Letter to Parents regarding grading: April 15, 2020 (Español)
Dear Amphitheater Parents:
I hope this letter finds you and your children healthy and safe as we crest over the middle of our third week of our new educational and societal realities of remote learning and social spacing. I know that this new way of “school” has not been easy thus far, and I know that the challenges continue. I first want to thank you for all the patience, kindness and efforts on your part as we continue to work together to face those challenges for the ultimate benefit of our children.
I am writing to inform you about one such challenge: that being, what approach should be taken in the assessment and grading of student work and achievement during this very different way of conducting learning. The realities of our circumstances and those of our students who had to make an abrupt shift to “remote learning” beg for a commonsense approach to grading. Consequently, on Tuesday, April 14, the Governing Board of the Amphitheater District approved a new direction in grading and reporting practices for the remainder of this academic school year.
The direction approved by our Governing Board recognizes that many supports and services normally in place for students have been significantly altered or diminished, such that students cannot receive their full and intended benefits. We also know that all students are unique and individual learners, and their personal circumstances vary, which also impacts their achievement in this current situation. Finally, we also recognize that our teachers and other educators are detached from some the supports and resources they would typically need to provide students with complete learning opportunities.
Given this backdrop, the Governing Board has approved the following approach to grading and reporting practices for the remainder of the school year.
Elementary (Grades K to 5) Students:
- The report card for the fourth quarter will largely be in a narrative, descriptive format. To ensure future understanding of the changes in grading, the report card will include a general statement about the school closure.
- Teachers will also provide feedback to students throughout the quarter as work is submitted and/or online progress is made.
- Fourth and fifth grade students will not receive letter grades this quarter. The variance in student learning conditions (access to technology, etc.) make fair and consistent letter grading very difficult at this time.
- Teachers will not be assigning a standards based grade for each standard for any grade level this quarter. In fact, there may be very few standards based grades marked on the report card for many students.
- For students who are able to work online, a report on their accomplishments within the online curriculum will be provided to the parent with the fourth quarter report card.
- Students will not be penalized for lack of access to online learning programs.
- Art, music and physical education teachers will not be providing grades this quarter. They will continue to provide enrichment and content activities and assignments for learning at home.
Secondary (Grades 6 to 12) Students:
- Students’ third-quarter grades, which were in place prior to school closure, will be used as a baseline grade for the remainder of the Spring Semester.
- For the remainder of the Spring Semester, the focus for middle and high school students will be on maintaining or improving from the third quarter baseline through the continuing fourth quarter work.
- Students who do not complete work and/or participate in assigned activities during the fourth quarter may see their grade go down from the baseline.
- Students will be permitted to email their teachers regarding any missing work from third quarter that might still be accepted for grade improvement from the baseline.
There is also an understanding, which will inform all grading practice, that students and families have unique circumstances that may impact the ability of the students to participate in online learning or other methodologies. Those circumstances must be taken into consideration to address the implications of the same. More than ever, we are all committed to helping students complete the year successfully.
I hope this information is helpful to you and your families. Should you have any questions about the meaning of this letter or its application to your child’s situation and grade, please consult with your school principal, as they were involved in the development of these grading standards.
Stay safe and well, and persevere, Amphi families! We will all be together again on the other side!
Todd A. Jaeger, J.D.
Update: March 30, 2020
The following message was delivered to families by phone on the evening of March 30, 2020. (Español)
Good evening, Amphitheater District Families.
This is Todd Jaeger, Superintendent of the District. As you may have heard, earlier today, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey announced that all public schools will now remain closed through the end of the school year. I’m calling tonight to assure you, however, that although our school buildings are closed to students and the public, the teachers and other staff of the District still remain committed to educating your children—our children -- to the very best of our ability under these extraordinary circumstances.
A few days ago, we sent you a Family Handbook which outlines what our educational programs will look like for what will now be the next several weeks. This handbook is available at www.amphi.com. Today’s announcement by the Governor does change the landscape a bit, so I also encourage you to check our website frequently, as plans may evolve as we navigate this new way of teaching.
While the extended closure mirrors what has happened in other states, and while we know that it is a necessary action, I also want you to know that we were very saddened by the extended closure. We know this is hard on you as parents and guardians. We know this is difficult for our students who miss their educators, classmates and normal way of learning. And, we are especially mindful of the impact on our seniors. Please know that we want to do everything possible to minimize the impact of these trying times on our students most of all, and we would welcome any thoughts or suggestions you may have. You can reach the District by emailing email@example.com.
I know you and your students have a lot of questions about what happens next, whether that’s regarding grades, graduation, events, refunds, or something like retrieving personal items from school. We are working through all of these questions, and we are making thoughtful decisions as fast as we can. I promise you we will provide you information as soon as we have it.
In the meantime, I want you to know that we miss your children and that, like you, we want what’s best for them. At this time, that means keeping our distance—physically. Nonetheless, we remain committed to staying connected in as many ways possible, whether that’s online, on the phone or through good old fashioned pen and paper. For more than 126 years, the Amphitheater District has been here for the children of this community. We still are. We are here for them, and we are here for you.
Thank you for trusting us during this unprecedented time.
Todd A. Jaeger, J.D.
Update: March 22, 2020
Dear Amphitheater District Community:
The recent weeks have demonstrated how incredibly unpredictable these times are, and how important it is that we all stay very aware of the very latest developments and their impacts upon our lives. That is certainly true with respect to our schools and the education of our children. I am therefore writing to provide you with another update on the near future in our District.
Just a few days ago, Governor Ducey extended the closure of Arizona’s schools until April 13, which will constitute three weeks of closure for Amphitheater after our scheduled Spring Break this past week. We realize the obvious challenges this presents for your families, just as it presents growing challenges for our schools, teachers and other staff as we work to maintain educational continuity and high-quality learning opportunities for your children. To meet this challenge will require a wholly different approach which is focused on remote learning. We ask for your patience as we make this shift, because it will require substantial adjustments in teacher planning and student differentiation. We also recognize that remote learning carries its own inherent burdens for families, so we will be doing our very best to concentrate our efforts on lessons which provide the most important learning impacts.
For this coming week, March 23 to 27, our focus will be to help you keep your students engaged in the learning process through educational enrichment activities and programs. You will find a significant number of resources available to support your students on our District website, and we will also be making allowances for students who have limited access to technology. In addition, your child’s teacher or school may also post suggested resources on their individual school or classroom websites. In the weeks that follow this coming week, we will begin implementation of remote learning strategies.
Please also be aware that we care about all of your child’s needs, and we are mindful that some students will need the assurances of our school breakfast and lunch programs. Our website contains additional information about how students can obtain free meals each school day throughout the system-wide closure at each of 12 specific school sites, whether they attend school at those sites or not.
For generations, we have not seen a moment like the one we find ourselves in together right now. I have every belief that we will weather this time and emerge on the other end all the stronger for it. It remains our honor, privilege and sacred obligation to help you care for your children now more than ever.
Todd A. Jaeger, J.D.