Strengthening Connectivities From a Distance

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At Paramount Schools of Excellence, our mindset during the unknowns of the COVID-19 pandemic has been long term implementation – we are acting as if this isn’t going to go away, so we keep our head in the game to make sure we are setting up for long term success. We switched immediately into an eLearning platform and didn’t take any time off. For us, the decision was very easy – to provide support for students with disabilities and their families. The hardship was figuring out what that meant.

These were some of the immediate actions we took:

– Conducting Day One Check-Ins with every single family, which included a home asset inventory that enabled us to quickly figure out and measure where our families’ access capabilities were in terms of technology, wifi, even adult support in the home. This gave us a really good picture early on for what the support needs were. Our special education staff continues to contact students with disabilities daily to stay on top of access barriers and maintain engagement.

– Allocating appropriate service time to the best of our ability and collaborating with related service providers to offer teletherapy. We are shifting our parent training, to ensure special education teachers are collaborating with families to help educate students with disabilities.

– Determining how to measure fidelity with our new style of programming. To ensure we were able to measure implementation fidelity to this new style of learning, we developed a monitoring tool for special education administrators to provide observation and feedback to special education teachers.

“Maintaining contact and engagement was something we assumed would fall off. While you can’t get 1:1 minutes exactly like you’d want to, you can get really close.”

We were tracking all supports and services before, but now our trackers have become really robust – to the extent that there is a daily connection from individual teachers all the way up to the heads of schools. In the shuffle of trying to serve students, we want to make sure that special education teachers don’t get disconnected. Lesson planning required (and still requires) consultation between special education and general education.

We don’t have all of the answers, but we are doing the best we can to meet the needs of our students – and prioritizing that at a high level.

Reflections

What we learned/Big takeaway


Focus on connectivities across the school community. Leverage existing collaboration between staff and enhance communication with students and families – and use those connections to constantly elevate what we’re doing as a school.

 

What we are still figuring out


Families have different capacities – the 8-hour instructional day for kids is different for families. Instruction is impacted by how much families can do in a day and lessons have to connect to families also.

 

What I would tell other leaders during this time

Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

Resources


In this case study, Tommy Reddicks outlines the steps his school took once virtual learning was required. Tommy has made this folder of resources pertaining to that switch available for public review.
Tommy’s school made contact with students and their families immediately when virtual learning began. This survey can be used to extend that relationship building by asking students to reflect on their distance learning experience during or after the fact.
The school featured in this case study was cognizant to document services offered to students during virtual learning. This site contains tools and resources to help schools develop special education procedures during online learning.
This case study details the switch to virtual learning for one school network. This resource from Understood contains one service provider’s preparation for providing services online.

About The Author

As a graduate of the University of Wyoming, Tommy taught music in public, private, and charter schools between 1995 and 2009. In 2002, Tommy began writing educational units for the National Core Knowledge Foundation. Since that time, he has presented in numerous National Conferences on unit writing and curriculum design. In 2009, Tommy moved to school administration at Knowledge Quest Academy in Milliken, CO. Soon after, he accepted a position as school director of Paramount School of Excellence in Indianapolis, where he resides as Chief Executive Officer today. Tommy Reddicks has worked in Core Knowledge Charter Schools since 2001. He has worked in four K-8 Charter Schools in two US states. He has also been part of three separate Charter School Start-ups, growing a vast array of experience in the growing field of charter education.

School Background

Paramount Schools of Excellence exists to inspire learning through an unparalleled academic approach, and to transform communities by changing lives. Founded on the strong belief that all students have the ability to thrive academically, the Paramount Schools use an integrated research-based curriculum to maximize each child’s potential against measurable standards. Every student has academic performance goals with the expectation of improvement in each content area.