Christy Maulding, the Starkville-Oktibbeha Consolidated School District's deputy superintendent for curriculum and instruction, explains the changes to the district's credit recovery program for students who need summer courses in order to advance to the next grade. The board unanimously approved the changes, meant to accommodate distance learning, at Thursday's special-call meeting. Photo by: Tess Vrbin/Dispatch Staff
May 22, 2020 10:09:09 AM
Starkville High School students who need to take summer courses in order to advance can complete those courses virtually after the Starkville-Oktibbeha Consolidated School District Board of Trustees voted unanimously for its credit recovery program to accommodate distance learning.
Deputy Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Christy Maulding said about 80 SHS students have not passed certain foundational classes in order to move to the next grade. She told The Dispatch she does not know if distance learning for the last nine weeks of the school year due to the COVID-19 pandemic had any effect on the number of students in need of credit recovery.
Summer courses are usually held in person, but distance learning will continue into the summer for the immediate future, and Maulding said teachers will have office hours via Zoom so students can easily communicate with them. The credit recovery session starts June 15 and ends June 26, and students will register June 1 and 2.
"We'll determine power standards for that course that we know those kids need to pass the class and be ready for the next course, (and) the teachers develop the content," Maulding said.
The Mississippi Department of Education allows students to receive only the lowest possible passing grade for completing a credit recovery course, and the board reduced this grade from 65 to 60.
Maulding said she wants the district to implement credit recovery courses throughout the school year instead of only at the end of the year, after a student has already failed a class.
"We have so many kids that ebb and flow, that need this option during the school year so they don't get so far behind," Maulding said.
Offering credit recovery via online learning means students would not have to miss class during the school day, she said.
Board Vice President Sumner Davis asked if distance learning was a feasible option for credit recovery when not all students have equal access to technology and high-speed internet. Maulding and Superintendent Eddie Peasant both said the district plans to give more students the devices they need for distance learning for all courses, not just credit recovery.
The district will receive a to-be-determined amount of money from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), Peasant said, and it will use those funds in part to buy more devices for students that need them.
Another way to facilitate distance learning would be to provide students with flash drives containing virtual lessons so they do not need high-speed internet to access the material, Peasant said.
The district reduced the cost of credit recovery from $175 to $75, and students would not have to pay a fee for these courses if the district offers them during the academic year, Maulding said.
'Soft start' in August
Peasant said the district is still preparing to open its school buildings as soon as it is deemed safe to do so, and the school year in August might be a "soft start."
"Unless something happens, it looks like we can just open school up," Peasant said. "But even if we do that, we know there are going to be many parents who decide not to send their students to school in August and prefer to continue distance learning, so we're going to try to be prepared for that."
A survey has shown that 40 to 50 percent of parents in the district whose children struggle academically are not yet comfortable sending their children into the school buildings, Peasant said, and some teachers might also not be ready to come back to the classrooms.
The board unanimously passed a grading policy for SHS students' optional final exams, which about 140 students chose to take in order to increase their grades. The final exams consisted of 20 questions covering the entire school year, including information from nine weeks of distance learning, but those nine weeks were a review of the content of the school year up to that point, Maulding said.
Students' average grade in the class will increase by one point for every 20 points they scored on the exam, and the final can only increase and not decrease a student's average, according to documents provided at the meeting.
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