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Overview of EnVision 2030 discussed at school board meeting

By MEGHAN BRADBURY / news@breezenewspapers.com - | Nov 3, 2020

Although the Lee County School District has faced many challenges since COVID-19 spread through the community, causing the district to switch to virtual learning, before reopening with a face-to-face learning model this year, the school board was informed that there has been substantial progress related to the Big 5 of the EnVision 2030 district strategic plan.

“We have still seen some substantial progress as it relates to the Big 5,” Superintendent Dr. Greg Adkins said. “It is not all bad news. We were concerned, obviously with the shut down in March and with the transition to distance learning, we would have a significant impact. There are impacts, but the team is working diligently to minimize and mitigate those impacts.”

The Big 5 superintendent goals are student achievement, expanded learning opportunities; kindergarten readiness, expand and improve Pre-K; college and career readiness, expand career and technical opportunities; workforce success, increase retention and efficiency; and effectiveness and proximity based student assignment.

Continuous Improvement Director Cindy McClung began the board presentation earlier this month by sharing that when Adkins brought Vision2020 to the district, they could not have had any way to imagine what 2020 would look like.

“It has been an amazing year. Luckily we did have a strong strategic plan to keep us focused. It has kept us focused on our purpose and vision to be a world class school system and our mission to ensure every student achieves his or her highest potential,” she said. “Last year we rolled out core values not realizing how important they would become this year … excellence, integrity and high expectations … making sure everyone has everything they need maintaining health and safety and be able to work and learn in the environment.”

McClung asked the board members to think back to this past summer when the district was sharing information with the community on a daily basis with the challenges that were coming before them with COVID-19. With high expectations and challenging goals, the district, she said, changed to virtual learning in two weeks. Then, in a little less than two months, McClung said they made sure every family had a least three learning model options to choose from for their child when schools opened in August.

“We have become so individualized over the past few months trying very hard to meet the needs of each child and make sure they have everything they need in order to meet their academic, social and emotional needs,” she said. “While the district has come such a long way since March, the passion of our teachers to be able to get through this and the passion of our team at the district to provide resources and support to meet those needs of those teachers, the focus has been student success.”

The workforce, McClung said, has been challenged like never before. The success has been with family and community engagement, workforce success and continuous improvement.

The key strategic initiatives for 2021-2025 include increasing the focus on meeting needs of the whole student; continue to focus on instructional alignment; continue to foster a culture of high performance; continue focus on physical and emotional safety; expand key technological innovations; continue focus on business and community partnerships; realign divisional structure/resources; and continue deployment of systemic processes.

“I think you have seen some tremendous progress over the last five years for proficiency gain, achievement gap, graduation rates and elimination of DA schools,”Adkins said.

He said more than a year ago he saw some additional focus that had not shown the progress he would have liked to see for Pre-K involvement.

“That is really a game changer for our community and extremely important,” Adkins said. “I really recognize that the school district has to take the lead and extend a hand to partners to make sure Lee County students have a quality experience. We put together an aggressive goal for 2030 and we make substantial progress every year.”

He also addressed the workforce and its preparedness through expansion of the district’s technical colleges.

“That is something critically important. We haven’t had an initiative in that way as far as the Lee County School District is concerned,” Adkins said of expanding Fort Myers Technical College. “We are looking at the East (Zone) and expanding opportunities in Cape Coral. Cape Coral is the biggest city and the technical facility is relatively small.”

ACADEMICS

The first part of the lengthy discussion addressed the fiscal year 2020 results and the targets of fiscal year 2021 for increasing academic success.

Elementary Curriculum and Instruction Director Dr. Bethany Quisenberry said the first quarter action steps started with creating a Lee Home Connect task force, which consisted of more than 50 teachers and district staff members working together to create a instructional continuity plan for the model. There has been weekly Zoom office hours to give additional support.

In addition, Quisenberry said they purchased Nearpod, which is an interactive instructional program for both students and teachers. She said teachers are able to use the program with Lee Home Connect students, as well as face-to-face by providing a quick formative assessment and collaboration with students to help guide teacher instruction.

“It’s helpful in hybrid classes,” Quisenberry said.

Another action step is providing Leading & Learning, which close to 1,000 teachers have attended. The first training was held in July and then September, all virtually, to provide resources and knowledge, which is then brought back to the schools. Another training will be held in December, so the district can continue to work on rigor and standard pace through instructional intervention.

Quisenberry said they have also provided more than 300 professional development opportunities since the beginning of the school year. She said a little more than 3,000 of their teachers have attended an adoptive curriculum opportunity, which includes basic content knowledge and best practices for iReady.

Other measures include monthly assistant principal meetings that are curriculum based, as well as best practices and support for each of the instructional models.

There were many objectives and goals under academics. One of the goals is to increase ELA proficiency to be the highest of Florida’s 10 largest districts.

The baseline for 2020-2021 showed that 37 percent of elementary students are proficient, 51 percent for middle school students and 42 percent for high school students. During 2020-2021, 20 new elementary schools, as well as all middle schools, joined the iReady pilot, which shows proficiency based upon where the student should be at the end of the school year.

Quisenberry said iReady is only done in the spring and the data represents where students need to be, where they are and where they should be at the end of the school year.

For mathematics, again 20 new elementary schools and all middle schools joined the iReady pilot. For the 2020-2021 baseline, 15 percent of elementary school students were proficient, 32 percent of middle schools, 41 percent of Algebra students and 39 percent of geometry students were proficient.

Curriculum & Instructional Innovation Assistant Director Candace Allevato touched upon achievement gaps, starting with decreasing the achievement gaps between student groups in ELA.

“This is one of the pieces that when we looked at our baseline data this year we were excited to notice that with everything going on with quarter four and the start of this school year, we continue to close the achievement gap between each of our subgroups,” she said. “The ELL population, we stayed stagnant the last two years. (When) looking at baseline data this year and our students, English Language Learners and non English Language Learners, we are closing the gap. We are continuing to close those gaps.”

The data that was shown to the board, Allevato said, as a curriculum team they are beginning to tier the schools based on content need for ELA, mathematics, science and social studies.

“We are continuing to meet with schools via Zoom and joining their Lee Home Connect classrooms, their hybrid classrooms and now strategically meeting with their PLCs in areas that thy see and would like additional support,” she explained.

Summer school was also highlighted during the presentation by Continuous Improvement Coordinator Erin Groenveld.

“When I looked at this once we were putting it together and saw the amount of students that we were actually able to serve this summer, it was amazing to me in the situation we were in when it was super easy to let the summer go. Lots of the big 10 districts canceled everything. Lee County took this in in weeks and created something that impacted positively, even if it kept them engaged,” she said.

For fiscal year 2020, 280 ESY students were served during the summer; 195 VPK students; 1,819 credit recovery students; 12,224 expanded learning students; 499 high school intervention students; and 139 GEER Grant students for a total of 15,156 students. Unfortunately the district was not able to continue its third grade reading camp, SOS, Title I/SAS, ELL Camps and Algebra 1 Camp this summer.

During the fiscal year 2019 summer, a total of 4,801 students were served, with students partaking in every program but expanded learning and GEER Grant.

“In November we are going to dive much deeper into the data. We are diligently working on comparative data and comparing scores of those attending,” Groenveld said, adding that they will also look at credit recovery to make sure they are giving students opportunities to graduate and move onto the next grade level.

The GEER Grant is ongoing, as the second part offers after school and Saturday school intervention for the lowest 300 schools, which six elementary schools have fallen to on the state list. The after school tutoring is offered two days a week to levels one and two in 3rd, 4th and 5th grades, while one school is holding Saturday sessions, which all go through Oct. 31 when the grant runs out.

District staffers said they typically see a drop in their baseline data over the summer and in the fourth quarter. The district stated that it saw an increase in its middle school students, as its 6th graders were testing like 7th graders and 7th graders were testing like 8th grade students.

Chief of Staff Lauren Stillwell touched upon expanding learning opportunities within the district. She said they have expanded the Century 21 Grant, which provides after school tutoring for students at Fort Myers Middle Academy and Manatee Elementary.

“The new grant is for five years and it is going to provide an additional school counselor to concentrate on emotional and social learning for students at Tice Elementary, Lehigh Elementary and Franklin Park,” Stillwell said. “The grant will also provide after school tutoring for these students.”

The district has also started conversations with the Boys & Girls Club, and last year it began talking with the YMCA, in regards to expanding the district’s enrichment goals.

“We had some grants for offering summer programs at our schools, but due to COVID-19, we had to unfortunately pull some of that back. Luckily we were able to offer summer programs at Cypress Lake Middle School through the YMCA for five weeks and they serviced about 25-30 students a week. We looked at that as a positive because we were able to test it out and it went really, really well,” she said, adding that they are looking at possibly expanding it a little larger for this summer.

Another expanded learning opportunity fell under the “Kids Read Now” program, which is a national program it hoped to begin last summer. Stillwell said they are back on track for this summer after COVID-19 interfered with launching the program this past summer.

Students, with the help of teachers, will select nine books they want to read, which will be provided to them in either English, or Spanish. To launch the program, schools will host a Reading Night, which most likely will happen in the spring for families to attend.

“Families will attend that and receive the first three of the nine books. At that point parents provide summer contact information and they agree to help with summer reading,” Stillwell said. “Over the summer kids read a book and talk about it with their parents, or guardian. At the front of each book there are talking points and discussion questions, so parents actually have a guide to ask their children.”

When the child is done reading his or her grade level book, the parent will email, call or text a contact number to have a book sent through the mail directly to them.

“We are going to offer this to approximately 3,500 students in 2nd grade classes in our tiered three schools and use Title I funds,” she said.

INCREASED KINDERGARTEN READINESS

Early Childhood Learning Services Director Dr. Marcia Bur said the district’s target for fiscal year 2020 for the percentage of Pre-K students identified as prepared for kindergarten was 45 percent. She said they hit 41 percent.

“Data comes from the first 30 days of kindergarten,” she explained. “This year’s kindergarten students have already taken the test and the data doesn’t come out of the state until January, or February,” Bur said.

The state has changed which kindergarten students take the test to those retained, bilingual students and those that did not pass the practice test. She said their Lee Home Connect students did not have to go to the schools to take it this year, which will result in less numbers.

Another goal was to increase the percentage of student growth on the VPK assessment to exceed 80 percent.

The fiscal year 2020 target was 81 percent for phonological awareness; 82 percent for math and 81 percent for oral language. The actual was 37 percent for phonological awareness, 56 percent for math and 61 percent for oral language.

Bur said they were not able to administer the assessment for the actual, which was given the last 30 days of school.

“The pre and mid are more informative in nature,” she said of the assessment given 30 days of school beginning and again in January. “The fourth quarter data shows they have met all the kindergarten readiness skills.”

Head Start Program Coordinator Tiffany Franklin shared data regarding the percentage of chronically absent pre-kindergarten students, which the district wants to reduce from 32 percent to 25 percent. The actual was 26 percent for fiscal year 2020.

The district has begun a Pre-K expansion project.

“We are only in the planning stages of $1.2 million. We will be able to raise the rest of the funds to erect those two buildings,” she said in the East Zone.

COLLEGE, CAREER READINESS

Adult & Career Education Instructor Shawn Davis spoke about increasing the percentage of students graduating with at least one industry certification. The district wants everyone of its students to graduate with a high school diploma, but also leave with an earned certification.

The fiscal year target was 50 percent of its students with the actual percentage coming in at 45 percent.

There is also a goal of increasing the number of business and community partners involved in CTE programs and initiates by at least 200 percent.

Davis said there is a good opportunity to now officially start tracking how many business partners the district has.

“We sent out to every person who ever said I would like to be involved in CTE to a career advisory board and allowed them to pick which high school,” Davis said, adding that there are 44 actual businesses represented in the career advisory board.

Adult education was also highlighted for those adult language learners and people seeking their high school diplomas. If the students stay with the adult education for 12 hours of instruction they are considered enrolled in the program. Over the summer, the program was switched to online and it attracted students from other countries, including Russia, as well as other states.

There are normally 2,000 students enrolled in the fall. Currently the district has three physical sites and one online with 1,000 students.

WORKFORCE

Chief Human Resources Officer Dr. Angela Pruitt said COVID-19 impacted her data in a positive way.

“People were afraid to leave their job. As a result it has positively impacted our turnover and retention rate. The numbers look great for school base instructional personnel,” she said.

As far as retention for teachers, the district moved in a positive direction, but they still did not meet their goal. The target is to be fifth out of 12 similar sized districts.

Pruitt said this year instead of looking at the openings on the first day of school only in core areas, they transitioned to look simply at positions opened on the first day of school.

“There were 56 openings on the first day of school,” she said.

OPERATION KEY PROCESSES

Chief Operations Officer Dr. Ken Savage spoke about preparing school leaders to execute critical incident protocols at their school sites. He said the training was optional before he began the position to ensuring at least one administrator elected to be trained in the protocol.

“It isn’t efficient to have one administrator on the site trained,” Savage said, adding that all administrators need to know what to do in a crisis.

The measure was changed again to include all administrators at each site needs to be trained.

There are currently 39 percent of all administrators at each site fully trained.