As Lewisville ISD is set to begin the second nine weeks of the school year the district is seeing a net gain of students returning to the classroom compared to those choosing the virtual learning option.
Deputy Superintendent Lori Rapp on Monday updated the Board of Trustees on data collected at the conclusion of the first nine weeks. Students were allowed to change from one format to the other after the first nine weeks.
The biggest swing came at the elementary school level where 12,208 students, or 59 percent of enrolled students, participated in in-person classes the first nine weeks. That jumped to 14,306 students, 69 percent, in the second nine weeks. The increases were slighter in the secondary level.
“(I) think it’s a combination of several factors,” said Superintendent Kevin Rogers after the meeting. “Parents have witnessed health and safety protocols implemented by LISD at campuses, data of lab-confirmed cases at individual campuses, lower number of cases and the percentage of positive across Denton County, parent realization of instructional needs that are hard to meet virtually and students wanting social aspect of school.”
Rapp also provided data from surveys of both teachers and parents related to virtual learning.
Many of the categories showed mixed results. For example, 72 percent of elementary teachers who instruct virtually said virtual teaching has gotten easier the last few weeks. But that number dropped to 47.8 percent at the middle school level, with 33.9 percent of middle school teachers saying virtual teaching has remained difficult all year. At the high school level, it was 46.1 percent and 31.6 percent, respectively.
Rogers reminded the board that virtual teaching is a new concept in the district.
“Many of those teachers didn’t choose to teach virtual,” Rogers said. “We needed them to teach virtual.”
Teachers were also asked what their top three areas of concern have been in virtual learning. The most common response at 66.1 percent across all grade levels was getting students to complete assignments, which Rapp said happens in a normal year.
Next was helping students/parents troubleshoot technical problems (51.7 percent at all levels).
“They’re not used to being in the troubleshooting and technical role,” Rapp said.
For elementary teachers the largest concern was adapting curriculum.
Teachers were asked for their top three reasons why virtual students were struggling. The most (75.9 percent) across all levels was the lack of ability to be self-directed.
“When you’re learning virtually you have a lot of independent time, and students are struggling with that,” Rapp said.
Other reasons were lack of parent support at home (56 percent) across all levels and organizational issues (30.8 percent at middle school and high school levels). Edgenuity, the program used for virtual learning, was a factor across all levels at 29.5 percent.
Across the board families experienced difficulties with virtual learning at some point, the survey indicated, -- 73.4 percent of elementary, 79.6 percent of middle school and 57 percent of high school feeling way.
“However, many of them said while they experienced difficulties, it has gotten easier,” Rapp said.
Approximately 54.9 percent of families at the elementary level took that position. But that number dropped to 37 percent at the middle school level and 45.2 percent at high school. At middle school, 31.1 percent said it’s been difficult the entire time.
When asked what their child needs to be successful, 69 percent said a relationship with a teacher.
“That affirms what we already know about what makes this business so special, which is our teachers,” Rapp said.
That’s followed by 62.6 percent who said structure and 53.6 percent who said a defined schedule.
Families biggest concerns were Edgenuity, followed by the workload and the amount of time the student got with the teacher.
Still, the majority of the families said their child is learning the content from the materials in each lesson with approximately 82 percent of parents saying that at the elementary and high school levels and 71 percent at the middle school level.
“We may all disagree on how it should be carried out, and it may not be exactly in the same way that it would have been in person,” Rapp said, “but overwhelmingly they feel like their kids are learning.”
Rapp said several efforts are underway to help make the virtual program go more smoothly, especially at the middle school level where satisfaction rates were at the lowest and difficulty rates were at the highest.
She said the district is revisiting middle school master schedules to help teachers spend more time with students.
“The concern about not having enough time with the teacher, not frequently enough, not getting support frequently enough, I would say that’s the majority of the comments we have read, it’s about the master schedule,” Rapp said.
Rapp said middle school teachers will have the ability of course customization with Edgenuity, which she said should help with those who felt the work is too rigorous. The survey indicated 57.8 of families believed Edgenuity was too rigorous for the district’s curriculum and the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS).
Rogers said the district will use the survey’s results to continue improving the system.
“Overall, the large number of families that took time to respond to the survey continues to show the trust that our community has in our school district and knowing that when we ask for feedback we study the results and make adjustments as possible,” Rogers said.