For years, online education has crept into school curricula, but in response to the coronavirus pandemic, local administrators have opened the floodgates to virtual learning as part of “distance education”. .
Moving from fully face-to-face teaching, or even partial virtual teaching, requires licensing agreements with different software companies. As the school returns to what looks more like pre-pandemic conditions, administrators are looking at each software vendor to find redundancies so teachers, students and families can make the most of their time.
Two of the most widely used programs for elementary students that TPS currently maintains agreements with are Istation and Reflex Math.
Istation is a reading, math, and writing assessment and instruction program for K-12 students. It uses an adaptive curriculum to flag students who need remedial instruction.
“The state has read sufficiency laws that require you to do some type of program for a screen or for read sufficiency, and Istation is on that approved list. That’s why this particular program was chosen,” said Tanya Jones, executive director of elementary education and special programs at TPS.
Istation teaches both reading and math, but the reason TPS chose the platform is the state’s reading requirement.
“This program is not intended to replace a teacher. It’s all about filtering and seeing where a child is, and that helps us be able to group children accordingly on skills that might be lagging,” she said. .
Each month, students take an ISIP test, which assesses students’ abilities and examines where they gained or lost during the month. Teachers use the results to group students for remedial learning.
“We can then group them with kids who lack those kinds of skills. This gives us a level 2 intervention. It is not intended to teach reading. It’s meant to help us assess where we are at, and it offers a bit of intervention, in addition to traditional teaching,” Jones said.
The district also uses the math component of Istation, although it is not required by law.
Reflex Math is an educational program that adapts to each student. When students answer a question correctly, the game becomes more challenging and when they make a mistake, it adapts to reinforce the lesson.
Every day, many students must answer enough questions to receive a “green light”, which can take a minute or two. Other students are struggling to get a green light in the allotted time. Another challenge arises if a student answers too many questions correctly too quickly; the game will ask questions beyond the ability or level of education of the students.
Jones said some students were getting tired of Reflex Math. Like any software, she thinks it’s a good idea to change the game so it doesn’t become tedious.
This year, Jessica Morrison took over the role of elementary technology coach.
“She’s been absolutely fantastic. She’s very knowledgeable about the curriculum. She’s been a very successful teacher for many years and she’s helped streamline the elementary curriculum,” Jones said.
Jones and Morrison examine each program for which TPS is authorized, and they look for lessons that are redundant or unnecessary for TPS standards. The purpose of this selection is to find out which software is most effective before the district renews its license agreements. By fall, TPS will remove a number of its software, but the district has yet to announce which ones.
“There are too many technology programs for our teachers to follow. You have to think about the time spent in class. We don’t want layoffs for our kids,” Jones said.
Getting rid of the layoffs also cuts the district’s budget, which Jones says is a win for everyone.
Marissa McCoy, principal of Cherokee Elementary, said the software has been helpful for students in schools
“They appreciate them. Of course, not all children do this, but for the most part they enjoy games,” she said.
Alicia Rodgers, principal of Greenwood Elementary, wants to see less computer use in the classroom. Having fewer programs to work with will help.
“In my opinion, students use the devices way too much. They need to spend more time playing outside and less on the devices. Since COVID, they have become addicted to technology, which makes them lazy and unhealthy,” she said.