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Learning Continues During School Closures: When the Fidelity of Your Implementation Pays Off

Learning Continues During School Closures: When the Fidelity of Your Implementation Pays Off

Recently, I had the pleasure of speaking with Myra Bramlett, principal at Geiger Elementary School in Fairfield County School District in South Carolina for a sweet surprise and an update on how continuous learning is being made a reality during unprecedented school closures. Prior to the sweeping impact that COVID-19 has had on our nation’s education system, the educators and students at Geiger Elementary were already longtime Edmentum partners, implementing several solutions to support student learning. Most recently, the school was also announced as our Study Island Chromebook Giveaway winner, receiving 25 Chromebooks. As part of that fun video announcement, Mrs. Bramlett shared what a bright spot this has been in the midst of a lot of extraordinary circumstances.

Read on for our conversation with Mrs. Bramlett where we discuss such topics as how Edmentum programs are supporting Geiger Elementary students, what distance learning looks like for her school, and keys to program implementation success.

At Geiger Elementary, students have been using Edmentum’s Study Island for standards mastery and practice as well as Exact Path for academic growth for several years. In the 2019–20 school year, however, you decided to take a step back from Study Island—a decision you’ve since reversed on going into 2020–21. Can you describe that implementation?

Anytime you’re trying to implement technology, you want to make sure that you’re implementing with fidelity. You want to make sure that the teachers are using it for grouping, for reteaching, and supporting instruction in the classroom. It’s always kind of a balancing act as a principal. You want to make sure that you're providing all of the resources possible for your staff, but at the same time, you don't want to overload their plate. And so, I guess we were just really trying to find a balance between our Exact Path implementation as well as also already having Study Island.

Once we got into Exact Path, we realized that Study Island and Exact Path kind of help support each other. So, after taking a year away from Study Island, I kind of realized with the new implementation of Exact Path that we needed both of them to work together.

Can you describe how each program is used by teachers and students?

As far as Exact Path, I know it’s very focused with the NWEA MAP data, so it’s able to provide those learning paths for our students. That’s one thing I really like because it’s meeting the students where they are, but it also gives teachers the flexibility to be able to go in there and make some changes because they know their students.

At my school, we do a fall, winter, and a spring [NWEA MAP testing]. We try to dig into our MAP data and use that to be very strategic on what our students need to help support them. I think anytime you can have continuity with something where you can use the data to be individualized [with the auto-created learning paths in Exact Path], that’s a great aspect of [the program] because all students are different.

As far as Study Island, it can serve as a resource to help reinforce what's currently being taught and to provide practice. My teachers also do some flipping of the classroom with it for some of their students using the videos and activities. For some of those students, it becomes almost an enrichment, and for others, it’s an intervention.

Study Island is especially used when we’re going through a school year and [teachers are] trying to make sure those standards continue to spiral. Teachers want to make sure they’re keeping those standards fresh because they build upon each other. Study Island's pretty good for that, allowing [educators] to be able to go back and practice some of those skills that may not have been mastered the first time and need more support.

Now that students are participating in distance learning for the remainder of the year, how have things changed for your teachers and students?

We’re doing kind of a blended approach. We started packet distribution on March 17, and parents picked up packets. But March 18, we started virtual learning.

I have teachers who log on two times a day, so they have an AM session and PM session for virtual instruction. In case you have a child who’s that late riser and they’re not going to log in or a parent that has something going on, they’re providing the same instruction [at both times]. Our teachers are using Zoom and Google Classroom, and I have teachers who have actually transformed their living rooms or their little breakfast nook into a mini classroom. They’ve got anchor charts, they’ve got calendars, and it’s just amazing to see how teachers are really resilient and going to go the extra mile.

Teachers will do a lesson [virtually], and then they’ll give the students some work to complete. Exact Path follows up to help support what teachers just presented in class as practice. Teachers planned that they were going to do a mini lesson to support [the practice online or via packets], and then on Fridays, they usually do a question-and-answer day to work through the packet. It's been working really well.

What challenges have you experienced so far?

The biggest challenge I think we see is that a lot of our students' parents are still working. It's hard when no one's there to help. But, we do have kids who are faithful. Our teachers have office hours prior to the [virtual] sessions, and we have kids who will log in just to talk to their teacher, which just warms my heart. And then, we have kids who are having some difficulties with Internet access. We’ve been trying to be very cognizant of that as well.

What else have you been doing to ensure success during these challenging times?

We've integrated daily related arts; I wanted to make sure that was happening for our students. Every day from 11:30 AM to 12:30 PM, the kids get related arts. We have Music Monday, Spanish Tuesday, Workout Wednesday, Thrilling Art Thursday, and then Friday is Family Time, where we do a story time with the media specialists.

Overall, what has this experience taught you about what you value in a successful program implementation?

Anytime we implement a program or a platform or a resource, my biggest thing is making sure that we're as intentional as possible and that we are doing it with fidelity. As a teacher, it's really hard when you have different learning styles of students you're trying to address and then also different levels of learning. I want teachers to have a balance; Exact Path and Study Island are great resources.

I would tell any school to make sure that you do a needs assessment [before beginning program implementation]. Make sure that you’re looking at your data, looking at the needs of your students as well as your staff, and then, really get input from your staff on what it is that they feel would help them meet the needs of their students. Then, look at your master schedule to make sure that you have time built in to implement with fidelity.

All in all, Edmentum’s programs are just one piece of the much-larger puzzle helping educators and students successfully implement new practices to reach all students. Interested in more information about distance learning? Check out Edmentum’s support page for learning during school closures.

madison.michell's picture

Madison Michell has been a member of the Edmentum team since 2014 and currently serves as a Marketing Manager. As a former Kindergarten and 3rd grade teacher during her time as a Teach For America corps member, she believes education truly has the power to transform lives. She is passionate about connecting educators with online programs, best practices, and research that improve teaching and learning for today's students.