Fort Worth ISD is meeting the challenge of remote learning head on, providing its families and students the tools necessary to continue their educational journey outside the walls of their schools. Keeping students involved and parents/caregivers connected to many resources available throughout FWISD has been the unflinching goal of the District once school closures became necessary amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
FWISD is sensitive to the needs of families. Student success during these uncertain times will be built on a combination of factors and everyone working together. The District has established a Learning At Home webpage (https://www.fwisd.org/learningathome) for families and teachers with resources in English and Spanish to get students back in school in an online environment.
“We know that a virtual learning environment is not the same as an in-school environment,” said Jerry Moore, FWISD’s Chief Academic Officer.
Parents and caregivers can support online learning by developing a daily schedule to give students an idea of what to expect, Moore said. It’s important for students to have a routine and while it probably won’t mirror the schedule of a normal school day, giving students structure helps to normalize learning again, he added.
The District is also making sure that school staff, including principals and teachers, are continuously available to families. All principal email addresses are up on the District website (elementary principals and secondary principals). Teachers have been asked to use the same communication methods they used before the closures, whether it’s email, phone calls or social media. Teachers are available at least 90 minutes per day three times a week to answer questions. Counselors, special education teachers and other staff are also working and available.
“Their teacher, their principal and their school are available to help them,” Moore said. “While we are working remotely, we’re still here. Parents should still reach out to teachers in the ways they’re accustomed to, whether it’s email or any other type of communication.
“If families have questions about online learning, they’re first point of contact is their building principal. Email and reach out to your principal, and they can help get families connected with teachers or answer questions.”
Learning At Home is the main source of contact for every grade level. Documents are being added specifically for parents/caregivers, with summary pages being provided to give an overview of weekly lessons. Families can expect learning activities and tasks each week for all of their child’s classes.
The appropriate level of instruction will be used to evaluate progress with respect to the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills or TEKS standards. The District will be flexible and open-minded with regards to state standards in each subject by grade level.
The District expectation is that each student spends approximately three hours on school activities each day. The activities will vary. Student may be working in online platforms such as Achieve 3000, Edgenuity and Itslearning. Teachers may be conducting lessons in platforms such as Google Classroom for their entire class or small groups who may need specialized instruction or perhaps individually.
The modified curriculum is intended to be adaptable, with teachers relying on their expertise to decide what’s best for their students.
“It’s not going to look like one particular thing,” Moore said. “We’ve made the design flexible so that teachers are directing exactly what needs to happen in their classes.”
Even though the STAAR test has been canceled, the TEKS continue to guide what it covered for the remainder of the school year. While the curriculum is being modified in the online environment and students are not receiving the same level of support, new content will be introduced. Students are encouraged to work at their own pace as the year moves into the subject matter that would have normally been covered over the last two six-weeks grading periods.
Online learning relies on an access to technology, which is an issue for many Fort Worth families. More called it a “big problem to solve.” FWISD has already deployed nearly 8,000 Chromebooks to students. The District also approved the purchase of 3,160 additional Chromebooks for elementary school families and 6,000 hotspots to give families internet connectivity to support instruction. The hotspots provide each household with access to the District’s learning network.
As more devices and hotspots are rolled out, Moore wanted to assure families that their children aren’t falling behind. The curriculum is meant to be reviewable, allowing students the opportunity to catch up. For families not comfortable in the digital environment, the District is working to deliver physical books to students. Many of these books are consumable, meaning they are meant to be worked in and do not have to be returned.
“Our goal is to solve those issues as quickly as possible,” Moore said.
Moore recognizes that the current situation isn’t ideal. Providing resources and keeping students engaged is the priority as FWISD, families and student continue to navigate through uncharted waters.
“The goal is making sure kids don’t fall behind, that they’re learning and progressing with standards we’ve established from a state perspective,” Moore said.
For additional information, please visit FWISD’s Learning At Home webpage.