Texas schools will have 2 new ways to calculate attendance — and state funding — in the fall

Education

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Texas school districts will have two new ways of calculating attendance come the fall semester, when many are set to reopen for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

FULL: TEA Strong Start 2020-21 overview

On Tuesday, the Texas Education Agency announced its two modes of attendance-counting for the 2020-21 school year — and how they will contribute towards state funding.

The two new methods to fund remote instruction are:

Synchronous instruction — All participants are present at the same time, live interactive classes

Asynchronous instruction — All participants don’t have to be present, instruction is self-paced, may include prerecorded videos with guided support

Synchronous instruction is similar to “on-campus” instruction, the TEA says, as students are logged in at a teacher’s official attendance time. Any students not logged in by attendance time would be counted as absent.

Synchronous instructional minute requirements for attendance will differ for different grade brackets, and will be:

  • Pre-K-second grade: Not available for funding from remote instruction
  • Third-Fifth grades: 180 minutes (do not have to be consecutive)
  • Sixth-12th grades: 240 minutes (do not have to be consecutive)

Asynchronous instruction, the TEA says, is a “curricular experience where students engage in the learning materials on their own time” with the teacher via computer, electronic devices or over the phone. Under the asynchronous model school grading must be consistent with those used before COVID-19 for on-campus assignments.

Attendance will be calculated this way: a full day’s worth of funding for each day a student is “engaged” assuming that a student isn’t scheduled to participate in less than a half day’s worth of courses. Staff will check daily for student engagement — those who aren’t engaged that day will be marked absent.

FULL: TEA’s 20-21 Attendance and Enrollment FAQ

Last week, the TEA announced that public school students would resume in-person learning in the fall, with Commissioner Mike Morath saying that returning would be safe but that there would be “flexibility” for families with health concerns.

The TEA has recommended staff and students wear masks, keep 6 feet apart and frequently use hand sanitizer, but have not made any of these official requirements. That decision has been left to local districts.

“Our teachers are ready right now, to go back to school in a virtual setting,” Texas State Teacher Association President Noel Candelaria said Tuesday.

“All students and educators have to be guaranteed that there’s going to be enough personal protection equipment, clean sanitation equipment, everything that we know needs to be in place physically, before we can even consider opening schools,” Candelaria said.

Parents like Colleyville’s Vanessa Steinkamp anxiously waited for the state to spill on when she’ll be able to send her three kids back to class in-person.

“I don’t know that there is a safe way but at least acknowledging that there are a cohort of students that find schools to be a safe place would be a good start,” Steinkamp said.

The TEA said it’s still taking in feedback on its public health plan, and said additional guidance would be released “soon,” though the agency provided no timetable. Steinkamp hopes the state will be flexible about its plan.

“Maybe we won’t get to go back,” she said. “But at least if we’re weighing it and being honest about it, that’s the best we can do.”

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