According to SISD Chief Operations Officer Mark Miranda, the district’s focus this year will be on accelerated learning as opposed to remedial learning.
“When we’re using remediation, we’re usually focusing students on isolated skills that they may have missed in the past, and remediation is generally disconnected to the current grade-level work,” Miranda said. “Acceleration ... allows students to access grade-level content, so past concepts and skills are addressed, but they’re addressed in the context of current learning.”
Miranda noted the accelerated learning plan revolves around several key components, including professional development for teachers, instructional material outlined by the Texas Education Agency, and targeted, small-group tutoring aimed at addressing individual students’ needs.
According to Miranda, the tutoring program, which involves 45-minute online sessions between one tutor and up to four students each day, was piloted in April in several district schools. Officials noted the pilot program was developed in partnership with Brown University and local education company Intervene.
“[Intervene] provided live, high-quality tutors,” Miranda said, noting tutoring was made available in each students’ home language. “The pilot [program] had an impact on the entire instructional day, because teachers were able to go back and see exactly what each student needed to do to be impacted in a positive way.”
Miranda pointed to results from the pilot program at Major Elementary School that showed students’ scores on fourth-grade math assessments jump from 33% during the pre-assessment exam on March 24 to 75% during the final assessment on May 11.
“You can see a really dramatic effect,” Miranda said. “We’re seeing some really good gains and we’re really excited about what we can do through the school year when we had the kind of progress you saw in just six weeks.”
SISD Superintendent Rodney Watson touted the gains made by students in the tutoring program but said there were still areas that could be improved.
“One of the good things about doing a pilot [program] is that you get to look at things that work well and things that didn’t go well,” Watson said. “Paramount to the students getting their [tutoring] minutes is they have to be logged in on time, and they have to get in and be in the session when the tutor is waiting for them.”
Watson said the district is working on ways to ensure students get to their tutoring sessions more quickly to maximize the time of the sessions.
“I was very pleased with the [tutoring] program, but we’re going to have to make some continued tweaks to make sure it’s excellent,” Watson said.