MT tech, curriculum leaders address education shifts

By Martin Graham - [email protected]

Editor’s note: This is the second part of a series covering the Miami Trace Local School District’s annual “State of the District” address.

Miami Trace Local Schools held its second-annual “State of the District” address on Monday when curriculum and technology leaders spoke about the last year and what is coming in the future.

One of the speakers for the online presentation on Monday was instructional technology director Amy Gustin, who started by talking about current initiatives making for a smooth transition for students learning from home during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This year was one of adapting, learning and networking ,” Gustin said. “Many of our current initiatives made for a manageable transition into remote learning during the spring of 2020. With our one-to-one initiative we were able to provide every student with a laptop or Chromebook. While high school students have had the opportunity to take their devices home for several years, students in K through 8th grade began this school year with new bags and devices to take home for their remote learning needs. Elementary students were also provided headphones with protective cases.”

One of the biggest concerns with sending the students home with devices is ensuring they can then access the internet to complete online assignments or participate in learning activities. To this end, Miami Trace surveyed parents, guardians and staff over the summer to assess this topic. Based on the data they collected, the district was able to apply for grants to purchase cellular hot spots and services from such providers as Sprint, Verizon and AT&T. Gustin explained that as part of strategy one, “Meeting the individual needs of all students,” the district will continue to conduct these surveys of all families, staff and students to ensure “equitable access” to technology and important resources at least once per year.

“We will continue to work with families to provide the best resources available for our students to have the ability to continue their education at home when needed,” Gustin said.

The technology director continued her presentation by explaining several applications that have made an impact on learning over the last few years. The first of these were Zoom and Loom. Zoom is an application used for video and audio conferences with staff and students, and Gustin said even the kindergarten students are learning to navigate Zoom classes. Loom meanwhile is for those times when live conferences are not possible and recorded lessons are needed to ensure students are still receiving education.

“Teachers and coaches are also adapting their methods of communication with students and parents,” Gustin said. “The ‘Remind App’ has provided our staff with an additional communication tool. The convenience of this mobile messaging platform allows staff to engage in private or group communications as well as share educational resources. This app has been very beneficial to our district.”

Other applications currently in place include Clever (a “one-stop shop” that works as a single sign-on for the various online platforms), Sora (a digital library for students) and Go Guardian (an app used to monitor students or help with technology issues).

Finally, Gustin explained the technology department will be developing a “Digital Wellness Plan.” This plan will address the health and safety of all students in a digital learning environment. Currently, the plan is expected to be made and implemented for the start of the 2021-22 school year.

The next two speakers during the State of the District address covered curriculum, elementary curriculum director Amy Boston and secondary curriculum director Katie Abbott.

Boston spoke about the Ohio Strategic Plan and how it will impact Miami Trace.

“Ohio’s Strategic Plan sets the standard for educating the whole child throughout the K-12 learning experience,” Boston said. “Ohio’s vision is for each child to be challenged to discover and learn, be prepared to pursue a fulfilling post-high school path and be empowered to become a resilient life-long learner. The Miami Trace Curriculum Department strives to align our curriculum methods and resources with Ohio’s vision to challenge, prepare and empower each of our Panther students.”

Boston explained at Miami Trace they challenge their students by ensuring data-informed instruction and assessment through analyzing and considering all data points. She said Miami Trace administers diagnostic assessments to identify the students present levels of performance and also identify any potential areas of growth.

“Educators monitor each students progress and work through the teaching and learning cycle (which includes planning, teaching, assessing, revising and intervening),” Boston said. “This intentional process ensures students are prepared for national, state and local assessments. The process allows us to annually measure student growth to monitor success. Miami Trace educators engage in this work to ensure that each student is challenged to discover and learn.”

Abbott spoke next and said Miami Trace is committed to preparing its students for success by evaluating and implementing a K-12 aligned curriculum.

“Our current curriculum alignment includes consistency in K-8 math as well as language arts,” Abbott said. “Close alignment is accomplished through an interactive online learning environment. This alignment includes a vertical progression which provides similar strategies, vocabulary and processes within the instructional delivery model. Familiarity in a common language supports students as they progress through the grade levels. Aligned curriculum provides educators the ability to engage in collaborative conversations to increase student growth and achievement.”

Abbott said in collaboration with Miami Trace teachers, the district reviews the curriculum to “confirm the level of rigor meets the standards” as well as prepares students for life beyond Miami Trace.

“Our K-12 technology initiative allows and encourages educators to innovate in ways not possible years ago,” Abbott said. “The learning tools, devices and access to information has provided our students the opportunity to become not only consumers of information but also creators of information. Miami Trace is committed to the work in order to prepare our students for a post-high school experience. Miami Trace educators understand and embrace the importance of building relationships with students. This connection allows teachers to engage our students in the learning process. Thank you to our Miami Trace community for its continued support of our staff and students. Strong community support allows us to challenge, prepare and empower our students to become successful members of the Fayette County community.”

Stay with the Record-Herald for information from the Miami Trace principals in a future edition of the paper.

Reach Martin Graham at (740) 463-9684 or on Twitter @MartiTheNewsGuy.

By Martin Graham

[email protected]