Although the COVID-19 pandemic created hardships for students, their families and schools struggling to adapt to an online learning environment, it may in the long run create new opportunities as districts become more comfortable offering online education.
The Stillwater Board of Education heard a report Tuesday from Assistant Superintendent for Instruction Cathy Walker that revealed school personnel are adapting the district’s online curriculum as issues reveal themselves.
SPS staff were already serving as teachers of record for students enrolled in the Edgenuity virtual curriculum.
The district chose Edgenuity for students who enrolled in virtual classes beginning last fall, but as time went on, it became obvious the standard curriculum wasn’t working in some areas or wasn’t aligning with some standards. So the district opted to make changes, just as it does in the brick and mortar setting.
“If it’s not meeting our needs, we modify it,” Walker said.
Students who chose in-person instruction use a different platform and curriculum when they are in online learning due to COVID-19 infection rates.
Board President Camille DeYong said she hears from a fair number of parents who are not happy with the Edgenuity virtual curriculum.
The district has made fairly significant changes to that curriculum at the elementary level because it wanted students to have an experience similar to what they would have in the classroom. Certain pieces also didn’t align with district standards, Walker said.
There were other things that just didn’t work for the district’s students in the first semester.
Edgenuity’s standard national curriculum aligned very well with English and math standards but not so well with social studies and science, Walker said.
The district increased writing instruction for fifth graders because they have to take standardized tests on writing proficiency in the spring.
Some secondary course work is being replaced with curriculum the district’s teachers are developing in-house.
There were concerns about how complicated Edgenuity’s requirements were for the high school computer science elective and concerns about the materials required for AP biology, she said.
There were also issues with some electives at the middle school level, which were said to be time-consuming and not very engaging.
It’s been gratifying to see the district’s teachers with that expertise have a chance to shine in new ways, Richmond Elementary Assistant Principal Joy Cawood said. She’s also very proud of the families who have helped their students through the experience.
She noted that the district was just “treading water” last spring and getting students acclimated at the beginning of the school year, but then the teachers started adding their own content.
“It’s not perfect, but it has gotten better every week,” Cawood said. “Edgenuity alone is a product, but Edgenuity with an SPS teacher is a significantly better product.”
Walker noted that virtual students who want to play NCAA sports will need to use Edgenuity’s curriculum as originally written.
The district initially had difficulty meeting Individualized Education Plan standards but is using some new tools to help teachers modify assignments according to each student’s needs.
All school sites also have students coming in if they need extra help, which also allows teachers to assess their needs and figure out how to fill gaps.
The district is planning a Summer Academy to help students catch up, and working to provide increased video instruction for students on the days they’re at home during A/B alternating schedule instruction.
Looking forward, the district is considering continuing to offer virtual instruction as an option at elementary and secondary grade levels.
It would use its own curriculum and teachers, but needs to look for a learning management system that would have all the features it needs.