Curricular Considerations (COVID)
As noted, significant efforts were taken by the district to solicit feedback from families, educators, and students regarding the successes and challenges associated with the spring 2020 remote learning plan. While feedback revealed varied perspectives, clear patterns emerged. Many respondents expressed messages of gratitude for the district’s quick development of a remote learning plan; educators noted that the collaboration within their schools and departments contributed to consistent and high quality lessons, despite the complexities of delivering them via Zoom, which was a tool that prior to COVID-19 was relatively unknown to many of our educators.
Alternately, the phased movement from offering “enrichment” to then introducing new curriculum, the recommendation by DESE to eliminate traditional grading practices from the remote learning experience, and the overall lack of familiarity with a blended learning model proved challenging. The swift move to identify a common curriculum delivery platform at the K-3 level (SeeSaw) required immediate professional learning for our educators, as well as the need to ensure that families had the knowledge to successfully navigate that platform. Likewise, this type of support was needed for some families at the upper grades where Google Classroom was used as the content management system; while this was a familiar tool for many students, their experience was often limited to the school setting, where a teacher could quickly resolve any issues. When used in the fully remote setting, families didn’t always have the means to address some of the issues, requiring assistance. At the upper levels, feedback revealed that in order to effectively manage their learning expectations, students craved a more consistently used, organized tool to house their learning resources such as course materials and Zoom links.
As we enter the 20-21 school year, there is a much stronger foundation and collective knowledge base regarding remote learning. While the district has selected a hybrid learning model as our in-school option, if the need arises for a fully remote experience, we have extensively studied what is needed to maximize the use of synchronous learning time. This includes setting priorities for curriculum and learning goals, thoughtful planning for the use of time, technology, and teacher-expertise, using assessment data to the greatest extent possible, and ensuring that expectations for work production and work quality are fully articulated.
Guiding principles that influenced our reentry planning include the need to:
- provide quality programming while adhering to protocols that keep staff and students safe
- develop clear, focused curricular goals that promote equitable access
- deliver consistent instruction while remaining flexible and ready to pivot with changing circumstances
- include teacher voice and collaboration in designing the plan
- address the social emotional needs of our students
- ensure that teachers feel confident with their ability to teach effectively in a hybrid learning environment
- purchase a learning management system (LMS) for grades 4-12 to ensure consistency in curriculum access for students
In order to prepare our faculty members to approach reentry with confidence, opportunities for professional learning and collaboration were offered during the summer of 2020. Specific criteria were set for summer curriculum development, including a focus on refining remote learning practices. Also, with grant funding dedicated to mitigating COVID-19 related challenges, additional curricular planning opportunities, including a focus on a “flipped” classroom model were offered to faculty members with the goal of building our capacity and ability to maximize learning both in the classroom and in the home setting during the upcoming school year. Additionally, instructional planning will include careful attention to our assessment data and to offering curricular interventions, with special emphasis on ensuring the needs of our most vulnerable learners are addressed. Opportunities for professional development, educator collaboration, and home-school communication will continue throughout the 2020-2021 school year.