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Strategies to Mitigate the COVID Slide

Lexia Learning’s Chief Learning Officer, Dr. Liz Brooke’s steadfast determination to ensure students of all abilities can become successful readers and confident learners, is the driving force behind all of her work.

According to Brooke in a recent edWebinar, during this time of remote and distance learning, “There have been various levels of implementation, fidelity, and various levels of learning happening.”

She points out that researchers, educators, and district administrators won’t have any empirical evidence until student assessments reveal learning gaps due to the so-called COVID slide and summer learning loss.

Predictably, most–if not all–of our students have had some slides in their learning and will have gaps that they need to close. Some students had gaps even before this interruption, but their needs are more urgent for populations that are historically more susceptible to gaps.

Flexible implementation

Due to the uncertainty of what schools will look like over the summer or in the fall, school districts need instructional programs that have the flexibility to work in the classroom setting and easily transition to a remote situation.

Programs that offer a blended approach with both online and teacher-led components may provide the most flexibility and most easily transition from the classroom to the cloud or remote environments. Research has shown that blended programs with teacher-led elements allow for continued connections and relationships between teacher and student.

Learning gaps

There have been multiple studies to prove that the summer slide is a real thing. Based on evidence with both elementary and secondary school-aged students, a summer slide can typically equate to one month of learning loss. Students from families classified as low socioeconomic status are often more impacted by that summer slide and have more significant learning gaps.

Why, what, and how

Effective and equitable instruction should meet each student’s needs and close the learning gap at the intersection of three essential components: Data/Students (Why), Content (What), and Delivery (How).

Understanding why it is taught focuses on data derived from assessments that maximize the data. Brooke emphasized that it is critical when reviewing programs and assessment tools to determine if the assessment elements can be given remotely, given to large groups of students, provide data quickly that is accessible to teachers and administrators remotely, and answer questions about risk, growth, and skill gaps.

Whatever programs school districts use and will use to close the learning gaps caused by the COVID slide should include rigorous content based on reading science.

The most pivotal part, especially in intensifying learning and transitioning to remote education, should consist of structured literacy elements such as phonology, orthography, morphology, semantics, and syntax.

In a remote world, we’re focused on getting students the learning they need. One way we can do this, if we don’t want to increase the time, is how we do it. Using evidence-based interventions with positive outcomes should include fundamental principles including explicit (directly taught), systematic (logical order of skills and concepts), cumulative (new learning building on prior knowledge), and multisensory/multimodal (use of multiple sensors or modalities).

The last thing to consider regarding accelerating student learning during these unprecedented times is for schools and classroom teachers to partner with parents, guardians, and caregivers. Schools should set realistic expectations for families and provide activities and ideas that can be done with items readily available at home that don’t necessarily involve screen time.

Source: eSchoolNews

How School Leaders Make Real and Lasting Change

As a new principal at Dunwoody Springs Elementary School in Fulton County Schools, GA, Ivy Goggins faced pockets of success in the building, a climate of teachers working in silos, and the lack of true collaboration.

These are common challenges for many instructional leaders, teachers, and coaches, and Goggins sought to find a way to create a culture of mutual respect, cooperation, and equitable learning opportunities for her teachers and students.

Related content: 5 ways to develop a school leadership program

In a recent edWebinar, Goggins, her principal coach Joy Treadwell, Ph.D. from CT3, and Jim McVety, managing partner of First Step Advisors, delved into solutions to these challenges through the essential leadership skills that have the potential to impact the entire school community.

Five domains for effective leaders

Educational leaders, McVety said, are working hard every day to make a real and lasting change but struggle to move the needle in their districts.

Treadwell’s team at CT3 built out five domains for effective leaders to help school administrators determine where best to put the emphasis and internal structures that allow them to thrive. These five domains include a shared vision, strategic resourcing, safe and orderly environment, teacher and staff effectiveness, and teacher/leader learning and development.

All the presenters agreed that the core and the most crucial of these domains is for school leaders to develop a vision where they are clear about the school or district’s mission, goals, and expectations. Without a shared vision, it is challenging to move a district forward and create a culture where students and teachers feel safe, and resources are allocated purposefully.

It is also critical that school leaders stay informed of best practices to ensure student outcomes while continually learning in the same way that their teachers are learning. By learning alongside their teachers, it allows school leaders to lead from the front of the pack and be the catalyst for sustainable change.

“No-Nonsense Nurturer” four-step model

“Getting a common language is critically important to ensuring a thriving school culture, and you can’t get there without consistent methodology or practice,” said Treadwell.

A No-Nonsense Nurturer Model is an opportunity to create a common language around how we support students in the classroom, ensure a level playing field regardless of backgrounds, and support teachers in building culturally relevant relationships with kids.

Giving precise directions, equitable accountability systems, building relationships, and utilizing positive narrative shifts attitudes and perspectives. When school leaders initiate, model, and coach teachers using a methodology like No-Nonsense Nurturer, the result is a collaborative environment with shared beliefs, commitments, and respect.

The presenters agreed that when leaders put into place behaviors, practices, and methodologies for change, it organically becomes a connective tissue that outlives school leaders.

Key takeaways

The presenters emphasized that students come first, and all decisions, processes, and initiatives need to have at its center the best interest of students. Students don’t learn from teachers they don’t like, so building relationships needs to be the number one priority. This priority holds with teachers as well. When supportive, safe, collaborative settings are in place, clear and consistent expectations are the norm, and there is a common belief about what the school stands for, real and lasting change will happen.

Source: eSchoolNews

How Districts are Addressing Adolescent Mental Health

Research from a recent white paper highlights the increasing crisis in adolescent mental health. In a recent edWebinar, presenters emphasized the need for school districts “to intervene with students as quickly as possible to keep them safe.”

The rise of anxiety and depression

Anxiety and depression rates are increasing, and suicide is now the second-leading cause of death for 10- to 19-year-olds across the spectrum of race, gender, and socioeconomic levels.

Seventy percent of teens cite anxiety and depression as a significant problem for their friends and peers, and 40 percent of students report that bullying, substance, and alcohol abuse affect fellow students. More than 10 million students between the ages of 13 to 18 need professional help for a mental health condition.

This situation is a “mental health tsunami,” moving very fast in schools across the country, and the pressure is on. Some of the underlying causes of adolescent stress identified by mental health professionals include academics, social media, and childhood trauma such as homelessness and abuse.

Gateways to mental health issues

Schools struggle as students are exposed to online gaming, pornography, social media, and pro-self-harm websites when using technology outside of the school walls. While not evil, technology can be a gateway to some of the harmful behaviors we find in students in a crisis, such as gambling, sex addiction, eating disorders, self-harm, and suicidality.

Approaches by school districts

So how can school districts create a response system that supports students? There are several approaches that districts are taking to deal with adolescent mental health issues, including school-wide interventions, adding more support for students, and extending services from community helpers.

Dickinson ISD has taken a community-based approach by partnering with Gaggle, local law enforcement agencies, and coordinating agencies to intervene when there is a concern. This collaborative approach lets students know that the school community cares about them and that the community will take appropriate measures to support students’ health and well-being. Another school district that has an impactful influence on adolescent mental health is the Nampa School District. Taking an intra-district approach with the school community, district leaders created the Nampa Behavioral Youth Impact Team. This team identified three themes to define the problem and create proactive measures: school culture, adult and student relationships, and student-led learning.

Mental health is a growing crisis for our adolescent populations, but there are tools and resources available to schools and districts. Only when school and local communities focus on a common goal can they create safe and healthy learning experiences for all students. The presenters ended the edWebinar by echoing a common theme: Everyone has a vested interest in growing safe, secure, healthy kids.

Originally Published: eSchoolNews

Strategies for Culturally Responsive Teaching

A critical topic for schools and communities–and most importantly, our students–is how teachers nurture ALL students, create a sense of belonging, and keep educational standards high.

Only then can students, especially immigrant students and students of color, meet their potential and succeed in school and beyond.

During a recent edWebinar, the presenters underscored that when schools make generalizations about particular student populations and their behavior, they strip them of their individuality, and these students become “invisible.”

You can’t look away

Racial discrimination can lead to trauma responses such as feelings of intense fear, anxiety, and helplessness in students. Studies show that when black adolescents feel their teachers lack respect for their background, it can harm their academic outcomes.

To create a classroom environment that mitigates student identity threats, it is critical for teachers and school leaders to implement culturally responsive approaches. It is important to “establish trust through demanding and supportive relationships, foster hopeful narratives about belonging in the setting and use child-centered teaching techniques.”

A lens

Culturally Responsive Teaching (CRT), a multi-pronged approach to teacher competencies, is not intended as a checklist but as a lens through which we teach and reflect on our teachings. The presenters’ CRT competencies include reflecting on our cultural lens and potential biases in that lens. We have to understand that we can have personal biases but that there are biases ingrained in the system.

When culturally responsive teachers draw on students’ culture to shape curricula and instruction in their classroom, they bring real-world issues into the classroom, particularly issues that students experience and grapple with daily in their communities.

A common misconception of culturally responsive teaching is that this is a feel-good approach. But in fact, one of CRT’s most significant pillars is the promotion of academic achievement that results in students achieving at high levels of academics. Other competencies critical to culturally responsive teaching are encouraging respect for student differences, collaboration with families in the local community, and communication in linguistically and culturally responsive ways.

The presenters suggest that educators and school leaders regularly and consistently be intentional about the work that they are doing with our students. Only then can we ensure that we are taking the time to see students as human beings and not just vessels of the content we are trying to pour into them.

Source: eSchoolNews

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