
Leadership, and everyone involved, are constantly reading about how other districts are accomplishing IP learning.
We are continuously seeking teachers, substitutes and aides (and other positions) to fill known vacancies or add into the programs as we work to expand In Person Instruction
  • We surveyed families of students on DL.  Each site is able to accomodate the return of those students who requested IP.  The return from DL to IP is happening already for some students.(I walked MS and FV Wednesday.  Almost every class is full given the 6' distancing restriction.  We have space for a very few at either site.  There are more slots available at CK and OHS, which the principals are working on filling.)   
  • We were able to secure one teacher at CKP who will expand our ability to offer IP learning to more students.
  • OHS is finalizing plans to combine the A and B tracks so every IP student can attend every day.
  • We are evaluating whether expanding the use of an on-line program might free OHS teachers from the task of instructing IP an DL simultaneously.  I will speak more to those issues later.
I would like to also speak to some issues that we’ve come up against that limit our capacity to offer IP learning. 
  • Safe Spacing
    • This issue, along with our inability to find additional staff, are the most limiting factors in our ability to serve more students with IP instruction.
    • We must keep students separated by 6’ in the classrooms.  GCDPH staff visited our sites and commented that we were doing a good job at this.  
    • We are utilizing plastic barriers and curtains to increase capacity
    • We are trying to expand capacity by having teachers teach during prep periods.
    • A concern for the teachers was that the remaining seats would not be very functional for the students: some of the seats are in areas where the "instructional wall " cannot be seen, others are in the far back of the room sitting under cabinets. 
  • Transportation
    • We are currently transporting a handful of students to school  They get transportation because of some very unique circumstances which mandate we provide rides to and from school. These are special circumstances, not available to all students.
    • We could certainly transport a few more students to school (and pick them by a set of criteria based on need), but the transportation issue isn't as simple as running bus or van routes.  
    • There's the issue of supervision when they arrive at school.  We've re-shuffled assignments to support kids, but that means that our classified staff who supervised between the time students got dropped off and the start of classes are unavailable. 
    • There is also a concern about our inability to screen students before they board the bus.  Should a sick student ride the bus we risk having the virus pass to multiple grades / groups.  This is not an issue at the end of the day because we screen students when they are at school. 
    • There's also the issue of available bus drivers.  MOT staff have had an increased cleaning workload placed on them, and if we take their time to run routes, they won't have time for the cleaning tasks.  Add to that the fact that we're unable to find new staff who want to work PT or temporary to backfill those needed hours. Currently 6 staff members have been moved to second shift to cover the cleaning required between classes and SPARK, and after each classroom is used daily. 
  • Developmentally Appropriate Expectations for Students
    • At OHS the teachers relayed that they feel extending the school day would be detrimental to the DL students.  (Remember that OHS students not attending in person are expected to login for each lesson each day. We already expect them to watch four hours of lessons; going to more time would likely not be productive.)
    • Elementary teachers report students leaving exhausted at the end of the day because they have limited outlets for their energy.  
    • Teachers report increased frustration from students who struggle to hear the lessons as teachers need to almost shout to be heard through the mask and shield. 
    • We are utilizing additional plastic barriers in the classrooms, but that also seems to increase the students’ anxiety.  
  • When will operations change significantly?
    • OHS combining A&B track.
    • If we can use accredited online classes throughout, that will free teachers up to teach a longer day, and not be unmanageable for students. (Efficacy and staffing are concerns.) 
    • We will look into finding a space to hold additional grade level classes if we can find qualified teachers.  We'll also look into whether some parents might be more able to bring their students to school if we offered an afternoon or evening session (and can find a temp teacher who is willing to work those hours.)
    • We are also looking into whether DL students / parents would want to do a weekly IP session with the teacher.
    • Additional tutoring, school days, and a summer session are being planned.  
    • We will change operations as soon as it is safe to do so
      • If we can decrease distancing requirements
      • If we can find staff to help with supervision and instruction
      • If we are told by public health 
      • If we hear (and can verify) that other districts are implementing a practice we can use in OUSD. 
      • Basically, at every safe opportunity we will get more students back to IP learning for a longer day.
I don’t think it wise or prudent to propose a specific target date or set of criteria which will trigger full reopening.  Too many times during this pandemic, the projections have been wrong, and the rules have changed.  While the uncertainty is upsetting to everyone, I feel that we’re setting everyone up for disappointment if we do so.  
Finally, I would remind everyone that students are watching and learning from adults inside and outside the classrooms.  I know we are all stressed, concerned, anxious and even afraid at times.  I hope we can resist the urge to use these issues as excuses for poor behavior.  
My directive to OUSD staff is, regardless of the circumstances, we must choose to be kind, patient, caring and understanding.  There’s an old adage that “Hard times don’t build character, they reveal it.”  Let’s show our students that we can deal with this emergency and still stay positive and respectful.