Two-teacher approach in Hamilton City Schools classrooms is paying off, leaders say

It’s still early, but officials in the Hamilton City Schools are encouraged by initial results of sweeping reforms they employed to help try to offset the academic lag suffered by some students during two years of learning under a pandemic.

Officials in the 9,500-student city schools recently presented a winter update measuring the current school year’s student proficiency levels with those of the often-disrupted 2020-2021 school year.

The negative school impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced the closure of all Ohio K-12 schools in March 2020 for the remainder of that school year, continued into the following school year — especially in fall 2021 — for Ohio schools and those nationwide.

“When comparing the data from the fall of last year with the fall of this year, we saw that all students in grades K-9 experienced significant setbacks in both math and reading as we expected due to COVID,” said Andrea Blevins, CEO of elementary programs for Hamilton Schools.

“We, as a district, were most concerned with our primary students as they missed key foundational skills that are needed to carry them through their entire educational career,” said Blevins, who is also associate superintendent for the school system.

Hamilton used some of its federal COVID-19 relief funds — Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief or ESSER monies — to launch a number of remediation programs designed to catch students up academically.

Among them was the district’s first try on a wide scale of hiring and adding an additional teacher for most kindergarten and elementary grades.

“As a district, we implemented the co-teaching initiative in all K-2 classes and 3rd grade ELA (English Language Assistance) to help close gaps. While there is still a lot of time to go, we were extremely excited to see early indications that this program is making a true impact.”

“In both math and reading, we are seeing a larger increase in the amount of growth our primary students made as compared to last year and years prior. This initiative allowed us to meet students at a lower level to start the year yet get them above where we were mid-year last year,” Blevins said.

More one-on-one classroom instruction was key, she said.

“We increased the individualized attention provided to all students that resulting in a sharp increase in the percentage of individual students who reached their personal growth goals. And in combination with our co-teaching, we also provided grades 3-6 intervention support to address gaps for our intermediate students. This has, as well, shown increased growth on the district and individual student levels.”

As with all Ohio public school districts, state testing of students will soon begin in Hamilton. Results of the annual spring testing are used by the Ohio Department of Education to generate each school system’s report card, usually released in September.

Hamilton officials are eager to see their internal testing and academic gains mirrored in state testing results.

“We are hoping that these trends will be reflected in increased achievement and growth scores on the state assessments administered to students in grades 3-12,” Blevins said.

About the Author