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LCS adjusts to close learning achievement gap caused by pandemic

Posted at 7:34 PM, Oct 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-19 19:34:12-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — Leon County Schools wrapped its first nine weeks on Oct. 15, sending students home with report cards. LCS said those grades are showing positive signs of growth.

Andrea Oliver is a Leon County parent. She said the reason her children were able to succeed is that their parents are educators and because they opted for in-class learning.

Oliver is also a professor at Tallahassee Community College and added while her children didn't see a shift in grades, her research uncovered a disparity in learning for young kids during the pandemic.

"I have done research on the effects of what they're calling COVID related learning loss when schools were forced to go to remote forms of instruction that really does not bode well for students who may have already been struggling academically it's just caused them to be at even more of a disadvantage," said Oliver. "Based on the research that I've conducted, they are looking at learning losses of up to 50 percent learning losses being defined as."

Leon County School's Assistant Superintendent Gillian Gregory said the learning gap is being seen throughout the county.

"In terms of seeing a difference. If we were to measure how we're doing today versus three or four years ago? Absolutely," said Gregory.

Gregory said Leon County Schools decided to address the learning gap this year, starting with student assessments at the start of the school year.

"Based on how students performed in core areas, each of them had their own individual learning path developed," said Gregory.

Those individualized assessments give students varying coursework depending on their academic level. It also gives teachers the chance to focus attention on students more closely.

"We pulled what we call small groups and we differentiate instruction. Students with similar acceleration are grouped together and then the teachers worked with those groups based on their needs," she said.

Bridging the achievement gap has become the main goal for Leon County Schools.

"We have second graders who haven't been in a classroom since kindergarten," said Gregory. That's tough when a child is leaving school and not reentering until August 21. They didn't close out kindergarten and now they're in second grade. We had to assess how they were academically but also socially and emotionally."

The School Board plans to bring the conversation to the table at its next meeting. That conversation will be a follow-up to action already taken.

"One of the things our school board implemented is 24 hour, seven days a week tutoring," said Gregory. "Our students have available to them in grades 3-12 an online tutoring service. We also entered into working with Solution Skills with our high schoolers who need extra help to progress."

Oliver helped launch a program for middle schoolers over the summer, preparing them to make the grade this year.

Along with a coworker at TCC, Oliver launched SOAR. Whic is an acronym that stands for 'Success Over All Restrictions.'

"We invited middle school students from three of our area middle schools, all of whom either feed into Godby or Rickards High Schools to do a three-week intense remediation program where they would receive remediation and now," said Oliver.

She added that the program showed great signs of improvement.

"In our first year of operation, which was last summer all 100 percent of our students improve their math skills over," said Oliver.