District 65 officials discuss remote learning via Zoom.

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  Assistant Superintendent Stacy Beardsley and other administrators provided an update on School District 65’s remote learning program at the School Board’s meeting on Oct. 26.

The goal for the 2020-21 school year is: “To design and implement instruction, engagement, and feedback in a manner that will lead to at least a year’s worth of learning regardless of the student or educator’s learning environment (remote or onsite).”

The District is using five indicators to track progress during the year. They are:

·       Access to grade-level instruction

·       Student engagement in learning

·       Observation in classroom  learning

·       Operations support for remote learning and

·       Stakeholder feedback

“This year’s indicators are based on areas that we believe will support our commitment to continuous improvement throughout the year,” said Dr. Beardsley. “We have incredible educators, and we are all working in an environment that none of us ever went to school for. As a result, no matter how fast we learn and how much we grow, there will be more for us to do better and differently.”

Dr. Beardsley gave a high-level overview of how things were going. “We are seeing strong positive shifts in the way that we are engaging students, the type of work that students are doing, and in the commitment that students are making to their learning. We had a wonderful turnout for conferences, and we’re absolutely digging into grade-level learning and all sorts of new ways that are supportive of the remote learning environment. The amount of new learning that our educators and students have done to be able to create positive learning environments deserves a true spotlight.”

She added that the report “is intended to celebrate what is going well, and to inform ongoing improvement and adjustments.”

Indicator #1: Access to Grade Level Curriculum

One priority is that students be provided access to the grade-level curriculum, despite any unfinished teaching from last year due to the shift to remote teaching. At the same time, though, students should be provided with necessary supports.

The District has created an “assessment milestones document” that provides the timing for end-of-unit assessments in math and literacy. Teachers are expected to cover the curriculum of the various units by the time of the end-of-unit assessment. Teachers, though, makes decisions on the day in/day out lesson pacing based on what they know about their students learning needs.

“Therefore, educators are not on the same lesson on the same day across all our classrooms,” said Dr. Beardsley. “Yet, to ensure that we do expose students to the necessary grade-level learning, we’ve established unit milestones to inform pacing across the units. This allows us to balance educator flexibility and decision making within the units with the need to make sure that we are exposing our students to the necessary grade-level learning across the course of the year.”

A written report giving an update on remote learning concludes, “The pacing for the beginning of the year has been a challenge as the time to support social emotional learning, learning of technology, MAP assessment, and adaptation to and learning a new curriculum has been greater than anticipated.

“As a result, pacing numbers are not yet where we want them to be, yet we think that there are sound reasons for this and expect to believe that the ability to move at the recommended pacing will improve.”

The District has not yet reported results of the MAP assessments that were completed on Oct. 2, or any of the end-of-unit assessments.  

Indicator #2: Student Engagement in Learning.

“It is critical that students are actively engaging in classroom learning whether they are or are not making assigned classroom times,” says the report.

The District is using Clever Analytics to measure how many students are using the District’s learning applications in a 28-day period and also how many students are using its applications on a daily basis.

The report says the usage data is incomplete because “Clever collects data through the Chrome browser plugin so we are not able to collect data consistently from our iOS (Apple) devices and/or devices that are not using the Chrome browser to access” the District’s learning applications.

The District presented usage data with this cautionary remark about the incomplete nature of the data.

The first data point measures overall usage of learning applications for all grades, K-8. The report reflects that there were 6,800 unique student users in K-8, and 91.8% of “scoped users” used the District’s learning apps at least one time in the 28 days prior to Oct. 18.

A chart in the report reflects the number of daily usage by unique student users in K-8. The highest daily usage was about 4,000 students.

The second data point uses Clever Analytics, but just for fifth-graders. Dr. Beardsley said an analysis of fifth-graders was selected “because the majority of students are using District 65 issued Chromebooks and they are using the Chrome browser to access Clever so we believe this is the best quality data we are receiving from Clever.”

The report reflects that there were 809 unique student users in fifth grade, and that 97.1% “scoped users” used the District’s learning apps at least one time in the 28 days prior to Oct. 18.

A chart in the report reflects the number of daily usage by unique student users in fifth grade. The highest daily usage was about 500 students and the daily usage appears to have dipped to about 425 students on one date.

Dr. Beardsley said that the usage data is not complete for fifth-graders because Clever does not measure usage of work through Google Classroom and Drive. In addition, some fifth-graders may be using Apple devices.

Dr. Beardsley said a third way the District is monitoring student engagement is to track the number of students who have been identified as needing additional support. She said if a teacher is “having difficulty in keeping a student engaged in learning,” the teacher is supposed to prepare a learning plan for that student So far, she said, teachers have prepared learning plans for 39 students.

The District plans to monitor students’ progress in meeting the plans, and also track whether additional students are identified for learning plans to keep students engaged.

Indicator #3: Observations of Classroom Learning

“Principals are committed to spending time in classrooms [virtual or in-person] with the goal of providing feedback to teachers to support continuous learning,” says the report.

“Overall, there were 2,600 Stop and Jots and 348 action steps completed across the schools,” says the report.

Andalib Khelghati, Assistant Superintendent of Schools,  said, through this process, principals and school leaders were able to observe the rigor of instruction, student engagement, the creativity needed to engage students, the challenges teachers are facing in a virtual world and their successes, and the lessons needed to keep up with the pacing,  depending where students were at.

Dr. Khelghati said principals and school leaders are coaching teachers to improve the quality of their instruction and to reduce the opportunity gap. Principals are also using what they are learning in the classroom observations to determine the type of professional learning that may help improve instructional practices.

Based on the input gathered during these observations, the report provides these anecdotal comments:

“The teaching and learning methods we are seeing during remote learning include educators utilizing whole group instruction via Zoom, small break out groups with attention to Social Emotional and Equity Learning (SEEL). School leaders observed teachers are experimenting with Google Slides and ways to engage students with work that reflects adaptations to in-person instruction.

“Students are adjusting to learning routines and enjoying new ways of demonstrating their learning through a variety of tech tools (jamboard, playposit, etc.) It has been great to see how primary students are developing their stamina to be engaged in the learning longer, teachers have implemented small group structures that allow students to receive targeted instruction, but also enable them to receive more intimate and personalized learning which keeps them engaged longer.

“Students in [grades] 3-5 are taking greater responsibility by managing their schedules better, attend class at different times, lead peers through next steps and overall taking greater agency in the digital learning space.

 “In the realm of on-grade instruction, teachers are starting to analyze beginning of the year data in math and reading. At times we see that teachers struggle with scaffolding and differentiation based on the adult in-depth understanding of Common Core State Standards and how to look at data and utilize it to inform instructional practice to meet student needs.

“Eureka math is new and teachers are learning as they go. Pacing has been slower due to implementation of a new curricular resource—with practice comes confidence and speed. They are focused on delivering content with fidelity and quality as opposed to rushing through it. Eureka provides pre-assessments and mid-module assessments in some units so educators are also building practices to look at a series of formative data the curricular materials offer to address unfinished learning. Coaches have been a support and resource, assisting with the learning and delivery of this new curriculum.

“Student engagement has been a priority and is observed in the form of the majority of students being logged into learning. The fall camps have been a great way to bring in students who previously had obstacles to engagement—educators are seeing great increases in students accessing and participating during live instruction. When there is teacher feedback and accountability for work production we see more students engaged.”

“We are seeing teachers perform outreach to families and stay in close, constant communication with social workers and admin as they work through these issues.”

“Teachers are struggling with identifying best resources and online tools for specific manipulatives in math and early literacy. Non-digital native teachers discuss openly their struggles to get caught up on available tools and resources.  Older devices are presenting some technology challenges.”

“WiFi/tech issues in some geographic areas or in some homes and learning spaces lead to connectivity challenges.”

Indicator #4: Operational Support for Remote Learning:

 “The key behind this indicator is that in order for learning to occur, we have to make sure that we are providing the tools and the support necessary so that educators can put as much attention and students can put as much attention into the learning,” said Dr. Beardsley.

The report says District 65 has distributed the following technology supports and devices to create opportunities to access learning:

  • 821 hotspots have been deployed for staff and students
  • 2,339 iPads and 2,479 Chromebooks have deployed to students
  • 452 additional devices have been deployed to staff to support paraprofessionals, support staff and teachers to lead and facilitate learning

Dr. Beardsley said, “There are technical challenges to learn, to real learning. And we are working on addressing those items.”

She said the District has a hotline in English and Spanish devoted to dealing with technology issues and the District receives about 26 calls a day, including on links, hotspots and internet connections.

She added that the District has repaired 402 devices (iPads and Chromebooks) since the beginning of school and has provided students a loaner device while their device was being repaired. 

Indicator #5: Stakeholder Feedback:

The District is gathering input on remote learning from parents and students through a survey.

Board Comments

Board members had a lengthy discussion about the report.

Several members asked that the District provide more data showing the usage of the District’s learning apps for all grades, K-8.

Board member Soo La Kim asked if the data could be disaggregated by the priority groups the District has identified for in-person learning. She added that it would be interesting to hear anecdotal evidence about what are the challenges to student engagement and the patterns of engagement.

Board member Rebeca Mendoza asked that the District provide student attendance data, saying this would be another way to monitor student engagement.

Ms. Mendoza also expressed concern that students were being exposed to a lot of screen time. Dr. Beardsley said there was a difference between active and passive screen time, and the District was attempting to make sure students were being actively engaged in small groups and with mini-lessons.

Board member Suni Kartha asked how disciplinary issues were being handled. Dr. Khelghati said there were some instances where a student was disruptive in remote learning sessions. He said this could be resolved by going to a break-out session.

Board President Anya Tanyavutti said she had asked administrators to advise the Board on how they were helping students transition from pre-k to kindergarten and from fifth to sixth grades. Administrators provided information on how they are attempting to make those transitions as smooth as possible. Their PowerPoint is available here.

Kylie Klein, Director of Research, Accountability and Data, said the Northwest Evaluation Association, the owner of the MAP assessment, has created a tool to measure learning loss due to closing the schools for in-person learning and shifting to remote learning last spring. She said the District was working to make sure school leaders have access to the information.

The District has not provided results of the MAP test or the degree of learning loss to the public.



Larry Gavin

Larry Gavin was a co-founder of the Evanston RoundTable in 1998 and assisted in its conversion to a non-profit in 2021. He has received many journalism awards for his articles on education, housing and...