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Campus partnership seeks to stop learning loss in area schools

Jun 29, 2021
A man raises his hand in a classroom
A man raises his hand in a classroom

KOKOMO, Ind. — Students and faculty in the Indiana University Kokomo School of Education, in partnership with two Howard County school districts, received more than $672,000 in Indiana State Department of Education grant funding to combat COVID-19 related learning losses.

The campus, along with Kokomo School Corporation, received $628,284 in Student Learning Recovery grant awards for programs during the summer and the next two school years, to work with students who need extra academic assistance. It also was granted $43,781 for an after-school program with Northwestern School Corporation.

“Our hope is to provide targeted interventions for the K-12 students, to address their specific academic needs, whether they were caused by the pandemic or already existed,” said Dean Leah Nellis. “These children will benefit from one-on-one and small group instruction, to prepare them for the next grade when they start in the fall.”

Part of the grant money will pay for professional development not only for teachers in the two schools, but also future teachers in the School of Education, who will work in the schools. Five IU Kokomo students are working in the four-week Kokomo summer program, being paid as student workers while gaining real world teaching experience. About 160 children, from all the district’s elementary schools, are part of the summer program at Elwood Haynes Elementary.

Teni Helmberger, director of secondary education and special programs, said the IU Kokomo students were well-prepared to assist in teaching during the summer program.

“They have been engaged in teaching intervention lessons and have been doing a fabulous job connecting with our Kokomo School Corporation third graders,” she said.

Principal Laurie Bridge said the elementary and college students both benefit from the program.

“This partnership between Kokomo Schools and IU Kokomo has been very rewarding,” she said. “In our summer school program, the education students gain professional development experience, and then teach intervention lessons in our third-grade classrooms. These students are observing high-quality teaching, as well as gaining valuable experience working directly with students. I am excited to see this partnership continue.”

At Northwestern School Corp., IU Kokomo students will work in an after-school program for about 90 children, kindergarten through 12th grade, who were disproportionately affected by COVID-19, according to Superintendent Kristen Bilkey.

Some of these students struggled during virtual learning, especially during the extended school closure at the end of the 2019 to 2020 school year.

“While impressive gains were accomplished during the 2020 to 2021 school year, the goal of the program is to further address the unique needs of each student participant, so they have the skills necessary to be successful in the classroom,” she said. “Northwestern is excited about its partnership with Indiana University Kokomo. IU Kokomo’s preservice teachers will play an important role in the program.”

At the elementary and middle school level, the focus will be on individualized interventions in reading, language arts, and mathematics, while high school students work on credit recovery.

During the school year, Nellis said, participating in the program will embedded in one or two teacher education classes, providing the field experience portion of their preparation — a crucial element that many missed out on in the last year, as schools limited who could be in buildings in an effort to prevent spread of the coronavirus.

“It’s a nice opportunity to connect some of our students with hands-on experiences they weren’t able to get in the academic year,” she said. “They’ve been waiting for that, and appreciate the opportunity.”

The future teachers benefit from seeing first-hand how students are assessed for areas of need, how plans are developed to address those challenges, and to implement the evidence-based interventions and assess their effectiveness.

“Our students should improve both their teaching skills and their confidence in their ability to teach, while benefiting local children, by helping them catch up academically with their peers,” Nellis said.

Education is KEY at Indiana University Kokomo.

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