How APS Developed Its Continuous Learning Plan
The APS plan was developed in alignment with VDOE guidelines and the 2018-24 APS Strategic Plan, with input from multiple stakeholder groups as we sought to continually meet the academic and emotional needs of our students during this difficult time. While the delivery of instruction may be different due to the pandemic, the plan reflects our commitment to equity, excellence, and students’ well-being.
Instructional supervisors and specialists from the Dept. of Teaching and Learning worked with teachers, school administrators and others to develop the continuous learning plan using an equity lens and VDOE guidance on the introduction of new content and the standards of learning. The final plan was informed by collaboration that ranged from regular discussions with Virginia school superintendents to feedback from teachers, administrators, school psychologists, counselors and social workers, APS advisory groups, parent representatives and, in the case of the secondary plan, student review.
Our strategy during this pandemic is for teachers to deliver curriculum through innovative and relevant instruction that reviews key concepts from the first three quarters of the school year, is adaptable to the diverse needs of our student population, and helps students be creative, collaborative and critical thinkers. The plan considers our students’ social-emotional health as well as academics. Whether working in the classroom or at a distance, our teachers connect with students, offer differentiated instruction based on students’ accessibility or ability, and are available for parents.
How APS Teachers Work with Students
With distance learning, teachers develop lesson plans and assignments for students to complete independently either online or using instructional materials. Teachers engage with students remotely to provide support, answer questions, monitor student work and share feedback. Teachers and instructional teams arrange schedules with families to help guide and monitor progress, as well as to address student well-being by maintaining strong connections with students on a consistent basis. With distance learning, students and teachers interact 1:1 or in groups using messaging apps, video calls, discussion boards and other digital-learning management tools.
New Learning Activities Build on Quarters 1-3 Concepts and Skills
Given the wide range in our students’ ability to access new content and our desire to avoid broadening existing opportunity gaps, APS focused on providing new learning activities that give students the opportunity to master key concepts from the first three quarters. With distance learning, our teachers are presenting these concepts in new ways to allow students to practice application and analysis and extend their learning. Teachers across grade levels can encourage their students to consider different perspectives or ideas about a concept previously introduced.
Teachers typically work as part of collaborative learning teams with their colleagues; for distance learning, these teams develop lessons on content from Quarters 1-3 that present a concept in a variety of ways and offer new learning activities. Teachers use multiple modalities and keep the content fresh so students are actively engaged in learning. This is an opportunity to allow students to truly focus on and demonstrate proficiency with the concepts so they have a strong foundation as they move into the next school year. In Episode 31 of the What’s Up, APS? podcast, two teachers discuss examples of how they do this.
Approach to 4th Quarter Content
The distance learning that students are doing now will give our teachers and students a chance to benchmark their learning by thoroughly reviewing key concepts and developing proficiency. The 4th Quarter always includes dedicated time for review to help prepare students for end-of-year testing and therefore, typically has a shorter window for learning new content. Given this, APS instructional leaders and teachers decided to plan to introduce new concepts at the start of the 2020-21 school year that would have been learned during the fourth quarter. Students enrolled in sequential courses, for example, will have lessons focused on essential 4th Quarter concepts during the month of September before starting on material from the next course. From October 2020 through June 2021, students will learn new knowledge and skills in a curriculum that focuses on essential standards in a more compact way than is usually presented throughout the school year.
Continuous Learning for Students in Grades PreK-2
APS uses a shared-device collaborative model for PreK through second grade classes, so students are not individually assigned a device. For distance learning, APS initially made the decision not to assign individual devices to these young students, given that they were not regularly used when school was in session. We also were mindful of not putting families in the position of managing the devices with their student now, without access to the direct technical support they might need. Upon further review, to help special education case carriers and English Learner (EL) teachers provide the learning and social emotional supports their students need, APS will now provide PreK-2 special education and EL students with access to devices.
Distance learning for PreK-2 students is provided through a variety of resources including instructional packets, direct engagement with teachers, instructional videos and enrichment and extension opportunities. APS is providing the instructional packets—one for April and one for May— via ParentVUE and at the seven APS meal-distribution sites (between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., Monday through Friday). The packets provide K-2 instructional resources designed to align with and support grade-level Virginia Standards of Learning in literacy and numeracy.
An explanation for each type of activity in the packet is included in a new Parent Guide to the K-2 Instructional Packet. Teachers are reaching out to families regularly to provide direct instruction for activities in the packets and support their interpersonal relationships and connection with students.
To supplement the instructional resources within the packet and in conjunction with direct outreach by teachers, APS will begin broadcasting a series of “At Home with APS” videos designed to bring teacher-led instruction into the homes of APS students. New videos will be released each week and will be accessible via TV, Vimeo and YouTube, beginning on Thursday, April 23. More details on the schedule and programming will be shared via a podcast and School Talk message for PreK-Grade 2 families. In late April, an additional episode of the What’s up, APS? podcast will include a conversation on the PreK-2 Instructional Packet.