As the school year winds down, Sarasota educators are preparing for the 2020-21 school year, a chunk of which includes district-wide remediation to account for the months of online learning.
Students have been learning virtually since April 1, and although teachers have tried several methods to keep students engaged, there are limitations.
With the district’s ICAN online learning policy,
students are expected to complete about three hours of online learning daily. Although the district delivered around 5,500 computers to families throughout the district, teachers say they still have a hard time getting all of their students to complete assignments.
Sarasota County Schools’ assistant superintendent and chief academic officer, Laura Kingsley, said teachers will first have an opportunity to connect with students who received an incomplete grade May 26-29. During that week, the teachers will focus on getting students to turn in final assignments in one-on-one sessions.
If students still receive an incomplete, the next step is the district’s Summer Boost program, which will consist ofonline learning and virtual one-on-one sessions to help students catch up.
Students in middle and high school who received an incomplete grade because they did not engage with the virtual material will be invited to join the program.
“We are trying to follow a model of compassion and grace,” Kingsley said. “We don’t know the extenuating circumstances the children have had to live through during this time, so we want to give the children every opportunity that we can to succeed.”
The online classes will be small, so teachers can divide time between whole group lessons and one-on-ones.
The plan is slightly altered for elementary students, however. Rather than looking at incompletes, the district is looking into student assessments in the program i-Ready.
Invitations to summer programs will be sent to those students who might struggle if they took the Florida State Assessment, from which the students were excused because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“If students were struggling, we want to accelerate the learning to try to make up some time, knowing that there’s no easy answer to children who struggle,” Kingsley said. “It’s hard work, and typically it involves working one-on-one with them, and it always involved trying to fill the gaps based on the strengths they have.”
The district is also giving extra focus to seniors who might need credits before graduating. Intensive one-on-one support will be provided to those students, so they can graduate on time.
In preparation for the next school year, teachers are spending time in the last weeks of school filling out articulation cards. Each teacher will fill out a card for each of their students to be passed on to their teachers for the 2020-21 school year.
The cards ask teachers questions, such as how they connected with each child, what each child’s preferred way of learning is and if they had 15 minutes of one-on-one time with a child, what they should focus on.
“We all know that unless you reach a child’s heart, you’re never going to be able to help them grow their brain,” Kingsley said. “Unless you reach a child effectively, you will never reach them cognitively.”
Teachers are also communicating with one another to create plans for the new year.
For example, Sarasota Middle School Band Director Tamara Lewis and Riverview High School Band Director Andrew Dubbert have talked about skills the incoming freshman might not know that previous students came into high school already knowing.
“I’m already thinking about what I can do differently when we come back, so that the students are as successful as they can be,” Dubbert said.
Kingsley said that although online learning as been challenging, the teachers have remained flexible in their lesson plans to allow the students to succeed.
“Teachers understand that if children have gaps, they can try to cover new material or new standards, but they know they will not succeed unless the children have the foundation in whatever the content is,” Kingsley said. “So we’ll really work on that foundation going forward.”