With a pandemic that has forced school districts into extended shutdowns and interrupted instructional routines, the T.L.L. Temple Foundation has found a way to address these challenges across rural East Texas by awarding 12 school districts grants totaling $377,000 to accelerate learning recovery in reading and math.
“Pandemic related learning losses threaten our students’ academic and career paths and make it impossible for our East Texas communities to recover and thrive moving forward,” said T.L.L. Temple Foundation President & CEO Dr. Wynn Rosser. “Educational inequities existed before COVID-19, and, unfortunately, the most vulnerable students are bearing the heaviest burdens.”
From 34 applications, 12 school district finalists were selected. The selected school districts reflect the diversity of K-12 education across T.L. L. Temple Foundation’s rural East Texas service area:
- Selected school districts span the southeast Texas-Louisiana coastal border to the northeast Texas-Arkansas border
- The smallest participating school district serves less than 200 total students and the largest serves more than 7,000 total students
- Accelerated learning programs focus on varied grade levels, from early elementary to high school, and incorporate unique approaches, from intensive summer sessions to targeted interventions across the school year.
Texarkana ISD received a grant of $30,000 that will be used to develop a 3-week summer experience in July. The target audience will include up to 80 students and focus on English language learners and economically disadvantaged students who are currently in eighth grade going into high school for the 2021-22 academic school year.
“The dynamic for our program will be the pairing of an eighth grade English teacher with a high school English teacher and an eighth grade math teacher with a high school Algebra I teacher,” said Holly Tucker, Chief Academic Officer for TISD. “The uniqueness is that we are embedding connected learning in an effort to make it relevant to the student’s interest and have real-world application.”
What educational leaders develop and achieve in East Texas, through these grants, will be shared as a guiding model for rural communities everywhere that are trying to address COVID-19 learning losses.
The T.L.L. Temple Foundation is partnering with the E3 Alliance to support selected school districts with collecting data and evaluating the impact of the programs on student learning. The aim of the partnership is to identify what works for accelerating learning recovery in rural schools and to use the findings to improve and scale future programs to address learning loss.
“While systemic gaps have long been recognized between different student groups, the COVID pandemic has both highlighted and exacerbated the learning loss experienced by some of our most vulnerable students,” said the E3 Alliance President & Executive Director Susan Dawson. “E3 Alliance is excited to partner with the T.L.L. Temple Foundation to identify, support and then expand innovative ways to address these losses by working directly with schools to measure and elevate the best ideas to help all our students succeed in this critical time.”
Application for the TISD grant was a collaborative effort between TISD Instructional Services, middle school and high school. “The transition between eighth grade to ninth grade is tough enough, in and of itself,” said Tucker. “This additional support will allow us prepare students through a bridge-type concept that will help set them up to be more successful in making this transition, given the gap that exists from the pandemic.”