EAB researchers identified publicly available information on distance learning plans from 10 districts in the Washington Area Board of Education (WABE). Specifically, we reported on the following components of distance learning plans (published by districts as of April 2, 2020): instructional time guidelines, availability of printed instructional packets, resources for parents/caregivers, grading, assessment, and attendance.
Administrators at eight of the ten profiled districts set specific instructional time recommendations in distance learning plans. In this report, EAB researchers defined “instructional time” as time spent on core content areas (i.e., English language arts (ELA)/reading, math, science, social studies) and—if the information was available—time spent on specials (e.g., physical education (PE), art, music, etc.).
Printed instructional packets
Administrators at five profiled districts—Arlington Public Schools, Fairfax County Public Schools, Loudoun County Public Schools, Manassas City Public Schools, and Prince George’s County Public Schools—explicitly state that administrators will provide hard-copy instructional packets for students and parents. Administrators at Arlington Public Schools, Loudoun County Public Schools, Manassas City Public Schools, and Prince George’s County Public Schools do not provide information on the components of these instructional packets to the same extent as do administrators at Fairfax County Public Schools. Administrators at Fairfax County Public Schools, Loudoun County Public Schools, and Manassas City Public Schools are mailing printed instructional packets to students. In contrast, administrators at Prince George’s County Public Schools will deliver instructional packets at meal pick-up sites.
Resources for parents/caregivers
Administrators may consider providing ideas for online enrichment activities to supplement teacher-assigned tasks and suggestions for offline enrichment activities aimed at younger students. Further, administrators may consider publishing parent-facing guidance on how to use specific digital devices and navigate relevant online platforms (e.g., learning management system (LMS)) to ensure a smooth transition to distance learning.
Sample non-academic resources for parents provided by profiled districts
Grading and assessment
In the Guidance Document for Consideration in Awarding Pass/Fail Credit, the Virginia School Boards Association (VSBA) and Virginia Association of School Superintendents (VASS) jointly state that “as teachers and others decide final grades for students, during an extraordinary time, collectively during this process the work must convey hope and encouragement for students and not be an additional burden or source of stress.” If administrators were to assign traditional A-F grades for work completed during distance learning, administrators may cause additional stress for students during an already stressful time.
If administrators decide to offer Pass/Fail (in lieu of the standard A-F) and choose to do so on an individual basis (in lieu of providing a “blanket” Pass/Fail to all students), VSBA and VASS present methodology considerations in the Guidance Document for Consideration in Awarding Pass/Fail Credit.
Methodology for offering pass/fail on an individual basis, suggested by VSBA and VASS
- Pass/fail as an option should be agreed upon by the parents and the student.
- The parents and the student should wait to consider the option of pass/fail after all other work completed (i.e., earlier than March 13, 2020) has been determined on the A-F scale.
- Administrators exclude course credit earned by passing (using Pass/Fail) from the student’s GPA calculation.
- Administrators record a “P” or “F” on the student’s transcript.
- Administrators award promotion/graduation credit only when the student earns a “P.”
- Administrators may consider excluding select courses (e.g., weighted courses, required credits for graduation) from the pass/fail option.
- Administrators may consider substituting an “Incomplete” in place of a “Fail” with an appropriate timeline that would allow the student to demonstrate mastery of critical standards.
- If the student’s final grade in a course negatively impacts the student’s GPA, administrators convert the letter grade into Pass/Fail. By using this strategy, administrators ensure no final letter grade is lower than the student’s grade on March 13, 2020.
- If the student’s final grade enhances the student’s GPA, administrators maintain the letter grade and resulting GPA on the student’s transcript.
Administrators at profiled districts do not provide information on how to monitor student attendance during distance learning. Notably, administrators at Fairfax County Public Schools state that school counselors will “assist with the school’s established attendance procedure and help with reaching out to students via email that aren’t taking advantage of the online learning”. Administrators at Manassas Park City Schools use identical language on page 18 of their COVID-19 Continuous Learning Plan. Administrators at these two profiled districts do not provide additional information on how teachers plan to track attendance or how school counselors plan to intervene with students who demonstrate low attendance.
As of April 1, 2020, of the 85+ districts profiled in the Center on Reinventing Public Education’s public, evolving database, only seven districts—DSST Public Schools in Colorado, Minneapolis Public Schools in Minnesota, New York City Department of Education, Orange County Public Schools in Florida, Pinellas County Schools in Florida, Polk County Public Schools in Florida, and Providence Public Schools in Rhode Island—explicitly state that teachers will take attendance.