Superintendent Cruz on AISD Continuous Learning

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Dear Austin ISD Family, 

Our team has worked hard to prepare for Continuous Learning, which is scheduled to begin through a phased-in approach, Monday, April 6. I thank you for your patience during these past few weeks. I have been proud to see our community come together and support each other as we all work through these unprecedented times.

On Monday, our students will be learning in a different way, away from the campus. Continuous Learning is the next step in our plan to keep educating our Pre-K through 12th-grade students. Our Continuous Learning plan uses various ways for us to continue to prepare our students for their return to campus with increased teacher interaction, direction, and feedback. Depending on the school, class or grade level, these resources can include the use of printed material, email communication, phone recordings or calls and online platforms. This will be teacher-facilitated instruction that students participate in on their own schedule, in order to provide maximum flexibility for students and families. 

The AISD At-Home Learning website, which can be found at https://sites.google.com/austinisd.org/aisd-learning-at-home, will continue as a resource for students, families, and teachers and will provide valuable information and support. Learning is no longer optional, however, and teachers will be providing feedback on students’ progress as they prepare for success next year and in their future. 

This doesn’t mean we’re replicating traditional school in your home. We are fully committed to the whole child and social-emotional learning. You and your student’s health, safety and well being is the most important thing to consider today. Our continuous learning plan emphasizes your child’s social and emotional health and will provide opportunities for your students to talk to you about what they’re experiencing and feeling during these challenging times. SEL lessons will be included in the learning experience, and teachers will be connecting with students.  

I know we are all digesting a lot of information, so I want to be clear. While we are ready to welcome our students back through Continuous Learning, there are still other decisions that we are working to finalize. As much as I wish I could answer questions about graduation ceremonies, spring celebrations and continued campus closures–we are still evaluating these matters. Please know that we will communicate those updates to our families first.

Below you will find answers to some frequently asked questions regarding Continuous Learning.

How will continuous learning affect grades?
We are working with our Board of Trustees and the Texas Education Agency to revise our grading policy. We will continue communicating with our families following any board action.

What if my family does not have a device to complete continuous learning?
We are working hard to support student learning in any way we can. We are proud to have provided district-issued Chromebooks to all students from eighth-to-12th grade through our Everyone:1 program. We are now working to expand that service by delivering Chromebooks to students in sixth and seventh grade. We are also providing internet hotspots for at-home use and outfitting 500 school buses with mobile hotspots to serve communities in need.

We are currently providing paper packets to families who do not have access to technology at the locations we are distributing meals. Additionally, elementary school students can receive a packet of school supplies next week to support hands-on learning at the locations we distribute meals.

Why is Continuous Learning important?
Continuous Learning is important so our students can be prepared to return when campuses reopen. Continuous Learning also provides opportunities for teachers to help students during these uncertain times with social-emotional learning and support.

Will my student still need to take the STAAR or other state-mandated tests? 
The Texas Education Agency canceled STAAR tests and other academic assessment requirements for the remainder of the year. You can read more about that at: https://tea.texas.gov/about-tea/news-and-multimedia/correspondence/taa-letters/cancellation-of-staar-testing-for-the-remainder-of-the-school-year

Will my child need to repeat a grade because of COVID-19-related campus-closures?
If students progress toward demonstrating or showing proficiency in their learning, then they will advance to the next level.

What will happen to the Advanced Placement exams?
Exams will all be taken at home in the form of free-response essays or short-answer questions. The College Board is providing free video review lessons for students. Teachers will also support students by providing online instruction.

What about college exams?
The ACT April examination has been canceled. The next scheduled ACT exam is June 13. The SAT March and May examinations have been canceled. The June 6 SAT exam is still scheduled. Khan Academy will be available for all students to prepare for the examination.

What’s next?
Rest, stay healthy and prepare for the start of continuous learning on Monday. If you haven’t heard from your campus or teacher by this Friday, please email or communicate with your campus principal to ensure you’re able to receive messages and you’re prepared for Monday. 

How can I continue to be engaged?
Information regarding Continuous Learning, SEL, meals, and hands-on options can still be found at the Austin ISD Learning At-Home website. We also provide information at austinisd.org and on our Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/austinisd/) and Twitter (https://twitter.com/AustinISD) pages. Additionally, please help us understand how we can better support you and your family with continuous learning at home by taking part in this Thoughtexchange https://my.thoughtexchange.com/#498310266/hub, where we would like to hear your thoughts.

We are a district of 81,000 students from Pre-K to college, committed to cultivating the brilliance and talents of each student while supporting our families and their needs. Our schools are the heart and soul of our communities and we look forward to working together to continue connecting our students with teachers, while also staying safe and healthy. 

Sincerely,

Paul Cruz, Ph.D.
Austin ISD
Superintendent 

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