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Grades count, remains message for seniors

By Staff | Apr 2, 2020

With distance learning under way, and the end of the school year in sight, seniors are asked to continue turning in their assignments, making the grade and staying in touch with their teachers to graduate.

Chief Academic Officer Dr. Jeff Spiro said as a former high school principal, he understands parents’ anxiety regarding their senior students. To help calm the anxiety, he said seniors will not have to worry about taking their state assessment tests this year, a decision made by the state.

“All seniors have to focus on for eight weeks is doing their classroom assignments and participate with what teachers are asking them to do,” Spiro said.

In addition, Advanced Placement, AICE and International Baccalaureate has eased their requirements for graduation.

According to the district’s website, resources to help schools support student learning during the extended school closures, as well as finding solutions to allow students to test at home, have been developed. It also states that for the 2019-2020 exam administration only, students have the ability to take a 45-minute online exam at home. There will be two different testing dates for each AP subject.

The full exam schedule and testing details will be available by April 3.

As of March 25, students, as well as schools, have access to free, live review lessons, which are delivered by AP teachers from across the country.

As far as AICE assessments, the district’s website states that on March 23, Cambridge announced that they will not be running international examinations in the May/June 2020 series. Due to Cambridge understanding that students have been working hard towards the exams, they will be working with schools to assess each student’s achievements using best available evidence. Based on that knowledge and skills acquired in their program, students will receive a grade, and a certificate, from Cambridge International.

The district’s website also states that the IB May 2020 examinations scheduled between April 30 and May 22 for diploma program and career-related program candidates will not be held. The student will be awarded a diploma, or course certificate depending on what they registered for.

Executive Director of School Development Clayton Simmons said AP, AICE and IB have been very good about working with the district. He said Bright Futures also is working to hold students harmless based on course work.

Simmons said the most important thing for seniors to do is continue with assignments and communicate regularly with their teachers and school.

Director of Secondary Education and Curriculum Candace Allevato said there has been a lot of flexibility for IB, AICE and AP students.

“Students are still required to do course work,” she said, adding that there have been adjusted timelines. “We need students to login and make connections with teachers.”

Allevato said students need to have their assignments uploaded and completed.

She said they continue to get information and will continue to inform the students of the timelines.

“This is a golden opportunity,” Simmons said.

Spiro agreed that this is a golden opportunity for students who would like to boost their GPA, or are behind in their credits or GPA.

“Grades count,” he said.

Spiro said the topic of graduation weighs the heaviest on his heart because he knows the importance graduation has for seniors, their families and extended families.

“We are going to try to wait as long as we can to hold out. We have no word from the state,” Spiro said. “May 1 is about three weeks before graduation. Once we know something we will share with the community as quickly as possible.”

Earlier this week the school district extended its school closure until May 1 following a recommendation from the Florida Department of Education.

Worst-case scenario, Simmons will work with high school principals in developing an alternative for graduation. What that would look like, Spiro said he did not know, but would like to have an opportunity as a community to celebrate their graduating seniors.

Summer school also has been a topic of discussion.

Spiro said that summer school had been preplanned prior to the closure of schools due to COVID-19 with extended summer school planning to include kindergarten through second grade, therefore accommodating students from kindergarten through 12th grade.

“I can’t say with 100 percent certainty there will be summer school,” he said, adding that there may be summer school, or there may not.

To help students now, while doing distance learning, the district is using non-classroom teachers to provide support for students. For example, high school athletic directors are checking on athletes and their academic progress.

“We are utilizing all non-classroom teachers as a way to provide intervention prior to summer,” Spiro said.

With distance learning having begun Monday, the structure for students at home is still important, especially as many families are juggling multiple students in one house. Spiro said emphasized the importance, for students, of having a schedule to login.

It is also important to have the student step away from the screen and do some alternative activities, such as a hobby, or exercise.

“Something that isn’t screen time,” Spiro said, adding that it is important to have a whole body healthy balance. “Our teachers have office hours across the district. Create a block of time where students contact teachers daily, so they stay in contact with their teachers.”

He said it might be helpful to create a to-do-list when building a schedule, so the student can stay on top of the different assignments that are due on various dates.

“It’s a great opportunity to reaffirm organization skills,” Spiro said, with the parents help.

Such soft skills as using tracking mechanisms and how to prioritize what is due to meet deadlines is another skill that can be taught and learned.

Spiro said he would like to thank parents and teachers as they continue to undertake this tremendous team effort of distant learning. He wanted to thank the Academic Services division, leaders in the schools and teachers who all jumped on board, as well as parents who have stepped out of their comfort zone of learning technology for distance learning.