FCS Community Update for February 19, 2021
February 18 Post-Meeting Update
The Fulton County School Board met on Wednesday, February 18, for its regularly scheduled Board Meeting at the South Learning Center. Following are highlights of some of the more highly-discussed topics, with the full agenda available online. Other topics discussed or approved are available via BoardDocs.
In his twice-monthly COVID-19 update, Superintendent Mike Looney reported the number of cases in Fulton County recently has been on the decline. Research continues to build that COVID-19, as it relates to schools, can be successfully managed through mitigation strategies such as promoting behaviors that reduce COVID-19’s spread, maintaining healthy environments, maintaining healthy operations, and preparing for when someone gets sick. These strategies, as well as others already in place in Fulton County Schools, are in alignment with the Centers for Disease Control’s new guidelines released February 12; however, we will continue to review the CDC’s recommendations closely and determine what adjustments, if any, will be necessary to our protocols.
Superintendent Looney also shared that FCS is working with the Fulton County Board of Health on to-be-determined vaccination clinics so that the district can offer teachers and employees the vaccine once those in Phase 1B are eligible.
Learning Modality Commitment – Last Nine Weeks of School Year
As we approach the midterm of the second semester, FCS is requesting parents make a commitment for how they wish their child to learn – face-to-face instruction vs remote learning – for the remainder of the school year. The last 9-week period begins in March and runs until the end of the semester. No action is needed if parents are satisfied with their child’s current learning environment, and only those who wish to change should contact their school between March 1-12. The student’s learning group will remain the same as it stood on March 1, unless the school is notified.
FOCUS Initiative Addresses Learning Loss
FCS is taking proactive steps to address the impact of the pandemic on lost instruction and learning. Our students have had the best possible instruction from dedicated teachers during this time, yet every district and student has seen some loss. Recently, a team led by Chief Academic Officer Cliff Jones and Executive Director of Strategy and Governance Dr. Ryan Moore were directed by Superintendent Looney to research and identify the pandemic’s impact on FCS students and to develop a plan for a path to learning recovery. Dr. Moore discussed the early findings of a study on learning loss associated with the switch to universal remote learning. The project was overseen by Georgia State University’s Metro Atlanta Policy Lab for Education (MAPLE), a research initiative that has partnered with five of the largest metro Atlanta school districts to study different issues effecting education.
MAPLE looked at reading and math diagnostic assessment results for FCS 4th-8th grade students collected in January 2020 and August 2020. Dr. Moore shared that the average learning impact, represented by months of learning loss, was greater in reading (0.5-2.5 months) than in math (0.1-0.9) months. He also noted that the impact on learning was greater for some demographic subgroups (Economically Disadvantaged, Hispanic/Latino, English Language Learners, Males). The learning impact differed by geographic zone as well with some zones having 2-3 times the losses of others.
Mr. Jones then discussed the impact of the pandemic on academic growth as well as the district’s strategy for academic recovery. FCS knows and understands that reduced learning time, introduction of remote learning, learning loss that naturally occurs during the summer months, and the overall pandemic impact has exacerbated gaps that already existed. In response, the district is launching FOCUS, a research-based, comprehensive, and collaborative initiative founded on existing effective practices for academic recovery. Mr. Jones walked through the FOCUS project plan, including the establishment of a steering committee to oversee the initiative. He emphasized the research is clear that solutions must differentiate in intensity and scope based on the varied needs of our students. He stressed, with additional resources, FCS has the appropriate systems in place to properly address “learning loss.” You can view the entire presentation here.
Fulton Academy of Virtual Excellence becomes online school’s official name
The yet-to-be-named FCS Full-Time Online School has received its official identity – Fulton Academy of Virtual Excellence, or FAVE. The school board selected FAVE after a district-wide committee of community members, students and employees met virtually to determine possible names. After brainstorming and collaborative exercises, the committee arrived at several concepts to take back into their communities for feedback, and then at a subsequent meeting, they culled the suggestions into two final recommendations. Fulton Academy of Virtual Excellence (FAVE) and Hank Aaron Fulton Academy of Virtual Excellence (Hank Aaron FAVE) were the two finalists, but the latter recommendation was withdrawn. Due to the famed baseball player’s recent passing, the Aaron family requested more time to determine how his legacy will be honored.
Now with an official name, FAVE can report that its application window closed on February 5 after receiving 1,387 applicants. For the first year, it will serve approximately 1,000 students in grades 3-11, which breaks down to about 180 elementary school students, 270 middle school students, and 550 high school students. Because of overwhelming interest in grades 3-5, the elementary allotment was increased by 30 students and there will be a lottery process in grades 3-8 with 90 spots available per grade. At the high school level, 557 students applied and all were accepted. All families received either an acceptance or waitlist notification on February 12 and have until February 26 to confirm enrollment for the 2021-2022 school year.
New Social Studies and Theatre Courses Added
As a result of the district’s commitment to student-focused learning, the Board approved new courses offerings for high school students: Introduction to African-American/Black Studies, Introduction to U.S Women’s Studies and Acting and Production in Film I-IV. All of the new courses begin with the 2021-2022 school year.
Elementary English/Language Arts Textbook Adoption Extended
FCS is adding a second feedback period to allow the public more opportunities to review new Reading/English/Language Arts textbooks being considered for grades kindergarten through second grade. By February 23, all 59 elementary schools will receive materials for public review from Benchmark Workshop and Wonders so that parents and teachers have access to view them in person. That review period will end March 26 so the School Board can consider their adoption in April. If approved, the new materials will go into effect with the 2021-2022 school year.
Georgia Pre-kindergarten Grant Program
Fulton County Schools has applied for an annual grant through “Bright from the Start: Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning” (GADECAL) to continue its funding for pre-kindergarten classes. During the 2021-2022 school year, the school system plans to offer 85 pre-K classes in 45 elementary schools. Approximately 1,836 spaces will be available, with the application lottery/registration open from March 1-19, 2021.