After quickly adapting to online teaching and learning last spring out of necessity, IDEA leadership is spending the summer incubating innovative ideas to intentionally transform scholars’ experience this fall. A key component of the new approach will be the creation of individualized learning plans for every single IDEA scholar. These plans--not to be confused with individual education plans (IEP) mandated for students with disabilities--will be comprehensive, including scholars’ academic and career and technical education courses, strategies to help them reach college and career goals, and use of technology to maximize opportunities and self-paced learning for scholars as needed.
IDEA’s 12-hour Leadership Development Institute, facilitated by City Bridge, enabled teachers and staff to explore new ideas about how to keep members of the school community connected with each other and engaged and motivated to learn in the midst of an ongoing public health crisis.
Three areas of focus emerged from the innovation lab experience.
1. Individualized Learning Plans “When we analyzed the data from scholars during the period when the school building was closed, we realized some scholars truly excelled in the virtual world,” explained Principal Nicole McCrae. “Their engagement, attention, and performance skyrocketed compared to their in-school achievements.” Other scholars, however, struggled with online learning, and some were in the middle, performing well sometimes and not so much at other times. “We understand that it’s necessary to work with every single scholar to determine their comfort level with online learning and provide options to develop a plan based on what they need. If scholars are showing that they can accelerate, we may offer courses through APEX online learning, dual enrollment with colleges and universities, or independent studies. For some scholars these options could place them on track to graduate early.
As IDEA considers moving away from the traditional schedule including several class periods each day, some scholars may attend school in person two days a week to focus on the classes where they benefit most from live classroom instruction, access tutoring online as needed, and check in with their mentors via email.
2. Technology Support for Teachers Transitioning from leading discussions from the front of your classroom and using the tools and tricks developed through years of teaching to trying to engage and motivate your students in a virtual environment is tough. IDEA is developing innovative ways to prepare teachers and staff for the coming school year and support them with the professional development needed to succeed in a completely new classroom environment.
3. Integrating Social and Emotional Learning with College and Career Planning Using the advisory period in which small groups of scholars engage with a teacher who guides them through the school year, IDEA will ensure advisory teachers continue to connect with scholars even during distance learning, so scholars feel consistently supported. Advisory will serve as the platform for social and emotional learning opportunities as well as college and career planning sessions.
Scholars who are participating in IDEA’s Summer Jobs program as Student Leadership interns are working alongside IDEA staff to develop, test, and refine the programs and practices in these three areas that will transform the educational experience for scholars this fall.