About 20% of Tulsa Public Schools students did not connect to distance learning during the first week of the 2020-21 school year, though that number improved significantly a few weeks later.
District administrators say the district has been working urgently to locate "disconnected" students so far this year, meaning those whom TPS hasn't seen or heard from since distance learning began on Aug. 31.
Their tactics included visiting local shelters and community centers, utilizing emergency contacts, talking with neighbors, working with apartment leasing managers and maintaining satellite office hours in some north Tulsa communities. These efforts resulted in the number of disconnected students dropping from 20% to 5% by the end of the third week, Deputy Superintendent Paula Shannon said.
"That's significant progress — a 15 percentage point decrease that our schools were able to achieve by doing some tactical things like this," Shannon said.
Some schools reportedly found families who were having issues with basic technology usage and reconnected the students by helping them operate their district-issued Chromebooks and log on to Canvas, an online management system used to receive instruction and complete assignments.
Additionally, many schools are hosting regular technology assistance days for families to get in-person help with distance learning tools.
By the end of the first week of school, 73% of TPS students had logged on to learning platforms and 50% had completed an activity. Those numbers improved to 92% and 87%, respectively, by the end of the third week.
Attendance at TPS, which is spending at least the first nine weeks of the school year in distance learning, currently is tied to completion of assignments. Elementary students must complete at least one assignment per half day of school to be counted as present. Secondary students need to complete at least one assignment per course each day.
Sean Berkstresser, director of data strategy at TPS, said intensive efforts by school teams led to the significant increase in the number of students completing activities since week No. 1.
Completion of instructional activities has been relatively consistent across grade levels, hovering around 87% to 91% between first and 11th grades. For prekindergarten and kindergarten, that number dropped to 81% and 83%, respectively. Twelfth grade also was at 83%.
Most students are completing instructional activities, Berkstresser said, but small gaps between student subgroups exist. For example, 93% of Asian students are completing activities, while that number drops to 86% for African American students and 79% for Pacific Islanders.
Additionally, 87% of economically disadvantaged students are completing assignments, compared to 91% of those who are not economically disadvantaged.
English learner students are completing instructional activities at the same rates as other students, but students with disabilities — at 82% — have been slightly less likely to complete activities.
TPS Superintendent Deborah Gist will submit a recommendation on whether to remain in district learning or return to in-person instruction for the second nine weeks of the school year during a school board meeting on Oct. 5, with the board voting on the plan in mid-October.
The TPS Parents For Choice Facebook group, which consists of more than 500 members who are pushing for the district to return to in-person learning, is planning a rally of parents and students in front of the Board of Education building the evening of next week's board meeting.
US surpasses 200,000 deaths: A timeline of COVID-19’s spread
From Wuhan to college campus: A timeline of COVID-19's spread
Dec. 30, 2019: Chinese doctor sounds the alarm
Dec. 31, 2019: Chinese health authorities notice mysterious cases of pneumonia
Jan. 4, 2020: WHO starts tracking illnesses in Wuhan
Jan. 11: The first coronavirus death is reported
Jan. 13: The virus spreads to other countries
Jan. 23: Wuhan is locked down
Jan. 30: WHO declares a Public Health Emergency
Feb. 2: First death outside of China
Feb. 5: Cruise ship quarantined off the coast of Japan
Feb. 11: The disease gets a new name
Feb. 14: First death in Europe
Feb. 19: COVID-19 arrives in Iran
Feb. 23: Cases of COVID-19 explode in Italy
Feb. 26: First case reported in Latin America, more cases in Europe
Feb. 28: Cases spike in Europe, first U.S. death
March 7: Death toll continues to rise
March 11: WHO declares COVID-19 to be global pandemic
March 13: Trump declares a national emergency
March 15: Europe shuts down
March 19: China reports no new local infections
March 20: Deaths exceed 10,000 globally
March 23: United Kingdom locks down
March 24: India, a country of 1.3 billion people, shuts down
March 24: Tokyo Summer Olympics postponed
March 25: U.S. government announces $2 trillion aid plan
March 26: Record unemployment filings in U.S.
March 26: Global COVID-19 cases surpass 500,000
March 27: U.S. surpasses Italy for most cases worldwide
March 27: Nearly half of all Americans under lockdown
April 2: Over 1 million confirmed cases worldwide
April 5: First U.S. animal tests positive for the virus
April 13: Global COVID-19 case count surpasses 2 million
April 14: Trump halts funding to WHO
April 15: Stimulus bill begins to help Americans
April 19: Nursing home deaths pass 7,000
April 20: Trump announces ban on U.S. immigration
April 20: Protests to reopen the country erupt across America
April 21: Georgia draws scrutiny with plan to reopen the state early
April 23: President signs off on $484 billion small-business stimulus bill
May 4: J. Crew files for bankruptcy
July 9: Cases continue spiking and reaching new record highs
July 23: US passes 4 million cases nationwide
August-September: Congress fails to pass new COVID-19 relief bill
August 17: U.N.C. Chapel Hill goes online one week after reopening
August 26: Abbott antigen test approved
September 16: CDC releases vaccination playbook
September 19: U.S. death toll passes 200,000
October 2: COVID-19 reaches the White House
October 12-13: Medical trials paused
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