By JOHN HOWELL Hour-long after school academies giving students who have had difficulty in math and English Language Arts (ELA) individualized instruction started this week in elementary schools and is slated to begin next week in secondary schools. The
Hour-long after school academies giving students who have had difficulty in math and English Language Arts (ELA) individualized instruction started this week in elementary schools and is slated to begin next week in secondary schools.
The academies are being launched in response to the precipitous decline in the numbers of grade 3 to 8 students achieving proficiency levels in the Rhode Island Comprehensive Assessment System (RICAS) tests administered last fall. Since 2019 when the tests were last administered, students meeting proficiency in ELA fell from 37.9 percent to 30.1 percent. The decline in math was even worse dropping from 26.5 percent to 14.5 percent. The Warwick performance falls below statewide levels that are 33.2 percent proficient in ELA and 20 percent in math.
Overall, educators have blamed the pandemic and distance learning for the dramatic drop in the test scores.
Lisa Schultz, the district’s director of curriculum, reported Monday that 38 teachers would conduct elementary school academies with a total of 288 students from K through 5th grade. Interest in the academies that are voluntary has not been as strong at the middle or high schools where seven teachers have signed up for the program.
Schultz said after school transportation has proven to be an obstacle to the program tailored to give small groups of students, not necessarily all of the same grade level, instruction. Schultz said none of the academies would have more than 12 students and most of them would be about half that. The academies will be held for one hour twice weekly after school for about a month. The elementary academies will end Feb. 4 with the secondary program concluding the following Friday.
Schultz said the department would seek feedback from the students, teachers and parents before commencing a second and third series of academies to run through the end of the academic year. Schultz said the department is looking for ways to “ramp up” the program that could include contracting outside tutorial services if Warwick teachers aren’t signing up for the program. She pointed out that other districts are running programs similar to Warwick including plans for summer instruction.
Schultz said teachers would establish a baseline with the academies, starting this month from which they can measure student performance going forward.
In announcing the academies in November, Superintendent Lynn Dambruch said the program was put together with the help of the Warwick Teachers Union. Patricia Cousineau, director of elementary education, said selection of academy students would be based on their RICAS scores, teacher recommendations and parental requests. Parental permission slips were issued in December.
“We want to target the students who need it most,” Cousineau said at the time.
Schultz said teachers who volunteered for the program would be paid for an additional three hours a week – the two hours of actual academy time and a third hour for preparation and after class work. She said teachers would have discretion on how to run the academies depending on student performance and how best to cover the ESL and math curricula.
The cost of the academies will be paid for through a federal grant.
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