NEWS

Academies to ramp up student learning

By JOHN HOWELL
Posted 11/25/21

By JOHN HOWELL In an effort to give third to fifth grade students who have slipped behind in math and English Language Arts a boost, the Warwick School Department will initiate one-hour academies in addition to the regular school day starting in

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NEWS

Academies to ramp up student learning

Posted

In an effort to give third to fifth grade students who have slipped behind in math and English Language Arts a boost, the Warwick School Department will initiate one-hour academies in addition to the regular school day starting in January.

Academies are also in the planning stages for middle and high school students Assistant Superintendent William McCaffrey said this week.

Department personnel devised the academy plan following the dismal report showing that the number of Warwick 3 to 8th grade students meeting proficiency in ELA fell 37.9 percent in 2019 to 30.1 percent this year. The decline in students proficient in math was even more dramatic with a drop from 26.5 percent to 14.5 percent. Statewide, 33.2 percent of students tested proficient in ELA and 20 percent in math.

The pandemic and the prolonged period of online teaching is largely being blamed for poor student performance in the Rhode Island Comprehensive Assessment (RICAS).

Superintendent Lynn Dambruch is not aware of any other district using what amounts as an extension of the school day to help students. Depending on teacher availability, the academies would be held either before school starts or at the end of the day. As of last week, Dambruch said most teachers favor after school instruction.

Lisa Schultz, director of curriculum, said Monday 34 teachers have signed up to teach academies. The academies will be held twice weekly for four weeks starting Jan. 10 and running through Feb. 4 in all of the city’s elementary schools according to Patricia Cousineau, director of elementary schools. Selection of students enrolled would be based on their RICAS scores, teacher recommendations and parental requests. Parental permission slips would be sent home to families the week of Dec. 6-10.

“We want to target the students who need it most,” said Cousineau.

In a memo to elementary school principals, Cousineau recommended teachers avoid Monday and Fridays for sessions, suggesting they be on consecutive days.

She said the department would be scheduling a Google Meet with teachers to answer questions and finalize plans.

Dambruch said the plan was put together with participation and support of the Warwick Teachers Union. The academies would offer small group instruction of no more than 12 students. They would not be grade specific, meaning there could be a mix of grade levels in the academies.

Teachers would be paid $41 an hour for a total of three hours a week - 2 hours of in-class and an hour for class preparation and planning, she said.

Funding would come from federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief or ESSER.

Dambruch said the program would be evaluated after four weeks with the intention of “tweaking whatever is needed.”

In a conference call Monday Shultz and McCaffrey outlined the plan further. Teachers will be given the option of teaching one subject for 30 minutes followed by 30 minutes of the other or devoting the full hour to math or ELA. If that was the choice, the alternate subject would be the topic of the second class in that week

As middle and high school students start earlier in the day, McCaffrey said academies at those two levels would start after the regular school day. Transportation would be parent based and in situations where transportation is an issue, students will be eligible for virtual instruction.

Schultz said Warwick teachers would be given the option of conducting the academies, but if sufficient numbers can’t be recruited the department is looking to hire outside tutoring service “to fill the gaps.”

The department would evaluate the effectiveness of the program by testing as well as student and teacher feedback, Shultz said.  The academies would be held in 4-week segments.     

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