ABS Thursday Notes - August 27, 2020

Published for the Arts Based School Community
August 27, 2020

How We Do It and Why
By Mary Siebert

“We might be by ourselves in our own box, but we are still connected to everyone else.”
- Jan Adams, ABS Dance Teacher, during Zoom classes.

When we started remote instruction, we knew how to keep our eyes on the goals of staying safe, nurturing our community, and delivering instruction, but we couldn’t anticipate the rocky shoals and submerged tips of icebergs ahead. For example: Zoom was down over much of the Eastern U.S. last Monday. Since it happened to be a flex day for us, we did not suffer as badly as others did. But it reinforced our efforts to work beyond Zoom: sending materials home, providing asynchronous instruction, working on shared platforms. These things can help to keep learning flowing when obstacles in technology arise. Grade level teams are working closely together, sharing instruction to provide consistent, high-quality lessons. And we are searching for the ideal balance between enough live instruction and too much screen time. We’re working late into the night and through weekends to make positive adjustments. 

Teachers are rapidly acquiring new skills for delivering content and building community over Zoom. One teacher noticed a young student crying in his little Zoom box. She discovered it was because he had not heard her greet him by name. She quickly greeted him again and has since learned to watch carefully for the Zoom indication that each individual child’s audio has been connected. Dance teacher Jan Adams is developing ways to “dance inside your box and outside of your box,” guiding students to touch the edges of their Zoom boxes so that it appears they are connecting. We are still tinkering with how to teach through these restrictions, when we are a school that luxuriates in art and music, dance and drama, working in groups, resolving disagreements, watching and responding to each student as they present themselves today. We weren’t designed for little boxes. But we are grateful to have them! It’s good to see one another’s faces.

While we are still making adjustments and corrections as they present themselves, there is nothing so reassuring and heartening as the positive words of our ABS parents. Below are some examples of the emails and social media posts that have fortified us as we navigate.

“I have been very impressed at how organized, prepared, and caring the ABS teachers and staff have been. My children have been excited about starting school and enjoyed their time with their teachers already. ABS is such a blessing to my family and I am thankful for all the hard work the teachers and staff give for the education and well-being of the children.”

“Your teachers are doing AMAZING work! They have been so filled with joy, organized, and incredibly engaging. … We continue to be so incredibly thankful to be part of this ABS community!”

Bonus Mini-Lesson
About the term asynchronous: We wondered whether to simplify this term, for younger students. But I was reminded of a conversation with Ms. Hollis from our early years. I had suggested simplifying a word for Kindergarteners, and she replied “Well, they can all easily say Tyrannosaurus Rex and Triceratops!” An excellent point! So, we are learning the word asynchronous along with the rest of the nation. Here’s a little breakdown of the Greek prefix/suffix/roots of the word, just for fun:

Prefix/Suffix/Root Meaning
a: without
syn: together
chron: time
ous: full of, having

These add up to: without having time together. Or, from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary: not simultaneous or concurrent in time.

ABS Awarded State Grant to Increase Access for Educationally Disadvantaged Students
The Arts Based School is one of nearly three dozen charter schools across North Carolina to be awarded a five-year grant by the N.C. Department of Public Instruction to attract and enroll more educationally disadvantaged students. 

The State Board of Education approved the grants, totaling $17.4 million, under an initiative called Advancing Charter Collaboration and Excellence for Student Success, or ACCESS. The program is funded with $36.6 million in grants from the U.S. Department of Education that the Office of Charter Schools was awarded during the last two years as part of the federal Expanding Opportunities Through Quality Charter Schools Program. ABS has been awarded a $500,000 grant. 

The funds are intended for new and existing high-quality charter schools to better meet the needs of traditionally underserved students–those who are economically disadvantaged, homeless, non-native English speakers, students with disabilities, immigrant students, and migrant students. 

State Testing Changes due to COVID-19
The State Board of Education approved a temporary change in state testing requirements to provide flexibility to local school districts and charter schools in administering assessments required by federal and state law.

To date, the U.S. Department of Education has not indicated it will grant any waivers from federal testing requirements as it did for testing this past spring. As a result, the N.C. Department of Public Instruction plans for schools to administer annual exams that are required each year, including the Beginning-of-Grade 3 reading exam, End-of-Grade tests in reading and math for grades 3 through 8, science for grades 5 and 8, and End-of-Course exams in NC Math 1, NC Math 3, Biology, and English II.

But under changes approved by the board for this year, schools would not be required to administer the exams until students were in school for face-to-face instruction.

Fourth Grade Assessment: As stated in legislation, the fourth-grade assessment must be given "no later than the tenth day that school buildings are open to students for the 2020-2021 school year". The objective of the assessment is to understand the reading and literacy skills of upcoming fourth-grade students who missed the End of Year assessment in order to provide effective instructional support. The intent of the legislation and the goal is to assess incoming fourth-grade students within the first ten days of school, whether opening in Plan B (remote and face to face) or Plan C (remote) to the greatest extent possible. ABS fourth grade students will be participating in the required fourth-grade assessment, taking the MAP test remotely on September 1. 

Beginning of Grade (BOG) Test 3rd Grade: Based on changes approved by the State Board of Education for this year, schools would not be required to administer the BOG exam until students return to in-school for face-to-face instruction.

mClass Testing: Read to Achieve Legislation requires three benchmark assessments be given to all K-3 students. The Beginning of Year (BOY) assessment will be administered during the first 20 days of September. The teachers will administer these assessments individually with students virtually.

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