Norfolk Public Schools administrators announced a long list of goals during Monday’s board of education meeting to close the learning gap left by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The district’s Transitions Strategic Action Planning Committee members explained how it will improve summer school, English language arts and math education, data management, equitable access, professional development, social-emotional learning and more. 

The committee, which consists of a select number of teachers and administrators, also wanted to focus on continuing the NPS curriculum and assessment work related to target-based grading. 

“Out of meeting with the administrators and staff, it was clear we did not need a bunch of new things to close the gap,” said Erik Wilson, director of student services and safety. “Instead, it's important to reset those things we know.”

The transitions committee’s plans include implementing several programs within English language arts and math, two subjects that saw learning loss the past year. 

Staff will be trained to put strategic intervention systems into place. The interventions will be broken out into three tiers of students in need. WIlson said a teacher would use an intervention with struggling students in the first tier to keep them from slipping into the second tier — which includes students who might be farther behind.

The committee will reboot professional learning communities (PLC), an effort that was paused during the pandemic. 

During days with PLC, staff teams meet on a regular rotation basis to work on priority standards, learning targets, proficiency scales, assessments and data analysis. PLC this year was used for planning time instead because of COVID-19.

“Strong academics are established with a strong curriculum,” Wilson said. “We heard across the board we needed the time this year with COVID, helping students out who were quarantined, but many of our staff members commented that common time working together on curriculum is what worked the best.”

The district also will invest in EduClimber, an interactive data management tool that allows teachers to get a better picture of a child, Wilson said. It pulls from areas like school improvement, student reports, achievement scores and attendance data.

Internet hotspots will be available for students as part of the committee's goal of to have equitable access learning. The district received hotspots from grants last fall.

During the summer, learning materials like IXL Access for Students, ACT practice and support programs will now be available for students and families. 

“We do realize sometimes families shut off in the summer to break away from school, but we feel that this is something we can make available if they are wanting it,” said Beth Nelson, director of teaching and learning. 

Nelson said district surveys also showed concerns of students' behavior and well-being during the pandemic. 

One of the goals to improve social-emotional learning is to continue the use of positive behavioral interventions and supports (PBIS) in many grades. PBIS provides a framework for promoting social-emotional competencies to improve outcomes for children.

Nelson said the district “had to pause PBIS and handle immediate needs at an immediate time” because of the pandemic.

Several other of the transitions committee's goals also include exploring the extension of paraprofessional hours for tutoring and a reorganized NPS professional development timeline.

Investments made from the committee’s initiatives will be funded by the CARES Act, said Superintendent Jami Jo Thompson. The goals will be implemented starting with a professional development day on Friday, April 23, and will continue throughout the 2021-22 school year. 

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