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LOA tackles education gaps with personalized learning

December 11, 2020 - 00:00
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    LOA CEO Dr. Otho Tucker (left) and Board Chair Mark Lipscomb listen to a presentation at the LOA Board of Governors meeting Monday, December 7. MARK ENGEL/Staffed

A recent study of the reading test scores of about 90 students in fourth grade at Lake Oconee Academy found skill levels ranging from early second grade to as high as 12 th grade. Math ranged from late first grade to seventh grade. Among the sixth graders at LOA, reading levels were as low as first grade and as high as 12 th grade

Those are just samples from an internal study reported on Monday, Dec. 7, to the LOA Board of Governors. The span of skill levels of key courses in the same grade is a challenge facing teachers at schools everywhere.

“We have classrooms where the achievement levels stretch 10 grade levels,” said Jennifer Harper, LOA’s instructional coordinator for grades fourth through eighth. “So, we can’t just keep doing what we’ve done because we have to grow every child and we have to get them progressing.”

The study found scores were better among kids who spent more time at LOA.

The focus of the presentation was the status of LOA’s shift to a Personalized Learning and Instruction strategy. It is all about creating individual instruction plans for each child rather than teaching an entire classroom at the same level.

Since fall of 2019, LOA has had a relationship with a program called iTeach at Kennesaw State University that is designed to train educators on ways to focus on individual students.

Groups of teachers are assigned iTeach coaches who work with them as sounding boards and help with new developing strategies.

“They’re working with the staff to help them identify strengths with the students, weaknesses, things that they’re interested in, all with the purpose of helping craft a learning pathway for students,” Harper said.

After they go through the initial training, teachers have to identify a problem in their room and develop a plan with administrators and their iTeach coach. It has to be implemented and then evaluated.

Coaching even includes taking advantage of the new technical skills they must learn.

There are a dozen or so different software programs that students and teachers must use for education, evaluation and implementation. LOA has adopted a program called CANVAS that pulls them all together.

The term “playlist” no longer refers to your favorite music. Teachers and students create individual daily lesson plans, called playlists, made up of learning modules. Students will click through each activity in their modules which include teaching and testing. Since it’s online, kids at home and in class can access it.

The LOA Board was told that the plan is to have every teacher trained in personalized learning by the end of the school year with the hope of increasing the skills of every student at every level.

In other news:

- Two new members were elected to the Board of Governors. Dr. Kristina Bahr is an Associate Professor in the School of Social Work and Institute for Nonprofit Organizations at UGA. Dr. Elizabeth Plaza, who graduated from the University of Puerto Rico with a Pharmaceutical Sciences degree, is the Chair of compliance support and consulting company Pharma-Bio Serv.

-LOA CEO Dr. Otho Tucker reported that 77 percent of the school’s 61 seniors have already applied to college and 39 percent have been accepted.