Sunday, April 12, 2020

Week of April 13th

UAI Staff News

Volume VII
Issue 32
April 13th  2020


Happy Birthday Ms. Danielle R & Ms. Sarah M!
Sunday, 12APR20 is Ms. Danielle's Birthday.
Wednesday, 15APR20 is. Ms. Sarah M's Birthday 
Bring your festive well-wishing to our Monday & Wednesday AM Check-ins!

Online Instruction Through the Rest of the Year.  Yesterday morning, Mayor DiBlasio stated the NYC schools would remain closed and in online instructional models through to the end of the year.  Hours later Governor Cuomo described that decision to be the mayor's opinion.  In this period of crisis, there is no doubt that these mixed messages only add to the anxiety and confusion that we are all experiencing.  

However, if we take a step back from the roar and peak around the world, we can discern patterns and project likelihoods.  Physical social distancing and shut down policies are having an impact.  The number of new hospitalizations are leveling off.  The death rates are linked to those numbers.  It took us 6 weeks to come from the first reported case in NYC to today.  This curve is symmetrical so, we can predict that it will be at least 6 weeks for us to the other side of the curve.  That puts us at the end of May.  Even if we are capable of going back at the end of May, it took schools a week to transition OUT of buildings and into Online Instruction, it will take us at least a week to get back into the buildings.  If all of these statements are true, our earliest hope of being back in the building would be June.  At that point, with only weeks left in the year, the risk of re-infection is not worth the it.

So, regardless of who has the authority to make the call to close schools for the remainder of the year, it is pretty clear that this is the right call to secure the health and safety of our students, families, and ourselves.

That said, it is also a an extremely difficult call.  Our students are significantly more school reliant than students in more affluent homes.   Many of our students are learning in educationally challenging environments with limited access to data and/or sharing devices & data with family members.  On top of that, as we can see the data playing out, Coronavirus is hitting black and brown communities hardest.  We see that in our own anecdotal data as more and more students report COVID-19 related illness in their families.  

However, while incredibly challenging, this decision gives us the clarity we need to move forward in our planning and to capitalize on the opportunities that are hidden amongst the layers of difficulty.

Seeing the Silver Lining.  If we remain outcomes based, we begin to see see the silver lining in our current situation.  
  • Focus On High School and College Readiness.  Strength in literacy, numeracy, and problem solving & analysis are the foundations of academic success for all of our students in their next level of learning.  Purportedly, the NYS exams were benchmarks aimed at helping us target these academic skills.  Realistically, the content of the exams often got in the way instead.  Now, we have the chance to use the remainder of the year to focus our efforts on these skills and preparing them for future success on gateway exams like the SAT and AP exams.
  • Develop Effective Feedback.  Shifting from judge to coach is a difficult move.  Often in the rush of the school year, evaluating judge wins because it just takes less time to give a grade than to write quality feedback.  It's easier to say THAT something is right or wrong rather than HOW or WHY they are so.  But now, we have some flexibility and opportunity in thinking about assignments, grading and assessments.  With fewer classes to teach, there is more time for honing our skills in feedback. 
  • Establish Systems for Enrichment and Support.  Many of you have noted that some of our most struggling students have found new engagement and activity online.  The structures that you are creating will not disappear once we move into school again.  Rather, as you build out the rest of the year, build with the mindset of how these online structures can serve to enrich, remediate, and re-engage our students outside of the classroom.

Co-Construction of the Rest of the Year.  The speed at which we needed to launch online learning necessitated quick, decisive leadership.  There was no opportunity to get input, nor did we even know how long this was even going to last.  Now, we are in a very different situation.  We also have the experience of a few weeks to help us reflect and refine our instruction moving forward.  I am inviting anyone who is interested to join me at 10AM on Monday to discuss and gather your input on the following: 
  • Instructional Outcomes for the Year.  What should our instructional outcomes be as a school (and then by subject team) and why?
  • Online Instructional Format.  How well is our current program working?  What needs to be kept/changed and why?
  • Grading.  Given our stated outcomes and instructional format, how should grading shift to be fair and equitable.  

Once I have your ideas, I'll put together our instructional program and goals for the remainder of the year and recall this ad-hoc committee for comment and editing.  My goal is to have the program for the remainder of the year and instructional goals ready for launch on April 20th.

Student Fee Refunds & Graduation.  Students refunds are ready, but we just don't yet have a mechanism to get them to families.  We are working on how best to do that and will be soliciting input from the PTA on Monday.  But if students ask, here is the general info:

    • Activities/things that have already happened (been purchased and/or distributed) will not be refunded.  So, for example, any trips that have already happened or materials (e.g. picture fees, sweatshirts, caps and gowns, etc.) that have already been purchased will not have cash refunds.  
    • We are still planning on doing something special for our graduating students to give them a celebration - even if it has to be virtual.  I've been tossing around ideas like "Graduation Boxes" coupled with a ceremony on zoom, but I am happy to have thought partners join me.  Please reach out to me if you are interested.
    • For all other things that have been cancelled (future trips, etc.) those fees are ready to be returned.
    • For all AP - once we have confirmation that students have successfully completed the exams, the fees will be ready for return.  
    • My Initial thinking is that (if allowed) I will go to school one day at the end of June and let kids come one at a time to get refunds and/or clean out lockers. 

To-Do This Week

Refine Your Outreach Lists.  Thank you for refining this list of students who are not showing up to Office Hours.  Those that are highlighted in Red (3+) or Yellow (2) have been listed by multiple teachers.  Those are the students we will begin our focus of support on.  We'll be having a meeting on Monday with all of our Out of Classroom Staff to strategize support for them.  We ask that by EOD on FRIDAY 17APR20, please revisit this list and remove any student who has caught up in your class and/or who no longer requires the additional intervention.  This will be now be the weekly ask for the remainder of the year. 

Prep for Subject Team Meetings.  This week we will meet in Subject Teams to refine our instructional outcomes by discipline.  To prepare for those meetings, come with your ideas about what you would personally like to accomplish within your own course(s) by the end of this year.  Also, reflect and think about what you would ask of your colleagues in preceding courses to achieve with the students who will be coming into your course next year.  These two perspectives coupled with the school goal to prepare students to excel in college will be the three frames that help subject teams concretize their goals for the year.

Staff Preference Sheet and Open Market.  This week Open Market is slated to open on Thursday.  Please take a moment to complete the staff preference sheet for next year CLICK HERE.  Please complete this by the end of the day on Monday 13APR20.


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