School Is STILL Out. What Parents Need to Know.

Well, it’s official, the Governor’s Executive Order 7X has extended in class cancellations through May 20, 2020.  Guidance from the State Department of Education has been coming out daily.  There are a few things you should know.

First, the Governor’s Executive Order 7N suspends all state summative and alternate assessments, universal reading screening assessments, and administration of reading assessments in priority districts for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year.  So, that SBAC testing your 8th grader was worried about? Not happening.

How Children Will Be Graded

Second, many parents have been wondering how their children will be graded.  Some have a packet of work their child has completed but the school has given no information on what to do with it.  Others have middle or high school children submitting assignments on Google classroom but struggling to manage organizing everything they need to get done.  Incomplete assignments are piling up.  If your child needs support to complete work, reach out to teachers and administrators and ask for help.  Know also that the State Department of Education issued guidance on April 7, 2020 suggesting that districts adopt a pass fail system while providing “continued educational opportunities.”  The State Department of Education has also encouraged schools to prioritize student engagement and learning.  Check with your local school district to determine if it is shifting to pass/fail grading.

Graduating seniors need their credits to graduate

Third, with regard to graduating seniors, the State Department of Education has stated that Connecticut’s public and private institutions of higher learning will accept pass/fail grades and electronically certified transcripts and will extend the deadline for receipt of transcripts.  The Department has offered guidance on how GPA’s will be calculated.  Further, the Department has indicated that colleges and universities will work with families to determine if financial needs have changed.

The State Department of Education’s guidance makes clear that it will allow districts to “make a local determination to grant students the necessary credit for graduation even where such course or prescribed course of study may not be consistent with Connecticut General Statutes § 10-16b or §10-221a(b).”  The Department has also urged districts to use flexibility in assessing attainment of credit.  So, where “seat time” may usually be required, districts may instead rely on things like demonstration of mastery or completion of on-line coursework.

The most important question for many graduating seniors is what will happen to graduation?  School districts are assessing this now.  The State Department of Education has made clear that decisions about graduation are made by local districts, though decisions should be made in consultation with the Governor’s emergency declarations and collaboration with local health officials.  Be prepared for potential postponement, virtual graduation ceremonies, or other “creative” markers of attainment of graduation.

Parents of children with disabilities

Fourth, many parents of children with disabilities are wondering how they will ever get their kids back on track.  Parents should understand that state and federal guidance has, thus far, maintained that children are entitled to a free appropriate public education (FAPE) and equal access.  Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) must be implemented to the greatest extent possible.  Parents know, though, that the reality is that their children with disabilities are not getting the services they need, in part because many just can’t be done over the internet.  Parents should maintain information and documentation on the impact of distance learning on their children.  Parents may need to seek compensatory educational services to remedy the loss of services.

Parents should be aware, though, that when Congress passed the CARES Act it included a provision for the federal Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, to provide a report to Congress with a list of needed waivers under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).  This is of great concern as children with disabilities will be disproportionately impacted by the loss of in school educational time.  Their rights to a free appropriate public education should not be waived.  Advocacy groups, like the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA), are working hard to protect the rights of children with disabilities.

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