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Focusing on Early Literacy During Pandemic Closures

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Focusing on Early Literacy During Pandemic Closures

When schools closed in March of 2020, Virginia Beach City Public Schools (VBCPS) selected Imagine Language & Literacy as an additional resource for all Title I K–2 students and select students in grades 3–5. Focusing on early literacy was a priority, and prior VBCPS research showed that early learners who used Imagine Language & Literacy demonstrated statistically significant greater growth than students who did not use the program.

Facing a Pandemic with Data-Driven Decision-Making

Following the closures, VBCPS implemented a “Continuity of Learning Plan” to provide students with materials and resources to reinforce what they had already learned that year. When it became clear that the closures would extend beyond the initial two weeks, the response task force developed an “Emergency Learning Plan” (ELP) that began in April and was in place through the remainder of the 2019–2020 academic year.

Once the ELP was in place, the task force’s focus began to transition to developing a plan for returning to school in the 2020–2021 school year, which focused on students’ academic development.

“We are creating an environment of education that, in fact, has never existed. It is our responsibility to ensure that children continue to learn and thrive and grow in a system that we have never experienced before.”—Laura Silverman, Director of Title I Programs

Faced with the need to make quick decisions to support early learners’ literacy, VBCPS knew that their younger students had been successful when using Imagine Language & Literacy in previous years. Knowing this, leaders at VBCPS chose to use the program to help educators and students during extended school closures.

Early literacy during pandemic school closures photo 2

Supporting Implementation Success

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Imagine Learning programs were an established part of students’ routines at VBCPS. This familiarity helped educators and students feel comfortable during the transition to remote learning. Typically, most K–2 students used the program five times per week, though the district gave schools the choice to decide how often to use the program with their language arts rotation blocks.

In the end, over 2,000 students in VBCPS used Imagine Language & Literacy as an additional support to their literacy learning, both in face-to-face and virtual learning models. Throughout a tumultuous school year, educators at VBCPS “felt the importance of the responsibility to ensure that children continue to learn and thrive and grow in a system that we have never experienced before,” said Laura Silverman.

Read More: Ready for Reading: 4 Strategies to Foster Early Literacy Skills

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