Teaching and Learning Guide – Launch to Learning 2020-21

INTRODUCTION

CHOICE IN LEARNING
We believe in meeting the social, emotional, and educational needs of our students no matter the circumstances. With the safety of our teachers and the LISD community in mind, and according to the guidelines set forth by the state of Texas, we are proud to offer families the following choices for next school year:

100% in-person instruction (at school) where we will adhere to the safety and public health guidelines set by our local and national public health agencies see the Covid-19 Health Response page.

100% enrollment in our Virtual Empowered Learning program where teachers will lead both live and self-paced instruction for students working from home

A Hybrid learning option will be offered at our elementary campuses. This model will have half of the students on alternating days participate in-person and virtual independent learning leaving 11-13 students in the classroom at a time. *Implementation of this option will be contingent on sufficient enrollment. 
COMMITMENTS
We are committed to ensuring students have an equitable experience and access to high-quality instruction, regardless of the learning environment by prioritizing: 

● Strong relationships to ensure that our students and families are connected to their teachers, classmates, and LISD campus community
● Social and emotional well being of our students and staff
● High-quality education experiences for each and every student
● Teacher collaboration in virtual and in-person lesson planning to ensure alignment with TEKS, LISD curriculum, pacing and the level of rigor  
● Utilization of the learning management platforms SeeSaw (PreK-2) and Google Classroom (3-12) districtwide in both virtual and in-person learning experiences 
● Grading practices that are the same for both in-person and virtual learning  
● Ongoing professional learning and training for all educational staff to ensure our educators have the tools, resources, and expertise needed to create high-quality learning experiences for all students 
● Meeting the needs of each student with an IEP or 504 tailoring instruction and support that may include in-person and/or virtual learning

IN-PERSON LEARNING

Students and teachers will attend class in-person, five days a week, with additional safety measures in alignment with state and federal guidelines and recommendations. (see Covid-19 Health Response)

  • In this setting, teachers will provide in-person instruction, learning resources, and support utilizing SeeSaw (PreK-2) or Google Classroom (3-12).
  • Teachers will plan instruction that is quickly and easily transferable from in-person to virtual in the event of temporary school closure due to COVID-19 spread.
  • District-directed and campus-designed safety procedures will be implemented. 
  • Gr. Pre-K-5 students will follow a schedule similar to a traditional school year.
  • Gr. 6-12 students will be assigned schedules based on their course selections made last spring. 
ADDITIONAL FAQs: In-Person Learning
How will a student’s social, emotional, and mental health concerns be addressed?
We know that addressing academic gaps in learning will be important as students return to school this August, and we also know we must help our students re-acclimate to their learning environment by addressing social and emotional gaps created due to prolonged isolation. Campus staff will be provided a framework and guidance to address the social and emotional needs of all students whether they be campus-based or 100% Virtual Empowered Learning. 

Students and parents will have access to in-person or virtual consultation with their school counselors along with referrals to Leander ISD Licensed Professional Counselors and Licensed Clinical Social Workers to address student mental health concerns.

Will teachers be asked to teach students physically present in class and students engaged in Virtual Empowered Learning simultaneously?
No. Teachers and students will not be asked to “simulcast”-having some students physically in the classroom and others virtually “zooming” into the classroom at the same time.   

Schools will continue to be staffed based upon student enrollment and student course selections.  District and campus leaders will work together to develop staffing solutions that meet the students’ needs, balance teacher workloads, and utilize resources efficiently.

What will teacher schedules look for in-person instruction? How will teachers plan for lunch and planning time?
Appropriate planning time and lunch will still be provided to all instructional staff. Schedules for in-person instruction are expected to remain the same as previous years, although adjustments may be made to accommodate the needs of virtual teaching and learning responsibilities.

VIRTUAL EMPOWERED LEARNING

LISD’s Virtual Empowered Learning opportunity will enable students to engage in high-quality learning experiences, utilize Leander’s instructional resources, and meaningfully connect with their teachers and other students. All activities will be designed to meet the needs of the student in the online environment through differentiated experiences that are consistent with those of their grade-level peers attending in-person. 

  • Teachers will provide instruction, learning resources, and support through the use of SeeSaw (PreK-2) or Google Classroom (3-12). 
  • Parents will support students and ensure they have access to a device, a place to work, and are engaged in synchronous and asynchronous virtual learning activities. Younger students may require more direct support from an adult during their learning.
  • We will ensure open lines of communication between teachers, students, and parents as we work together to ensure each student is academically and socially-emotionally supported. 
  • Teachers will utilize the same curriculum as students who attend in-person instruction and will design strategies for learning in the virtual environment. 
  • Grading will be consistent with the guidelines and practices used in in-person instruction.
  • Courses/classes taught virtually will include both virtual synchronous and virtual asynchronous learning, as defined below: 
VIRTUAL SYNCHRONOUS LEARNING
Virtual Synchronous Learning is defined as two-way, real-time, live instruction between teachers and students, through the computer or other electronic devices. Students enrolled in Virtual Empowered Learning will be taught by an educator who is specifically teaching virtually to virtual students. They will be assigned a virtual class schedule and must be available for live, synchronous instruction during each school day. 

Leander ISD student expectations for synchronous learning are:

● Attend class on time, per their class schedule.
● Ready to engage and learn.
● Identify a designated, distraction-free workspace to engage in learning.
● Show their face on the screen to engage with the teacher virtually.
● Participate in the class activities, discussions, and assignments.
VIRTUAL ASYNCHRONOUS LEARNING
Virtual Asynchronous Learning is a curricular experience where students engage in the learning materials on their own time, interacting intermittently with the teacher via the computer or other electronic devices. In this setting, teachers will provide instruction, learning resources, and support through the use of SeeSaw (PreK-2) or Google Classroom (3-12). 

Leander ISD student expectations for ​asynchronous learning are:

● Complete asynchronous activities assigned each day.
● Show proof of participation in daily virtual instruction by satisfactorily completing assignments to demonstrate evidence of student learning, e.g., video, picture, or activities submitted as lessons and/or completing assignments. 
● Communicate with the teacher when needing additional assistance, tutoring, etc.
CURRICULUM FOR VIRTUAL INSTRUCTION
LISD Essential Units of Study will be the core curriculum for all virtual and in-person learning opportunities. Curriculum documents have been revised in a way that best supports teachers as they plan in-person and virtual instruction for the fall. 

● Identifying essential learning targets
● Providing ideas for different ways to assess mastery
● Sharing instructional strategies and tools that work well in a variety of instructional settings

Courses at the secondary level that are not able to be taught in virtual settings have been identified. 

This is a comprehensive list of courses offered throughout the district. Its intent is to offer guidance about the modes in which courses are available to support thoughtful decisions for in-person or virtual learning. Please note that not all courses are available on all campuses. 

Students who are currently enrolled for these courses but choose to learn virtually have two options: choose an alternate elective that is able to be taught virtually, or attend this one course in-person as a regular part of their daily schedule (district transportation will not be provided). Similar to in-person instruction, some virtual courses may not be offered due to insufficient student requests. If necessary, a campus counselor will reach out to those students/families to update course selections not available in Virtual Empowered Learning. 
INSTRUCTIONAL MODEL FOR VIRTUAL EMPOWERED LEARNING
Newly designed 100% “Virtual Empowered Learning” experience: District and campus staff have collaborated to research and develop a completely new design for virtual learning that incorporates feedback and input provided in LISD survey responses from over 12,000 students, parents, and teachers in the spring of 2020. Essential components of the model include: 

● TEKS-aligned LISD curriculum, pacing, and assessments
● Consistent “school day” schedule and routines mirroring in-person instruction
● Substantial live “face-to-face” (synchronous) learning with teacher and classmates: Whole group, small group, individual conferences
● Independent activities, projects, practice, and assignments
● Numerical grading system aligned to “in-person” learning. High School grades will be used in the calculation of GPA and class rank
● Facilitated by qualified teachers who have attended LISD Virtual Teaching Academy
● Utilization of learning management platforms that are user-friendly- streamlining log-in, access to resources, and submission of assignments
ASSESSMENT AND GRADING
● The grading guidelines for in-person instruction and 100% Virtual Empowered Learning will be aligned in accordance with current TEA guidelines.
● Grading for all 100% Virtual Empowered Learning will follow the same grading policy as the courses in the in-person model. 
● Students will receive skills-based feedback in grades PreK-3 and numerical grades in grades 4-12. This applies to students receiving in-person instruction and those in 100% Virtual Empowered Learning. 
● Leander ISD courses offered through Virtual Empowered Learning and in-person learning that earn high school credit will count in GPA calculation and class rank.
PROFESSIONAL LEARNING AND TRAINING FOR TEACHERS
To support LISD staff in providing robust and engaging virtual instruction this fall, the Teaching and Learning Department is developing a Virtual Teaching Academy. The academy will provide tools, resources, guidance, and support to teachers as they transition to fully virtual classrooms. Synchronous and asynchronous session offerings will be available between July 27 and August 12, as well as throughout the school year. There will be five foundational learning experiences recommended for all instructional staff, with many additional choice options. The five recommended sessions for all instructional staff include:

● Intro to Virtual Empowered Learning
● Tech Tools for the Virtual Environment
● Teacher Planning/Virtual Learning Design
● Classroom Community & Culture in a Virtual Environment
● Feedback, Assessment, & Grading

All recommended sessions will be offered multiple times synchronously within the window, as well as asynchronously. Continued professional learning and support will be provided to staff throughout the school year.
Virtual Empowered Learning Teaching Staff
All teachers will be trained in order to implement the learning management platform designated for their grade level (SeeSaw (PreK-2) or Google Classroom (3-12)). This will ensure that if school closings occur, all teachers and students can transition smoothly to continue teaching and learning with minimal disruption. 

All teachers will complete LISD’s Virtual Teaching Academy to establish collective capacity across the district to instruct in a virtual format as needed. 

Principals are working with the district office to develop the teacher utilization structures that make the most sense. The selection of teachers for virtual teaching roles will be based on student enrollment, utilizing a virtual teacher job description, and an application process.  

Virtual teachers will continue to collaborate in PLC’s with their colleagues teaching in-person to ensure alignment with curriculum, pacing, and rigor across the system. Virtual teachers will also be encouraged to collaborate with their fellow virtual teacher peers across campuses to discuss, share ideas, and planning duties in order to ensure the highest quality teaching and learning experiences for students.  
Student Support
Staff will plan for Structured Support for the Whole Child

Campus staff will engage in shared learning around best practices to support the whole child’s needs of students.

Systems will be established by campus leadership teams to ensure students and parents know how to access needed resources.

Dedicated time within the master schedule will be allocated for relationship building and social-emotional learning. 

Each and every student and staff member are afforded an inclusive learning environment and will feel safe and welcome.

Enter into a learning partnership with your child’s teacher(s) by communicating with the teacher as needed
SPECIAL PROGRAM SUPPORT
Individualized Education Program (IEP), 504, and Response to Intervention (RTI) plans will be implemented to the fullest extent possible while learning virtually. Staff will collaborate with parents to ensure the unique needs of students are met and will make service recommendations for students participating in the Virtual Empowered Learning program. Learning opportunities will be delivered primarily through synchronous services with supporting asynchronous opportunities. Progress will be carefully monitored and Admission, Review and Dismissal (ARD) Committees/parent conferences will convene, virtually as needed, to make appropriate recommendations, seek feedback, and maintain open communication. This will support continued growth in the general education curriculum and on IEP goals and objectives.

Launch to Learning: Special Programs Guide 2020-21
INTERVENTION AND ENRICHMENT FOR VIRTUAL EMPOWERED LEARNING
Intervention, enrichment, and tutorial time will be scheduled regularly for students to best meet their academic needs. During this time, students may engage in assigned group activities, project-based learning activities, small group or individual instruction. Teachers will communicate with students their plan for the designated time.
ATTENDANCE FOR VIRTUAL EMPOWERED LEARNING
These requirements will apply to all Leander ISD students as they are enrolled in 100% virtual empowered learning from Aug. 13 – Sept. 7. Students enrolled in the virtual learning option will be required to attend online classes each day, Monday through Friday. Under Texas Education Code, §25.092, students are required to attend at least 90% of their classes to receive credit and be
promoted.  

Students earn daily attendance through daily engagement measure(s). The engagement methods approved by TEA are listed below: 

● Daily progress in the learning management platform SeeSaw (PreK-2) or Google Classroom (3-12)
● Daily progress via teacher-student interactions
● Completion/Turn-in of assignments from student to teacher (potentially via email, on-line, or mail) 
● If a student completes the entire week’s worth of learning activities on Monday and does not log in for the remainder of the week, he/she will be marked “present” on Monday only and counted “absent” for Tuesday-Friday  
COMMUNICATION AND FEEDBACK
Parent/Teacher Communication:

● Beginning of year virtual orientation/Open House held by virtual learning teachers to provide an overview of course structure, daily schedule, routines, guidelines, and expectations.  
● Progress updates informing parents of student progress as well as sharing current standards and concepts.
● Teacher hosted Question & Answer webinars in an effort to provide a continuous dialogue to both answer questions and gather feedback. 

Student/Teacher Communication: Teachers will be interacting with their students on a daily basis in face-to-face formats including large and small group settings. Individual conferences may also be established to “check-in” with students. 
DEVICE AND INTERNET REQUIREMENTS AND TECHNOLOGY SUPPORT
Students participating in virtual learning must have access to the Internet and a device to log in to SeeSaw (PK-2) or Google Classroom (3-12) accounts. The District will issue devices to:

● new elementary students if needed (includes pre-K, Kindergarten, and students new to LISD) 
● secondary students (grade 6-12) who participate through mLISD

Families unable to secure internet access are encouraged to reach out to their campus counselor for more information. 

A helpdesk support line for technical issues will be accessible at 512-570-0566 for parents and students as needed.
EXPECTATIONS FOR STUDENTS, PARENTS, AND TEACHERS
Students
● Follow the daily schedule communicated by their teacher to attend class during synchronous times and complete assigned asynchronous activities
● Participate in learning through live class time 
● Follow classroom norms and procedures during virtual learning 
● Communicate questions and needs with the teachers
● Turn in school work at the direction of the assigned teacher

Parents
● Facilitate academic support and encouragement as a learning partner to motivate and guide your child
● Encourage and support your child to stay on track with assignments and coursework, providing assistance when necessary
● Support your student in establishing and following the daily schedule communicated by the teacher
● Designate a learning space for your child
● Enter into a learning partnership with your child’s teacher(s) by communicating with the teacher as needed

Teachers
● Develop and implement lesson plans for virtual empowered learning that fulfill the requirements of LISD’s curriculum and show written evidence of preparation as required.
● Prepare lessons that reflect accommodations for differentiation, and provide for synchronous, asynchronous, and independent student learning experiences as appropriate.
● Design instruction to support students in synchronous and asynchronous ways in the event of scheduled or unscheduled absences.
● Instruct students from other campuses virtually as needed, and/or support students as they flow in and out of virtual empowered learning due to scheduling or other reasons.
● Provide and seek the assistance of LISD specialists as recommended to plan for instruction. Provide and seek assistance for students who are consistently performing below grade level.
● Help students analyze and improve study methods and habits.
● Conduct ongoing assessment of student achievement through formal and informal testing.
● Regularly review Years at a Glance or Scope of Sequence to ensure that students moving in and out of in-person classes and virtual learning are in alignment.
● Work cooperatively with special education teachers to modify curriculum as needed for special education students according to guidelines established in Individual Education Plans (IEP).
● Participate in professional learning communities with other virtual empowered teachers to identify best practices for successful instructional delivery.
● Participate in professional development activities to improve job-related skills.
● Attend required professional learning to support virtual teaching and learning throughout the school year.
● Comply with state, district, and school regulations and policies for classroom teachers.
● Take all necessary and reasonable precautions to protect students, equipment, materials, and facilities.
● Assist in the selection of books, equipment, and other instructional materials to meet the individual needs of each student.
● Compile, maintain, and file all physical and computerized reports, records, and other documents required according to campus/district deadlines established.
● Establish and maintain open communication and support with parents, students, principals, and teachers to support virtual student learning.

Teacher, Virtual Empowered Learning Job Description
SPED Teacher, Virtual Empowered Learning Job Description
FEEDBACK AND INPUT 
In preparation for effective planning in each key area of work, it was critical to receive feedback from our families and teaching staff regarding their experiences during school closure in the spring and feedback on concerns and needs as we plan for the fall with a lens of continuous improvement. The following avenues were utilized by the Leander ISD Social Distancing and Virtual Empowered Learning task force teams to get feedback May-July 2020. Thank you to the many stakeholders who participated in these feedback and development opportunities.
● Parent Surveys
● Thoughtexchange
● District-Wide Education Improvement Committee Meeting
● Staff Survey
● Student Forums
● Teacher Forums
● Principal Meetings
● Staff Webinars
● Parent Webinars
● Slack Channel Dialogue
● Let’s Talk
● Social Media
ADDITIONAL FAQs: Virtual Empowered Learning
How will 100% Virtual Empowered Learning be different from emergency remote learning that occurred during the closure last Spring?
Students who select 100% Virtual Empowered Learning will be required to attend and participate in class daily during regular school hours, which will include synchronous (virtual face-to-face) instruction and independent activities, projects, and practice. Students will be engaged in a full course load with assignments and assessments that are comparable to what students who are attending school in-person will be required to complete.  Students will receive numerical grades at the secondary level which will be calculated into GPA.  

How will parents register for the 100% virtual empowered learning?
The District has opened the process for student choice. You can register your child here. Parents and guardians will have until Aug. 6 to submit their choices.  
The selection form is available in eight different languages and includes questions about internet accessibility so we can work with individual households to ensure connectivity and access to learning resources.

Will a Virtual Empowered Learning parent orientation be provided to parents for an overview of programs used by the students?
We have a list of approved Digital Resources which can be found at https://portal.classlink.com/leander.
We are also working on a student knowledge base for apps, help guides, etc. that should be beneficial for parents as well. Campuses are working on providing virtual Open Houses and Meet the Teacher Events, and some of this information may be included during these events. Should you have specific questions about programs or resources used in Virtual Empowered Learning, we kindly ask that you start with your classroom teacher for clarification on which digital resources will be used in their classroom. We are confident our teachers will be able to assist with these specific classroom questions.

Will elementary students have an opportunity to participate in the mLISD program?
Elementary students do not participate in the MLISD laptop initiative or pay a maintenance fee. They do have access to a loaner Chromebook by request if they do not have a device at home to use for Virtual Learning.
Technology Service will deploy Chromebooks Aug. 4 – Aug. 7. For the schedule and other details, click here.
If parents cannot make it to one of the deployment days, they should request an appointment by contacting the LISD Help Desk at (512) 570-0566.

What type of computer equipment/devices are recommended for Virtual Empowered Learning?
Students choosing to use their own devices for virtual learning have many options at every level. We believe any student can participate with an iPad, Chromebook, Windows, or Mac device at all grades.
We would recommend the following devices at these levels where possible:
Elementary
• iPad (Pre-K – 2nd Grade)
• Chromebook (2nd Grade – 5th Grade)
Secondary
• Windows Device
• Mac Device

If I choose to keep 100% Virtual Empowered Learning, can we change our mind and attend in-person school?
Parents may opt for their child to engage in virtual learning over the course of the school year. Should parents decide that in-person schooling is a better fit for their child or family, then parents may select to bring their child back to school instead of engaging in virtual learning. To provide a seamless transition, this change will be made at the start of the next grading period.

If my child chooses to return to in-person school after spending a grading period in Virtual Empowered learning, will they be placed in their original classroom?
Every effort will be made to return the student to the original classroom schedule. However, exceptions may be made in order to reduce class size and ensure social distancing.

Will Virtual Empowered Learning students be allowed to use phones/computers during tests? If so, will in-person students be allowed to do the same?
Virtual Empowered Learning students may have assessments administered on the computer. The type of assessment administered is determined by the teacher of the course. All teachers including those in the virtual environment as well as the in-person environment are encouraged to use a variety of assessments.

Will daily plans for 100% Virtual Empowered Learning be structured with a level of consistency to support parents planning of their work and family responsibilities?
Yes. Students participating in 100% Virtual Empowered Learning will follow a structured daily schedule with consistent daily routines.  Students will access their learning through a district-approved digital platform. (PreK-2 SeeSaw & 3-12 Google Classroom)

How will the 100% virtual learning students participate in the STAAR test?
TEA has extended the online testing windows for all tests and they are working on a solution for all students to test regardless if they are face to face or virtual. More information will be forthcoming from TEA.

How will the CTE courses be taught virtually?
A select number of CTE courses will be available for 100% virtual learning. The remainder of the courses will require in-person instruction. These CTE courses have a certain amount of required labs, skills, and/or equipment used that must be completed on-campus to meet the required TEKS. These requirements cannot be completed in a simulated environment, have safety concerns for at-home implementation, or specialized equipment is involved that is not readily available to students.

Will the IB programme, in its entirety, be available in the Virtual Empowered Learning format and how will students complete their CAS hours virtually?
Yes, the IB programme will be available through Virtual Empowered Learning. Students will work with their teachers to complete their CAS hours.

Has Leander ISD increased the availability of Technology staff for virtual learners to help resolve issues in a timely manner?
The ITS department will continue to provide several options for support during Virtual Empowered Learning. District technology support will be offered between 7:00am – 5:00 pm Mondays through Fridays.
Additional support technicians will be assigned specifically answering Help Desk calls to ensure timely resolutions to clients’ incidents and requests.
Campus Technologists will be available by appointment to resolve hardware concerns.
Technology Support can be requested by staff and students at (512) 570-0566. Support tickets can also be submitted at https://servicemanager.leanderisd.org/

ADDITIONAL LAUNCH TO LEARNING 2020-21 GUIDANCE

Updated on August 3, 2020

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