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District News

April 19, 2020

Dear Parents,

We’ve completed the fourth week of remote learning! Hopefully, spring break the previous week provided a little breathing room for both you and your children.

As we begin week five, I wanted to let you know that we are thinking about and planning ahead for a variety of possibilities. I speak daily with principals and supervisors who are listening to teachers, students, and parents, and we are working to address concerns and consider suggestions to better the remote learning experience of our students. Your understanding and patience as we make adjustments to refine our teaching practices and the enormous effort required of you to help and support your children in accessing lessons and assignments is recognized and deeply appreciated. 

As we look forward to the possibility of a return to school in early May, early June, or perhaps even later, we are further considering what key concepts and skills are most important to teach and what assessment, grading, and report cards will look like.

Teaching and Learning

Teachers and content supervisors are making decisions daily about “must do’s” and “nice to do’s” in planning lessons, assigning follow-up work, and setting expectations for students. We know that we cannot replicate nor cover all of what traditionally is done in a classroom through distance learning.  We also know that middle and high school students are more computer savvy and independent than our elementary kids, and there will need to be differences in the depth of content and skill coverage across levels. We are noting these differences, course to course and grade to grade, and will address them as we create school reentry plans for the range of possibilities.

Currently, we are recognizing that less may be more. Broadening the definition of learning to honor a range of student growth and development, teachers are focusing on the most important learning goals and competencies for the subjects and grade-levels they teach. We do hope that a reduced more-focused academic load has lowered stress and anxiety and will lead to higher student engagement.  

Assessment, Grading, and Report Cards 

Much thought is being given to how we will assess student learning remotely, the grading systems we will use, and how and when students will receive report cards. While we are still refining procedures specific to PPS, we join other districts near and far in creating grading/crediting policies that reflect shared principles that support students’ social-emotional health during this extraordinary time.

Here are general guidelines we will be following at each school level: 

Princeton High School

  • Students will receive letter grades for Quarter 3. Most of Q3 was spent in classrooms.  Grades earned during in-school time and a few additional grades earned during the first weeks of remote learning will be counted.  Letter grades will be given and report cards will be available in PowerSchool after April 22nd.
  • Letter grades will be given for Quarter 4 based on essential assignments that reflect priority goals and objectives and account for participation, effort, and growth.
  • Final grades will be letter grades based on all four quarters.
  • Teachers will be flexible with due dates and demonstrate balance and understanding in assessment and grading.

John Witherspoon Middle School

  • JW will retain its traditional grading structure for Quarter 3, as outlined in the student handbook and on the JW website page. However, teachers are assessing student work submitted during the remote learning weeks with understanding, leniency, and with sensitivity to the uniqueness of each student’s current situation.
  • During Quarter 4, lessons and assignments will be designed to reinforce previous learning and advance key concepts in the course curriculum.
  • A modified rating scale will be used for grading. Participation, effort, and growth will be assessed and counted as well.
  • Given the myriad of factors impacting a student’s ability to complete work during this health pandemic, teachers will give a “no mark” in lieu of a zero.
  • JW is maintaining a grade structure so as to provide a familiar report card for parents and students, but more importantly, teachers will be regularly assessing student work and providing feedback throughout the remainder of the year. 
  • Teachers will apply flexibility, balance, and understanding in assessment and grading, and students should attend their remote learning classes each day, completing work to the best of their ability. It is essential that students maintain learning routines, follow the teacher guidelines, and participate daily.

Our Elementary Schools

As you know, we were piloting a new standards-based progress report this year. Our intent was to ask for parent feedback after the second trimester report was received, however, that evaluation and revision will have to wait. 

While second trimester progress reports were to be distributed on April 24th, the circumstances related to the health pandemic and remote learning are requiring a different approach:

Second Trimester Reporting

  • In the next few weeks, teachers will provide parents with a verbal (phone) or written (email) progress update. This update will focus on any work and assessments completed since mid-March, both in the classroom and in the weeks of remote learning.

Third Trimester Reporting (Last Day of School)

  • In our new Progress Report (report card), we will highlight for you the key grade-level standards addressed during the remote learning weeks.  A written narrative from your child’s teacher will accompany the highlighted standards. These reports will be accessible through the PowerSchool Parent Portal on the last day of school.

While we await further guidance from Governor Murphy, the Department of Education, and our local health officials on the closing of our school buildings beyond May 15th, we will continually assess and revise our remote learning approaches and practices so as to provide the best possible education for our students.  We value parent feedback and appreciate the many emails, photos, questions, and suggestions we’ve received.  We will be sending a brief parent survey soon and hope you will take a minute to let us know how you and your child(ren) are faring.

Sincerely,

Anna Gonzalez Kosek
Assistant Superintendent, Curriculum & Instruction 

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