POWHATAN – The Powhatan County School Board learned last week how interruptions to learning in the last year caused by the pandemic have affected students and how the school division is addressing the issue.
During the school board’s meeting on Tuesday, April 13, Dr. Tracie, Omohundro, assistant superintendent for instruction, gave a presentation on the on-going analysis of student progress and growth; the adaptations made during the 2020-2021 school year; plans for summer school 2021, and next steps to assist students with learning recovery.
Omohundro pointed out that all of the data in the presentation was based on fall assessments. Using that data, the school division has already begun doing interventions to help students that were struggling, she said. They hope that when assessments are done again in the coming weeks, numbers will already show improvement.
In looking at elementary students, the fall and mid-year comparisons of the Benchmark Assessment Systems (BAS) reading results showed the greatest needs in first and second grades, 26% and 32%, respectively, Omohundro said. The Phonological Awareness Literacy Screening (PALS) testing showed 10% to 13% more kindergarten and first grade students were below benchmark in fall 2020 than in fall 2019.
In math, a mid-year comparison showed similar intervention needs to 2020, meaning the needs didn’t increase in math the same way they did in reading, she said.
Omohundro said there were slight differences in schools, but the results were consistent across all three elementary schools and the interventions will be as well.
“Our spring testing will give us a lot of information. However, we have already started the invitation process for summer school students at the elementary level, and we are looking at approximately … 45 to 50 students per grade level that we will invite at the lower grades for elementary summer school programming,” she said.
At Powhatan Middle School, 30 sixth-graders and 60 seventh and eighth-graders showed needs in reading and writing, while 45 students were identified for early intervention in math, she said. At Powhatan High School, the administration and school counselors contacted 415 families of students identified through the Virginia Tiered Systems of Support (VTSS) process as needing additional supports relating to grades or attendance.
Once students who had additional needs were identified, the division began creating strategies to help them recover lost ground during the school year, Omohundro said.
At the elementary level, they started by looking at their learning targets, she said. The schools kept their original reading and math targets, but adjusted the pacing of the core for all students to include content that may have been missed in spring 2020. Coaches and specialists led that effort.
The schools used the VTSS process to identify the needs of the students, gave full assessments to students of concern, and expanded the use of Title IV tutoring and targeted before and after school tutoring, she said.
In the first and second grades, reading and math were the main focus of the first semester, and a compacted curriculum of science and social studies was added back in the second semester, Omohundro said. The schools used new resources to support reading in K-5 students and purchased math manipulatives for home support.
The secondary recovery strategies at the middle school included student success plans (39 students used them); academic coaching (74 students); after-school recovery (33 students), and Wednesday support (338 students).
At the high school, programs called Summer School Now and Senior Semester Support helped 369 students improve content knowledge and course grades, Omohundro said. They also had 3,454 students attend Winning on Wednesdays (not all unique uses); offered teacher-direct student support and CTE supervised support time, and created individualized support plans for 571 students.
Summer school at the elementary level usually is a half-day program, but this summer it will be expanded to a full day, Omohundro said. The sessions will be held from June 21 to July 1 and July 12 to 22.
Elementary teachers will identify areas within the curriculum to create camp-like activities to make summer school more fun for the students, she said. Students will be offered resource activities such as world languages, art, music, and PE.
All of the recovery classes and some of the other summer offerings are free. Check individual listings for details.
There will be some students who are unable to attend summer school, said Dr. Cheryl Thomas, director of elementary education. Once the schools finish their spring testing and the results are analyzed, the school division can target how they will address students who are unable to do tutoring or summer school.
Summer school classes will have a maximum of 15 students to one teacher and may be less than that, depending on the courses, Thomas said.
As far as transportation, elementary students will be offered door-to-door bus service while middle and high schoolers will likely have a hub system, where they come to certain locations in their areas to catch a bus from there.
Laura McFarland may be reached at Lmcfarland@powhatantoday.com.