Dropout Prevention Update
From the National Dropout Prevention Center
November 2020—Vol. 20, No. 5
Learning experiences can be individualized, differentiated, or personalized (combining paced and tailored learning with flexibility in content or theme to fit the interests, preferences, and prior experiences of each learner). In a fully personalized environment, the learning objectives and content, as well as the method and pace, may all vary (so personalization encompasses differentiation and individualization).
Throughout the on-going pandemic, the face of individualized instruction has transformed alongside classroom settings, opening new opportunities for outreach to students. At West Middleton Elementary Schools in Madison, Wisconsin, virtual small group learning sessions are utilized to focus on individualized instruction for younger students. In the small groups, the instructor prioritizes checking in with the students and working with them one on one outside of full class sessions. Through the small groups that focus on one subject at a time, about 90% of the students are engaged.
Another opportunity that has come alongside the challenge of online education is the flexibility of schedules. While deadlines still exist, one professor at Cornell University offers students options of three different methods of group interaction: regularly scheduled virtual office hours, weekly review sessions focused on content from specific units, and student-scheduled individual (or small group) tutoring sessions with the course staff. Results indicate that students prefer and perform the best with individualized sessions. The course was adapted so that students could work through the entire course at their own pace with the help of support staff.
A new survey from the University of Virginia found that an overwhelming majority of teachers and administrators expect students to need more personalized instruction this fall to mitigate the impacts of the crisis on the learning experience. The survey, using a national sample of over 700 educators, found that 82% of respondents believe students will need more individualized instruction to meet their needs. “The results of this research underscore the critical role that technology must play in helping schools provide individualized — and equitable — instruction in the coming months,” Dr. Robert Pianta, dean of the Curry School of Education commented.
Safe Learning Environments
Safe, orderly, nurturing, inclusive, and inviting learning environments help students realize their potential as individuals and as engaged members of society. All students need to be safe, physically, and emotionally; to be expected to achieve; to be recognized and celebrated equitably for accomplishments; and to feel genuinely welcomed and supported. A safe and orderly learning environment provides both physical and emotional security as well as daily experiences, at all grade levels, that enhance positive social attitudes and effective interpersonal skills. A comprehensive discipline plan and violence prevention plan should include conflict resolution strategies and should deal with potential violence as well as crisis management. A safe, nurturing, and responsive learning environment supports all students, teachers, cultures, and subgroups; honors and supports diversity and social justice; treats students equitably; and recognizes the need for feedback, innovation, and second chances.
A safe learning environment has taken on a new meaning as many of our nation’s students learning environments now extend far outside of brick and mortar school buildings into their homes. While the location may have changed, the challenges are the same as mental health is still a top concern. With nearly a quarter of people in the United States experiencing symptoms of depression, and lower socioeconomic groups being disproportionately affected, students who were already struggling may be even further behind. One in five COVID-19 patients develops mental illness within 90 days one study has found. According to child-protection officials child abuse is higher than before the pandemic, yet child abuse reports are falling because of a lack of reporting and the abuse happens behind closed doors. The ability to act in a trauma-skilled manner is more critical now than ever before as the pressures and dangers facing students are unprecedented. Schools need to work as a network with a defined culture and expectations with everyone in the building involved. One free tool that can better connect resources is Impero back:drop which allows authorized school staff members to record student wellbeing concerns and also access and share histories for each student to obtain a full picture of that student’s health and wellbeing. Mental Health America has an Outreach Toolkit that provides resources for reaching out and connecting with students in this new pandemic environment.
While physical environments still pose challenges for students and staff, virtual environments also need attention and upkeep to be safe for education. Districts must emphasize cybersecurity throughout the pandemic and set a standard as the new normal is established. Campus Safety Magazine recommends using enhanced cybersecurity suites that can protect entire systems. One system is the ManageMethods that acts as a Google Classroom security measure that protects systems from external attacks and entries from other countries and scans internal work for cyberbullying, self-harm, explicit content, and personally identifiable information. Campus Safety also warns that many districts' hybrid online systems are falling to ransomware and gives suggestions to combat security problems.
Many schools provide afterschool, before-school, and/or summer academic/ enhancement/enrichment opportunities (e.g., tutoring, credit recovery, acceleration, homework support, etc.) that provide students with opportunities for assistance and recovery as well as high-interest options for discovery and learning. These opportunities often decrease information loss and can inspire interest in arenas otherwise inaccessible. Such experiences are especially important for at-risk students because out-of-school “gap time” is filled with constructive and engaging activities and/or needed academic support.
Afterschool opportunities look different during a global pandemic as many buildings are closed or only open with limited compacity. In Philadelphia, the Parks and Recreation Department is running an afterschool program that encourages students to unplug when class is over. The program Afterschool Unplugged allows students to participate in skills and drills programs, such as flag football, soccer, and basketball, as well as arts and crafts. The program takes place with small groups of children at the city’s park centers. The Los Angeles County Department of Parks and Recreation is also offering outdoor afterschool programs. The free programs are focused on every child having a memorable experience and making friends, by encouraging creativity and an appreciation for fun and fitness.
In Charleston, West Virginia, students are participating in a socially distant Cooking from a Distance program where students follow leaders in cooking lessons. The health-centered program focuses on involving students and family in an out-of-school program that is connected by social media.
Delano Union School District in Bakersfield, California, is reworking one of its old afterschool annual events to showcase student success. The Lights On Afterschool event will take place virtually this year to showcase the talents of students in the district after-school programs. The event brings together students, parents, educators, policymakers, community members, and others to show their support for after-school programs.
Deadline: February 14, 2021
Awards ranging from $2,500 to $10,000 are given to provide funds to improve school libraries for disadvantaged children. Founded by a former school librarian, this foundation exists to put books in the hands of students. In a time when many schools are reallocating their funds to technology and audiovisual equipment, Snapdragon Book Foundation hopes to make sure that school libraries are still offering children good books to read. Grant funding is to be spent on traditional books, processing or cataloging fees, reference materials for student use, and magazine or newspaper subscriptions.
Deadline: May 31, Annually
Grants of up to $20,000 are awarded in the areas of education, the arts, social welfare, and medical research. Funding is intended for special projects that could not otherwise be realized. Previous grants were used to fund international baccalaureate programs at charter schools, outreach programs for abused and neglected children and youth, projects for children on the autism spectrum, and housing programs for at-risk teenagers.
Deadline: January 6, 2021, Rolling
Awards vary for programs that actively engage in removing structural racial inequities, advancing racial equality, increasing opportunity to achieve sustainable change in communities, and efforts to help local communities recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. Applicants may propose programming in any CNCS focus area to aid communities as they recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. Within the education focus area, grants provide support for school readiness, prekindergarten through grade 12 success, and postsecondary support.
Deadline: January 11, 2021, Rolling
Awards vary for research that integrates both learning and technological goals to enable radical improvements in learning within educational and work environments. Cyberlearning research in this program should be informed by the convergence of multiple disciplines: education and learning sciences; computer and information science and engineering; and cognitive, behavioral, and social sciences. Projects should be exploratory and experimental. Proposals should investigate innovative technologies for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) learning and teaching within the educational and work settings. All projects must address a learning need of opportunity and must have integrated learning and technology goals.
Deadline: January 15, 2021
Awards range from $15,000 to $25,000 to support projects connecting schools with communities around international children’s literature and programs building professional development resources for teachers that internationalize the US history perspectives taught in middle and high school.
Deadline: January 25, 2021
Grants of up to $750,00 are awarded to fund exploratory and experimental research in learning technologies to prepare learners to excel in work at the human-technology frontier. The program responds to the national need to educate and reeducate a new generation of learners of all types and ages, including students, teachers, and workers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics content areas to enable functioning in a highly technological environment. Projects should explore proof of concept or feasibility of a novel or innovative learning technology. New ideas are encouraged, particularly risky ones. Projects should be informed by multiple disciplines: education and learning science; computer and information science and engineering; and cognitive, behavioral, and social sciences. A major goal of the program is to foster lifelong learning with and through technology, particularly within the context of the work setting. The National Science Foundation seeks transformative proposals that integrate advances in what is known about how people learn with opportunities offered by new and emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence and virtual or augmented environments. The program focuses on formal and informal learning settings.
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