FCPS Extended School Year Provides Meaningful Learning for Students and Staff
A peek into this summer’s Extended School Year (ESY) program may offer some inspiration for the upcoming virtual start to the 2020-21 school year. ESY provides special education and other related services to help students maintain or advance their learning during the summer. School Individualized Education Program (IEP) teams usually determine a student’s ESY eligibility.
Instruction involved synchronous (live) sessions for students, learning materials available online, and packets sent through the mail to students. In addition to the individualized synchronous sessions, students participated in an optional group meeting which focused on daily orientation, relationship building, general skills, and check-in. At the secondary level, ESY students were also able to work in a vocational classroom with FCPS Career and Transition staff.
It was WONDERFUL! Thank you for giving my son a wonderful ESY experience. – FCPS Parent
According to ESY Program Manager Ellen Agosta, “More than 2,000 students logged into the daily Monday-Thursday group meetings and synchronous sessions across the virtual sites (nine elementary, three secondary, and five centers). This work could not have been done without the dedication and hard work of the ESY administrators and their leadership teams including 275 teachers, 271 paraprofessionals, 34 related service providers, multiple psychologists and social workers, and the Office of Special Education Instruction and Procedural Support staff. Additionally, four technology resource teachers were hired, and collaborated with Assistive Technology Services and the school-based technology specialist to support the learning environment at the virtual sites.”
ESY provides multiple opportunities for teachers and administrators to explore areas outside of their usual work environments as well as strengthen practices. This summer, the program provided extra time to maximize the virtual learning experience.
Brian Valentine, Key MS' ESY administrator, explains why he chose to be an ESY administrator. “First, I wanted to take advantage of this opportunity to put what I’ve learned about the systems and structures of school-based leadership into practice. Fortunately, I’ve had the opportunity to serve under some great school-based leaders in my time with FCPS and developed a lot of ideas to put into practice.”
Brian adds, “As a former general education science teacher and dean of students, I didn’t have more than an academic understanding of special education programming, to say nothing of the fact that I hadn’t had any experience with ESY. I wanted to have firsthand knowledge of the school leader’s role in implementing policies and procedures as they related to the success of special education students and programs.” He adds, “As a division, and in every school I’ve been at in my 11+ years in education, we’ve talked about differentiation, equity, and supporting students where they’re at—no better place to be than a program like ESY where that is the front-and-center focus, every day!”
As for takeaways that can help with virtual learning in the fall, Brian agrees that he certainly gained some helpful lessons. “A good number of my learnings centered on developing systems for connecting with synchronous sessions, providing high-leverage, actionable feedback to teachers and staff, and school-wide systems of communication. As we go into 2020-21 with a virtual start, I think these lessons will serve me and my colleagues well.”
Kevin Crenshaw, an ESY teacher at Carson MS, shared that his ESY class consisted of Community B special education students enrolled in FCPS. “I had students as young as 16 and as old as 20. Students in the class had some form of intellectual disability and/or autism.” Kevin said that the main challenge this summer for ESY was teaching a group of students that he had never met face to face.
However, Kevin was able to overcome the challenge. “ESY was set up this summer to provide a 30-minute ‘morning meeting’ [...]. The morning meeting consisted of team building activities, facilitating a group discussion about a topic, and learning about ‘this day in history,’ among other things. These sessions allowed me to build relationships with students, since these discussions often touched on topics that were interesting to my students.” He adds, “In addition to the morning meetings, students were then broken down into additional 30-45 minute ‘small groups’ each day to work on academic/functional content in reading, writing, and math. While it is tough to teach virtually, I felt the trust that was built during morning meetings allowed me to push them on the (sometimes less favored) academic/functional content. Also, meeting every day for that academic time developed consistency and routine with students, which allowed me to see positive progress toward ultimate mastery of their ESY goals.”
Kevin wanted to teach ESY this summer to become a better “virtual” teacher. Realizing that virtual teaching would be with us for a while, he felt that practicing virtual teaching strategies would help his students in CAT B at Woodson HS this fall. Kevin chose Community B for ESY as a way to service students who are similar to his younger brother, who has autism. Kevin says, “His life is wonderful because of the hard work his teachers put in at his high school. So I want to pay that effort forward to other students on the autism spectrum/ID.”
I just wanted to let you know that I have never, ever, ever had such a nice ESY experience! – FCPS Staff Member
Kevin is confident that what he learned during ESY will help him and his students this fall. He says, “Even though I was a Level 1 Google Educator-certified before distance learning began, this ESY experience allowed me to become more confident in the tools available (using Google slides/Peardeck, Google docs, etc.) to provide meaningful instruction for students in Community B. I have created materials this summer that I am excited to share with my students at Woodson in the fall.”
Thanks to all ESY staff for creating meaningful learning experiences for students.