Greenville Independent School District is in a small town located 40 miles outside of the Dallas-Fort Worth area and serves a student population that is largely economically disadvantaged. Like many other districts, Greenville ISD had little time to move all teaching and learning to a fully virtual environment when schools closed due to COVID-19. The challenge was to minimize learning loss and adjust to the new educational environment.
Greenville ISD was already using Apex Learning digital curriculum for credit recovery and intervention for students in grades 6-12. When schools closed because of the pandemic, the flexibility of the solution enabled the district to expand access to all students with devices at home and make the shift to remote learning in a way that best met district needs with minimal disruption to learning. “We really like the way lessons can be modularized to make sure that we’re targeting learning gaps in each of the students,” said Deputy Superintendent Sharon Boothe.
Teachers found the quality of the curriculum and the online access to be beneficial in supporting their students while they were working away from campus. With Tutorials, educators were able to target those areas that needed to be taught in the last 12 weeks of school. “We feel very comfortable, especially with algebra, ELA 1, and biology—we’re able to say we had student success,” said Ms. Boothe.
Ensuring Continuity of Learning
Ms. Boothe and her team examined what they needed to focus on, knowing that they couldn’t teach the entire curriculum, and decided to focus on math and reading. They evaluated what skills and concepts needed to be taught and then assigned modules every two weeks for students to complete. Teaching to the pacing guide enabled them to provide consistent instruction even though students weren’t on campus.
The supports and scaffolds built into the Apex Learning digital curriculum were a big reason why students were able to make progress. With the disruption in learning due to the district closure, students were understandably more likely to lose attention; however, with the digital curriculum, they were able to revisit material and learn at their own paces. Checkpoints for understanding within the curriculum showed what students knew and where they needed help before they got to final assessments. Teachers could monitor reports to determine what kind of progress students were making and then follow up with calls to provide support and encouragement.
Key Takeaways and Best Practices
Ms. Boothe shared advice and observations based on Greenville ISD’s experience. “Make sure teachers recognize that they’re coaches through this and that they need to help students ‘chunk’ assignments and set clear expectation of goals—for example, that you need to be through these three units in two weeks.” She feels that this is something that applies whether students are working in school or remotely.
Teachers teamed up to spread the load of contacting students and delivering instruction. Each student was assigned to a teacher who could focus on a much smaller group of students and provide more individualized attention. If teachers needed help with a subject that was not their area of expertise, they reached out to their colleagues. “It really made us appreciate each other’s content,” said Ms. Boothe.
Greenville ISD conducted a survey to understand the experiences of parents, students, and teachers with remote learning. Nearly 70% indicated that they see the value of online learning. The district conducted additional surveys in the summer, giving the school community a chance to look back on their experiences and reflect on how their impressions differed from when they were in the midst of school closures.