Texas school districts are likely to experience disruptions in the 2020-21 instructional year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to guidelines released by May 7 by the Texas Education Agency.
The guidelines are meant to serve as a framework for adjustments to the 2020-21 calendar to help minimize anticipated disruptions, including a potential increase in absence rates. However, individual districts ultimately have final authority over instructional calendars.
The prolonged school closures may have a devastating impact on student achievement, with students potentially returning in August nearly a full year behind, according to the TEA.
Typically, students experience seasonal learning loss during the summer months, leading to declines in student achievement, which vary by grade level and subject. According to projections provided by the TEA, the COVID-19 slowdown will advance this decline.
To combat this issue, the agency is recommending use of an intersessional calendar, featuring longer breaks dispersed throughout the year to provide flexibility.
The calendar modifications may result in an earlier start date, long winter breaks, built-in remote learning time and a recommended six weeks of intersessional breaks.
The breaks would be in addition to districts' regularly scheduled time off and would provide flexibility in the event of a COVID-19 resurgence. Included in the guidelines are a number of sample intersessional calendars allowing for COVID-19 interruptions and remediation opportunities.
According to the TEA, students who are not mastering their lessons could return during the intersession weeks. Additionally, teachers can dedicate intersession time to instruction of struggling students.
The modified school year could see an increase of up to 30 days, continuing into the summer in an effort to minimize seasonal learning loss.
Along with intersessional calendars, districts also have the option to implement an instructional calendar with an additional summer learning period or to undergo a complete school year redesign.
Prior to implementing any changes districts should obtain support from the community as well as school operations staff. The act would also require board approval.
TEA support is available for interested districts, with opportunities for grants, operational support and legal guidance.