Lashawn Caldwell, the principal of R.V. Daniels Elementary School in Jacksonville, Florida, is not a person who likes to “toot her own horn”—not even when she has an excellent reason to do so.
In spring 2020, R.V. Daniels Elementary School was faced with the same tribulations as any other school forced to suddenly change from in-person to virtual learning: adapting instruction for online delivering, checking on students’ emotional well-being, and determining how to get meals to students who relied on them.
Despite the upheaval and lack of structure, R.V. Daniels educators made sure learning continued like they and their students were still in the classroom. Their efforts led to the entire student body having a 100 percent connectivity rate (meaning that 100 percent of students met their weekly usage goals) for i-Ready Personalized Instruction, Curriculum Associates’ standards-based, online learning program. R.V. Daniels students’ median lessons completed came to 59, and their median pass rate was 86 percent.
R.V. Daniels’ accomplishments have earned them a place among what the Educator Success team at Curriculum Associates is calling “spotlights of hope”: schools that figured out how to ensure learning continued in spring 2020 despite many obstacles.
When Curriculum Associates interviewed Caldwell to see if she had advice or insight into her school’s success that might help other educators, the word “consistent” came up again and again: consistent use of
i-Ready Personalized Instruction, consistent communication with families, consistent teacher recognition, and more. Consistency, it turns out, is why R.V. Daniels was able to make learning continue for its 375 students.
Below, we share highlights from our conversation with Caldwell. Though R.V. Daniels Elementary uses
i-Ready for assessments and online personalized learning, the strategies and tips Caldwell shares are useful even if you do not use Curriculum Associates programs.
Duval County Public Schools (DCPS), to which R.V. Daniels belongs, gives all its schools curricula and corresponding resources. Caldwell said she is grateful for this. “I wish I had [these resources] when I was in the classroom,” she said. A district-supplied curriculum ensures that grades across the district have access to the same materials and are subject to the same expectations.
Seventy-nine percent of R.V. Daniels’ student population has socioeconomic disadvantages, and many students do not have devices at home or reliable internet service. Once it became clear that students wouldn’t be returning to their classrooms, the district supplied students with devices and hotspots. (Read an earlier post about how educators are tackling tech issues during remote learning.)
As remote learning continued month after month, R.V. Daniels’ teachers altered the ways they used their software programs. For example, the communication platform Microsoft Teams® was meant to be for school staff, but once teachers realized it was a good way to deliver information to students and families, they expanded access. Now educators use Teams to organize information for classes, including assignments and resources.
Caldwell explained that when students moved from brick-and-mortar classrooms to virtual classrooms, they knew the move would make no difference to how much time their teachers would expect them to be spending on their online lessons (in this case, i-Ready Personalized Instruction). “We've been doing this for years,” she said. “It’s just part of the culture. It's a norm, you know?”
DCPS has used i-Ready and personalized, online learning for several years. “If a new teacher comes in, it’s not long before we start saying, ‘Hey, I need those i-Ready minutes,’” Caldwell explained. “Every teacher K–2 has an i-Ready tracking board in their room with their kids. And it's not all about passing or usage. They track i-Ready for the kids in their room.” The visual tracking displays are a way to encourage students to own their learning and data.
“It goes back to the same thing: consistency. We've been doing this for years. It's just part of the culture. It's a norm.”
When R.V. Daniels needed to systematize how educators would communicate with families in spring 2020, Caldwell said her school had an advantage in that its educators had strong parent–school relationships far before distance learning. Educators shared student assessment results with families regularly and let them know that families needed to be a part of their students’ learning team. The pre-COVID-19 message to families (“we need you to be involved in your children’s education”) stayed the same. “We want [families] to know so they can help us,” Caldwell said. “We can't do it alone.”
Reaching families during distance learning wasn’t always a seamless process. If teachers found that a student was not logging on for online lessons, they called the student’s home. If they didn’t reach anyone after repeated tries, teachers submitted nonresponsive students’ names to the district and the district then sent someone to students’ homes to check on them.
Celebrations and friendly competition are part of the R.V. Daniels culture. Teachers are celebrated when their students are making their online lesson quotas. Students are celebrated as they pass lessons and progress.
It was hardly surprising that Caldwell requested Curriculum Associates’ help with another celebration. She wanted to share with teachers how well their students had done and what a huge accomplishment it was to have a 100 percent lesson connectivity rate and how great a job they did at keeping student expectations high.
“The one thing that I can think about right now is that I would love for a five-minute Zoom™ shoutout [to the teachers],” Caldwell said. “I think it will be better coming from Curriculum Associates—how wonderful they did . . . . I do want to share this during my faculty meetings one day next week. I do want to make this a big deal.”
Microsoft Teams® is a registered trademark of Microsoft, Inc.
Zoom™ is a trademark of Zoom Video Communications, Inc.
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