Madison City Schools plan to fight COVID-19 learning loss

Published: Apr. 20, 2021 at 8:47 AM CDT
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MADISON, Ala. (WAFF) - As the school year winds down, the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are very much evident in schools across the country.

Now, attention is turning to the summer as the next opportunity for teachers and administrators to get students caught up to where they need to be.

“Definitely one of the most important summers for us because our students have experienced interruptions in traditional learning because of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Madison City Schools Chief Financial Officer Heather Donaldson.

Donaldson said they’ve worked to develop a three-pronged approach to help students who have fallen behind.

“Basically the purpose of these summer learning programs is to address the critical learning standards that are outlined by the state department and make sure our students don’t have any gaps in learning or loss in learning due to the COVID pandemic,” she said.

Donaldson said all of the funding for their plan is from the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund, or ESSER fund. Through the ESSER fund, Donaldson said Madison City Schools got $2.3 million, which is all going to making sure students get caught back up.

The first prong of the plan is in-person summer learning for all grades. All grades will have classes between June 7 and July 2 and focus on meeting critical standards in English and math.

Donaldson said they’re offering this program to students they have specifically identified as most in need of help in the classroom.

“We have been monitoring our students all school year, some of that is with a benchmark assessment, formative benchmark assessment that all of our students take, some it is with the classroom assessment data,” she said. So, we’ve been analyzing that data to basically find our students with the highest academic need.”

For high school students there will also be learning labs, where teachers will be ready to help students with topics they’re struggling with in reading or math

Even though they are specifically offering the program to certain students, it isn’t a requirement.

The summer learning program has only been offered to elementary school students, so far. Donaldson said they identified about 800 students in need and 300 of them signed up for the summer school program.

Donaldson said they are able to provide transportation to and from summer school for grades K-8. On top of that, the summer feeding program has been extended so all students will get a breakfast and lunch.

This is good news, especially since Donaldson said they expect to have more students in summer school this year.

“We do expect to have more students than normal in these programs, because we are specifically inviting groups of students who have shown that loss of learning,” Donaldson said.

But, more school may not sound like a great idea to many, especially after the past year.

“We know that our teachers and our students are exhausted, they have had quite the school year,” Donaldson said.

The second prong of the Madison City Schools plan is a new summer learning program involving recorded lessons for students of all ages.

From June 7 to July 16, three recorded lessons will be released each week for each grade level. The focus is on reviewing skills learned in the past year to keep kids sharp for the upcoming school year and practice skills students might be uncertain of.

Even with the new programs planned for the summer, Donaldson said it’s going to take a lot more work to get students to where they should be.

“You can’t close all the gaps in one summer, in one month you cannot close all of those gaps,” Donaldson said. “That is one of the reasons we do have a three pronged approach. The after school tutoring next school year will also be really important.”

A new after school tutoring program is the third prong of the Madison City Schools plan. The program is set to start this Fall. For grades K-5, students will have two days a week of after school tutoring, one day focusing on math and the other on English.

For grades 6-12, students will be able to go to virtual sessions of tutoring help two nights a week for math and English.

Donaldson said this plan has been extensive and a collaborative effort across the school system.

“This was a group effort to develop these summer learning programs and the after school learning programs,” she said. “The district instruction team worked with our school administration and also groups of teachers to get feedback for the different programs we should offer this summer and what we should do during the school year this year.”

Donaldson said they’re confident this plan will be able to get students caught up to where they would be if the COVID-19 pandemic had never happened.

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