Count Day During Coronavirus

by | Oct 1, 2020 | Education, Funding

*Due to continuously evolving legislation, some of these requirements and calculations may change. We will update the post as more information becomes available.*

Count Day is just around the corner, on October 7, 2020, and with deadlines quickly approaching we’re here to get you as prepared as possible. While the pandemic is keeping millions of children home from school, Michigan lawmakers and educators have scrambled to overhaul their public Pupil Accounting strategy.

We’re here to make sure you have all the information and resources required to get an accurate count so that your school or district can get the funding it deserves. Keep reading to see what counting methods are best for you and what you can expect from this year’s Count Day Process. And as always, if you have any questions, please reach out to our expert Pupil Accounting team. They’d be very happy to help! Now let’s get started.

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Pandemic Learners

The fundamental change during COVID is that ALL students in Michigan are now considered “Pandemic Learners.” So no matter what your school’s education model looks like right now, the new definitions and rules apply the same to everyone, in-person, hybrid, or virtual. Still, you’ll want to be aware of how your student’s location and current instruction style will affect the tactics of your counting system.

What’s a Two-Way Interaction?

Another fundamental element of the new Count Day procedure is the term “Two-Way Interaction.” So what does it mean? A Two-Way Interaction is a direct, one-on-one engagement between a teacher and student about an academic matter, initiated by the teacher. Here are some scenarios to help illustrate the point:

  • If Teacher A asks Student A a math question and Student A responds to Teacher A with an answer, that counts.
  • If Student B responds out of turn to a question directed toward Student A, that doesn’t count for either Student A or Student B.
  • If the Teacher asks the whole class a question and Student A answers, that doesn’t count for Student A.
  • If the Teacher asks about something personal or something not school-related, it also doesn’t count.

To reiterate, because it’s so important, it must be a one-on-one, direct interaction about course content or course progress. The only sort of “exception” is that taking Attendance in person counts as a Two-Way Interaction.

5 Sets of Interactions

With the universal “Pandemic Learner” definition in mind, and understanding a Two-Way Interaction, we can get to the way students will be counted. Rather than a one day Count Day and a 10-30 day tracking period for absent students, this Count Day is more like a Count Month. Teachers will need to record a total of five (5) Two-Way Interactions; one on October 7th and one in each of the 7 day periods starting on October 7th. So they’ll need a Two-Way Interaction during:

  • October 7 (all classes)
  • October 7-October 13 (1 class)
  • October 14-October 20 (1 class)
  • October 21-October 27 (1 class)
  • October 28-November 3 (1 class)

Missing a Two-Way Interaction

As with normal Count Days, the actual Count Day (October 7) Two-Way Interactions must take place in all of their classes. Two-Way Interactions in the following four week periods only need to take place in one (1) class. If a student is absent on Count Day, you will still have 10-30 days to positively count them in each of their classes based on a Two-Way Interaction. That said, if a student doesn’t have a positively recorded Two-Way Interaction during even one of the four one-week periods, there is no make-up period. They will not count.

Where Are Your Students?

The learning style your school or district has implemented will impact the way you achieve an accurate count this year. Some schools will have the traditional straight forward count day, with on-site students. Some others have adopted a hybrid system, with some students at home and others in the building. Counting in a hybrid situation is more complex, but still manageable, especially if families are sticking to the schedule. A great many schools, however, are completely virtual right now and that can present significant challenges, especially if students struggle to log in from home. We’ll get into more detail on each of these three scenarios next.

Counting In-Person

For those schools with 100% in-person learning, Count Day will function much the way it usually does because taking attendance in person counts as a Two-Way Interaction. The biggest change is that in-person, attendance-based counting will continue for the next four weeks. As we said, this is the easiest of the three scenarios, but COVID still presents challenges. Students may be out of school on Count Day. These students will need to be tracked for 10-30 Days to verify that they are full time students. Make sure your teachers are prepared to continue counting students for these additional weeks and that they stay vigilant. It’s easy to forget or lose track after a while.

Counting Hybrid Learners

Students who are learning under a hybrid education model have the same requirements, but come with a few different challenges. Firstly, not all classes meet on the same day. So if students, especially older middle school and high school students have a class that doesn’t meet on Count Day, those teachers will need to record a Two-Way Interaction on a day that they do meet within 10-30 days.

Home internet issues or device issues could also throw a wrench in things. If a student has a hard time getting online for their first class or their laptop runs out of battery before the end of the day, they’ll need to enter the 10-30 day makeup system for those individual classes that they missed.

Hybrid learning situations also mean that Two-Way Interactions are different for different students. Some will be attendance-based, and some will be communication based. It’s easiest to think about everything as a Two-Way Communication, whether it’s an academic question or attendance taking. It’s all the same to the Michigan Department of Education.

Counting Virtual Learners

A large number of students in Michigan are learning 100% virtually during COVID and counting them is challenging but a little simpler than a hybrid model since there’s no in-person attendance to even consider. Remember that all students must record their Two-Way Interaction with all teachers on Count Day and then complete all four additional interactions during the next four weeks.

The New Funding Formula

Most years, student funding counts are a blend of the Fall and the preceding Winter Count Day totals. For example, the 2018 figure was based on the February 2018 and October 2018 counts, with 10% weight given to February’s numbers and 90% weight given to October’s numbers. You can see why the fall Count Day data is so critical.

This year’s formula will be much different. As we mentioned, many of the most at risk youth also have the least access to virtual learning tools and internet access. Because of this, they are the most likely to be undercounted and will suffer the most because of it.

For the 2020 Funding Count, schools will use a combination of the 2019 Blended Count and the 2020 Count. Specifically, they will use 75% of their final 2019 Blended Count and 25% of this year’s Blended Count. And each of these Blended Counts will follow the same 90%/10% weighting system as before. That means schools will use four different Count Day figures weighted as follows:

  • February 2019: 7.5%
  • October 2019: 67.5%
  • February 2020: 2.5%
  • October 2020: 22.5%

This system will help even out any unavoidable irregularities caused by the pandemic. We also want to make a special note that exceptions will likely be made for schools with significant growth since much of the weight in the calculation leans on last year’s count. This way they are not penalized for their growth.

Reach Out With Count Day Questions

Macro Connect has an expert Pupil Accounting team led by two members of the Michigan Pupil Accounting and Attendance Association. Although no one has experience counting students during a global pandemic, this team has been at the leading edge of the conversation as it has evolved over the spring and summer. If you have any questions about how this fall’s Count Day will operate or how your administrative team can maximize the accuracy of its Count Day, please do not hesitate to ask. Reach out via phone, email or schedule a call today!

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