In an effort to design a long-term strategic plan for the future of Kent County schools, “Learning Walks”—a school-by-school assessment—was carried out in January by KCPS Superintendent Dr. Karen Couch, staff, and facilitator Gina Jachimowicz, director of teaching and learning.
Superintendent Couch says the Learning Walks were not designed as “gotcha” probes but a way to learn what was happening in the classroom on both the student and teacher levels and identify best practices so that those qualities could be shared throughout the school system.
“The big takeaway for me was the opportunity to reinforce and to augment what we are doing in our district strategic plan. We have three main academic goals; the first is early learning and intervention, so we have a strong foundation for our students. Our second is equitable access to rigorous curriculum and instruction and providing a learning array of professional learning opportunities for our staff,” she says.
Aside from the many positives, the staff also found that two years of Covid shutdowns and remote education presented its own set of problems, including a documented learning loss experienced by all schools locally and statewide. Additionally, the team saw a problem with resocialization after the students returned to school. Two years of connecting with friends through social media, and an enhanced addiction to cell phones is requiring students to relearn social skills along with following a stricter cell phone policy.
“The social and emotional needs our students returned with surprised us,” Dr. Couch says. Noting that 50 % of students in Kent County were either home-schooled or learning through virtual instructions requires a reintegration into face-to-face communication. “We had to re-teach what the appropriate ways to respond to one another instead of automatically getting angry at a comment in social media.”
Dr. Couch is clear about addressing the fact that teachers are doing a great job meeting the needs of students in Kent County despite the challenges of its small county status. One of those challenges is recognizing the concentration of poverty in our communities. According to a presentation by the new State Superintendent, students experiencing poverty have 22 times the difficulty of meeting curriculum standards.
In this interview, the Spy talked with Superintendent Couch about the significance of the Learnings Walks, the impact two years of the pandemic has had on students, and her hopes for the future of education in Kent County.
Next week we will publish an interview with Gina Jachimowicz, director of teaching and learning, where she discusses how the Learning Walks were constructed, Professional Development Day, and how parents and other county residents can help, even as teachers if qualified through alternative licensing training.
This video is approximately nine minutes in length.