At this point, we’re essentially two semesters deep into non-traditional instruction (NTI) as a result of Covid-19. The natural assumption at the beginning of the school year was that these changes to the classroom structure would only serve to widen gaps between and among student groups. It was also thought that students already identified as “at risk” would not only be negatively impacted, but that new groups of “at risk” students would possibly emerge as a result as well. Fears of students losing their momentum from last year and underperforming as learners and performers was a valid concern going into this year.
Some school systems have handled this challenge well, and unfortunately, some have not. Regardless, now is the time that we begin to shift our collective focus. We, as educators, need to begin to think about how we are going to transition students back into regular programs, or for those schools that didn’t fare as well, create a track of non-traditional instruction that is going to help mitigate the effects of the last two semesters on our “at risk” students that may have suffered during this time.
So where do we start when it comes to transitioning from the challenges of academic and behavioral rituals and routines, the absence of real-time student interaction with teachers and peers, identifying and collecting valuable student performance data, and the threat of losing previous gains made in student attitudes, perceptions, and behaviors? Could there be negative impacts on social and emotional competencies that would result in serious problems for students if they are immediately thrust back into a regular classroom experience without a transition of any sort?
At Ed Directions, our planning model always starts by defining where we are as a school and student body. We are encouraging our partner schools to assess their non-traditional experience and identify where things may not have been as positive for students and staff as they would have hoped. Although sometimes unpleasant, this type of introspective analysis can identify areas that put students at risk and help schools begin to plan support structures for the successful transition into what comes next – whether it be traditional classrooms or more non-traditional instruction.
The road to transition is paved through meaningful conversations, and we’ve provided a self-analysis chart to help initiate those necessary talks. We’re going to center around two very large topics for this exercise – how well did the staff administer non-traditional instruction, and how did the students handle the challenges of this new way of learning.
The first chart deals with the former – how staff administered the non-traditional instruction. We look at “best practice indicators” and ask the school to rate their performance regarding the implementation of these practices on a scale of 1 to 5. 1 being very low, and 5 being exemplary. Once complete, go back and look at your lowest scoring indicators, and decide which are going to be your top priorities for improvement as we move into the next phase of the educational process. Prioritize as many as you need in order to start planning your school’s successful transition.
NTI – How Did We Do? Rate yourself from 1 to 5
Best Practice Indicators
1 – 5
NTI classes were well organized and were planned to maintain student growth as learner and performer
NTI classes were planned to move all students towards standards expectations and provide data to monitor student competence and confidence
Technology hardware and Internet access were available to all students
Teachers had access to computer firmware and software that enable them to engage students in learner work that would enhance learning and performing
All teachers were trained in technology use and in planning computer-driven lessons
All students were trained to use the computer, access the Internet and engage in computer-based lessons
NTI classes were safe, stable, and organized and student work was formative or calibrating and intellectually engaging
Academic leaders and teachers embedded checks for understanding, diagnostic assessments, and formative assessments to inform lesson plans and student supports
NTI data streams were analyzed to assess current student status and plan orientation and enculturing activities to transition students into regular class routines
School academic leaders, coaches and counselors were able to observe student/teacher work during lessons and provide ongoing support for both teachers and students
Academic leaders regularly participated in online lessons, facilitated data collection and participated in PLC discussions designed to inform unit, lesson and support planning
Students with identified “at risk” indicators were monitored and targeted support plans were developed for their transition back into the regular classroom
Teachers developed academic and performance profiles on students to provide baseline data for restarting regular class content coverage
At the end of each nontraditional semester school and student performance data was collected and evaluated to drive the next round of strategic and tactical planning
This second chart focuses on the students, and how they handled the challenges of non-traditional instruction. To the best of your ability, assess your school’s student population on the same 1 to 5 scale, then prioritize your lowest scoring indicators to begin focusing on.
NTI – How Did the Students Do? Rate their performance from 1 to 5
Best Practice Indicators
1 – 5
All students logged in and student attendance reached a minimum of 95%
Students and their parents developed dedicated “classroom” areas that were regularly used by the students
All students receive the necessary technology and access they needed to participate in NTI lessons
All students were trained to use the hardware and software components of the NTI experience
Students and their parents developed “at home” academic and behavioral rituals and routines that supported optimum learning and performing behaviors
All students stayed engaged for the duration of the NTI lessons and demonstrated high levels of effort and engagement
All students mastered attending work, acquiring work, organizing work in meaningful work in the NTI lessons
All students were introduced to the various types of questions to be encountered on a state test and mastered most of the types
All students improved as learners and performers during NTI
No students are only a few students regressed in attitude, perception, social competency, emotional competency or behavior during NTI
Students developed a positive rapport with their NTI teachers that could support successful transition back into the regular classroom
When we at Ed Directions work with schools, we emphasize that these self-assessments are not “graded” assignments. We’re not using them to beat anyone up for a challenging year, or poor performance. We use them to stimulate thinking and promote conversations regarding where we are as a school and what our next steps might be to begin the process of strategic planning.
We encourage schools to evaluate their experiences with candor. These are not “who’s to blame” activities. It doesn’t matter who’s to blame. The only thing that matters is where are we and what do we have to do to improve things for students. It’s critical that we are proactive and not reactive. A “blame game” exercise will only undermine the collegial relationships that are going to be needed to build successful strategic plans.