Residents from North Shore Schools District were treated to a lesson in data collection at the Board of Education Budget Reading on May 5. Assistant Superintendent for Instruction Dr. Chris Zublionis, soon-to-be superintendent of the district, spoke of how students have held up during the pandemic, and how the district intends to care for them going forward.
The presentation, Closing the Gap, emphasized plans for student growth, despite the unique challenges it faces today. Zublionis explained that the goal was both to present the preliminary data (with more to come at the end of the school year) and to demystify how the district keeps an eye on its students.
“I wanted to use this as an opportunity this evening to talk about everything we do as a system, to encourage and ensure student growth,” Zublionis explained. “A lot of our work, the heart of our work, are things we don’t talk about a lot to the public, because it’s just what we do.”
Zublionis shared the data that the school had collected during the last few years following the impact of the pandemic on students, particularly the youngest ones who were forced to stay home.
According to Zublionis, the data indicates that North Shore Schools’ students continue to outperform their peers nationally. A graph he presented showed that students from grades 1 through 8 have since 2020 maintained a significant lead on the national average in math and reading and have continued to develop their abilities throughout in spite of Covid.
The process of ensuring student growth at North Shore Schools is due to the system Response to Intervention. This system of managing and caring for students is characterized by its proactive nature, and was implemented in the district in 2020, prior to the arrival of the pandemic.
According to the RTI Action Network, a program of the National Center for Learning Disabilities, RtI is a multi-tiered approach to the early identification and support of students with learning and behavioral needs. But it isn’t only for those with disabilities.
“It’s really a system or a way of providing services and monitoring students to ensure that we’re being proactive,” Zublionis said. “We’re not just waiting until students struggle or are having difficulties to react.”
Instead, what North Shore Schools does is consistently screen their students in literacy and math, so that as soon as an issue begins to emerge, the district can be on top of it right away. Zublionis told the community the school is also hoping to increase the number of courses it will screen in the future, although he did not elaborate on what they were and when it will begin.
He also announced that following New York state’s adoption of the Every Student Succeeds Act in 2018, the district will be implementing a multi-tiered system of supports. This is effectively an RtI plan on a more macro scale and will add student engagement and enrichment as areas of focus, incorporate parental and professional development, and continue to collect qualitative data, which Zublionis will present at the end of the year.
Trustee Dr. Andrea Macari mentioned a recent Harvard study which indicated that across the country students had between a 20 percent and 50 percent learning loss in math, depending on if they learned at school or remotely. She said she was proud that Zublionis’ data showed this wasn’t the case in the district.
“What we saw today is that our students, overall, when you aggregate the data, are not showing that kind of response, and that is not a coincidence,” Macari said. “That speaks to all of those sleepless nights that teachers, administrators, board members and parents had over the course of the pandemic.”