Columbia Public Schools announced a new learning plan that includes eliminating letter grades and designating days of the week for certain subjects and forms of communication.
The district outlined the shift in an email to parents Monday morning. District spokesperson Michelle Baumstark said the district wanted to create a longer-term, more sustainable plan to accommodate the developing status of COVID-19. She also said feedback from families struggling to keep up with online instruction partially initiated the plan.
Amanda Atkins owns a child-care center, and she has three children attending CPS. She says the curriculum before the new learning plan put a heavy burden on parents.
“Within just a few days, we did find out that this is way too much,” she said. “Even somebody like me who is an educator, it’s a lot managing three children’s Zoom meetings and figuring out what packet work is due.”
The new learning plan tries to simplify life for parents. It will designate days of the week to subject areas for high school and middle school students. For example, Monday’s are assigned to math, fine arts and English teachers to give instruction and communicate to students.
Mass communication from elementary teachers and schools will also follow a schedule. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays will be designated days for teachers to email families and students. Tuesdays will be used for specials teachers and counselors to email students and families. Principals and schools will give updates on Thursdays.
For the rest of the year or until in-person teaching resumes, elementary teachers will not be grading coursework or requiring Zoom sessions. Middle school and high school teachers will still deliver grades and feedback, but overall spring semester grades will be pass/no credit given.
A student’s semester grades will be determined by their March 10 progress report. The student will receive a passing grade in the course if their progress report score is over 60%, and students with a score lower than this will have the remainder of the semester to earn a passing grade through the completion of additional work.
Baumstark says she understands the importance of letter grades for scholarships and college admissions. But, she says the nature of online instruction leads to unequal opportunities for students because of things like uneven access to help from parents.
“It is not possible for us to be in this period of time and still be able to have equitable opportunities for all of our students to be able to improve or advance their GPA,” she said.
Teachers will have today and tomorrow to adjust work available online and review students’ academic status. The new plan begins Wednesday.