VOICES: Partnership helped Trotwood-Madison schools rebound from pandemic

Editor’s Note: National organization StriveTogether announced this week that Learn to Earn Dayton received its highest designation - Systems Transformation. The honor signifies that Learn to Earn Dayton is on the leading edge of building the civic infrastructure necessary for all students to succeed, a designation bestowed on only three communities in the nation. Throughout this week, Learn to Earn Dayton’s local, state and national partners will highlight the successes of their collective action approach, and the power of aligning with a shared vision across the cradle-to-career continuum to ensure that all learners have equal opportunity to achieve.

Across the nation, and felt acutely in Montgomery County, schools struggle to “bounce back” from the pandemic. To address some of these persistent challenges, particularly attendance and literacy for our youngest learners, Trotwood-Madison partnered with Learn to Earn Dayton (L2ED).

With a commitment to using approaches consistent with the science of reading, family engagement, and student enrichment, L2ED and Trotwood’s Early Learning Center created a demonstration classroom to provide insights on best practices. This classroom was titled the “Mighty Rams.”

In August 2022, the Mighty Rams class launched with a cohort of students identified as needing academic, attendance and social emotional support to be ready for the next grade level.

Experts on the L2ED team helped us develop a curriculum leveraging the science of reading. After nearly a full school year experiencing the curriculum, students are eager to learn as they explore vocabulary, phonics, and text comprehension. Using NWEA MAP scores (a national tracking model), we see 90% of the Mighty Rams students increased literacy skills in the first five months. We’re excitedly awaiting spring scores with expectations to see continued improvement.

But even the best classroom practices only make a difference if students attend. Many of the kindergarteners and first graders in the Mighty Rams classroom were “chronically absent” in 2021-2022, meaning they missed more than 10% of school days. When children that young are missing school, we must work with families to create solutions.

With L2ED’s coordination, family engagement activities connected families to one another and the school community; practices included regular communication (social media groups, emails, phone calls, and in-person meetings), incentives to build positive habits, and regular opportunities for feedback.

As caregivers engaged more actively with the classroom, the students’ attendance and achievement went up. Nearly 75% of families are active on a dedicated social media group, and attendance by caregivers at Teacher Conferences increased to 90%. These activities are also changing behavior outside the classroom. On a school-wide survey administered in February, 91.6% of Mighty Rams caregivers indicated reading with their young learners at least twice weekly, compared to 77.9% of other parents at the school. Over the school year, we’ve doubled the number of Mighty Rams students who score in “Good Standing” or “Excel” regarding attendance.

It works. A classroom dedicated to the science of reading matched with family engagement activities leads to increased attendance and improved literacy. Because of the success, we are expanding the Mighty Rams next year. I’m especially grateful to principal Ms. Anderson and teacher Mrs. Wilson-Gunn who embraced the opportunity to better serve our students. Their daily efforts, plus the creative program design led by our trusted partners at L2ED, resulted in positive outcomes for our students.

On behalf of the Mighty Rams, I invite you to a special performance on Thursday, April 27, at 6 p.m. Our students will take the stage at Trotwood-Madison High School with an original play based on the book, The Me I Choose to Be. It’s a celebration of literacy, art, self-confidence, and academic transformation; I invite you to join me to cheer them on.

I’ve served as teacher, principal, superintendent, community resident, and engaged parent. In each role, I’ve been blessed to witness and benefit from Learn to Earn Dayton’s thoughtful approach and significant results. In ways both visible and behind-the-scenes, they continue to be a source of support for families, communities, schools, districts, and – most importantly - our students. They have supported us, and I’m proud to add my voice in congratulating them for the well-deserved Systems Transformation designation from StriveTogether.

Dr. Reva Cosby is the Superintendent of Trotwood-Madison City Schools.

Credit: Trotwood-Madison City Schools

Credit: Trotwood-Madison City Schools

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