The purpose of this memo is to provide additional information, clarification, and reminders regarding teaching load, attendance, and Commissioner’s Memos LS-21-002 (Distance and Digital Learning), COM-20-128 (State Reported Absence), and COM-18-010 (Student Attendance).
Public school districts that opted to implement the Arkansas Ready 4 Learning model were granted certain specified waivers to allow districts the flexibility needed to provide blended learning. The class size maximums for each grade and certain classes as set forth in various rules are waived when instruction is being delivered primarily through technology-based methods. The requirements of Ark. Code Ann. § 6-17-812(a)(1), (a)(3), and (b), to compensate teachers who agree to teach more than the maximum “teaching load” of 150 students, were not waived. Without a waiver, in order to exceed the 150-student maximum teaching load, the teacher must agree and the district must compensate the teacher accordingly, unless one of the following exceptions apply.
Pursuant to the DESE Rules Governing Class Size and Teaching Load, the maximum teaching load requirement does not apply to: (1) “large group instruction”, as defined in rule (attached), or (2) a public school that operates primarily as a virtual school. The DESE Rules Governing Distance and Digital Learning, Sec. 6.07, state that distance learning courses, as defined in rule (attached) are considered “large group instruction” courses for the purposes of the Standards for Accreditation.
These rules, as written, do not anticipate or provide direction for the blended learning models that incorporate in-person, remote, and virtual learning, that are being implemented by school districts. While it is clear that class size and teaching load maximums apply to traditional on-site in-person delivery models, when virtual instruction is provided, the following applies:
- If a school is offering a solely or primarily virtual option utilizing a LMS with digital content and allowing for some degree of self-paced or flexible access, the class size maximums are waived and teaching load maximums do not apply.
o However, if the virtual option follows a traditional in-person model with fixed scheduling and direct teacher content delivery, it is recommended that class size and teaching load maximums be followed as closely as possible with consideration given to the expectations for that teacher, the extent of curriculum development needed, and the requirements of the model being used for students participating virtually.
- If a teacher is assigned to deliver both in-person and virtual instruction, the class size maximums are waived only for the virtual courses; total teaching load maximums should be followed.
As a reminder, DESE amended the definition of an “absence”, for state reporting purposes, to reflect remote, off-site, and virtual learning. (See COM-20-128). Attendance must be reported for all students, regardless of their method of participation, for funding purposes.
A student is absent if the student is not:
1. Present for onsite instruction provided by the district,
2. Participating in a planned district-approved activity, or
3. Engaged in scheduled instruction at an off-site location, including remote learning.
An additional reminder, Act 867 of 2017, effective August 1, 2017, repealed Ark. Code Ann. §§ 6-18-210 and 6-18-211, removing the requirement that students in grades nine through twelve (9-12) enroll in no less than 350 minutes of planned instructional time each day. The ADE Rules Governing Mandatory Attendance were also repealed to reflect this change. For additional information, see COM-18-010.