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DCPS developing plans to accelerate learning, close achievement gaps

April 16, 2021 | 12:09 am

Updated April 15, 2021 | 10:05 pm

Graphic by Owensboro Times

With the approval of their Advanced Learning Plan and its federal funding, officials with Daviess County Public Schools are in the early stages of implementing new ways to help accelerate student learning and overcome any achievement gaps.

Initial ideas include a wide range of options — from transition classrooms at the primary level, to reading or math specialists/coaches, to social workers that would address the social/emotional needs of students and staff.

The Advanced Learning Plan for the district will be funded through the monies received through the second round of the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund. DCPS was awarded just more than $8 million in ESSER II funds, with the district setting aside $2.5 million for the schools to use for the learning plan.

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“The purpose of (the Advanced Learning Plan) is for the schools to think about how to help students get back to being successful on grade-level assignments and basically anything that was seen as a loss or a gap during the pandemic,” said Jana Beth Francis, assistant superintendent for teaching and learning. “This is to move students forward and to really accelerate them at a faster pace if possible.”

Francis said the district allocated enough for every school to have, at minimum, an interventionist — someone who works directly with students and teachers to help close any achievement gaps. She said schools don’t necessarily have to add that position, but it was a base allocation.

It’s up to each school to create their own specific learning focus plan detailing how their strategy will help students.

“We’re really asking them to think carefully about the needs of their students, and how to equitably distribute resources and funds,” Francis said.

Francis said her department has already been working with some of the schools to discuss initial ideas. One of her favorites so far is the possibility of transition classrooms.

“Sometimes we look at a student and we think ‘they may or may not be ready to go into 1st grade, but we really think they don’t need to go back and do any part of kindergarten again.’ So one of the ideas is that they would set up transition classrooms,” she said.

They would serve as classrooms “in between” kindergarten and 1st grad, or perhaps 1st and 2nd grade — with the goal of catching the students up so they move forward with their classrooms.

“The point of a transition classroom is that they are very much intentionally designed on the instruction. Lots of structure, smaller class sizes, with the hope of accelerating learning for those students so that at the end of the year — because they’ve been in a smaller class size where they’ve had very intentional, individualized instruction — they can go on to the next grade.”

Another idea would be having an interventionist or specialist in reading, or additional support for math education at the secondary level.

Additionally, schools may consider the needs beyond the classroom for both students and staff.

“We know students, because of the isolation caused by the pandemic, have a lot of the social and emotional needs — as well as some of the adults,” Francis said. 

As they developed the Advanced Learning Plan, DCPS officials learned they’d be getting a third round of ESSER funding. That means they don’t have to worry about stretching out or holding onto the ESSER II funds and can instead make sure they implement successful strategies.

Then, they can use the ESSER III funds to build upon the practices into the 2023-24 school year. 

“You hope that no matter what, by three years down the road, any hurdle a kid faced because of the pandemic, we’ve had them jump over and catch up with their peers,” Francis said.

Francis said it’s still early in the process, but they have their sights locked on the ultimate goal.

“Our goal in Daviess County, as always, is to put kids first and to really say ‘how can we accelerate learning for all students?’ We know we will be successful when any student can do a grade-level assignment and be successful at it,” she said. “That’s our target.”

April 16, 2021 | 12:09 am

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