Students won’t be penalized for low performance or lack of participation in the Little Rock School District’s alternative method of instruction (AMI) online learning, but they can improve grades through AMI work, LRSD Superintendent Mike Poore and other district officials said in a social media town hall Thursday night. Whatever grade students had during the third nine weeks of the school year will be carried over into the fourth nine weeks — unless students improve that grade through AMI work.
“Ultimately, we do not plan to have any negative impact on the students’ performance academically, but as a district, it is our responsibility to engage that student in every way we can,” Poore said. Both platforms the district is using — ItsLearning for K-5 students and Edmentum for all others — allow the LRSD to see how many students are logging in. Eighty-five percent of elementary students had as of this week, Poore said.
“When we find out that someone hasn’t engaged, it’s not a ‘caught you!’ It’s ‘how can we help you?’ ” Poore said. That could mean providing families a computer or, if they have multiple children, providing multiple devices. District officials reported that the LRSD has distributed more than 9,000 Google Chromebook computers for AMI instruction along with several hundred Sprint and Verizon devices.
The final day of instruction for LRSD seniors is May 8, though they will have until May 15 to complete work. For all other students, the final day of instruction is May 21, though they will have until May 28, originally scheduled to be the last day of school, to complete instruction.
The LRSD will offer virtual summer school for credit recovery for high school students who need to catch up. Students can begin working on that credit recovery work now, Randy Rutherford, executive director for secondary education, said. Counselors will be reaching out to families soon, he said.
There will be no summer school for middle school students. For elementary students, the LRSD and h the city of Little Rock plan to offer around four sites that will provide instruction from 8 a.m.-2:30 p.m. and enrichment from 2:30-5:30 p.m. If permitted by state guidance, these would be held July 8-31 and would have one instructor to every 12 students. That offering would also be targeted at students who need to catch up, Poore said in an earlier interview.
Beginning May 11, seniors will receive notice of a time to pick-up personal belongings and return school property. That process will begin May 21 for all other students.
Hope Worsham, executive director for curriculum and instruction, said the district had lowered the amount of work elementary students are expected to do. Beginning in the second week of AMI instruction, the district limited required instruction to only math and literacy and the time requirement for both subjects to 60 minutes. She said the workload had also been lessened on Fridays to allow students to catch up.
The district will soon unveil a way for students and families who need additional help to connect with City Year volunteers, who will set up Zoom video meetings with students to help them.
One parent asked why the district was using ItsLearning and Edmentum instead of Google Classroom, which the parent suggested was more user friendly. Poore said that both platforms were in use, to some degree, already in the district, but district officials have already discussed whether other platforms might be better if need arises again.
Several parents complained about Edmentum crashing. Rutherford said that the district had investigated those complaints thoroughly and determined that internet connectivity was the primary culprit, not the platform.
High school seniors will have virtual ceremonies on originally scheduled graduation dates, but Rutherford said the district was also eyeing the possibility of in-person ceremonies in July, perhaps on football fields or even at War Memorial Stadium, to allow for sufficient social distancing. Poore said he really felt for seniors and that all of them would get yard signs and other recognition yet to be unveiled.
Looking to next year, “Will school start earlier? Will school start later? Those are things that we’re not going to know for a while,” Poore said.