No Boston public schools student will be held back in their grade this year.
Teachers will definitely start taking regular attendance.
And some kind of graduation recognition could be held citywide for the class of 2020.
Those are some of the key online learning policies that Superintendent Brenda Cassellius announced Friday, now that it’s clear that students will continue remote instruction until schools close in June.
“We know students are missing their classmates, teachers, and countless meaningful events. We miss them too,’’ Cassellius said in a letter to the Boston public school community Friday. ”While we can’t recreate the full classroom experience during this school closure, we can provide enriching learning opportunities and connections for our students.”
Beginning Monday, all 125 schools must share a predictable class schedule with families and students that includes two key windows for learning: 9 a.m. to noon and 1 to 4 p.m., the new BPS guidance said. Cassellius said the aim is to avoid disparities in instruction revealed in some homes where one sibling was getting regular remote learning while another was not.
The superintendent held a virtual press conference Friday to lay out the next steps for the district. She said the pandemic, which moved school online, has amplified instructional and structural inequities, including access to devices and broadband Internet. In part because of those issues, only about 50 percent of the district’s more than 50,000 students log in to online class materials or classes on a typical day, the Globe previously reported.
Cassellius, following guidance from the state, said the district will now focus on ensuring students are fully supported, including providing structure and a clear set of standards to guide them to the end of the school year in June. The aim, she said, is to “bring back some predictability” and accountability for the rest of the school year.
"I think we are reinventing education right now,'' Cassellius said. “We are learning so much from this crisis, and it presents such an incredible opportunity for us to learn and grow.”
She said the new policies will help transform how parents engage with their schools for the balance of the school year and cultivate trust in the district, adding that school leaders are learning more about how they can “do this better.”
Jessica Tang, president of the Boston Teachers Union, said the union appreciates the guidance from the district, in particular praising the decision not to make students repeat their current grades.
"The commitment to not retain students reflects an understanding of the inequitable circumstances we are living in,'' Tang said.
But she said union members are concerned that the district may be moving too fast, noting that parents, students, and educators need time to adjust their schedules.
"This may be particularly challenging for our families in most need of support, though we appreciate the plan’s clear focus on supporting the most vulnerable students,'' Tang added.
The new policy also said students will have better access to their teachers. Each school schedule will include class times, and a school staff member will contact each student at least every three days, the superintendent said.
Each week, teachers will record daily attendance, which should include documenting when students complete a learning activity or interact with teachers or staff. Teachers of kindergarten to grade five will record attendance daily, officials said, while the teachers of grades 6 to 12 will record daily attendance by course.
The superintendent said the department is working on a system that will collect data and track students who are logging on via their smartphones, tablets, or laptops. She said officials are trying to perfect that data system, and that attendance numbers will be much more reliable after next week.
The superintendent said that Boston students will receive grades and feedback based on their class projects and tasks, but it won’t be traditional grading. Elementary school children will receive “meets expectations,’’ “approaching expectations,” or “not yet meeting expectations” for the final third term of school.
Students in grades 6 through 12 will receive a Term 3 letter grade if it is above their average grade in the previous terms. Otherwise, the superintendent said, those students will earn a “Pass” or “Incomplete”, and that will not be factored into their final grade.
Cassellius was unequivocal that no students should be required to repeat a grade after this disrupted academic year. “No student will be held back in their grade,” she wrote in her letter. “All students will advance to the next grade.”
In addition, students will have opportunities for summer learning and additional support in the fall.
“If parents believe their child would benefit from repeating their grade,” Cassellius wrote, “they can request a meeting with their teacher.”
The superintendent said the district is working on several opportunities to celebrate graduation citywide that might include speeches and could look similar to a typical commencement.