Local school districts receive learning recovery grants | #education | #technology | #training


Three Jackson County school districts will benefit from nearly $1.5 million in grant funding to help students recover from learning loss due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Gov. Eric Holcomb and the Indiana Department of Education recently announced more than $122 million in state grant funds are being awarded to 110 community partners and schools across the state to help accelerate student learning this summer and beyond.

Awardees of the state’s new Student Learning Recovery Grant Program will serve students in 83 of Indiana’s 92 counties. That includes Brownstown Central Community School Corp., Seymour Community School Corp. and Crothersville Community School Corp. in Jackson County.

Award recipients will provide support to students in literacy, math and college and career readiness this summer and throughout the coming school years via focused tutoring, after-school programming and other enhanced learning opportunities.

Created by House Enrolled Act 1008, the program allocates $150 million to accelerate learning partnerships to support students across all grades with a focus on partnerships between community organizations and schools. Remaining program funds will be awarded at a later date.

Schools will work with IDOE to track student outcomes and monitor the return on investment to elevate local success stories and help others develop plans to maximize student learning in light of the COVID-19 disruption.

Brownstown

Brownstown is receiving the most among the county school districts, $911,447.39.

The corporation partnered with the Boys and Girls Club of Seymour in applying for the grant. Club Executive Director Ryon Wheeler said Alliance of Indiana Boys and Girls Clubs keeps an eye on lobbying at the Statehouse and knew if the House bill was passed that it would have a major impact on kids in the county.

Wheeler talked to school officials in Jackson and Jennings counties, including Brownstown Superintendent Tim Taylor, to see what the club could do to help.

Wheeler said around $782,000 of the funding will go toward hiring as many as 15 full- and part-time staff members to help students at Brownstown Elementary School and Brownstown Central Middle School with learning recovery in reading and math. He hopes to start the hiring process soon and have them filled by July.

“The main purpose of this grant is to find children that due to COVID have really fallen behind, and we want to make sure that we can help close that gap,” Wheeler said. “We’d like to try to impact 100 kids at each school, but we’ll see.”

Supplies and equipment take up $25,000 of the funding, $60,000 is built in for transportation for kids who need it and $50,000 is for professional development for teachers through BloomBoard.

“Teachers will have the opportunity to participate in online professional development and microcredentialing through BloomBoard focused on learning recovery and social emotional learning,” Taylor said. “These skills will allow them to better meet the needs of our students.”

The program will start in the 2021-22 school year and continue the next two summers and the 2022-23 school year.

“This is really kind of a pilot over there,” Wheeler said. “If it goes well, we can look and see how long we might be able to continue the partnership.”

The Boys and Girls Club remained open during the pandemic to help kids with eLearning and launched a club in Jennings County, and it’s currently in a management agreement with the club in Jefferson County to help it through an executive transition.

While that sounds like a lot already, Wheeler said his board of directors was willing to assist Brownstown and Seymour schools with the grant funding opportunity.

“This money is kind of a once-in-a-lifetime thing. You’re not going to see this through the state very often,” he said.

“We thought, ‘Although this may not be a part of our strategic plan at this point, we can’t let this money go to waste for kids in our community because they are giving it out, and if it doesn’t come to the Boys and Girls Club of Seymour or kids in Brownstown or other places, we’re just not going to get it,’” he said. “We took a leap of faith and tried to make things happen for our kids.”

Seymour

In partnering with the Boys and Girls Club, Seymour will receive $418,824 in grant funding.

Assistant Superintendent Lisa Ferguson said the grant will be used to support accelerated learning through the implementation of the Orton-Gillingham-based approach and to address any interruption in learning that may have impacted students in kindergarten through eighth grade.

Certified and classified staff members will have the opportunity to participate in an Acceleration Boot Camp from June 14 to 16, working with leaders in the fields of math, reading and social and emotional learning. This work is supported through SCSC federal programs.

Catherine DuBois, assistant principal at Emerson Elementary School and the district’s reading specialist, also will be leading reading acceleration training for all instructional staff during the camp.

She has extensive professional development in reading theory and Orton-Gillingham and is the leader of the corporation’s implementation of Sonday Systems, also based in Orton-Gillingham.

Orton-Gillingham is a direct, explicit, multisensory, structured, sequential, diagnostic and prescriptive way to address reading, writing and spelling, Ferguson said.

“The IDOE grant is supporting our efforts to add Sonday materials for phonics,” Ferguson said. “Even though the grant does not support the training, Seymour is committed to providing not only the tools but the support needed to implement research-based programs with fidelity.”

The other funded aspect of the grant is the addition of an acceleration coach.

“Acceleration of learning is not the standard instructional path,” Ferguson said. “Acceleration in this case has to do with increasing the rates at which we close a learning deficit or address a learning loss due to interruption. This is a different application than we may have seen in the past.”

Acceleration most often is associated with high-ability instructional strategies, she said.

“This is why staff training is important,” Ferguson said. “We have to define our plans, targets and strategies to address any type of learning interruption.”

SCSC has a focused, deliberate plan to use its data sources to identify students who are one or more years below expected performance, she said.

“We will be using our current assessment tools to identify gaps or areas needing intervention,” she said. “Students are already required to participate in a number of assessments. We certainly do not want to add to that, so we will use the tools available to us and our trained staff to intervene.”

The acceleration coach will organize and deliver data to teams in each building, and that will be used to track progress and guide instruction.

“In addition, we will be supporting all staff to implement phonics instruction as a part of our 90-minute reading block in K-5,” Ferguson said. “The acceleration coach will be the hands-on presence to keep our work on track, provide support to instructional staff, recommend strategies and to organize data.”

Ferguson said the grant partnership also will involve hiring tutors and utilizing time students spend at the Boys and Girls Club to continue Sonday interventions. They also included a small line item in the budget to support scholarships to students to join and participate in Boys and Girls Club activities.

Crothersville

Crothersville will receive funds from two multiyear grants that each involve more than a dozen school corporations.

The one with Crossroads Technologies Inc. will provide math tutoring and a math instructional lab in the classrooms for grades 1 through 12 for the next two school years and a math camp in the summer of 2022, Superintendent Terry Goodin said.

That will help bring kids back to the level they may have lost due to virtual learning, he said.

The one with Wilson Education Center will help Crothersville with technology delivery systems, including connectivity, upgrading technology in classrooms, professional development for teachers and more.

“As a smaller school, we have to try to figure out how to leverage the most bang for our buck, and that’s what we’re doing with the partnerships with these groups,” Goodin said.

On the Web

For the full list of grant awardees, visit doe.in.gov/sites/default/files/grants/final-1008-awards-2.pdf.



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