Addressing learning gaps with a little grace

At Sonora Elementary School, we’ve been fortunate to be able to offer in-person classes to most of our students this year. Our district gave all students a fully online option as well as the option to return fully in-person or blended. At the beginning of the school year, about 500 of our 600 students came back full-time, and by November we only had approximately 20 students who were still blended.

While having students on campus almost feels like a luxury these days, it certainly doesn’t mean that our staff and students have been unaffected by the pandemic and the learning disruptions associated with it. Our district moved to an alternative method of instruction (AMI) last spring. Based on the district options, at the beginning of this school year our teachers were planning for three classes at a time: their daily students and two different blended cohorts. Fortunately, we’ve only had two student cases of COVID-19, but even now, there is always a group of as many as 10-15 students who are quarantined because of an older sibling or parents’ exposure.

When teachers are coping with a multitude of disruptions, including attendance and daily routines for safety, learning gaps will occur. At Sonora, we’ve worked to address those gaps by being flexible, using any data accessible to understand where students are, and giving everyone a little extra grace.

Staying flexible

One of the big changes we made this year was to give teachers the opportunity to “loop” with their students. Moving from one grade to another can be a big change for a teacher and we didn’t want to add any additional stressors in an already overwhelming situation; we thought it was a good opportunity to offer students and their families as much consistency as possible. We gave teachers the choice, and some chose to loop with their students into the fall semester, while others chose to go down a grade in preparation for looping up with their classes next year. To provide a similar ‘looping’ experience for all students, we kept class cohorts together when moving them to the next grade level. We understand that some students are going to be working to close learning gaps beyond this school year; we’re preparing for that journey now.

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