How District 203 is trying to address in-person learning disruption from COVID-19
A free summer school course, extra teaching specialists, academic boot camps and tutoring services are among the strategies being explored by Naperville Unit District 203 in an attempt to bridge learning gaps caused by the COVID-19 crisis.
Students at all grade levels transitioned to an expanded in-person schedule last week after spending months in an enhanced e-learning or hybrid stage of the district's "Return to Learn" plan.
The reduction of face-to-face instruction during the last year has "impacted each student differently," Superintendent Dan Bridges said, prompting administrators to conduct assessments and develop a response for addressing their academic and social-emotional needs throughout the summer and into next academic year.
"Providing students with additional time to learn the course grade level content through summer school is an effective strategy to address the disruption students experienced," Bridges said.
In turn, district leaders are considering allowing each student to enroll in one summer school class at no cost, he told the school board last week. The offer would be available during the 2021 or 2022 summer programs to accommodate families with prior commitments this year.
Courses normally cost up to $400 each based on subject and grade level, according to summer enrollment information.
The district is expected to offer a variety of programs aimed at elevating students' skills and preparing them for the upcoming school year, Bridges said.
Bridge courses, for example, are designed to help kids master the prerequisite standards of a particular course or grade level, he said. Jump start classes provide additional support for select students who need to re-acclimate to the in-person learning environment.
Algebra essentials are offered to students preparing for the Algebra 1 class, and AP boot camps are available for those who are new to advanced placement courses.
A recent reading and math assessment administered to 84% of the district's kindergartners through eighth-graders showed a slight dip in performance among certain student groups, but achievement trends were generally stable compared to last year, said Patrick Nolten, assistant superintendent for assessment and accountability.
"We didn't see a cataclysmic shift or a downfall (in the group data)," he said. But he acknowledged situations in which individual students are "performing differently than expected, no doubt."
Summer school courses will be in person this summer, Bridges said, though a livestream will be available for students who wish to remain in a remote setting.
For the 2021-22 academic year, he said, the district plans to return to full in-person instruction at pre-pandemic levels, with remote options dependent on medical needs.
Additional math, learning behavior and English learner specialists are expected to be on hand to support grade-level and content-area teachers when classes resume in the fall, Bridges said, pointing to the benefit of co-teaching strategies for students who need targeted instruction.
District officials also are exploring contracting with a tutoring agency to provide extra math, literacy and writing services before or after school for kids who need it most, he said.
Other recommendations include developing learning boot camps to strengthen core skills and hiring more social workers as needed to provide social-emotional support.
Additional academic and social-emotional assessments are anticipated in the coming months, administrators said.