Virtual School, Real Differences
Updated: Apr 30, 2020
Welcome to the 45th or so day of virtual school! This experience looks very different for different students across the country. Or in some cases, it looks different for students in the same family, living under the same roof.
My son attends an independent school, with 100 boys in his class. He has a robust combination of synchronous and asynchronous learning happening throughout the day. He has a mandatory assembly with roll call and weekly meetings with his advisor. He is still receiving grades for the work he does.
My daughter attends a well-regarded public school with 400 students in her class. She receives email communications from her teachers with the work for the week. Fridays have moved to “catch up” days, and her teachers are holding office hours … occasionally. Her classes have all moved to Pass/Fail. What does this mean for her future, when compared to her counterparts at other schools? She did not have the best start to Algebra II and was hoping that the 4th quarter would be a chance to bring up her grade. How will her efforts be reflected with a P or an F? The good news/bad news answer to this question is that we’re all figuring this out as we go.
At Bennett, we know how to present students in the best, most accurate light. Often, we are helping families do this as they move from one national curriculum to another. Now, more often, we find ourselves helping students present the course work they have mastered and the skills they have acquired while learning from home without formal exams or even grades. We are working with students who are applying to boarding school, another independent school, or college.
There is not a formula for this – each student is unique and schools are evaluating students in various ways. However, we do have some general advice that can help your student prepare a portfolio that demonstrates what she has learned.
Talk to your child’s current teachers. Ask them for an outline of topics covered. Ask your child to show you the work she has submitted. Keep track of all the work that is being accomplished and ask the teacher for some concrete feedback. Chances are, they are already doing this for their students. Then, when you are in conversation with a boarding school or college admissions office, remember this is uncharted territory for them as well. They are interested in you and your child joining their community.
This sudden shift in how our students are evaluated is a wonderful reminder that who they are as students and life-long learners is much more than that GPA that has previously held so much weight.
Erin Brady is a mom of two school-age kids and has been an education consultant since 2006, supporting families relocating to areas throughout the U.S and internationally. She now focuses on U.S. boarding school and NYC placements (PreK - 12th grade). Erin has worked in Lower, Middle & Upper School admissions, taught Middle School English, coached Varsity Cross Country & Track, and served as Academic Advisor in several leading day and boarding schools in the U.S. and the U.K.