A few years ago, Destyne Flood dreaded going to school.
She started falling behind her peers during the COVID-19 pandemic when she was learning foundational skills through a tablet at home. And when she returned to the classroom, feelings of anxiety and embarrassment over wrong answers began to eat away at her confidence and enthusiasm for learning.
“Everybody needed help, but I felt like Destyne needed more,” her mother Michelle McClendon said. “She was losing her confidence and just wanting to even be in the school setting. At one point, I thought she didn’t even want to be in school at all.”
Fortunately, that began to change after Destyne went through the APS Summer Academic Recovery Academy (ARA) at the Tuskegee Airmen Global Academy (TAG).
The Summer ARA, available and free for all APS students, is a 20-day extension to the end of the school year that helps students grow in literacy and math. APS uses data gathered from the Measurement of Academic Progress (MAP) assessment to determine which students experienced a gap in learning.
The ARA program provides a calmer and more focused educational experience for the students. The smaller class sizes allow the teachers to spend more time with each student and spend more time on subjects than in a regular classroom setting.
“Our class sizes are still less than 1:15,” Dr. Nechelle Sharpe, the Site Administrator and Assistant Principal at TAG Academy, said. “Within that instructional block a teacher can launch a mini-lesson and then do a lot of small groups, where the small groups may be 2-3 students. Or I can work 1:1 depending on where the kids fall within the spectrum after I’ve taught the lesson.”
“Within a 90-minute time lot, a teacher, in essence, could have touched every single student in a small group with a 15–20-minute critical, intensive support in one time block every single day while they are here,” she added.
The small class sizes helped students like Destyne regain her confidence to ask questions in class. Without the worry of being singled out for being wrong, she felt more comfortable letting her teacher know what she did not understand.
“In regular school, I didn’t like how the teachers teach. I didn’t like how they wanted us to have it that second,” Destyne said. “But with these teachers, if you get the question or anything wrong and you don’t get it, they’ll explain it to you. They’ll say, ‘Do you get it? Do you understand this?’”
After her first year in the ARA program, Destyne’s attitude toward school completely turned around. She was more engaged and eager to get to school. She returned to the ARA program again this summer and is even more excited now that she feels prepared to enter middle school at the Coretta Scott King Young Women’s Leadership Academy in the fall.
“Everything has changed. I feel like Destyne is coming out of her shell with this program here,” McClendon said. “I’m excited for her journey and what’s next for her all because of this. It’s never too late for a child that wants it. Everybody learns on a different level, and Destyne is expressing that it’s never too late. I love this for her.”
The Summer ARA has grown each year since the program began in 2021. In its first year, almost 9,500 students enrolled in the program. This summer, just over 12,000 students were enrolled across 19 elementary schools, eight middle schools and seven high school sites.
Summer ARA is a catalyst for the growth APS students are achieving. Seventeen percent of ARA students who attended at least 18 days increased their proficiency levels from Beginning to Developing in Reading and Math, and 1% increased from Beginning to Proficient in Math.
Thirty-four percent of ARA students who attended more than 18 days exceeded their projected growth from the Winter 2022 to Winter 2023 Reading MAP assessment and 22% met their projected growth in Reading.
Thirty-six percent of ARA students who attended 18 or more days exceeded their projected growth from the Winter 2022 to Winter 2023 Math MAP assessment and 30% met their projected growth in Math.
“It’s just more so about a student’s growth,” Dr. Sharpe said. “To say that in 20 days’ time I’m going to get them on grade level, that’s an unrealistic thought. But in 20 days I am going to grow you and build your skills. I can do that every single day.”
“I have an opportunity every single day to ensure that you are growing and that gaps that have been identified have been filled,” she added. “And because those gaps are being filled, you now are more ready to access that next grade level’s curriculum.”