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How This Superintendent Is Leaning Into Tech and SEL to Enhance Children’ Studying Expertise


Superintendent Megan Van Fossan is attempting one thing new to deal with low tutorial achievement: utilizing a game-based early literacy evaluation.

Van Fossan, who’s within the first yr of main the Sto-Rox faculty district close to Pittsburgh, is going through a difficult highway forward: 96 p.c of scholars within the 1,170-student district are on the federal free or reduced-price meals program, and the varsity system is struggling financially and academically.

“Once I got here in, I wasn’t in search of an early win, I wasn’t in search of fast fixes. I needed a long-term answer,” she stated.

In an interview with Training Week, Van Fossan defined why guaranteeing college students have a superb basis of studying expertise is important to show her district in a greater course and the way know-how and social-emotional studying may also help obtain that aim.

This interview has been edited for brevity and readability.

Megan Van Fossan

What are your greatest priorities for the district?

Our youngsters reside in poverty, they’ve vital trauma, after which add that third layer of the pandemic. We’ve got to begin with having a very good basis—that begins with studying, which led us to strategic partnerships: One with EarlyBird, as a result of we needed to display screen each child after they walked within the door in kindergarten and actually begin to use information successfully each single day to drive our tutorial design for the youngsters. The second partnership is with the [AIM Institute], guaranteeing each educator in all the faculty district that taught studying was educated on the science of studying. So, for me, I need sturdy foundations. You’ll be able to’t construct a home on sand and suppose it’s gonna stand the take a look at of time.

The second piece of that puzzle is the social-emotional studying of youngsters. That is an underserved group. There’s not sufficient psychological well being consultants—we are able to’t rent 1,000 social staff. Whereas we do have some faculty counselors and social staff, we’re additionally attempting to determine strategic partnerships on platforms which have SEL classes and modules, and serving to our academics in order that they’re trauma-informed.

If we are able to do each of this stuff properly, our youngsters have a greater probability of choosing their path after they graduate from highschool.

What made you wish to focus particularly on studying?

It’s the muse of all the teachers. If I can get them to learn, they are going to be rather more profitable in arithmetic, in science, in social research, in arts.

I’ve been an educator for over 25 years and the truth is that if youngsters can’t learn by third grade, that battle is an uphill battle. We can not wait till the tip of second grade. We should always know each single month the place each single baby is in kindergarten and first grade. If we’re not closing that achievement hole, we’ve to personal it and we’ve to determine why that’s, and we have to get actually good, sturdy interventions in place.

How does EarlyBird work?

Throughout the nation, probably the most prevalent screener is DIBELS, and we’re utilizing DIBELS for grades two to 6. However we’re utilizing EarlyBird for kindergarten and first, as a result of EarlyBird has solely been developed that far.

Pip is the character and it’s a sport that the youngsters play. What’s so good about that is it retains youngsters’ curiosity. The children are saying issues into the app, and it’s truly scoring that data. If I’m a classroom trainer, I’ve all my youngsters which are already populated on it. My youngsters take their take a look at, however they don’t comprehend it’s a take a look at as a result of they’re taking part in with Pip and all of the animals. Because the trainer, on the finish of that screening, I’ve all my youngsters’ scores, after which they’re truly grouped [based on their reading level].

What are the most important challenges with implementing this know-how?

A few issues that I’d suggest for any faculty district that’s going to go down this highway is one: ensuring that your know-how people are prepared.

The second factor I’d inform you is when you have older academics that have no idea the right way to use know-how properly, then it is advisable begin with constructing some fundamental expertise of these academics.

The opposite piece of our wrestle has been we shouldn’t have good, constant web. As a lot as I’d like to wave my magic wand and get it to work, it simply doesn’t. That’s one of many issues we wish to put money into.

Why use know-how to assist with addressing literacy issues?

I can’t think about doing this work with out know-how. I’m an previous dinosaur. I keep in mind once we truly did DIBELS with out tablets: You pulled the child out, confirmed them the passage, you counted all of the errors, and also you had your stopwatch. Holy moly. It took us two to a few weeks to display screen 180 kindergarteners. Actually, I might do it in three days now.

AI know-how is a sport changer. Now I do know my information is correct. The trainer can’t manipulate that information. And it’s not that educators essentially do it on goal, however ‘Oh, I do know they know what that phrase is,’ or ‘Oh, they’ll learn sooner. I’ll simply allow them to learn that passage yet one more time. They need to’ve gotten nervous.’ That’s not how assessments work. We’ve got higher information at this time than we’ve ever had on youngsters.



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