Triad staff is working to close the learning gap caused by virtual learning during the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
A chunk of elementary students have fallen behind their grade level, according to Chief Academic Officer Morgan Fagnani.
“The biggest gaps are definitely in K-8,” she said during Thursday’s Board of Education meeting.
Fagnani shared data from beginning of year assessments that showed percentages of students that are at their grade level, one grade level behind and two or more grade levels behind.
After missing months of in-person learning in the spring, she said students were at a disadvantage at the start of this school year.
“Teachers did everything they could but we do see gaps coming into this year,” she explained.
As far as ELA, Fagnani told the board “we’re seeing issues” in grades 2, 3, 6 and 8.
Of those students, she said “most kids are one grade level below” where they should be.
She said this is reassuring because it’s easier for teachers to look at the grade-level standards from a year earlier and incorporate those into lessons, as opposed to closing the gaps between multiple grade levels.
“Honestly, I expected it to be a little bit worse than the data that actually came in,” Fagnani said.
Students are struggling more with math, Fagnani said. She said she expected gaps in this subject because it is more likely students will read and write at home than it is that they practice math.
She said she has concerns with grades 1, 2, 3, 6 and 8 regarding students’ math mastery.
Many of these students, she said, are one grade level behind where they should be.
For instance, she said 0% of first graders are at their grade level, but 93% are one level below.
In contrast with the elementary level data, Fagnani said she has seen “a lot of strengths at the high school.”
She said this may be because high school classes are more content specific and don’t require students to build on skills from one class to the next. This makes it less likely that they fall multiple grade levels behind.
Overall, she said there are more “on-track” students in high school subjects.
She said the areas where some students are lagging include ELA 9 and 10 and Biology.
Her “biggest concern” is with science, as she said fifth and eighth grade students are also struggling with that subject area.
Across all grade levels, she said students in sixth grade are struggling the most.
“Sixth grade across the board seems to be a pretty significant problem,” Fagnani said, adding that 53% of students are two or more grades behind in their ELA skills.
However, Superintendent Vickie Hoffman noted that this is a grade of students that generally has issues meeting grade level standards as 34% of those students are considered “special education students.”
Although there are areas students are lagging, Fagnani and Hoffman said staff was prepared to encounter these numbers after the abrupt transition to online learning in the spring.
“We knew immediately that this was going to be here,” Hoffman said.
Fagnani said between different school districts, “everyone is talking about gaps,” but it’s difficult to gauge how Triad students are performing compared to those in other districts.
She noted that many districts decided not to give beginning of year assessments and instead used the time for regular instruction, so they do not have comparable data.
“For us, I don’t think that would have been a good call,” Fagnani said, adding that the assessments are allowing teachers to target areas where students need extra help.
Since identifying the areas of concern, Hoffman said teachers have been prepared to “hit the ground running, teaching standards that have been missed.”
In other business:
– Fagnani reported that Triad currently has the lowest percentage of students participating in distance learning of Madison and Champaign county schools.
Overall, she said 81 of 840 students are learning remotely, but students are “slowly starting to come back to us.”
High School Principal Kyle Huffman said there is good communication between teachers and most of the students learning from home.
“Teachers are in their groove and know what they’re doing now,” he said.
Board member Matt McConnell said he is impressed with how well Triad is handling distance learning.
“People are so upset with their distance learning at our neighboring districts and I haven’t had a single complaint come to me,” he said.