Curriculum, instruction and grading guidelines during suspension of onsite classes

Note: These guidelines were developed in collaboration with educators from our 24 component school districts to serve as a common starting point for schools throughout our region, but these decisions remain a local one. Every teacher should connect with their supervisor in district regarding these topics and follow the directions of their district.

During this unprecedented time, ongoing learning remains essential for our students as the foundation for their future grades, courses and post-secondary plans. The shift to learning from home is how we can continue to support our students in their K-12 education.

Continued learning is essential. The approaches we take — as a region and as individual districts — must account for the varied realities of our students. In order to ensure equity in opportunities and outcomes, our students’ learning needs are a vital charge of our work and actions.

The design of instruction, as well as any assignments, must align with the skill level of students of all age groups and abilities to the greatest extent possible. General education teachers who have special education or ENL students in their class will collaborate with special education and ENL teachers to ensure that instruction meets the needs of all students.

Curriculum during the suspension of onsite classes

Teachers should prioritize NYS learning standards and cover essential curriculum as they provide instruction.

  • Prioritization should focus on standards that are foundational for future learning in other courses and/or grade levels.
  • Curriculum should be pared down, providing students exposure to and instruction in the most important standards.

On April 7, 2020, NYSED canceled Regents exams for June 2020. Please see the guidance memo for further information.

Teachers of Advanced Placement courses should follow information provided by The College Board, which is developing AP tests for this year that will cover content taught through early March. See College Board website.

Teachers of college courses should follow instructions they receive from the college/university.

Instruction and assignment of work during the suspension of onsite classes

Instruction of new material should only be provided with direct support from the student’s teacher. This may include students’ watching video lessons, students’ watching digital lessons created by individual teachers and/or direct contact between teachers and students through other means available.

Protection of students’ personally identifiable information, as required by Ed Law 2D, must factor into decisions about which digital platforms teachers use to deliver instruction and support students’ completion of assignments.

Digital platforms that students are expected to use to view video lessons must be available and accessible to all students. Teachers should provide direct links to online resources for students in the learning management system used by the school.

Teachers are encouraged to create meaningful learning opportunities for students with assignments that students can complete. Avoid creating work just to assign work. If an activity does not further students’ learning of course content, it should not be assigned.

Students must be able to complete assignments with minimal resources and should not require additional resources such as poster boards, trips to craft stores etc.

Recommended time allocations

Expectations for students’ at-home learning time should not exceed the recommendations listed below. Note that students’ at-home learning time includes time spent learning new material, watching video lessons, participating in class discussions and completing assigned work and activities. Review and practice of new material learned is not included in this time frame. Teachers should utilize judgment as to how much time should be spent in review of the new material being learned, depending on the learner(s).

  • Grades K-2: 2.5 hours total per week for ELA and math, with an additional one hour per week for learning in other disciplines (3.5 hours per week total)
  • Grades 3-5: 4 hours total per week for ELA and math, with an additional one hour per week for learning in other disciplines (5 hours per week total)
  • Grades 6-8: 2 hours each per week for ELA, math, science and social studies, with an additional 2 hours per week for all other subject areas (10 hours per week total)
  • Grades 9-12: 3 hours per week for each credit-bearing course (24 hours per week total)

The number of minutes for individual and group instruction for ELL students should try to follow current state guidelines depending on the level of each student. For co-taught classes, special education and general education teachers should be planning together in order to meet students’ IEPs to the greatest extent possible. Resource room teachers should be delivering services to individual students and groups of students based on the new learning and each student’s IEP to the greatest extent possible. Students in self-contained classrooms should be given instruction based on the guidelines above and based on individual students’ IEPs to the greatest extent possible. Related service providers should meet students’ IEPs to the greatest extent possible.

Grading during suspension of onsite classes

The determination of how a district provides grades to students is a local decision. The provision of grades and awarding of course credit must be aligned with guidance from NYSED and local school district policies.

Districts must ensure that grading occurs only in those classes/courses in which all students being graded have had equitable access to mandated and non-mandated services. In addition, it is expected that teachers will provide opportunities for feedback (teacher-to-student and/or student-to-teacher) as part of the instructional and grading process.

For classes in which grades will be provided, districts are encouraged to consider a simplified, non-traditional model of grading based on measures of student learning, e.g.:

  • Evidence of Learning = Student has demonstrated learning of essential curriculum based on what was taught and assigned.
  • Not Yet Learned = Student has not completed assignment, or work completed does not yet demonstrate learning of essential curriculum. Student will be given the opportunity to redo and resubmit work to demonstrate learning.

Teachers should use varied forms of assessments and graded assignments to measure and document evidence of student learning with multiple opportunities for revision, re-submission and remedial supports.

If in-person classes resume, traditional grading practices will resume.

If the suspension of onsite classes continues into late spring, districts may choose to use grades from September through March 13 as the basis for final course grades. Where student averages from September through March 13 were failing, all attempts should be made by the teacher and school to provide support to the student to earn credit. This may include the development of individualized learning plans, specialized supports and provision of alternate methods of assessment.

All decisions related to grading and awarding of credit will be made by local districts in alignment with NYSED regulations. [Source: NYSED guidance document March 13, 2020]

Grading during period of onsite classes  (September 2019 through March 13, 2020)

Q1 and Q2 grades have been completed and will stand as entered the district’s student information system (SIS). Any changes will need to follow district policy and must be authorized by the school principal.

Grading in Quarter 4

It is imperative that we all understand the wide and varied responsibilities and experiences of our students during this time. The life once known by many students and their families has changed significantly. It is our job to reassure, provide positive connections and continue to provide a sense of normalcy whenever possible through continuity of instruction.

Quarter 4 feedback provides an opportunity for teachers to make positive connections and build trust with students and to let them know that their work and learning matter. It is about continuing to build relationships and provide opportunities for students to feel a sense of success and accomplishment. Teachers are expected to provide timely and constructive feedback on students’ learning. Feedback can take many forms, including individualized written comments and guidelines to support continued growth.

Due to the extended time out of school, the grade for Quarter 4 will be one of two options:

  • Evidence of Learning (EOL): The student is engaging in the learning and moving forward with their understanding of the content and/or acquisition of skills. There is some evidence of learning the prioritized standards/compressed curriculum based on instruction provided.
  • Not Yet Learned (NYL): The student has not yet completed work, or work completed does not demonstrate understanding of prioritized learning standards. The student will be given opportunities to redo/resubmit work to demonstrate learning.

NOTE: College-credit-bearing courses will continue to grade according to university guidelines.

The goal is for grades to serve as a measure of students’ learning. It’s important to find ways to engage students in the work for more authentic reasons, such as helping students see how this learning will benefit them now and in the future. While this is ideal, we recognize that grades often function as a motivational carrot or stick. Teachers should remind students that the EOL and NYL will appear on their Quarter 4 report card and, more importantly, that the learning is essential for their future studies, college and jobs. \

Grading of individual assignments during Q4

Teachers may grade individual assignments using either EOL or NYL.

Students can demonstrate “evidence of learning” through a variety of methods, including the following:

  • Completing and turning in assignments (including short-term and long-term projects);
  • Sharing their understanding verbally or through digital methods (e.g., responding to questions posted in Google Classroom, exit tickets, journal entries);
  • Taking both formative and summative assessments; and
  • Self-assessment/self-evaluation.

Teachers should use NYL for missing assignments, failing grades or work that is in the process of being redone. Once the student has demonstrated evidence of learning, NYL should be replaced with EOL.

Student engagement

To help ensure equity, teachers are expected to follow up with individual students and/or families when a student is not logging into Google Classroom, participating in Google Meet sessions or completing assigned work on a consistent basis during a given week.

The first step is to be understanding, recognizing that family dynamics have changed and are very challenging for many. Others may not yet be self-motivated and may benefit from individual support.

If a student has not engaged at all after several outreach attempts, the teacher should contact the family to offer assistance. If a student is participating occasionally, the teacher should continue to encourage the student’s participation and contact the family to offer support, where appropriate.

If teachers are unable to make contact with students and/or families after repeated attempts, the building principal should be contacted and made aware of the situation.

Ways to leverage faculty and staff to assist with reteaching and engagement

During this time, it is important that all faculty and staff are actively engaged in supporting students. Depending on one’s role, this may mean providing new learning, providing extra instructional support and/or attending to students’ social/emotional needs to the greatest extent possible.

School leaders should identify teachers and staff whose roles may have changed since moving to a remote learning environment. Those faculty and staff members should be used to support students who are not showing evidence of learning with new or previous instruction.

Language to use with parents

We know that parents and students are concerned about grades and the impact this will have on their GPA, transcripts and applications to college. We want to assure our families and students that schools, at both the K-12 and the collegiate levels, are adjusting their typical grading practices and policies during this unprecedented time.

Our district has worked closely with the other school districts in our region to approach grading in a similar way. The NY State Education Department has exempted all students in good standing from Regents exams they intended to take in June 2020. Many colleges and universities have adjusted their own grading practices for the spring semester. Their admissions offices have expressed an understanding that high schools are also altering the way scores are reported for this spring and school year and have indicated that such changes should not negatively impact students’ college applications.

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