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a female highschool student graduates online due to covid-19

The Future of Lake Forest Students – What’s New W/ Internet, Funding, Graduation & College

California schools have been rapidly adjusting to new distance learning requirements as well as graduation processes and accountability.

Saddleback Valley School District has it’s latest developments coming from State Superintended Tony Thurmond’s request for waivers under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

Here’s the shortlist of what’s changed, graduation requirements and Tony Thurmond’s mission to close the digital divide for students without internet access.

School Still in Session

Saddleback Valley Unified School District released a statement on April 3rd stating that even though campuses are closed through the end of the school year, school is still in session. The school session will end June 11, 2020.

The press release reads, “While we will continue to stay physically apart, the expectation is that our teachers will continue to provide instruction and our students will stay engaged in their learning until the very last day of school on June 11, 2020. Distance learning and SVUSD services will continue, including school counseling services, mental wellness supports, grab-and-go meals, Chromebooks and connectivity, and more. ” 

High School Graduation

Tony Thurmond released new senior graduation requirements based on feedback from local education agencies.

California is extending flexibility on a wide range of issues, including testing requirements, timing of transcripts, and considerations about financial aid.

“All seniors who are on track for graduation should be able to graduate,” said State Board of Education President Linda Darling-Hammond. “This new guidance further illustrates how students can and should be held harmless in grading, and how their work can be acknowledged.”

Local Education Authorities (LEAs) have authority to determine how final grades will be assigned, and teachers have final discretion when assigning grades. There are several options and factors for LEAs and teachers to consider before making a decision.

Several grading options are available with the most straight forward using distance learning and final grades will be determined using all assigned work through the end of the semester.

-Grading Options-

  • Distance Learning (Final grades will be determined using all assigned work through the end of the semester.)
  • Pass/ No Pass (In lieu of a letter grade.)
  • Standards-Based Grading (Students will be assessed on essential standards using a rubric model instead of percentages.)
  • Student Opt-In to independent study (Allow students to choose whether they want to accept their current grade or continue via independent study.)
  • Student Opt-Out (Opt out of completing a course. Their grade would remain an incomplete until they could complete the course via independent study, online credit recovery program, or some other option.)
  • Use Current Grades (Assign final grades based on students’ third-quarter grades or students’ grades when the school shutdown occurred, with opportunities to increase the final grade.)

College Admissions

The California Department of Education, California State Board of Education, California State University, University of California, California Community Colleges and the Association of Independent California Colleges and Universities released a joint statement addressing university admissions and placement challenges.

-Revisions for College-
• Re-evaluation of the financial needs, as well as the eligibility for federal
and college financial aid, for families whose circumstances have changed;
• Acceptance of Credit/No Credit grades in lieu of letter grades for A-G high
school courses completed in winter/spring/summer 2020;
• Flexibilities associated with the receipt of official transcripts and
confirmation of admissions offers, including deferments of deposits or
fees, where needed;
• Flexibility and support for students currently enrolled in dual enrollment
course offerings;
• For community college students seeking to transfer to a four-year
university: Acceptance of Credit/No Credit in lieu of letter grades in
“Golden Four” and General Education/prerequisite courses completed at a
community college in winter/spring/summer 2020.

Closing the Digital Divide

Tony Thurmond has launched initiatives to bring internet access to students during Covid-19 in an attempt to close the digital divide.

California has received preliminary federal approval for crises response funds. The fund waivers specifically remove caps on technology purchases which will help the task force in securing internet services.

“With this much needed flexibility, the state can shift resources to such pressing needs as training our workforce on distance learning and building up our technology infrastructure,” said Superintendent Tony Thurmond. “In this time of crisis, the ability to quickly direct resources to needs is critically important.”

Closing the digital divide includes special attention to special education, English learner, low-income, and rural populations which additional virtual learning webinars are now in development.

Digital Divide Task Force

A Digital Divide Task Force has been assembled with California State Senator Connie Leyva as co-chair and includes six other members.

The Closing the Digital Divide Task Force will help with donations, create more publicity, and cast a bigger spotlight on those who can help. It plans to hold a public hearing where internet service providers may be called upon to testify on their efforts to improve internet access during the pandemic.

“As the Chair of the Senate Education Committee, I strongly believe that ensuring equity for California students is critically important,” said Senator Connie M. Leyva (D-Chino). “One vital step to ensuring equity is by closing the digital divide, which has become that much more evident and urgent as distance learning is now the new reality for millions of school children during the current COVID-19 crisis. I look forward to co-chairing this important task force as we all continue to work together to meet the needs of students in California.”

The California Department of Education’s partnership with the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) will distribute a total of $30 million to support internet connectivity, as well as updates from Google and Amazon about their donations of thousands of devices and hotspots for students.

Image from California Department of Education.

Internet Service Providers Step up to Close the Digital Divide

Cross-sector partner internet service providers were called upon in a meeting with the Closing the Digital Divide Task Force to ask how they are reducing barriers to internet access during the pandemic.

Executives from AT&T, Charter Communications, Comcast, Cox Communications, and Verizon vowed to be a part of the task force and support student success.

The executives updated task force members on their efforts to support the technology needs of students during the COVID-19 pandemic, ways they are reducing barriers to low-income families, and plans to expand service to rural communities.

“Partnerships with the private and public sectors are critical to overcoming the technological barriers facing our students, and we are grateful for how quickly needs are being addressed through donations of devices and hotspots,” said Thurmond. “But there is still a tremendous amount of need among our state’s most vulnerable students. We must continue working together to close the digital divide, not just as a band-aid during this public health crisis, but once and for all.” 

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The Future of Lake Forest Students - What's New W/ Internet, Funding, Graduation & College