Kodiak Island Borough School District plans to keep children safe from COVID and anything else that could impede their learning this year. But the district’s focus this school year will be on learning and the well-being of the whole child, according to Superintendent Larry LeDoux.
“It is our intent to do what we need to do to respond to COVID, but concentrate on education issues that have long been simmering that we want to address,” LeDoux said.
Reading comprehension will be a key part of those goals going forward, LeDoux said during a wide-ranging discussion with the Kodiak Daily Mirror.
“We want to make sure that all our kids are reading at grade level by third grade, so we will be focused on that,” LeDoux said. “We believe every student should be proficient by the time they leave third grade.”
LeDoux said the district will take a multifaceted approach to address reading issues.
“This has been something we’ve been working on for a long time, and it will remain a top priority,” LeDoux said.
READING AND MATH PROGRAM UPDATES
Some ideas LeDoux has proposed include declaring the new school year a “reading year,” with words plastered all over elementary school walls. The district has always held a yearly reading challenge across the elementary schools to stimulate students’ interest in reading.
At the secondary grade level the district’s focus will go beyond comprehension. Ideas include a districtwide writing assessment, where every student would receive a writing prompt and then be evaluated.
The district also will begin adjusting its math program for all grade levels.
“We will be working very closely with our staff on this,” LeDoux said, “because it’s teachers kids learn from, not a program. We want to make sure that we can provide teachers all the support necessary to support our goals.”
A math committee spent a year and a half examining revised math curriculum for both elementary and secondary school students.
The committee surveyed several math programs, including programs currently being used, and then weighed each program against a set of standards that incorporated identified needs.
For elementary schools, the committee recommended and the Board of Education approved materials from Reveal Math K-5 by Northwest Textbooks, with professional development by McGraw Hill.
Reveal Math K-5, according to the committee’s recommendation, offers “a balanced elementary math program that develops students’ ability to problem solve by incorporating inquiry-focused and teacher-guided instructional strategies within each lesson. Reveal Math champions a positive classroom environment, explores mathematics through a flexible lesson design, and tailors classroom activities to student needs.”
The curriculum is designed to be delivered in a print, digital, or blended environment based on classroom and district needs.
The district purchased two sets of curriculum for Kodiak Middle School and Kodiak High School students. For the normal curriculum it purchased Into Math for middle school students and Into Math AGA, the latter of which focuses on algebra and geometry for high school students that “provides the depth of knowledge, complexity of conceptual understanding, procedural fluency, and application students need for critical assessments, calculus, college, and career.”
A second program, called Math 180, will help secondary school students who are behind in math skills. The intervention program will serve as a supplemental program to core instruction. The program is wrapped around small group instructional tasks as well as an adaptive online component that will assess and focus on individual student needs.
At the middle school level, the Math 180 program will include student support skills that may have been missed and help students who need targeted instruction to prepare for more advanced high school math. At the high school level, Math 180 will be used as a core program in basic math courses to “deepen student understanding on lost skills through whole and small group instruction” and set up students’ confidence for future high school math programs, according to the committee recommendation.
A FOCUS ON SOCIAL-EMOTIONAL HEALTH AND GRADUATION EXPECTATIONS
LeDoux said another primary goal will focus on students’ social-emotional well-being.
“This past year has been traumatic, but previous to the COVID year we have seen unprecedented challenges among our kids related to early childhood trauma, abuse or neglect,” LeDoux said. “Kids are sometimes having trouble responding to the world around them.”
He said the district will expand its resources and services and “will be spending a lot of time talking about how we can help our kids feel safe and manage their emotions in a positive way.”
“We have many community partners working with us to help kids feel and be safe,” LeDoux said.
Working with the community, LeDoux said another project will be “looking at how we can support the whole child. We learned long ago that it is hard to teach a hungry child, and it’s also true that it’s hard to teach a kid that has been traumatized or is in poor health. We will be doing a complete review of our programs that support the students’ health.”
The program, dubbed “Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child, Whole Family” will look at all facets of health from community involvement to nutrition to physical education. The overview will span the entire K-12 system.
“Right now you are required to take a health class to graduate, but we want to look at when you take it, the content and how it involves the parents,” LeDoux said. “We really want to develop a program that really engages families that has something to do with their child.”
A long-term focus will be reviewing the entire K-12 expectations and answering the question: What do we want our students to know and be able to do when they graduate?
“Right now, you just have to have a certain number of credits in certain subjects to graduate,” LeDoux said. “It doesn’t matter the grade or the mastery. We want to take a close look at the skills and vision the students need to pick any career they choose without being limited by what they know.”
LeDoux said the result may be that the district adjusts graduation requirements or student evaluations or “the entire course of study.”
“Ultimately, we want a trajectory or program that begins in preschool that leads all the way to when the kids get their diploma,” LeDoux said, adding that the district began its K-12 review prior to the pandemic but paused to focus on more immediate safety needs.
The school district has more long-term goals in its Smart Start Plan, thanks in part to COVID-related relief money. The district received $3.7 million from the CARES Act and the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (CRRSA) of 2020, and the 2021 American Rescue Plan Act.
“We are going to add an alternative program at the middle school, open a parent resource center, open up the middle and high school for evening school work for students, and add call-back programs,” LeDoux said. “We are going to be focusing on the needs of the individual children.”
LeDoux said the combined federal relief money will be used to start building up those ideas and “leverage change” over time instead of using it in one shot.
“We know that money will disappear someday, so everything we are doing is designed to change the system, not expand it,” LeDoux said. “We can find the momentum used by COVID monies we’ve been given to make the necessary changes that will last for many, many years.”