Over 200 BCPS ed­u­ca­tors pre­pare for vir­tual learn­ing at on­line AVID con­fer­ence

The Dundalk Eagle - - SCHOOL NEWS - By TEAM BCPS

Most sum­mers, ap­prox­i­mately 100 Bal­ti­more County Pub­lic Schools ed­u­ca­tors at­tend the an­nual three-day AVID teach­ing and learn­ing con­fer­ence in Philadel­phia to pre­pare for the new school year.

This year, in the midst of a pan­demic and with the train­ing from AVID go­ing on­line, BCPS plan­ners fig­ured they’d reg­is­ter far fewer teach­ers, and cer­tainly not the 175 who at­tended last year. And they were right; those or­ga­niz­ing the train­ing didn’t get any­where near the num­bers they got last year.

They got 229.

“We an­tic­i­pated hav­ing fewer peo­ple, but we went way over our ex­pec­ta­tions. We were by far the largest school dis­trict rep­re­sented (at the na­tional con­fer­ence),” said Michael Bar­beresi, the AVID dis­trict di­rec­tor and su­per­vi­sor for the BCPS Of­fice of Col­lege and Ca­reer Readi­ness.

“What it says is that when (school sys­tems in the South and Mid-At­lantic) are look­ing for how to do AVID

with fidelity, they come to us, to see how we are do­ing it. . . . We are a model of how this can be done right.”

The ex­cite­ment among BCPS ed­u­ca­tors at this year’s AVID con­fer­ence, Bar­beresi said, un­der­scores the com­mit­ment that dis­trict ed­u­ca­tors are bring­ing to the job of pre­par­ing for vir­tual in­struc­tion when the new school year be­gins on Septem­ber 8.

Only about 50 of the at­ten­dees were AVID in­struc­tors, he added; the rest were sub­ject area teach­ers ex­plor­ing new and ef­fec­tive ways to build a vir­tual class­room and to keep stu­dents en­gaged and learn­ing at a high level.

AVID, which stands for Ad­vance­ment Via In­di­vid­ual De­ter­mi­na­tion, is a na­tional K-12 col­lege readi­ness sys­tem that pro­vides stu­dents with en­gag­ing ap­proaches to rig­or­ous aca­demic con­tent us­ing re­search-based best prac­tices and in­struc­tional strate­gies.

At the AVID Dig­i­talXP con­fer­ence, 95 per­cent of the BCPS teach­ers who at­tended said they would ap­ply the train­ing to their dig­i­tal class­rooms this fall, while 94 per­cent said they ac­quired spe­cific strate­gies to use. Bar­beresi said the work­shops and train­ing pro­vided in­struc­tional lessons first with a se­condary em­pha­sis on the dig­i­tal tools teach­ers might use.

“It’s not just the bells and whis­tles,” he said. “This is aimed at em­bed­ding sound in­struc­tion into dig­i­tal learn­ing and im­prov­ing stu­dent out­comes.”

FEELING PRE­PARED AND A BIT IN­SPIRED

The on­line train­ing ex­pe­ri­ence was a new one for Brandi Thomas. As AVID co­or­di­na­tor and an AVID elec­tive teacher at South­west Acad­emy Mag­net Mid­dle School, Thomas knew the train­ing would help her tran­si­tion from the live class­room to on­line in­struc­tion, but she says it still felt a lit­tle sur­real.

“Never would I have thought that I’d be at­tend­ing AVID Sum­mer In­sti­tute from my liv­ing room!” she said. As she had in years be­fore, she ar­rived to the train­ing clutch­ing a hot cup of black tea and wear­ing her BCPS-blue AVID polo shirt. But this time, she said, “I paired it with a pair of slip­pers, in­stead of my flats.”

Dur­ing the sum­mer in­sti­tute, teach­ers trained for a va­ri­ety of dis­tance learn­ing needs and ca­pa­bil­i­ties and be­came fa­mil­iar with a suite of tools like Flip-Grid and Edji to use for ev­ery­thing from mark­ing dig­i­tal texts to al­low­ing stu­dents to make videos based on teacher prompts. Even with the chal­lenge of many stu­dents in a Google Meet on­line class­room, Bar­beresi said, BCPS teach­ers will be ready.

Thomas said part of her in­sti­tute work in­volved learn­ing how to cre­ate “eBin­ders” to dig­i­tally help stu­dents or­ga­nize their as­sign­ments, notes, and other in­for­ma­tion. She cre­ated her own eBin­der us­ing a pro­file page, her fa­vorite he­roes, and in­ter­est­ing trivia about her.

In ad­di­tion, fol­low-up train­ing for school-based AVID co­or­di­na­tors will al­low them to bring many of the lessons of the sum­mer in­sti­tute back to their school staffs to learn and use, Bar­beresi said.

“Our teach­ers are telling us they are thirsty to learn more. With the re­sources they have re­ceived, they can walk into that dig­i­tal class­room from day one and feel con­fi­dent,” he said. “This was a lot of work, but we all feel so much bet­ter pre­pared.”

Thomas said she al­ready has put her lessons to use with col­leagues at South­west Acad­emy. Us­ing what they learned at the con­fer­ence, she and the school’s AVID Site Team were able to cre­ate goals for the new school year aimed at en­sur­ing stu­dent ac­cess to rig­or­ous con­tent as well as col­lege and ca­reer readi­ness. Through­out the com­ing year, she said, the team will use strate­gies and tools learned at the in­sti­tute to stay on track.

“Our plan in­cludes in­cor­po­rat­ing . . . strate­gies in in­struc­tion, im­ple­ment­ing sys­tems that sup­port teach­ers and stu­dents, lead­er­ship that en­sures strate­gic plan­ning and col­lege readi­ness, and cul­tures that foster rigor in con­tent and spe­cial area classes,” Thomas said.

“Al­though the end of our last school year was far from ideal, my ex­pe­ri­ences at AVID (sum­mer in­sti­tute) have equipped me with the knowl­edge, the tools, the re­sources, and the at­ti­tude to pro­vide my stu­dents with a sup­port­ive, rig­or­ous, in­ter­ac­tive dig­i­tal learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ence,” Thomas added. “Whether in Philadel­phia, or from the com­fort of my own home, . . . I feel pre­pared, and truth­fully, a bit in­spired, for the up­com­ing school year!”

PHOTO PRO­VIDED BY TEAM BCPS

AVID Co­or­di­na­tor Thomas. Brandi

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