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Kentucky School Advocate
By Madelynn ColdironStaff writer
For 31 districts, 2015-16 was their first foray into non-traditional instruction days. Harlan Independent Superintendent Charles Morton said his initial concerns were put to rest when he knew that the four NTI days his district took gave students the “rigor and challenge” they would have received in the classroom, with an average of 96 percent participation.
He said he saw that with his own three children after returning home from the office on the first day to find them working on their assignments.
“When I went home, I was just really, really pleased with what I saw,” he said. “I was pleased because it wasn’t just busy work, it wasn’t just traditional homework. In some ways they were more engaged than what I think they might have been otherwise. The fact that they were engaged and working and asking questions and sending messages back and forth with their teachers to get clarification, I felt really good about that.”
In planning for next year, Morton said he and his staff will address a couple of flaws, one being that teachers had planned for two days of at-home lessons. More were needed, he said. The district also will be looking for a way to use instructional aides during NTI days so they don’t have to make up that time at the end of the school year.
In Clinton County, the non-traditional instruction days didn’t kick in until the sixth missed day.
“Because you can never predict the weather,” explained Superintendent Charlotte Bernard. “We allowed ourselves some snow days and then we were going to use NTI days just in case we had a terrible winter.”
The district ended up using just three during its first year with the program. While the system worked well, Bernard said, there will be some tweaking next year. All students received paper packets to work on and some schools used online resources more than others. She said she would like to develop more online capabilities next year through a learning management system.
But Bernard added the main goal was met: to have continuous instruction. “A lot of times if you miss a lot of days you get your students back and it takes a few weeks to get them back on board with the disruption, and we didn’t see that this year,” she said. “Actually, attendance has been better and we feel like our students have stayed on track with instruction.”