Change in instruction - emailed Tues 9.8.20

I wanted to reach out as we attempt to perform a slight shift in our instructional day moving forward in order to discuss our process behind this change.  We have been collecting a lot of data over the last term and I wanted to convey to parents our rationale for this shift.  

From an instructional perspective, we are happy that kids are attending classes, even if the format isn't ideal.  That being said, we have heard from teachers and parents who have reached out to us about it being too much (which, I know, can be interpreted a thousand ways).  These data can, of course, be anecdotal in nature as we all know, but we did want to reflect on this as we moved into this second term.  

We met as a staff late last week to discuss this at length.  Given the demands we've put on our teachers, this was one of the first times we were able to meet in a productive way, which is one reason behind the delay in adding parents and families to the discussion.  

From the perspective of our teachers, it was clear that there was a desire to change something to help offset the workload that has shown significant increase since moving online (both from a planning and grading perspective).  We conducted a similar poll that was sent to parents in order to determine which potential change we could implement that would accomplish the following objectives: a) keep kids in class but reduce the time required on the screen while in class, b) make changes specific only to the degree necessary to give both staff and students some breathing room without significantly departing from our academic expectations.

As parents are primary stakeholders, in addition to our teachers, we wanted to move quickly to poll parents about a potential change to see if the sentiment expressed was more widespread.  The poll was put out on Sunday with our weekly update (what we're now calling the Weekly Howl), the results of which are attached.  Having received responses from over 80% of families (thank you to those who responded), we felt that percentage of respondents was sufficient to justify a potential change.  Within the results of this poll (shown attached), 2/3 of families preferred SOME level of change, which, combined with the sentiment conveyed from the teaching staff, we felt compelling enough to seek an adjustment to our instructional schedule.

The "Friday Asynchronous" option, while in many ways a change that could benefit student learning, was a significant departure from our current schedule  In addition, we are adding clubs this term (starting this week), so Fridays become important to preserve that function.  Our goal was to make whatever potential adjustment the least disruptive to teaching, attendance, students, and families who have already become acclimated to our online instructional program, and that was our rationale in supporting the change that we are currently making.    

A few additional comments on the subject: 

- Does this change in fact reduce screen time?  While online learning does inherently require screen time, this change will give students more time to be flexible when they are on their screens with the shortening of the school schedule.  One could argue that the time on screen simply shifts from being synchronous (with teachers) to be asynchronous (without teachers), but it is our goal to reduce screen time overall through other instructional devices which we will implement this coming term.  We will be reaching out to parents about this concern in the coming weeks to see how comfortable parents are with student screen time overall

- Why implement these changes so quickly?  We feel with the adjustment being minor, both from the teacher and student end, we wanted to make this change quickly to coincide with the start of this new term  

- What about moving to the next phase of students coming back?  As shown in the polling results, there exists two schools of thought on students returning as we approach October.  Obviously there is more data to collect and more days ahead where the environment can change (although the trend is looking more positive), but we are looking at a very split community heading into October.  We will be polling parents every two weeks on their feelings are we move closer to the Oct 15th date where we would even be allowed to return to some form of in-person learning.  

I hope this helps clarify.  Again, thank you for responding to our poll so quickly.  It was not our intention to rush this change but given the timeliness of the start of this new term, we wanted to make those adjustments sooner if we could.  

I hope everyone had a great holiday weekend and I wish everyone a great week ahead-


Explore Academy Admin

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