An Update from OUSD’s Chief Academic Officer on the 2020 School Year

Dear OUSD Community:As the Chief Academic Officer of Oakland Unified School District, I’m charged with ensuring that our departments, programs and educators are working collaboratively in support of teaching and learning, and helping our students succeed. In my many years as an educator, however, never did I imagine the scenario in which we find ourselves. I know our families and staff continue to be worried: worried about lost instruction time, loss of educational milestones and celebrations, – and more importantly – concerned about their jobs, livelihoods, and the health of loved ones. I also know we are united in wanting to be able to support our children both academically and emotionally through these uncertain times. Unfortunately, we still don’t have many answers or know how the COVID-19 pandemic will alter our educational landscape. What we do know is that the only way we will get through this is by working together, being open-minded, and supporting one another.Outlined below you’ll find updates, resources and our plans and ideas for moving forward related to the following topics: Distance Learning, Technology, Testing and Grading, Social-Emotional Resources and the Class of 2020.
Distance LearningLast week, our teachers and leaders received additional guidance regarding distance learning. Your child’s teacher/s took time to plan lessons, participate in online training and share updated lessons and activities through Google Classroom. Teachers will continue to communicate expectations, schedules and support to families. If you have not heard from your child’s teacher, please contact your school principal for assistance.We are now half way through four phases of distance learning that will take us through the end of the regularly scheduled school year:

Phase 1: March 16-March 26: Connect with students, families & colleagues Teachers began distance learning lesson planning and connected with students. As of March 19, 100% of our schools had shared their individual school plans online and hard copy materials were distributed at some school sites. 

Phase 2: April 6-10: Get Ready 
Teachers and educators had time to refine their distance learning plans and attend virtual professional learning opportunities to learn the technical aspects of setting up their virtual classrooms and how to support students and families online.

Phase 3: April 13-24: Try it Out, attempt initial implementation of updated distance learning plans
This is the phase we are currently in, during which we are planning how to bridge the technology gap for families in terms of devices and connectivity; we are preparing the disbursement of learning materials for PreK students directly to their homes; and we are continuing to distribute devices through school sites. So far, 70 school sites have distributed devices and 15 more are scheduled to be done by Friday, April 17.

Phase 4: April 27- May 22:
Continue lesson planning support and professional learning opportunities for teachers and staff. Continue to support students/families for the distance learning that will happen through at least the end of May.We know that parents and guardians are not teachers, and we don’t expect them to be. We do not recommend that families try to replicate the school day nor do we recommend that families try to implement a regular school day schedule. Please see the proposed maximum and minimum amount of hours per day for student learning by grade span:
We encourage families to support at home learning as best they can using teacher recommendations, their school’s continuity of learning plan or the OUSD continuity of learning plan. In an effort to ensure student privacy, school plans are being communicated directly to families by the teacher and the site’s usual communication modes like TalkingPoints, Konstella, and the school’s website. We want to ensure that the security of our digital classrooms are not compromised so communication about how to access classroom content will come from the usual means of communicating information at your school site.
TechnologyMost of our school sites have completed family surveying and have distributed the devices from their inventory. Family surveys have highlighted a tremendous need for devices and hotspots: as of April 14, 2020, the requests for devices were 1,422 and for hot spots, 2,514.Now that we have technology data, we are focusing on bridging the digital divide. As a District, we cannot bridge the digital divide alone. We are working with the city, organizations and donors to help bridge our technology gap. As we are receiving donations, we are focusing on providing devices and hot spots to our Seniors and Juniors so they can continue working towards graduation. We happened to have ordered more Chromebooks prior to school closures due to Covid-19 and are awaiting delivery of these devices. There have been significant delays in receiving these Chromebooks and once we have devices, we will work quickly to get them to our schools for distribution.
Testing and GradingOur schools will not be administering any of the required state tests this year. Individual teachers may decide to give a quiz on the new content students are learning as a way to know how students are progressing in the new content and to know how to adjust their teaching. These quizzes, or formative assessments, will not be collected by the central office, not be used for grading or any type of placement exam for future grades.Regarding grades, we want to ensure that students can access new content but not be penalized for adapting to a new learning style. We also wanted to ensure that colleges and universities will support our approach to grading prior to making a decision. For 6th-12th grade students, we are taking a credit/no credit approach to grading. There are specific interventions in place and plenty of opportunities for a student to make up work so they do not fail and receive a grade of no credit. For pre-kindergarten and elementary students, teachers will focus on the comments section for the final trimester report card and not issue specific grades.
Social-Emotional ResourcesDuring our first few weeks of school closures, we asked our OUSD educators to conduct wellness checks on our students and families as we prioritized connecting families to food and emotional support resources. We appreciate the time our teachers took to check in on our families, especially because our wellness checks allowed us to understand how our OUSD community is coping with Covid-19 school closures.We recognize that this is a difficult time; none of this is easy for students, families or for our staff. We recommend staying focused on what is possible — small wins, every day —  in order to reinforce a sense of control and to reassure students that they are okay and that things will get better. Below are several resources for supporting your family’s emotional well-being during this time.
Talking with Children about COVID-19How to help teens shelter in placeShop 55 Health & Wellness Guide for Oakland high school students CASEL Social Emotional resources for parents and care-givers
A special note for high school studentsWe know our high school seniors and their families are heartbroken to be missing out on end of year celebrations and milestones. We will do everything we can to reschedule senior celebrations. Please share your ideas for celebrating the Class of 2020 here.
On April 1, 2020, State Superintendent Tony Thurmond released New Guidance on Grades and Graduation Requirements for Seniors.AP Exams for 2020 will be offered online in May. See details here.The University of California (UC) and and California State University (CSU) systems announced that they are reducing some admission requirements for the fall of 2020, including:Suspending letter grade requirements for A-G courses completed in the winter, spring or summer of 2020 (and instead accepting Pass or Credit ratings on the Pass/Fail system)Relaxing timelines for the receipt of official transcripts and acceptance of admission offersReevaluating financial aid packages and eligibility Accepting Credit/No Credit for certain core courses taken at community colleges.UC also stated it would waive the SAT or ACT requirement for students applying for the fall of 2021, a decision that CSU is also weighing.
Thinking AheadWe have been asked many questions about our future planning. We know that families are anxious to return to school, but we cannot yet make any definitive course of action until we are certain that resuming school will not impact the health and well-being of our community.  We have considered the following in terms of support for students as we return from school closures:Providing Summer Learning for a focused group of students to tentatively take place from June 8-July 2, 2020;Continuing to implement Extended School Year (ESY) learning virtually for students with this support already written in their Individualized Education Plans (IEPs-Special Education);Providing opportunities for students to receive additional instruction when we return to school in an after-school setting through additional support like tutoring;Creating a bridge style ramp-up curriculum for teachers to bridge the learning from a lower course/grade to a higher course/grade to review content.
While we have not made definitive plans on what we will implement when we return to school, we are thinking about possible scenarios that will best support our OUSD community. Statewide guidance including any updates to the social distancing and sheltering in place directives, will be key factors in determining when and how we return to school.
Thank you for your continued flexibility and partnership as we navigate these uncharted waters together.  Please share your thoughts about this message.

In Community,

Sondra Aguilera
Chief Academic Officer
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