Friday, May 29, 2020

May 29, 2020 1 p.m.

Each week, we take more steps toward creating a better version of the Continuous Learning model that we've been using. During the Community Forum on Wednesday this week, I heard that parents would prefer a weekly summary of what students can expect to see for the week (we'll call this a "weekly drop") and that having a single online platform (rather than several separate programs) would be helpful. Our team has settled on the use of Class Dojo as the central "home base" for instruction for K-3 and Google Classroom for 4-12. We'll be using Zoom as our platform for group meetings and also be providing video lessons that students can view. Everything will be accessed through the "Home base" (Dojo or Google Classroom).

Our goal is to create a system that is easily managed by students and places less and less reliance on parents for support as we move along. We're also planning to provide support for parent learning with these platforms so that parents can more easily interact.

Many of us are planning to engage in professional development through the summer in order to be ready to support children and families in the Fall in whatever way is necessary. We're imagining that we'll be in a system that includes some face-to-face with protocols for safety and some online interaction. Depending upon circumstances, we may be prevented from having face-to-face interaction, so we want to be able to provide high-quality instruction at a distance. Our motto is "prepared, not scared", so whatever circumstances come our way, we want to be prepared.

Lewis County is in phase 2 of the Governor's reopening plan, however that plan does not address school operations. We are still precluded from using our facilities to provide any recreational, social or educational services under the Governor's proclamation 20-08. I've asked for clarification from the State that that is their intent and I'm hoping to hear back next week or during the Governor's next briefing. In the meantime, TSD may not use our gyms, fields and other venues for any activities.

We've heard that most parents are looking forward to their children coming back into the school building and picking up their studies. We've also heard concern about disinfecting and protocols for safety. Our team is working right now on establishing our protocols guided by the experts at the CDC and the Department of Health. We're preparing our order for PPE and sanitizing supplies as well as creating our plans for adapting our buildings to our new circumstances. As these are created, we'll keep you informed.

Friday, May 15, 2020

Friday 7:30 a.m.Grades, Wellness

Grades

One of the most difficult decisions we've faced both in Toledo and the State is how to assign grades for this trimester. There were so many issues related to this that OSPI stepped into territory that is usually left to local decisions, to provide guidance and direction. In a communication earlier this month, Chris Reykdal stated that our primary directive is to "do no harm". Toward that end, he directed that no student would receive an "F" or "No Credit" for work they've done during this term. In addition, no student could have a grade reduced. OSPI gave us options of offering "Incompletes" or A-D grades and any combination of those.

Prior to the direction from OSPI, Seattle made the decision to record an A or incomplete for all students in their system. Incompletes would carry no credit and would need to have a plan attached that would allow the student to remove the incomplete and replace it with a passing grade at a later time. Other districts have chosen every option allowed by OSPI. The most common system is A-D+ Incomplete.

In Toledo, our team talked about equity for our students. Some students are in circumstances where parents are available to help and they have reliable internet access and devices. Their family may not have had anyone become affected by the virus or by disruption to income or business. Those students will not have the same experience as students who need to help in the family business, don't have reliable internet access or are home alone during the day.

In addition, our team felt that while we got off to a strong start and our families report that they are pleased with the service they're receiving, this is new work for all of us and we're not providing everything we could if students were with us for 6 hours daily. Our team felt that it would be wrong to judge students based on our current ability to deliver instruction and assess learning.

Because of this and many other issues, the decision was made that we would track progress as we ordinarily would, but at the end of the term, we would change all grades for students K-5 to a "3" and all grades for students grades 6-12 to an "A".

We are not going to use the "Incomplete" grade. Our team felt that this was just delaying a burden until a future date uncertain and that it wouldn't be helpful to our students or families.

No one is going to give any meaning to these grades. Colleges, military, NCAA and scholarship committees have all stated that these grades are not going to be factored into any decisions that will affect admission or acceptance. We are required to record some mark on the transcript that will also  have a designation indicating it was recorded during this time.

I've spoken to parents who are concerned that their child will disengage because they're "getting an A anyway." Students don't work for grades. Students work for approval of their family. Parents use grades as a way to determine their satisfaction with their child's effort. There are other ways to measure your satisfaction: by completed assignments, connections to teachers, time spent learning and any number of other ways connected to school. By staying up-to-date on your child's performance through contact with your child's teacher and through Family Access online, you can still motivate your child to continue to engage in learning just as you have in the past. I'm imagining a dialogue that would go something like this,

Child: "Why should I do anything? I'm getting straight A's anyway."
Parent: "I'm really not interested in your final grade right now. I expect you to work on your assignments just like I always have. Missing assignments aren't acceptable in our family. You can do better. 
Child: "Okay, I'll do it this afternoon."
Parent: "I'll check on your progress with your teacher tomorrow by email. If you haven't completed at least one Math assignment by then, there will be no video games until your teacher lets me know that you've completed one assignment."

Another scenario involves asking questions, listening to the answers and then asking more probing questions. Questions such as:

"What is the most surprising thing you learned today?"
"What is one thing you did today that was fun?"
"What is one problem that you solved today?"
"What is a problem that you'd like to see solved in the future?"

Wellness
Loss is difficult. Whether its a family member, a job, a prized possession or a way of life, loss brings feelings of grief. There are some predictable stages of grief. According to Kubler Ross and Kessler, there are five stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. We are all experiencing loss right now and can predict that we will all experience all of these stages. They won't all come at once and they won't come in order, but they will work through. Like the weather in Toledo, if you don't like it now, wait five minutes and it will change.

It is important that we're sensitive to these emotions in ourselves and also that we watch for them in our kids. Like the weather, it will pass. Also like the weather, it can do damage if we don't prepare for it. The State has put together a list of resources that can help with grief and the losses that have caused it. I encourage you and your family to reach out to these people sooner rather than later. These are the resources that our staff are drawing on for referrals. Resources

There is nothing more important right now than your mental, emotional and physical health. Please be well.



Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Wednesday 4/29 8 a.m.

Grading

We've received some new guidance from OSPI this past week. Of most significance are the directions on grading. There are 295 school districts in Washington State and while most of us use a traditional A-F grading scale, there are many that do not. During the closure, school districts were developing their own grading procedures. At the high school level, grades have significance for scholarships, college admission, college athletics, military entrance, and can influence employment. Many of us were asking OSPI for clear guidance on expectations.

OSPI responded by saying that districts are to provide a letter grade, but may not issue a No Credit (NC), F, No Pass, or allow a student's existing grade to decrease from the level it was on March 13. Prior to this guidance, THS had determined it would utilize a Credit/No Credit system. The OSPI order does not allow this system. Our District Leadership Team met last week to discuss the options:
A, AB, ABC, ABCD. We also discussed using an incomplete. (The grade decrease provision doesn't impact us because our new trimester began on March 16, so no one had a grade that would be impacted.)

The conversation about A-D centered around equity and our teachers' ability to distinguish between A work and B work or C work during this closure. Not every student has internet access. Some of our teachers have unreliable internet access and phone service at their homes.  Some students are working in the family business right now, some students are babysitting younger siblings, some families have sickness or are coping with grief. There are so many issues that prevent us from having a level playing field for all that the team did not feel it was appropriate to differentiate between A, B, C, and D. (This was why we initially chose the "Credit" grade earlier.)

The team determined that we would record an "A" for all grade 6-12 students who were engaged in continuous learning during this time. Transcripts in Washington will note that grades issued in June were issued during the pandemic. We do not believe that this is a gift. We believe that an A under these circumstances is the best way to do no harm to our students and to support them going forward. Students in grades K-5 will receive a 3 on their report card for many of the same reasons.

Some students are choosing not to engage in continuous learning for a variety of reasons. Those students are not providing enough evidence for us to assign a grade. Those students will receive a mark of "Incomplete" on their transcript. We will enter into conversations and plan with those students about how they would like to remove the incomplete mark and replace it with a grade at a future time. Those students will receive credit only when that incomplete is removed.

I've spoken with parents who are concerned that their child won't put forward their best effort if they know they'll receive an A. They are concerned that the provision of an A will cause their child to disengage. Teachers will continue to record marks for assignments and engagement in Skyward. These marks are visible to parents through Family Access. You can continue to monitor your child's work and encourage them to perform at levels that are expected in your home for the remainder of the school year, knowing that on or about June 19, an A or 3 will be recorded manually by the teacher. Students are most likely to respond to their parents' encouragement to improve performance. Students who choose to disengage now will receive an incomplete and the opportunity to remove that mark later. (This is not recommended.)

OSPI requires that we continue to engage students and monitor the degree to which each student is engaged as well as our efforts to do so. While grades are one motivator, they should not be the most important. Grades are intended to be a report on the extent of a student's learning. We want our students to be focused on learning, not grades.

Fall and School Opening

We are currently planning to begin school according to our published calendar for 2020-21, however it is possible that the Governor will make decisions that impact those plans. Until we have more certainty, we encourage everyone to be flexible and "light on your feet" as we may need to make adjustments.

Friday Night Lights

I've heard from several people in our community that they thought that this event was a great way to honor seniors and bring the community together, they were disappointed that those participating in Friday Night Lights did not observe social distancing and protective measures during the event.

I think that people are missing one another so deeply that the temptation to ignore social distance is too great. For this reason, all of the events that TSD will be involved with going forward will avoid the possibility of breaching CDC guidelines and the Governor's orders. There are too many people who are at risk for COVID-19 to do otherwise.

Office Hours

I've begun a practice of opening a zoom chat from Noon to 1 p.m. during the week for people to stop by and chat, ask questions, make suggestions, etc. I encourage you to participate by going to:

https://zoom.us/j/91787775770?pwd=RnhITTBoZUQzRjhYbjBCY2xPVTVyZz09

This isn't a private conversation as others may be present. If you need a private conversation, please email me at crust@toledoschools.us or call 360.200.1459 during business hours and I'll make arrangements for you.

Friday, April 17, 2020

Friday April 17 8 a.m.

Parents

On behalf of all of us at TSD, we want to acknowledge the hard work of parents. During this interruption of traditional school, you've been asked to stay at home, prepare meals, clean up after meals, help your children with school work using methods of delivery that are often confusing. In addition, you may be working your regular job, taking care of your parents and maintaining a home. There is no doubt that parents are under a lot of pressure right now. We see you and we want to do everything we can to help ease the burden. When it comes to your child's school work, if you or your child are having trouble accessing, understanding or submitting school work, your first and best contact is your child's teacher.

Each of our teachers is available by phone and email daily. I've encouraged them to set regular office hours, but everyone I've talked to on our staff says that regular hours won't serve our families and that they would rather be responsive at times that are more convenient for parents and students. All teachers have been provided with phone service that works via the internet. If they are unavailable, you can leave a voicemail. Here is a link to a directory of phone numbers. If you have trouble getting in touch with your child's teacher, call the principal. If you have trouble getting in touch with the principal, call me: 360.200.1459. I ask that you start with your child's teacher. They are in the best position to remove barriers for you.

Once again, on behalf of all of us, thank you for all you're doing. Thank you for staying in touch with us and allowing us to be helpful to you.

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

In our work as educators, we draw on the work of Abraham Maslow to help us decide how to best help children and families. Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs says that humans require that certain needs are met before they can get other needs met. This isn't surprising. If you don't have shelter and food, you're really not interested in reading a good novel. You want to be respected and valued by others but you're less concerned about respect when you're sick. You might be interested in volunteering in your community, but only after you know that its safe to do so. Maslow's hierarchy looks like this. The lower levels of the pyramid support meeting the needs at the higher levels.


When our staff are in touch with you, they'll be asking how you're doing. They're listening to hear if there are unmet needs that might get in the way of your child learning. If your family is having difficulties with food, shelter, clothing, safety, and health, you and your child aren't going to be interested in school until those needs are met. Our staff want to help you find resources to deal with those needs. Be sure to reach out to us and let us help you.

Our State Superintendent's office recently released guidance for what is expected of continuous learning for the rest of this school year. His office was very mindful of Maslow's pyramid and the fact that there is more going on for children and families right now than doing school work. His office has recommended maximum times that children should be expected to be engaged in school activities. We are following this guidance.


Compared to traditional school hours, this doesn't seem like much, but keep in mind that during a school day there are passing times, lunch, recess, time for taking attendance, transition times and a team of professionals who keep it all working smoothly. 

In this period, children who may already be missing friends and the comfort of a familiar routine, need time to engage in other things: play, family chores, babysitting younger siblings, etc. Keeping expectations reasonable is one of the ways we can build safety for children. 

Frequently Asked Questions

1. When is Graduation? We don't have a good answer for this yet. The Governor's order prohibits us from using our facilities until after June 19. There's no way to tell when social distancing will be lifted and it will be safe to gather. We are working with our seniors to create some solutions and we'll publish those when we have them arranged.
2. What will grades look like? Grades are used to communicate the level of individual student learning with the student, parent and other interested parties. It requires the ability to assess using evidence of student learning. That is very difficult right now. We still have some families that have not engaged with us at all and many students who have not submitting anything we can assess. Toledo Elementary (TES) is providing feedback on student learning. Toledo Middle and Toledo High (TMS and THS) are providing "Credit/No Credit" (C/NC) marks based on student evidence of learning. For students who may need traditional grades, we will work with them individually to get sufficient evidence to be able to provide those grades. All schools are working to create meaningful progress reports to deliver to families at the end of the school year.
3. How are you doing attendance? Guidance from the State is that attendance should be viewed as the degree to which a student is engaged with our program. Students who do not stay in contact or turn in work will be considered "absent". Our focus right now is on student learning. Attendance is one piece of evidence of student learning.
4. When is the last day of school? A school year is 180 days and 1080 hours. With the interruption, we can only claim to have taught 911 hours. In order to receive a waiver from the State for the shortfall, we need to have school underway for an additional 4 days. Those days are May 22 and 23 (Snow make up) and June 18 and 19. Those are days that students will be expected to be engaged in school. 
5. Is there a daily schedule for staff? Staff are available during regular school hours (generally 8-3 M-F) As I mentioned above, our staff are flexing their time so that they can be most responsive to the individual needs of families. Many of our teachers report responding to emails at 10 p.m. after leading online group chats at 10 a.m. I recommend email and telephone as the best ways to contact teachers. Some teachers at TES use Class Dojo which has been helpful in communicating with families. 
6. Will school start on schedule in September? There isn't enough information right now to say with any certainty what will happen over the Summer. We are planning to return to regular operations in September, but we are also preparing in the event that that isn't possible. 
7. Will meal service continue through the summer? No. TSD doesn't have the resources to continue this model of food service beyond June 20.

Do you have other questions? email me at crust@toledoschools.us. I'll add your questions and my responses to later blog posts.

Be well. Be wise.

Friday, April 10, 2020

Friday Update 3:45 p.m.

Instruction: Our team will be reviewing OSPI's guidance this coming week and working to fine tune our systems.

Food Service: USDA will fund all Saturday meals and meal service will continue through June 20.

Calendar: Because of the decrease in instructional hours and the requirement that schools provide 1080 hours per year, TSD needs to utilize the  snow make up days on May 22 and 23 as well as continuing school until June 19 for a total of 991 hours. This allows us to have the remaining hours waived and be eligible to apply for additional funding if compensatory services are required during the summer or next year. We will continue to observe Memorial Day as a non-school  holiday.

Class of 2020
  • Senior Trip: The class will plan their trip for a date uncertain. They’ll purchase gift certificates and tickets in advance and give them to each senior. When they are able to pick a date (maybe as late as September), they’ll get the word out to their classmates and assemble together for their event. Doing it this way allows them to utilize the funds they raised, saves them money for transportation and chaperones and gives them more control over their event.
  •  Prom: A group of DJ’s and community members have begun planning an all-county prom. For more info go to https://lewiscountyprom.com This isn't a school event, so they don't have the same restrictions that schools do.
  •  Commencement: We won’t be able to do a face-to-face ceremony before June 19 unless the Governor revises his order. In his press conference, he left the door open to that possibility, but we shouldn't count on it. We’re not landing on a decision about Commencement at this point, but we do have options: wait until later in the summer or a parade through town. We're also listening for ideas that come from other communities to see if an idea can be adapted here. Throughout, we'll be including our seniors and their families in the planning. If you have ideas, please share them with Martin Huffman (mhuffman@toledoschools.us)

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

The Buildings are Closed, but School is in Session

April 8 8:45 a.m.

On April 6, with clear scientific evidence, Governor Inslee ordered that school closures in Washington would continue through June 19. Even with knowing that this was a possibility, the reality has been difficult for our students, family and staff. Dreams of receiving a diploma in front of cheering family and friends, Spring athletics and competition, Prom, playground, dances, jog-a-thon, school barbecue have been replaced with uncertainty about whether any of these can be recovered.

What hasn't been canceled is our commitment to providing special, memorable events for our students. Things won't look the same and may not take place at the same time as they did traditionally, but we are working with our students, families, staff and community to make them happen, make them memorable and make them special. 

All of us at TSD are committed to providing opportunities and meaningful experiences to empower our students to achieve their goals- its our mission to do so. Right now is a time for each of us to grieve the losses caused by the pandemic. It is important that we not leap immediately into "fixing". You can be certain that we are working on ideas and plans to recreate what we've lost and restore what we can.

OSPI has been anticipating this extended closure and  has developed clearer guidance for us on what "continuous learning" looks like. This 79-page document has detailed expectations for educators. It also provides some clarity for families, especially when it comes to how much time students should be engaged in "school work". The following are daily maximums for students depending upon age/grade level:
These maximums are for all forms of school delivery: packets, online, email, etc.
Access the full document here. It includes ideas for daily schedules and resources for families as well as educators.

Other important lessons are how do we operate as a community? What is our obligation to our neighbors and their businesses? How do we deal with adversity and with circumstances that are outside of our control? How do we manage stress and sadness? These lessons are so important and we're given an opportunity right now to model for our children what we have learned as adults: we watch out for our neighbors. We support their businesses. We control those things we can and accept those things we cannot. We watch our diet and exercise, maintain our spiritual practices and talk about our feelings with people we trust. 

In basketball, sometimes our team uses a man-to-man defense and sometimes we use a zone defense. Which the team uses depends on the circumstances of the game. Our education system is going to begin to look like that in the future. In the past, we've had a "zone"- we brought all the students together and had individual teachers cover "zones" (classrooms). Our new system is more of a "man-to-man" where teachers are reaching out to individual students in their homes, providing lessons in one way to students who have internet access and in other ways to those that do not.  It is safe to say that once the pandemic passes, we'll continue to keep our "man-to-man" defense available to us for the next time a novel virus comes along (or a flood, volcano or other natural disaster). 

Here are some specifics:
  • We're hosting a Wednesday "Zoom Room" for the Class of 2020. This is mostly for them to socialize, but it is also an opportunity for me to check in with them, answer questions and hear their ideas of how to recover those special events.
  • We're preparing refund checks for all athletes who paid for Spring sports. This may take a couple of weeks (we're on Spring Break and refunding isn't something we typically do), but checks should be in the mail to families before the end of the month.
  • Saturday Meals. Thanks to donations from the Shindig, Lion's Club, Toledo Volunteer Firefighter's Association, the Presbyterian Church and donors to Katie's Kids, Saturday meals are funded through at least the end of May.
  • Calendar: We learned yesterday that we will need to continue our school year until June 19. While there was no interruption in service to students, with reduced hours, we won't meet the minimum hour requirement of 1080 and will need the State's waivers. This also means that school will continue on May 21 & 22 (Snow make up days). 
  • Family connections: we're still working to contact some families on a regular basis. If you haven't been hearing from us, please call me at 509.770.0067. 
  • Construction on THS continues. Locker room demolition is underway as is site work by Midway Construction. We may be able to accelerate our schedule due to the closure.
We've been through tough times before: 9/11, Mt St. Helens, HIV. floods. Each time, we emerge stronger and more connected. This time will be no different. Throughout this closure, I continue to be impressed with our community's resilience and commitment to neighbors. Please be safe, be well and be around.