The COVID-19 crisis has certainly disrupted many of the systems, routines, and procedures of “normal” life. At Casady, this disruption was keenly felt in the absence of students around campus. The campus is just not itself without the bustling energy of students at work and play. During this time, it’s natural to wonder if the absence of students on campus might also constitute an absence of student learning. After all, the classrooms were empty. You may be wondering if your child will have missed out on academic content because of the differences between “normal” and remote school. Will students be academically prepared for next year? Will there be gaps in the curriculum? Will my child be behind?
The fact that many well-known benchmarks around the K-12 curriculum have had to adapt to the COVID-19 crisis reminds us that this is not just a Casady issue, but a national and global issue as well. The College Board, for example, in response to COVID-19, cut most of the remaining content this spring from all Advanced Placement (AP) courses. Consequently, the traditional 4-hour AP exam was replaced with a 45-minute-like quiz; no multiple choice included. All 50 states received federal waivers to defer their otherwise inflexible end-of-year standardized testing, speaking to the academic impact of the virus as well. In addition, over 1,000 colleges and universities have adopted test-optional policies in their admission requirements, making the ACT and SAT optional for submission. Cornell University, notably, was the first Ivy League school to join the test-optional movement. The point is that COVID-19 has had a tsunami-like impact on education, and all entities have made reactive decisions to the best of their ability.
This crisis has disrupted many things, but let us assure everyone that Casady’s passion for and commitment to a student-driven, durable, and engaging education remains steadfast. This passion defines the work we continue to do for your child’s learning no matter the social distance. These past two months of remote learning have been no exception. When designing our Remote Learning Plan, we intentionally prioritized two essential features of the Casady School experience: curriculum and connections. We made choices to keep the integrity of the Casady curriculum and the relationships which undergird it at the forefront. These values informed the questions in our community surveys, guided our pivot to the 2.0 remote learning schedules, and centered the way we approached daily lessons, grading policies, and community events. These efforts ensured our ability to continue the Remote Learning Plan through the remainder of the normal school year which meant that once our teachers adapted their curriculum at the beginning of the crisis, they were able to complete those plans without further disruption. Academically speaking, even though we do anticipate that there will be some curricular gaps that students may experience in some classes because of the crisis, we remain diligent in our directive: we will ensure students have exactly what they need in order to flourish now and in the next school year.
Going forward, we are taking multi-tiered, proactive measures to support our students’ learning. Here are some of the ways we are maintaining our commitment to your child’s education during this global crisis:
- Our teachers already are and will continue to engage in curriculum conversations with one another to ensure that your child doesn’t miss key learning. We call these “vertical alignment” conversations because faculty meet across grade levels and divisions to make sure that curricular content and skills follow a thoughtful progression. Though these conversations happen regularly throughout the year, we recognize that they are of heightened priority as we respond to the crisis. For example, this means that when students return in the fall, our 4th grade Math teacher, Ms. Crisp, will have already met several times with our 5th grade Math teacher, Mr. Braden. She will have let him know what parts of the 4th grade curriculum might have been affected by the move to remote learning, and he will have adjusted his curriculum accordingly. This is one of the great benefits of being one school: our PK-12 teachers know and work with each other to ensure the continuity of your child’s education.
- Similarly, all of our teachers will begin next year’s courses by first taking time to discern what students have or have not yet learned. This allows teachers to purposefully meet students “where they are.” Especially after this time of remote learning, we know it will be important for teachers to identify what students might have missed, forgotten, or retained during the spring and summer. Teachers will utilize internal as well as nationally-recognized assessments to help pinpoint students’ learning and to inform instruction accordingly. In addition, our different academic teams will use this information as they continue to review and sharpen the Casady Curriculum.
- We are investing in strategic professional development for our teachers over the summer and into next year. Research has shown again and again that the single most important school-related factor that impacts student learning is the teacher. Casady is making every effort to equip our educators with the skills they might need in this new learning environment so they can best support their students. We have already been able to forge partnerships with leading organizations to gain new skills and knowledge that will help our teachers grow their edge. Our national partners include the One Schoolhouse, the Global Online Academy, Stanford’s Malone School Online Network, FolioCollaborative, and PBL Global.
- We continue to stay in close contact with peer schools, colleges, and other important benchmarks of highest-quality learning to ensure that our curriculum aligns with nationally-recognized indicators of excellence. During this time, we have continued to utilize the benefits of our memberships in the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS), the Independent Schools Association of the Southwest (ISAS), and the elite Independent School Data Exchange (INDEX). We have also been consulting with Independent School Management (ISM), One SchoolHouse, Stanford’s Malone School Online Network, and the Global Online Academy (GOA). In addition, our college counselors have continued their engagement with the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) and the Association of College Counselors in Independent Schools (ACCIS). In these forums, counselors across the nation share ideas for supporting students in the college search and selection process and stay up to speed on the changing landscape of college admissions. All of these relationships help inform our decisions around our curriculum and best practices during this COVID-19 crisis.
In the coming weeks, we will share out more details about our One School Plan to reopen in the fall. In the meantime, you can visit our Summer Bridge Activities
page and see a list of recommended activities that students across grade levels can be doing over the summer to maintain their learning and keep their brains active. These activities have been carefully curated by teachers across grade levels to support students' readiness for the fall by reinforcing some developmentally appropriate essential, enduring skills. Also included on this page are the required summer activities for Middle and Upper Division students. Now more than ever we recognize how imperative it is to develop excellence, confidence, and integrity in students as we prepare them with the skills and knowledge that will serve as the foundations for success in a changing world.
With Faith and Courage,
Associate Head of School for Academics