Hudson schools navigate report card season during COVID-19

114

By Dakota Antelman, Contributing Writer

Hudson – Report cards will soon head home as this first term of a pandemic interrupted school year comes to a close. In Hudson, school administrators are reaching out ahead of time to prevent families from getting blindsided by lower than expected grades.

Speaking at a School Committee meeting Dec. 1, Assistant Superintendent Kathy Provost detailed a letter sent home to parents that, in turn, explained both the nuances of the past three months of learning as well as the general grading procedure that teachers follow. 

“We want to just let parents know that they made the right decision,” she said of the actual primary reason the district launched this effort. “No matter what model they chose, their students are learning.”

That being said, Provost conceded, some students have fallen behind. Teachers, she explained, have reported classes where students don’t turn in work especially when learning remotely. In other cases, she said, students check in with teachers at the beginning of a remote learning day, but then go offline for the rest of the morning and afternoon. 

This phenomenon may mirror the pattern of “virtual dropouts” that some education experts first documented in interviews with media outlets like the Boston Globe this past spring. 

The unique challenges of COVID-19 and quarantine, those experts fear, are letting students slip through the cracks of their public education systems. 

At this grading period check in, Provost said that she’s hoping report cards can bring some struggling students back. 

She explains that she hopes an “I,” which stands for “insufficient progress,” on elementary school report cards, could particularly spark communication with families about the issues their children face.

“It’s one of those ways for us to signal to parents that we’re concerned,” she told the School Committee.

Provost stressed that she and other district administrators don’t aim to shame families or students. They’re cutting some slack, they say, during a time when everything from disrupted childcare to unstable income streams are hurting individuals in unique ways. 

“This is a different year,” Provost notes. “Everyone is trying their best and we understand that.” 

Back in the classroom, the district has also rolled out a clarified checklist for teachers to complete before they issue those potentially harsh “insufficient progress” ratings.

  • “Has a teacher discussed issues with parents?” the checklist reportedly reads.
  • “Has a teacher involved administrators in an effort to coordinate in-school and at-home support structures?”
  • “Has a student been absent for unforeseen circumstances?”
  •  “And, if a child is getting accommodations through an IEP or 504 special education plan, has a teacher actually met those requirements?”

For all involved, Provost said, this fall has posed near overwhelming challenges. 

Some students are struggling. 

Teachers, meanwhile, are making up for lost time trying to cram both missed lessons from last spring and new lessons for this year into a school calendar that is already two weeks shorter than usual. 

The state, meanwhile, has not made any accommodations of its own to loosen or eliminate any specific content-based standards despite the time crunch.

In light of that, Provost said the district and its teachers are just pushing ahead, reaching out to families, and hoping communication, particularly at this point in the year, helps everyone keep pace.

“We know students are a little bit behind,” she said. “But we’re working very hard to make sure that they get caught up.”