By Stefanie Jackson – Northampton schools Associate Superintendent Jaime Cole says teachers are continuing to see the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic on education from a year and a half of students not being in classrooms and suffering learning losses.
She reviewed the Virginia Tiered Systems of Supports, or VTSS, which is used by Virginia’s public schools to establish supports for students’ academic, behavioral, and social-emotional needs.
For each type of student need, students are divided into three groups: Tier 1, Tier 2, and Tier 3. Students who need the least assistance are in Tier 1, which should include 80% to 85% of students in a given class. Students in Tier 1 benefit from whole-group instruction.
Students who need some additional supports are in Tier 2, which should include 15% to 20% of students. An example of a typical Tier 2 support is small-group instruction.
Students who need intensive, individualized supports are in Tier 3, which should include only 1% to 5% of students. An example of a Tier 3 support is school tutoring.
But during the COVID-19 pandemic, students have fallen behind in their learning, which has turned the entire system “upside down,” said Cole.
“And this is happening all over the country … especially for elementary students,” she said.
Now as much as 70% of students need intensive supports, and all Northampton schools must “revamp” instruction.
For example, many fifth grade students may need to be retaught material from third grade (the grade they were in when the COVID-19 pandemic began) in addition to the fifth-grade curriculum.
Cole said teachers were surveyed on their opinions of the new curriculum and the results were mixed. Middle school science teachers “love it,” but not all elementary school teachers approve.
She told school board members that if they hear complaints about the curriculum, they should understand that teachers haven’t had much time yet to adjust to it.
FAST academic test results are in for all four Northampton schools, and the passing rates for each school were: Kiptopeke Elementary, 30% in reading and 53% in math; Occohannock Elementary, 34% in reading and 32% in math; Northampton Middle, 45% in reading and 44% in math; and Northampton High, 72% in reading and 37% in math.
But the results of “data walks” or classroom visitations conducted in September by Cole and a principal at both the middle and high schools suggested that teachers are doing what it takes to set up their students for academic success.
At Northampton Middle School, 100% of classes that were observed had posted objectives aligned with the lesson being taught, displayed student work and classroom behavior expectations, and demonstrated a “caring, nurturing, respectful, and positive” learning environment; 100% of teachers observed had incorporated technology in the lesson and given students clear feedback; 100% of students were on task.
At Northampton High School, 100% of students who were observed were on task; 90% of classes displayed student work and classroom behavior expectations; 90% of classes exhibited positivity attitudes and composure between students and staff; and 80% of lessons observed provided examples of real-world applications.
Additional successes Cole reported included no student suspensions at Kiptopeke Elementary in September and a 92% student attendance rate at both Kiptopeke Elementary and Northampton Middle in September.
She reported September student attendance rates of nearly 89% at Northampton High and 77% at Occohannock Elementary; the school division’s goal is a 95% attendance rate at each school.
Superintendent Eddie Lawrence reported that on Oct. 6, six Northampton students were positive for COVID-19 and 13 were quarantined; one staff member was positive for COVID-19 and two were quarantined.
Those numbers had dropped a week later. As of Oct. 13, one student was positive for COVID-19 and seven students were quarantined; no staff member was positive for COVID-19 and one was quarantined.