The 2020-21 school year faced unprecedented challenges. Our students, like students across the state and nation, inevitably experienced a learning gap due to the pandemic and school closures. For our students, the shuttering of schools has resulted in a slow-moving tragedy, both from an academic standpoint and from a social-emotional health perspective.
Purpose Built Schools has remained two steps ahead with an aggressive, multi-pronged remedial plan.
We began our multi-pronged learning remediation plan last spring as many students began returning to the classroom and are offering a wide range of initiatives and services to address the gaps.
The upcoming year, indeed, the next three years, will be all about academic and social emotional learning (SEL) recovery for our students. Preliminary data shows that academic gaps are significant.
Our recovery strategy focuses on three priorities: added literacy and math intervention practices; highly engaging project-based instruction supported by new Smart Boards in all classrooms; and continued family and student SEL supports included in our Student and Family Support Program.
Small Group Interventions. Research shows that small group interventions—and as much individualized instruction as possible—is effective in enhancing reading and writing skills in young children, especially those from low-income communities. We therefore have invested in the following tools, resources, and practices to ensure our students get additional individualized and small group instruction. This includes:
- adding a 75-minute intervention block to the school day schedule, supported by the addition of 8 intervention parapros;
- increased high dosage tutoring, including an expanded partnership with the Schenck School;
- new Literacy Coordinator and Math Coordinator positions;
- and individualized learning plans for students.
Engaging Project Based Learning Instruction. To improve the quality of our culturally relevant project based instruction, we have purchased state-of-the-art flat screen panels for every classroom, “Smart Boards.” We also added a Technology Instruction Coordinator to provide ongoing professional development to teachers – ensuring that we integrate the Smart Boards into classroom instruction.
SEL Supports. Cultivating strong, positive relationships with students has always been a cornerstone of our support, but after more than a year away from in-person learning, our staff’s ability to meet students’ social, emotional and mental needs has never been more important. We’ve expanded the number of counselors and social workers on-site at our schools and will provide services such as individual/group counseling, behavior support, individual/group skill building, and staff training on trauma-informed care. These supports work to combat issues such as depression, trauma, anxiety, bullying, grief, and Oppositional Defiant Disorder.
Purpose Built Schools Atlanta has received CARES Act funding as part of the national pandemic recovery program, and we have developed a thoughtful 3-year plan to spend that money in targeted ways. We believe our strategy will both close the gaps and set the stage for continued growth in the long-term.
Months of careful planning has gone into these recovery efforts. We are optimistic that this 3-year plan will support our students in their academic and SEL recovery, as well as our teachers and staff who are working valiantly to help our students achieve their unlimited potential, despite the recent challenges.