Taking a two-year approach to catching up after the pandemic, considering alternatives to retention, focusing on skills gaps not content gaps, and providing summer activities for all learners were some of the ideas raised at the April meeting.
At the April meeting of the District Leadership Fellows program, Fellows discussed innovative strategies for combatting learning loss. Dr. Deidre Parish, Superintendent of Darrouzett ISD in Texas, and Mrs. Amanda Rather, Assistant Superintendent of Lonoke Public School District in Arkansas, began the session by outlining the challenges in their districts, their plan for moving forward, and questions they are still wrestling with. Following their presentations, the cohort broke into smaller groups so everyone had a chance to contribute ideas.
One of the first challenges district are facing is ascertaining which of the available data sets are most helpful for identifying the gaps in learning, be they skill gaps or content gaps. Fellows mentioned formative assessments, baseline data, standardized test data and longitudinal data. Taking a deep dive into individual student data was raised, as was working with assessment partners to distinguish district trends from national trends.
Identifying the populations to be served by summer programs, and additional programs in the next school year, was a second area of thought partnership. Some districts are providing programming for all students, while other districts are focusing on students who are significantly behind. For graduating seniors, credit recovery is an important consideration. For students who continue to learn virtually, offering summer programs that are also virtual was mentioned.
Supporting teachers who will teach summer programs is another important consideration. Some districts are designing summer sessions so teachers can work with students at different grade levels in their subject area over the course of each day. Providing targeted professional development with adjustments for pandemic-related obstacles was emphasized.
Some of the practical aspects of adding summer sessions were explored such as locating funding sources to pay for teachers, transportation and nutrition services. For some districts, this summer will be the first summer in a long time with summer sessions.
Lastly, thinking through what school will look like for the next couple of years was examined. Some districts are looking at recovery over a two-year period as opposed to trying to close learning gaps in one year. Looking for alternatives to retention is important to many districts. Bringing some of the best aspects of online learning back to in-person learning was also being investigated.
District Leaders all appreciated the opportunity to share ideas and approaches, and to talk with colleagues about how different districts are planning around the challenges presented by learning loss.
If you are interested in learning about the 2021-2022 cohort of District Leadership Fellows, program information is available here.