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Critical Questions for Virtual School

Posted on 05/01/2020, by Dr. Ellen Fithian to Parents of 7th and 8th Graders, Parents of 9th Graders, Parents of 10th Graders, Parents of 11th Graders, Parents of 12th Graders (0 comments)

Schools in Virginia are closed for the year and all instruction has gone online. What does this mean for students?

What curricular resources are being provided by your school? 

Each school division has implemented its own approach to virtual learning. Strategies include continuing with the regular curriculum via videoconferencing classes that can be streamed or viewed at a later time, posting assignments online or utilizing outside Internet resources. How can parents help students navigate this new normal?

The first thing you need to do is to sit down with your teenager and review the learning expectations for each course. If they're not clear, contact the teacher to answer your questions.

Create a favorable learning environment at home.

Once you know how courses are being conducted, work with your teen to come up with a schedule. I suggest designating regular hours for all the students in your home to get their school work done. The alternative is you nagging them day and night to complete their assignments - an unpleasant prospect for all concerned.

Next, try to create a study environment that's conducive to focused concentration. Strive to establish a quiet, solitary work space for your teen and encourage her to set aside distractions. Sitting in bed, texting friends while listening to music, like the girl pictured above is doing, does not make for an ideal study setting.  

Determine how courses will be graded.

While the Virginia Department of Education "does not recommend grading work completed during the closures," the final decision about how to grade students has been left up to local school divisions. Here are some questions you need to ask.

Is the 4th quarter work being graded?

Schools will have been closed during the entire 4th quarter of the year. Are teachers using that period to review content previously taught or to present new content? Will a student's work be assigned a letter grade or a completion grade? 

How will end-of-year (or semester) grades be determined?

Some school divisions (but not all) are giving students the choice of taking a grade based on the first three quarters or taking the course pass/fail. In this scenario, find out whether fourth quarter grades can be used to improve the grade based on the first three quarters. 

Bottom line: it's complicated. The policies discussed above are just a few of the possible grading approaches that schools might adopt. Consult your school division's website to learn the policies at your teen's school. If they're not clearly stated (I've looked, and some aren't), call your school counselor for clarification.

If 4th quarter work isn't graded, does your teen's effort matter?

You had to know my answer would be yes. Students are missing three months of school, approximately a third of the academic year. You can't skip that much instruction without the deficit showing up further down the road. Secondly, if your teen is a junior, this year's teachers are the ones he is likely to be asking for college recommendations. Students who continue to take their learning seriously, even when they're out of school and possibly even being graded pass/fail, are the ones that teachers love and that colleges are looking to enroll. On the contrary, students who only work when being assigned a letter grade look a lot less appealing.

School closings have exacted a tremendous toll on teenagers; they've traded days spent socializing with friends in classes and activities for forced quarantine with their families. There's not much you can do to alleviate these short term losses, but by following the above recommendations, you can at least mitigate the potential long-term consequences. Best of luck and stay safe.

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Posted on 05/01/2020, by Dr. Ellen Fithian (0 comments)




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