My boys and I love baseball. The great American pastime. Each year, we usually take a trip out west to spring training to visit my oldest’s godfather who works for a MLB team. We watch countless games, take in drills, and make up any number of contests that involve spitting sunflower seeds. They are also both learning to play the game, albeit at different speeds, with great coaches. My oldest is analytical. He’d rather discuss the philosophy behind his coach’s decision not to allow him to swing away on a 3-0 count in nine-year-old kid’s pitch than take the walk. My youngest is a doer. See ball. Hit ball. And maybe run through the coach’s sign to stop at first base. As a dad, I want them to develop their skills, learn to be a good teammate, and, most of all, have fun. They need different types of support and development to meet them where they are if this sport is to help them be more successful and better human beings.
With the return of baseball season and light at the end of the tunnel for the Pandemic, I’m thinking about how we best utilize a post-Pandemic summer. I’ve spent previous blogs discussing the challenges posed by the Pandemic and how some schools handled this transition better than others. This month, I want to shine a light on how charter schools are responding to the unique needs of their own communities just as a successful coach would support his or her team and individual players. Three schools, in particular, demonstrate how charters can utilize autonomy and flexibility to develop innovative ways to accelerate learning for their students.
First, GEO Schools, which operates a successful, in-demand K-12 set of schools in the city, communicated with families in late winter its plans to extend its summer programming to a full day. It is offering increased pay for staff and flexible scheduling so teachers aren’t faced with an all-or-nothing proposition. For students and families, the summer program will offer full-day learning and enrichment. In the morning, students participate in intensive remediation or a jump start on the next academic grade, depending on where they are. In the afternoon, students participate in sports and other enrichment activities that can provide supervision until 6 pm for working families.
Redesign Schools Louisiana (RSL) has achieved some of the highest academic gains in the state year-over-year despite serving students who face well-known obstacles to education, such as generational poverty. RSL plans to continue this growth trend by doubling down on tutors, especially literacy specialists, both in the classroom and outside of traditional school hours. Like GEO, RSL is increasing access for students to research-based programming already present in their schools rather than having to experiment with new programming to see what sticks.
Finally, The Emerge School for Students with Autism, a unique elementary school model supporting students with autism, has designed a summer program to meet the challenges that children with autism and their families face when the routine of school is interrupted during the summer season (let alone during a global Pandemic). Throughout a six-week camp, The Emerge School will focus on school readiness skills for children entering kindergarten, as well as those transitioning to first and second grades in the fall. Special educators, along with a multidisciplinary therapeutic team will utilize evidence-based therapy models to work with each child to make learning fun and educational.
Children aren’t one-size-fits-all athletes or learners, so the academic training they may need due to learning circumstances caused by the Pandemic can’t be delivered to them without their specific needs in mind. New Schools for Baton Rouge (NSBR) brings unique public schools to our community so that Baton Rouge families can send their children to a school that meets their individual needs in normal circumstances. The Pandemic has put a spotlight on the ability of these schools to quickly pivot and adapt to students’ needs, regardless of the circumstances at hand. That is what separates an ordinary school from an exceptional one.