Frequently Asked Questions from Jackie’s First Virtual Town Hall

We once again thank the over 400 viewers who participated in our first virtual town hall on the coronavirus pandemic.

You asked great questions–many of which we were able to address–but we had over 200 questions that remained at the end of the event that we didn’t have a chance to get to!

Below are answers to the most commonly asked questions regarding distance learning, teachers and instruction, and special education. We’ll be posting answers to questions on other topics early next week.

And don’t forget to tune in to our next virtual town hall on Thursday, April 30th, from 6:00-7:30 pm, which will be dedicated entirely to the issue of special education.


DISTANCE LEARNING

Is LA Unified looking to adopt a platform for elementary that is more intuitive and developmentally appropriate for younger age students versus Schoology?

Schoology is a Learning Management System that is used in middle and high Schools. It is optional at the elementary level. There is no plan for an universal platform at the Elementary school level; teachers will continue to use learning tools like Class Dojo, Google Classroom, Bloomz, etc., at their own discretion.

 

What are thoughts about doing zoom calls in small groups instead of with the whole class? 

Conducting small group instruction is highly recommended to all teachers.  Teachers are being creative about ways to provide instruction to small groups of students for more differentiated instruction.  Small group instruction practice varies from teacher to teacher.

 

How will you measure learning for Kinder students when they are not learning at the level that they should be in?

Kindergarten students are experiencing a greater challenge with distance learning and therefore require additional parental and other adult support. The district is in the process of distributing iPads to Kindergarten and lower elementary grade students. This will help, but we will depend on teacher creativity for student assessment and feedback coupled with parental involvement to help our youngest learners succeed.

 

What support are English Language Learners receiving? 

All English Language Learners (ELLs) receive instruction by certified teachers, who assign tasks to support acquiring learning goals in all areas.  The Multilingual and Multicultural Education Department created modules for teachers to support ELLS for distance learning.  The District also partnered with Rosetta Stone for three months of free subscription to help with on-going language development, which is also available to all LAUSD students.  Support is also provided by English Language Development (ELD) Coordinators, who have regular office hours to help teachers on ELD for resources, questions and concerns.

 

Just before the school closures, 84% of our students completed the ELPAC.  Will those scores still count even though the state assessments have been suspended?

We are awaiting a clear answer from the state on this matter.

 

Is there a plan in place for supporting students who have fallen through the cracks and are not currently engaged with their academics?

The District is actively identifying students who have been difficult to reach after a variety of methods and attempts.  The Student Health and Human Services is coordinating wellness checks and helping students get back on a learning routine.  Currently, school Pupil Services and Attendance Counselors (PSA), Psychiatric Social Workers (PSW) and A-G counselors are monitoring student contact via Schoology logins and making phone calls.

 

How is the district providing more individualized support to our most marginalized student population, especially our homeless students?

We are using multiple resources to reach our most vulnerable students including PSA, PSW, and A-G Counselors; we are also getting support from the Homeless Education office and Student Health and Human Services. The district is ensuring that these students have devices, access to food through our Grab and Go centers, and counseling services.

 

Will summer school be available to all?  Mandatory for all? 

Summer school will be available and not mandatory for all students, but highly recommended.  There will be a variety of options for summer school based on the needs of the student, such as credit recovery or enrichment courses

 

When can we expect a plan for grading students?

On April 15, LAUSD released new grading guidelines. They are in effect for this semester.  No student will receive the final grade of a Fail (secondary) or 1 (elementary). Grades can only be improved from the student’s grade on March 13th.

 

What happens if a student doesn’t reach the academic level to advance to the next grade?  Will students be held back for any reason?

Due to the modified grading policy, student promotion will not be based on their spring performance.  All students will pass their courses and grades this current term.

 

What happens to a student who has an F? 

Anyone who had an F before March 13th will now have a D. No students will receive a final mark of F in the spring semester.

 

TEACHERS AND INSTRUCTION

Can you explain why the Board and UTLA agreed to not have video conferencing, such as Zoom, as a required teaching tool? How much flexibility do teachers have for using Zoom?

Schools and teachers utilized several learning tools prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Just as students learn in different ways, teachers use different techniques to reach their students. That is why the Board decided that requiring a specific amount of video conferencing seemed less useful than giving teachers flexibility in how to practice distance learning to their students.

While Zoom is recommended, it is not required. We do however require that, in addition to instructional time, teachers conduct at least 3 hours of office hours weekly to ensure that students and parents can ask questions and receive support.

 

Will teachers start teaching fulltime?  Why are teachers being paid fulltime if they aren’t working fulltime?

All teachers are working at full time level with the instructional and office hours allotted to conduct multiple pedagogical, communication and professional tasks, such as planning new lessons for distance-learning, holding office hours, grading papers, meeting online with students, answering questions, meeting with their faculty at grade or department level, getting advanced training on distance-learning strategies and meeting with other teachers to plan.  .

 

How will teacher attendance be tracked?

Principals are responsible for tracking teacher attendance and they do so by checking teachers’ online use; this data is reported to the Local District offices. Additionally, teachers must meet with principals once per week, submit class schedules and curriculums weekly, and principals can attend online learning sessions.

 

Can the district ensure that the teachers are checking in virtually with the class at least once a week for 20 – 30 minutes?

Teachers are strongly encouraged to check in with their students once a week.  Teachers submit their weekly schedules to their principals, who are then able to visit online sessions and check other forms of communication and online use.  In addition, each teacher must have 3 office hours, which is used to check in with parents and students.  Some teachers require additional time to communicate virtually as they are learning the technology and how to best utilize online resources.  Soon the vast majority of teachers will be checking in with their classes on a regular basis.  If your child’s teacher is not communicating at all, contact your child’s school principal.

 

Depending on the school and the teacher, children are receiving interactive education that ranges from very interactive to independent learning with very little interaction. Why is this so varied? Are we trying to have a more coordinated approach?

Teachers are required to provide instruction for a minimum number of minutes; they are also encouraged to check in with students as much as possible. Because teachers have flexibility in how they conduct their lessons, instructional time often includes a variety of activities. While live sessions are encouraged, they are not currently required. We do however expect more teachers to utilize platforms such as Zoom as more teacher are trained in using these types of platforms.

 

What kind of support/accountability is there for teachers?  Is the support mandatory or voluntary? 

Teachers are receiving a variety of forms of support via professional development training designed by the Division of Instruction and at the local district level.  Professional development training includes social emotional learning, online distance learning strategies, Schoology, dual language, special education, English Language Arts and Math.  Teachers are able to select PD based on their needs.  Teachers are strongly encouraged to take advantage of these trainings.   At the school level, principals check with their faculty regularly.

 

SPECIAL EDUCATION

Are students currently receiving the services set out in the Individualized Education Programs (“IEPs”)?

To the greatest extent possible, students who already have IEPs are receiving the services set out in those IEPs.

Occupational and physical therapy and speech and language interactions are occurring via live video, pre-recorded video, phone calls, and email. Providers and teachers have been instructed to connect with students and families.

Therapeutic counselors are also reaching out to families to see if there are any needs at the moment, but no telehealth counseling is currently being provided. The District is currently pursuing a HIPAA-compliant solution to make this possible, however.

If you have a concern about the services your student is receiving, please contact the District’s Complaint Response Unit by calling (213) 241-6701.

 

How is the District currently conducting IEPs?

For students who have already had assessments, the District is holding virtual IEPs. These IEPs that are intended to to make an offer of Free Appropriate Public Education (“FAPE”) that will be put in place when on-site instruction resumes. Until that time, to the greatest extent possible, the District will attempt to make sure the student receives the services set out in their IEP.

For students who have not already had assessments, the District is pushing their IEPs back until circumstances allow for their assessments—which require a one-on-one, in-person session with a school psychologist and other service providers—to be completed.

 

What about triennial IEPs?

To the greatest extent possible, virtual IEPs are being held. Triennial IEPs are being treated in the same way as initial IEPs. If an assessment has already been held, then a virtual IEP may be held. Otherwise the triennial IEP is being pushed back until circumstances allow for an assessment to be completed.

 

What about IEPs for students transitioning into another school?

Virtual IEPs are being scheduled to identify placement for next year.

 

Are students’ placements being changed to “at home”?

No, students’ placements are not being changed to “at home.” “At home” is not a placement option under IDEA.

 

Is the District tracking whether service providers are reaching out to their cases?

Yes, the District is tracking interactions between service providers and their students in its Welligent system.

 

Is the District allowing one-on-one Zoom meetings between providers or teachers and students?

The District is currently recommending that Zoom meetings with students occur only with groups of students or with the presence of a parent.

 

How can I ensure that my student is receiving their accommodations?

Service providers should be checking in with families to ensure that accommodations remain in place for students.

If you have a concern about the accommodations your student is receiving, please contact the District’s Complaint Response Unit by calling (213) 241-6701.

 

How is the District helping 504 Plan students?

504 Plan students are general education students. Teachers are aware of the students in their classes that have 504s. Teachers should already be accommodating those students in their service interactions.

 

Will summer school be available for special education students?

The District is currently making plans to conduct virtual summer school using a distance learning model. There will likely be a number of different types of summer school made available, including a virtual Extended School Year (“ESY”) option for special education students eligible to participate as determined by the IEP.

 

What is the expectation for paraprofessionals at this time?

If a paraprofessional is assigned to a special day program class, they should be assisting their teachers as they would normally. The expectation is for them to maintain regular work hours and make sure they are connecting with their teachers to support the classrooms to which they are assigned.