Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Toyota BornLearning Academy example of United Way contributions to OPS

The students in the Owensboro Public Schools have been blessed to be the beneficiary of several United Way programs over the years.  In the past two years OPS has benefited directly from a signature effort that is a partnership between the United Way and Toyota called the BornLearning Academy.

The program kicked off with funding that supported about 10 families last year from Foust Elementary School.  The program has expanded this year to include both Foust and Estes Elementary

The Born Learning Academies are a public engagement campaign helping parents, caregivers and communities create early learning opportunities for young children.  Designed to support parents in their critical role as a child's first teacher, Born Learning educational materials are available thanks to funds provided by Toyota and the United Way.

The Academy is a series of parent workshops that engage expectant parents and families with young children to support early learning and pre-kindergarten readiness.

The program was started about five years ago by early childhood education faculty members at Northern Kentucky University and the superintendent of the Kenton County Schools.   Studies of the effort have showed promising results in promoting kindergarten readiness.

For more information about the program visit the Born Learning website.  To participate in the Born Learning Academy in OPS contact Chris Covington at Foust (270-686-1060) or Connie Pounds-Tayor at Estes (270-686-1030).

Thanks to the generous support of OPS employees and the entire community, the United Way can continue to make a difference with programs like the Born Learning Academy.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Newly redesigned alternative program, Gateway Academy celebrates first graduate

Gateway Academy, the newly redesigned alternative education program in the Owensboro Public Schools, celebrated its first graduate last week.

As the school's first graduate, Karly Kulin was able to receive her diploma last week because the redesign of the school created a Competency-Based High School Diploma, which allows students to matriculate based on completion of competencies rather than based on time.

The new Gateway Academy diploma and graduation requirements use the following competency-based methods:
  • Products and Performances- this includes a collection of student work or evidence of project, performance and/or exhibition through academics, the arts, and/or job or service related evaluations.
  • Digital or Open Badges- a new way of credentialing used a lot with online learning, badges are credentials that represent specific skills, interests or achievements earned through projects, programs or other activities.  Some of these may be earned by external providers such as through online coursework.  Some badges may be earned based on standards created by teachers as part of the diploma.  
  • Test-Based Competencies- competencies that students earn by meeting benchmarks on a test such as the ACT, ASVAB, or Work Keys demonstrate college or career readiness, which is a foundational graduation requirement. 
  • Credits- some students bring traditional credits that are grades from the time-based on the Carnegie Unit used in most high schools. 
Students enter through the "lower house" and advance as they meet academic competencies as well as behavioral objectives.   Students will eventually move to an "upper house" or Senior Institute.  This stage of the program allows the student to interact with community through service learning or job-based internships.  It also allows the student to take advantage of postsecondary education opportunities through their chose career pathway.  

The redesign of Seven Hills Alternative School into Gateway Academy has been a work in progress, but successful implementation of a competency-based diploma is connecting students with the next phase of their life beyond high school using a more rigorous curriculum that is relevant to students.  

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Owensboro Reads summer literacy camp shows positive results combating the "summer slide"

The first year of implementation of the Owensboro Reads summer literacy camp funded by the Public Life Foundation showed very positive results in combating the "summer slide" in reading that plagues students over the summer months.  Of the 60 students served by the five week camp, 95 percent (all but three students) made exceptional or expected progress in reading as a result of the camp.  
The camp, called Camp Superpower, targeted entering second grade students reading below grade level or showing signs of struggling in their reading progress.  Students spent 30 minutes per day with a reading specialist and remaining time of the half-day camp with cognitive coaches on a combination of literacy-oriented projects and summer fun activities. 

The summer slide is a widely documented phenomenon based on research conducted by groups such as Scholastic and the Annie E. Casey Foundation which results in reading skill losses during the summer months which are cumulative and lead to wider gaps as students get older.  By the time a student reaches middle school, summer reading loss has accumulated to a two-year lag in reading achievement.

A sample of four second grade classrooms in the Owensboro Public Schools showed that about one-third of the students showed regression on reading assessments administered at the end of summer vacation compared to the same assessment administered at the end of first grade.   The sample included 14 students from Camp Superpower, all of which either maintained their pre-summer reading levels or made reading gains as a result of the camp.  

Of the 60 students attending the camp, 47 percent made expected progress and 47 percent made exceptional progress on the Developmental Reading Assessment (DRA) administered to them at the beginning of second grade compared to the same assessment administered at the end of first grade.  

Camp Superpower is a partnership between the Public Life Foundation of Owensboro and the Owensboro Public Schools as part of the district's comprehensive literacy effort called Owensboro Reads.  Students and instructors included representation from all five OPS elementary schools.  The Public Life Foundation of Owensboro will provide funds to support the camp the next two summers.