Districts were provided additional, updated guidance from the Iowa Department of Education (IDOE), including: outlining options for continuous learning as well as the expectation of a plan for implementation to the IDOE by Friday, April 10.
The three options available for districts are to provide:
- No continuous learning (the time would need to be made up once school re-opens and under current Iowa Code, would have to be complete by June 30th);
- Voluntary Educational Enrichment Opportunities; and/or
- Required Educational Services.
*It is also possible to do a combination of voluntary and required. Regardless of the designation of voluntary and/or required, neither of those choices requires the time to be made up.
These are dynamic times. If you were to look at our original communication, which was aligned with the guidance and thinking of that time, compared to where we are now, you will notice substantive changes. This evolution not only impacts our thinking and actions, it places additional expectations on our teachers, counselors, building leaders, and others. They are working hard to pivot to this type of instructional model. It will be important that you communicate the needs of your child to our teachers as this unfolds.
While the learning experiences may be “voluntary”, they are highly recommended. The original guidance from the IDOE only allowed for extension and/or review activities in what is now called the voluntary model. In the revised guidance, content that remains untaught for the course now falls under “extension”. Going forward, the content that has not yet been covered in the class will be included in lessons. The revised guidance also allows for feedback from the teacher/s without grading. These are two significant changes that are adding to the importance of student engagement in the learning experiences.
Previous guidance indicated voluntary could only include review and extension activities. Now, this has been interpreted that objectives that have NOT yet been taught are considered an extension and can (and will) be included in lessons going forward. And, while grades cannot be given for voluntary assignments, students can and will be provided feedback on the progress of their work.
The addition of not-yet-covered content objectives and the provision of feedback are two very important distinctions that have been made known to school districts over the last few days. The addition of these expectations, even in a voluntary environment, underscore why we are working with our special services teachers (special education, English Language Learners, etc.) to be in contact with our families as a support. This includes providing hardware and internet capabilities to those students/families in need.
This includes students in these grades or students in other grades who are taking high school courses in the Waukee High School block format. Attendance will be required for these courses, guided by the expectation of the teacher, and grades will be given for these courses. Term four begins the week of April 13.
Principals will be reaching out with more specific information in regards to awarding credit and grading options for second semester (students through grade 9 earning high school credit that is NOT occurring at Waukee High School) and fourth term (WHS courses).
Students in grades 10-12 (and any students who are taking a high school schedule in Term 4) currently have not been provided content objectives for fourth term, and as such they have no earned grades for the fourth term. As a result, we believe the required learning option is the best and most necessary option for these students. You will likely see very few school districts exercising the required option. In most cases, they award credit on a semester basis, not a quarterly basis. They are likely going to rely on the grades earned up to the closing of schools as the grade and credit for the entire second semester.
Again, to be clear, required courses are graded and participation in the content and objectives is required. In terms of attendance, that will be determined by the teacher. In some cases that may mean daily participation through Google video, while others may take other forms. The idea being that we have the flexibility at the classroom level to define what attendance means for the course.
All of what is being described has additional implications for access to technology by the students as well as the need for direct support for IEP’s, 504’s, and English Learners. As such, for families who indicated they have these needs, we are targeting late this week or early next week for that distribution of hardware and internet sources to families at the high school level.
Beyond that, we will be working to get the necessary technology to our families who have articulated the need in grades lower than high school. We are also working closely with Student Services leadership and the Area Education Agencies to make sure we are serving our students as expected under the required model.