Episode Three: ASD in School vs Virtual Program
You voiced your questions and concerns about the ASD School Start 2020 plan, and the District heard. Starting this week, ASD will air a twice weekly, pre-recorded Q&A session with a variety of ASD and community member hosts and guests who will take a deep dive into the details of what school will look like this fall. Videos will post by the end of day every Tuesday and Thursday leading up to the start of the school year. Topics will dig into everything from teacher tricks to encourage social distancing among young students (airplane arms!)? to how will my senior be best prepared for post-graduation life during a pandemic?
Send us your questions here! The District wants to hear your thoughts and comments to be considered for inclusion in the interview.
Lisa Miller: Thanks for tuning into another episode of Airplane Arms: Navigating Back to School. Today, we're going to talk about a question that is rolling around in a lot of parents' heads right now. What does the difference look between keeping their kids in ASD schools in the high level operation level versus opting into the virtual program? My name is Lisa Miller. I'm a communications specialist with ASD. I'm joined by Jennifer Knutson, our senior director of teaching and learning, and Carol Boatman, our director of learning innovation. Welcome, and thank you very much for joining us today. So that's kind of a big question, and I really just want to focus on that today. So Jennifer, if you can kind of start us off on the ASD at school side and your thoughts on that.
Jennifer Knutson: So ASD in-school really is your neighborhood school and your school of choice, and it is just we're moving it online. The difference I think between that and virtual is depending on the risk level, you change how the delivery of instruction is. So with high risk specifically, we are in a fully online environment. So the classroom is Canvas, that's our learning management system. So, all students, all teachers will be instructing and learning through that platform. So that's our virtual online platform. What parents can expect in students is that there's going to be a combination of instruction. There's gonna be live instruction for students by teachers, there'll be recorded instruction, and then there'll also be activities and lessons that students will also do. So that's kind of how it will look. It's very different than what we did in the spring, because in the spring it was kind of in reaction to kind of a crisis at the time. And we didn't really have a whole lot of time to plan. And we were providing instruction that was more supplemental, especially for the elementary and the middle school levels. High school was graded. And that was a little bit different. So starting in the fall, pre-K actually through 12 is all graded. It's not supplemental. There's gonna be instruction, assignments, grades, all of that provided. So that's how it will look different than it did in the spring.
Lisa Miller: So yeah, spring time is really, in a matter of a week, we decided the numbers turned and we never really came back from spring break and we had supplemental options available for elementary students and families. And that's really, it's gonna be more of the online through Canvas, and actual graded work, and more of actual, more intensive, and really school at home.
Jennifer Knutson: It is school at home. And that's where they are very similar in the high risk is that you are doing all your learning online, through live instruction, recorded instruction and activities. It's different when you go into that medium risk. And that's where it really changes a lot.
Lisa Miller: So I mean, because the numbers are going up every day. It looks like we may be in high risk level. No one can say, but we're good. The numbers are going up. So if a family is looking to plan for one versus the other, Carol, what is the difference really between the virtual program between what Jenny just described for the high risk?
Carol Boatman: So the virtual program came about for parents who have students that are in high risk category, and they don't want to be at school at all. But what they do have is the option to be connected to their neighborhood or choice school. So if eventually they want to go back to school, they have that ability to be able to do that. Or if they say, say for instance, they don't want their kid to go to all of the classes available, but maybe they want them to participate in music when we're at a medium risk, then that's something they have that ability to do. For high school students and middle school students, they have that option to participate in activities after school when they're connected to their neighborhood school. So that's the one key thing that's really similar about that piece of it. Because even though it's considered homeschool, they still are connected to their neighborhood school. The other component of it with it is it is an online virtual learning program through Calvert Learning, K five, middle school, so six through 12 middle school and high school, we'll use a combination of Apex and eDynamics classes, and that's where they will get their core classes and their electives at the same time. K through five program is a content driven and it is tied to our state standards and it's project based learning, it's activity basis, it has eBooks, it has the ability to self-pace. That's a key component with this program, is that it's at your pace, at your place, in your space, which Dr. Bishop has talked about. And that's a big piece of it. And the parents play a big role, particularly in K five in the movement of the curriculum. I think that's different with the virtual program compared to if you were to pick homeschool, is that we will provide an ASD virtual teacher that will help deliver instruction that will help with the pacing, that will also help with the grading. They will actually be responsible for the grading and they'll provide support if a student is struggling or if a student needs to advance. So those are key components that are different. Now, the other piece of it is, what ASD in-school is doing for their learning platform is completely different than what ASD virtual program is doing. So there are different learning platforms. So you can go between the two of them, but we highly recommend that you stay with one or the other, at least until the quarter. And then you can switch if you would like to, but we're looking at because they are different programs and different deliveries of instruction, we're recommending that you choose one or the other.
Lisa Miller: Yeah, so it's not meant to bounce back and forth, or like at minimum, maybe a quarter is when.
Carol Boatman: Yes.
Lisa Miller: And then what level of involvement would the parents have at the virtual program versus high risk in school? Is there more in the virtual program? Is it about the same, or how do you think that differs or compares?
Carol Boatman: So for the virtual program, the parents are really involved in the elementary level. They're the ones that are gonna help set the pace and the schedule. And the great thing about Calvert Learning is it actually gives you a suggested schedule. Hey, here's how much time to spend on this lesson. Here are some breaks to take within the lesson. The virtual teacher will help provide support and give lessons synchronously and asynchronously, but the parent is really gonna be key involved. And a big piece of the reason is kids won't be able to navigate it on their own. They're not considered independent learning as elementary students. And so the parent is gonna have to help them navigate through that piece. There is a parent platform that helps them learn how to navigate through the lessons. And it helps them look at the pace for the student. It shows them how to access the information, and we will provide a training for parents. That's one of the things that we're going to do before school starts through Zoom meetings, where parents can go in and actually get their hands on in that parent component and get familiar with it. So that is something that will be provided.
Lisa Miller: Thank you. And then Jenn, go ahead.
Jennifer Knutson: I was just gonna say that some of the similarities and differences is that with ASD in-school, teachers are guiding the pacing of the instruction 'cause it is ASD curriculum, whether it's our traditional schools or even our alternative schools. So Immersion, Open Optional, ABC, any of those programs that we have, teachers are actually putting our curriculum into Canvas courses. And so they will pace it out. But I will agree with you, Carol, with our young children in elementary school, parents still are heavily involved because they aren't independent in their learning. And so that's where there's some similarities, but you will have the teacher making assignments, having due dates for some of those assignments, and scheduling like live sessions that maybe parents might need to help elementary kids get on.
Lisa Miller: Thank you. And then you hit on like Immersion and alternative schools. Carol, is that for families with their kiddos in those type of schools, is that really an option to continue that type of education in the virtual program?
Carol Boatman: So it is. The Immersion programs actually have set criteria for being able to be an ASD virtual. And so the best way to go about that is to communicate and touch base with the principal at that school and ask them what the steps they have in place to get that language immersion piece of it. And I know there's several different ways to have that delivered, but the principal at the school is gonna have the best knowledge for that, but it is an option. That would be considered a choice school. And that is one of the things that is available if you choose ASD virtual program.
Lisa Miller: So as a parent, will I be able to like go, I know this is a unique question for each school, but would you recommend maybe they sit down and talk to the principal at their school and talk through their student, and if the virtual program will be best, or is that a decision that families should make on their own before they decide to go forward?
Carol Boatman: Well, I always say parents know their kids best. They really understand their strengths and their weaknesses. I know some of the concerns that I've heard from parents is the delivery of online instruction, they're worried about the screen time. They're worried about, well, it really engaged them or not. And I've been on the Calvert Learning and have actually manipulate, not manipulated, but tested the videos and played through them. And they're really engaging. And they are very mindful of developmentally where a student is and they're really appropriate in the content that they deliver. So the question of whether to talk with the principal or not is really up to the parent, if they feel like they need some more information about what would be the best platform, then that would be an avenue to go. I would recommend getting on our website at ASD because we have a lot of information about ASD in-school and a lot about the ASD virtual. You can actually get on and access the Calvert Learning and look at all the different information that is provided. There are some sample videos that you could look at for lessons. It also shows the content for each grade level so you can break it down from kindergarten all the way to fifth grade. It'll show you some samples of lessons and it'll also show you the learning objective. So that would be a great way to help you understand if ASD virtual is a good program for your student.
Lisa Miller: Thank you for that. And then as far as families that have already committed, do you have like a rough estimate of how many people are already saying, yes, this is for sure what we want to do and do you see a trend, like is it more secondary students who are going for it, or is it kind of all over?
Carol Boatman: As of this morning, we have 1100 students that have signed up. And the interesting thing is it's really even in each grade level. So there isn't an outlier. There might be a school that has an outlier that maybe they might have a higher level of students that are enrolled. But when you look at the enrollment from K through 12, they're really sitting at about a hundred. So it's interesting to see that each grade level is a pretty even actually is what it is. Yeah.
Lisa Miller: Thank you. Is there anything else that you wanted to add, any thoughts on?
Jennifer Knutson: Well, there's just one more piece for ASD in-school. I think one of the pieces that we have added on this year that really will, I think help us, especially with the English language arts and math in ensuring that kids have those skills is we've added on iReady, which is a computer assisted instructional program that all kids in K through nine will have an ELA, and K through eight in math. And ELA is English language Arts, so they're reading. And why this is so important, it's kind of like what Carol was talking about with the virtual is it allows kids to do a self-assessment ahead of time online and it places them where they're at so that it can adapt to their personalized learning. And then teachers can look at this data and then if they see kids struggling, they can schedule live sessions where they can do tutoring with kids and stuff like that. So it's very similar to the virtual. We have to add on some online components that will round out our instruction when we're in high risk that we didn't necessarily have in the spring.
Lisa Miller: So it sounds like a lot more has gone into the ASD at school, during a high risk level. And then we have a whole new program for families who are really looking to shift into the home learning environment for some time, but still stay connected to their local school. Or is that what we're calling it, neighborhood school.
Carol Boatman: Yeah, neighborhood school.
Jennifer Knutson: Choice school. This is what we're calling it, yeah.
Lisa Miller: So lots to think about, I think, every family is different and it's all about having that family meeting and going through the options, doing your research and deciding what is the best fit for your students. Well, thank you so much for joining us today. I know that there's so much more we can talk about, but really going to the ASD website as a great resource. There's a lot of FAQs on there. And thank you so much for watching us, for following along with this series, there's still time to ask questions. We'll link to the Google Form, or you can submit your questions to be considered for either this show or else we'll add those onto our FAQs on our website. Thank you.