The final numbers have been tallied for a recent poll provided for parents of students in the Mountain Home Public Schools to submit feedback concerning the Alternative Method of Instruction (AMI). The AMI plan allows students to do school work at home during inclement weather or emergency days.
Superintendent of Mountain Home Public Schools, Dr. Jake Long, and other faculty members across the district, are evaluating the feedback to determine how the AMI days were received and what improvements the school district can make.
This was the first year AMI days have been available for Arkansas schools. State lawmakers passed Act 862 of 2017 allowing school districts to have up to five days of paper and/or electronic lessons, along with email or phone access to their teachers. On AMI days, students are given digital and/or hard-copy content depending on the school they attend, and the district does not have to make up the day as a result.
Students are given four AMI days and two cyber days giving a total of six.
Dr. Long reports 821 parents responded to the survey. He says anytime the district receives over 800 responses, they have good data from which to work. Responses were categorized according to which school the respondents' children attend.
One of the poll questions asked if the AMI days were an effective method of alternate learning during inclement weather. Long says 81 percent said "yes" and 18.3 percent said "no."
...the grade levels
Dr. Long says the poll reveals 76 percent of parents say their child clearly understood the homework expectations. Twenty-three percent said "no." He says that tells him a greater effort needs to be made to explain expectations.
The work given to students to take home was presented in a variety of methods, including paper packets and electronic options, possibly adding to the confusion.
Some teachers had each assignment labeled "AMI Day One," others offered six assignments for students to choose per each day school was out of session. Long says there should be an electronic and a paper option at every grade level so every student has a choice.
Should the students not get their homework done, they have a week after returning to the classroom to make up the work. Long says that idea was submitted in the initial plan and has proved to be a good idea.
Long says parents also enjoyed the opportunity to engage in learning with their child as part of the homework requirement for younger students. Other parents said with the bad weather and having to go to work, they just didn't have the time. He hopes the seven-day window to do make-up work will help with that situation.
Some parents wondered whether teachers were actually working during the AMI days. Teachers have a contracted amount of school days to complete each year.
Long says the AMI days are a work in progress. The district is going to ensure there will be options for students who don't have computers at home. Teachers are going to ensure homework is relevant to the work students are doing at the time. How many consecutive days AMI work will be given will also be taken into consideration.
Another idea being contemplated is a way to keep a portion of school campuses open on snow days for parents who have to go to work, regardless of weather conditions. Long says although buses may not be able to run, he wants to explore options of staff being on hand to supervise students, provide lunch for them, assist them with their AMI assignments, and provide them with extended learning opportunities.
He says a questionnaire was given to staff members regarding the possibility. A good number of administration and teachers have said they think the idea is feasible and they would be able to come to work on inclement weather days.
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