Wright City schools reaping benefits of summer makeup plan

Derrick Forsythe, Correspondent
Posted 9/11/21

The benefits of an extensive COVID-19 “gap plan” to make up the learning deficits incurred by the pandemic are starting to become noticeable within the Wright City R-II School …

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Wright City schools reaping benefits of summer makeup plan

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The benefits of an extensive COVID-19 “gap plan” to make up the learning deficits incurred by the pandemic are starting to become noticeable within the Wright City R-II School District.

The multi-layered plan saw promising results from a special summer school program, called Bridge, that provided two weeks of intensive intervention to 23 students who were identified as candidates.

Assistant Superintendent Doug Smith reported the data from the program during the monthly school board meeting on Aug. 19.

“These were all students who at some point had shown a pretty high ability to do well and all the sudden there were big gaps in their learning,” said Smith. “Can we say it was COVID that caused that? Not with absolute certainty, but there were at least correlative factors there. Our goal was to get that gap closed back up, and that seemed to happen.”

Each of the students in the program had ended the 2020-21 school year in some type of intervention program. By the time they completed the Bridge program, they had improved enough to no longer need those supports entering the 2021-22 school year.

“We hired teachers who have experience and the ability to intervene on behalf of students to target specific learning gaps and bring them in for a full eight days to do intensive interventions,” explained Smith. “We assessed in the beginning and ongoing to see how the program worked. Every single kid grew, in every area of study.”

R-II provided intervention in reading and math for 20 students in first through fourth grade, while instruction in algebra was given to three high school sophomores.

“We would have liked for Bridge to be a little more expansive, but after going through a COVID year, getting staff to come work and students to attend extra weeks over the summer was somewhat of a challenge,” Smith said. “Still, we can use what we have learned to grow it and implement what was most effective again in the future.”

The Bridge program took place in July, following the regular summer school session in June. It was developed and run through R-II’s Aspiring Administrators program, which provides an opportunity for staff to gain real-world experience in an administrative role. Staff member Brian Ernst took on the responsibility of development, hiring, and contacting families.
The program was housed at Wright City East Elementary and was funded by part of the federal COVID-19 relief funds received by the district.

“A significant amount of that money has to go to addressing learning loss and closing that achievement gap that was presumably caused by COVID,” said Smith. “I think the things we learned and what we saw were successful for kids. We bought some new resources for this that we hadn’t used in the past with some of those funds, too.”

Another part of COVID-19 gap plan was connecting families to summer learning opportunities via field trips and admissions to educational venues in the St. Louis area. Smith said the district distributed the entirety of its ticket allotment through this program.

The efficacy of gap plan programs will not be known until later. This year R-II hired another full-time English language learning teacher to assist with its ELL population, meaning the district now has designated staff in place for this at each building.
“Most of our other components of the plan we won’t know the results of until next summer when we can start evaluating to see how well having the ELL teachers in every building works,” said Smith.

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