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2020-2021 Distance Learning Reporting

On July 15th, Governor Ducey signed executive orders allowing Arizona Brick and Mortar schools to have greater flexibility in providing Distance Learning (DL) for their students. While schools have flexibility regarding DL, this article describes recommendations and best practices regarding DL attendance recording as it pertains to State Reporting.

For information about ADE School Finance guidance regarding DL, see the following ADE Article:

Key points from School Finance Guidance:

  • DL plans (DLP) must be submitted before the first instructional day in which students will participate in DL.
  • Students participating in DL should be enrolled in a school district or charter school in the same manner as if the student was attending in-person, except that school districts and charter schools must document the percentage of days the student spends in a DL setting.
  • The school district or charter school shall describe in their DLP the criteria for being marked as present or absent for each day. If a student does not meet the criteria as laid out in the DLP, they should be marked absent.
  • School districts and charter schools have the flexibility to design attendance tracking procedures to connect their unique DL models to existing attendance systems.
  • Attendance tracking MAY include methods such as the following: 
    • Communication with a teacher via telephone, ZOOM, Microsoft Teams, or other digital meeting software;
    • Student participation in a virtual meeting or classroom session (ZOOM, Microsoft Teams, Google Meets, etc.);
    • Daily assignments completed and submitted by the student; or
    • A parental attestation or documentation of time spent on educational activities assigned by the school.
  • Absences shall be reported for each day or portion of each day of DL that a student does not meet the requirements in the identified method for tracking attendance per the school’s DLP.
  • Attendance and absences must be recorded by day and shall be reported to ADE at least monthly. School districts and charter schools with a DLP that does not call for student contact each day must still disaggregate attendance data by day in reports to ADE for computing the percentage of time spent in DL.
  • Under this guidance, summary data must be submitted for students that are enrolled in a brick-and-mortar school but do not attend in person on one or more instructional days to show the percentage of instructional time spent in DL.
  • School districts and charter schools must submit required information regarding student participation in DL immediately following the first 40 days of instruction to receive awards from the Governor’s Enrollment Stability Grant.
  • School Finance will collect the following data from each LEA that offers DL during SY 2020-2021. Data will be collected for days 1-40 and days 1-100:
    • The number of students grouped by grade levels and the percentage of time spent in DL.
    • The number of SPED students disaggregated by SPED code and the percentage of time spent in DL.

PowerSchool Recommendations for Distance Learning

Given that schools must document the percentage of days a student spends in a DL setting, and given that there will be many different student scenarios among schools, PowerSchool recommends using positive attendance for all students participating in DL and tracking student learning scenarios using cohorts.

For more information about tracking DL using positive attendance and grouping students into cohorts, please see the following webinar:

Highlights from Episode 90 of the PowerSchool Insider (above link):

  • PowerSchool SIS version 20.4.3 contains enhancements that will help teachers manage students' DL attendance.
  • Students can be grouped into cohorts using tracks.
  • Mark DL students present/absent for every day they participate or do not participate with DL-specific attendance codes.

Distance Learning Cohorts

Since schools and districts can have several different student DL scenarios (the student is in class in-person, the student is 100% remote, the student is hybrid remote), it is recommended to group students into cohorts based on their DL scenario using tracks. Grouping students into cohorts allows for easy searching and performing of Group Functions based on cohort.

Example Cohorts Using Tracks
  • Students all in-person attending = Cohort 1 = Track A
  • Students 100% Distance Learning = Cohort 2 = Track B
  • Students hybrid DL in school M,W, remote T,TH,F = Cohort 3 = Track C
  • Students hybrid DL in school T,TH, remote M,W,F = Cohort 4 = Track D

Note: Student DL cohorts can be tracked a number of ways, using Special Program enrollments, with a custom field, or by class enrollments (separate DL and non-DL sections). PowerSchool recommends using tracks so that teachers and administrators can benefit from the attendance recording enhancements implemented in PowerSchool SIS version 20.4.3.

Additional Note Regarding Tracks: While it could be done if desired, it is not necessary to use the Change Enrollment function to manage a student's track. The track can be used as a student indicator, flagging students one way or another depending on their current cohort. The history of whether a student was DL or not for a particular date will be determined by the DL-specific attendance code for that date.

State Calendar Mapping

If using Tracks to group students into Cohorts, you must create calendar mappings on the School Setup page at District Office for each Track utilized (Start Page > District > Schools/School Info > (select a school) > State Calendar Mapping).

  • Map each utilized Track to a state calendar code, selecting a unique Sequence Override per calendar Code
  • Example (Given a 5 day and 4 day calendar at a single school):
    • Track A > 5-Day calendar for all grades > Sequence Override: 1
    • Track B > 5-Day calendar for all grades > Sequence Override: 1
    • Track C > 4-Day calendar for all grades > Sequence Override: 2
    • Track D > 4-Day calendar for all grades > Sequence Override: 2

Distance Learning Attendance

PowerSchool recommends using "positive" attendance and creating DL-specific present and absent attendance codes for students participating in DL. In this context, '"positive" attendance means marking a student with a Present attendance code (as opposed to a blank default present) for students participating in DL for the day, and also marking students with an absence when not participating in DL on days the student was expected to participate. Students not participating in DL for the day should be flagged with non-DL attendance codes when absent or tardy as usual.

Attendance Setup
  • At each school, set up a DL attendance code category (Start Page > School > Attendance Code Categories > New):
    • Name (suggested): Distance Learning
    • Code (required value): DL
  • At each school, set up at least two DL attendance codes (one Present and one Absent), associated with the above attendance code category (Start Page > School > Attendance Codes > New):
    • Example Attendance Codes:
      • Code: DLP  Name: Distance Learning Present
      • Code: DLA  Name: Distance Learning Absent 
    • Note: More and or different codes can be created, but all distance learning attendance codes should be associated with the DL attendance code category.
Recording Attendance
  • Students not participating in DL:
    • Teachers will either mark the student as Absent, Tardy, or leave the student as blank (present).
  • Students participating in DL for the day:
    • Teachers or administrators will mark the student with a DL Present code if the student satisfies the criteria stipulated in your DLP submitted to ADE for participation each day.
      • If using tracks to identify cohorts and have upgraded to PS 20.4.3, then a Fill Code option is available in the PowerSchool SIS Teacher portal and in the PowerSchool SIS Admin portal for students grouped by track.
    • Teachers or administrators will mark the student with a DL absent code if the student does not satisfy the criteria stipulated in your DLP submitted to ADE for participation each day.
      • Note: Partial attendance may be given for partial participation. For example, an elementary student finished half of his expected work for the day, so the teacher or administrator marks the student DL Present in the AM attendance class, but DL Absent in the PM attendance class.
  • Attendance recording considerations:
    • To remove the burden of having teachers flag all DL students as present, administrators can mass fill DL Present using the Attendance Change Group Function:
      • At prescribed times (end of the day, or end of the week), after teachers have flagged their DL students as DL Absent, administrators can:
      • Search for students in a particular cohort (as defined above), then
      • Select the Attendance Change Group Function, specifying the date range, searching for blank present, and updating the code to your DL Present attendance code.

Distance Learning Reporting

  • DL student attendance is reported through AzEDS the same as non-distance learning students. Only absence amounts are reported to ADE.
  • PowerSchool will create a report to calculate the "percentage of days the student spends in a DL setting" according to the ADE School Finance prescribed layout based on one of the below factors (selected at report run-time):
    • Number of days marked with an attendance code belonging to the DL attendance code category.
    • Enrollment in sections of DL Only courses (list of courses entered at report run-time).
    • Enrollment in a DL special program (program name entered at report run-time).
  • DL Reporting Considerations:
    • Schools using a hybrid model MUST use DL Attendance Codes to track DL days.
    • If students can only be 100% DL or 100% In-Person and the time spent in one or the other is tracked by dates (class enrollments or special program enrollments), then DL-specific attendance codes are not required (but still recommended).

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