The coronavirus has already impacted how instruction is delivered to students, but it may also change the grading system for the rest of the academic year. Marshall High School Principal Sharon Tebo announced during the April 1 school board committee of the whole meeting that the school may shift to a pass/fail grading scale for the second semester. The board is expected to see – and vote on — a policy about the change at its April 22 meeting.
Tebo said members of the administration team met to discuss grading and graduation earlier in the day.
“Many of the districts are going to a pass/fail system,” Tebo said. “A lot of the universities as I’m sure you’re hearing about are as well.”
Tebo said the high and middle schools are looking at how to maintain quality education through the end of the month while at the same time managing student expectations. Based on information provided by Director of Instruction Randy Bartels, students should be engaged in three hours of learning each day; Tebo said the guidance provided to grades 7-12 teachers is looking at a one to two-week timeframe to see what their course goals are in accordance with the particular class and what essential activities will indicate how students are progressing. This situation has led administrators to implementing the pass/fail scale for the second semester. The high school principal said this may work for some students, while others may be disgruntled about the change.
“More details will be worked out,” she said. “There will be family communication as well as staff communication.”
Tebo said at the high school it is still planning to award laude points even with the pass/fail grading scale.
As for the graduation, the administration is still discussing options. According to the high school principal, the Department of Instruction has been offering guidance on graduation requirements “and giving a lot of discretion up to individual districts to determine what’s going to work best for their students.”
Superintendent Dan Grady said the district’s policy for graduation said the student’s achievements are to be publicly celebrated through a graduation ceremony. He said the board will have to decide if it will adhere to the policy, suspend it or amend it.
“We have many conversations about policy coming up,” Grady said.
Other COVID-19 impacts on the district:
• The district purchased 45 WiFi hotspots to be used by staff and students who need internet access; Grady said the total cost for the purchase was approximately $8,200.
• Instructional staff is looking at rolling out Chromebooks for elementary school students. Grady said staff is doing a survey on what families would need a device and if they would need internet access.
• Administrators are looking at potentially using buses to serve as bookmobiles.
“We find out kids’ reading abilities and some of their interests and then do we deliver books and swap them out weekly,” Grady said.
4K peer modeling continues to excel
“I am very passionate about my little learners,” said Early Childhood special education teacher Kasie Duffy, who outlined the peer modeling program at the Early Learning Center.
Duffy, who is in her second year with the Marshall School District, said during the 2018-2019 academic year, two students served as peer models for five special education students. This year, she flipped the numbers, putting five peer models in each of her morning and afternoon classes that have two to four students with special needs. Peer models are children who have no type of delays in their overall development.
“The changes I have seen in students’ behavior and the rate of progress this year has been amazing,” she said. “I cannot say how amazing my peer models are and how much my students are learning as a whole through this peer model program.”
The Early Childhood teacher provided several specific examples of progress, such as one special needs student who in the beginning of the school year would not allow peers or teachers near her. Now, the child is allowing peers to hold her hand and taking turns with another student. Duffy believes the peer modeling is a major component in this development.
The teacher said the program is so popular that there is a waitlist for parents who want their child to serve as a peer model.
Summer school registration
Peters said summer school registration began at 4 p.m. on March 30 and about 250 students have already signed up by April 1; there are already six courses completely filled. He expects the courses offered to 4-year-old kindergarten through third grade students will be at maximum capacity.
“Numbers are good and we’ve got the right people and staff in place to teach those,” the principal and summer school director said.
Peters said the school set up registration seven weeks earlier than the previous year and for the first time, sign up is being done entirely on Infinite Campus.
Following the meeting, Grady said families are being encouraged to complete summer school registration; the first session is scheduled for June 10-July 1. The superintendent said the current coronavirus-related facilities closing may impact summer school dates.