By: Whitney Green
I am an assistant principal at a mega elementary school in Chattanooga, TN. Our district has roughly 79 schools with a variety of demographics, including low-income rural and urban students, as well as upper-middle-class suburban students. Our district recently went through a change in administration and we now have an amazing superintendent who is focused, personable, and determined to be the highest-achieving school district in the state of Tennessee. And let me just say, we did it! Then came the pandemic.
As a former college athlete, Michael Jordan has always played a vital role in how I have viewed leadership and success. Michael Jordan understood that his failures made him successful. He also never looked back and always looked for the next play, next shot, next move. This resonated with me when we had to quarantine in March and our virtual learning experience was a failure, as students were not accessing or receiving the same level of rigor as they were when we were in school in a face-to-face setting.
The year before, I led the piloting of EL Education for 3rd-5th grades in our school, and we were seeing significant progress in English Language Arts (ELA) proficiency. Our administrative team recognized we needed students to be able to access the rigorous EL Education curriculum to continue this progress throughout the pandemic. But how would we do that for kids learning virtually? Since I led the EL Education pilot the year prior, I felt the pressure to continue this momentum with such an amazing curriculum.
I like to use the saying that our school is leading, not trailing, and fortunately, because of this, the district approached me about piloting a digital form of the EL Education curriculum available on the Kiddom platform going into the 2020-2021 school year.
Implementing anything new is something most leaders dread, as any change can bring about some resistance. To create buy-in with your teachers, you need to start off small. I developed a “think tank” by asking one teacher per team to participate. They loved Kiddom! It provided the EL Education curriculum at their fingertips, without worrying about all of the books. Also, Kiddom truly cared and wanted to meet the needs of our school, and was happy to hear all of our feedback in order to enhance the experience.
We then gradually rolled it out to the rest of our building. This “think tank group” became my ambassadors for our school. As the new year started, the ambassadors modeled how easy Kiddom was to use for both teachers and students as both interfaces are organized and simple to navigate. They were also a helpful resource when teachers had questions.
As we move beyond the pandemic, looking back, it’s incredible to see all of the things that Kiddom improved for us. Our teachers can now:
- assign EL assignments that students can complete through the platform,
- provide real-time feedback with each assignment, and have more accountability as students have avatars that are lit up when they were accessing the platform,
- differentiate with assignments to meet the needs of students such as using the available K-2 read-aloud videos, adding in scaffolds, etc.,
- post any announcements or links to other platforms within Kiddom, and
- live chat with the teacher/student portfolios, as all assignments are saved and housed within their account (a great resource when having conferences with families).
These are just a few highlights that made a huge difference for our virtual experience moving forward with ELA. Our teachers and students were able to pivot and provide a rigorous ELA curriculum that never stopped due to any of the circumstances that hindered us previously.
All teachers know that all about the numbers in the end and how students perform on state assessments. I have evidence to back that up as well! Our district provides three standards-based benchmarks throughout the year that are closely aligned with our end of the year state assessment. After completing two of these benchmarks, our school is leading the way on virtual learning, and our scores prove it.
Out of all schools, including both middle and high, we have made the most growth in ELA in our district based on our second benchmark. We have stood out from the rest, as many schools have struggled to continue, particularly with their virtual learning, along with so many across the country. A local news station has noticed our success and is doing a feature story on how we have accomplished so much, regarding our data, and specifically our success with virtual learning.
We are just an average school that made a commitment to ensuring we would continue our EL Education curriculum. The EL curriculum brought about change in our school that was imperative, as we were not previously meeting the needs of our students based on their understanding and abilities within the ELA standards.
As we move beyond the pandemic, we are determined to look forward and focus on what we can control for our students, and that is providing every student with the opportunity to access this curriculum. If you are an educator who is at a loss for how to continue the curriculum, regardless of your circumstances moving forward, Kiddom is a great option. We’re happy to say that we have not looked back since and are proud to have only moved forward.
For more, see:
- From Pandemic to Possibility: Now is the Time to Consider Competency-Based Education
- Ron Berger on a Teamwork Approach to School Culture
Whitney Green is the Assistant Principal at an elementary school in Chattanooga, TN. She has experience as a teacher in both 1st and 4th grade, having taught all subjects and also familiar with departmentalized teaching. She has her coaching certification and completed her Ed.S. in Instructional Leadership.
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