Written by Donald A. Promnitz
As schools try to readjust to in-person learning, a Fresno charter school is defying expectations with students who aren’t just caught up — but ahead of the curve.
At Kepler Neighborhood School in Downtown Fresno, seven out of eight grades scored with equal-to or higher-than averages in the Fall 2020 semester than they did in Winter 2019. According to Julie Rodriguez, executive director for Kepler, the K-8 school resumed in-person classes on Oct. 13 after receiving their waiver. In order to ensure a safe learning environment for students, more resources were devoted, including more janitors to clean the facilities.
However, Rodriguez added that families who were uncomfortable with returning immediately to a classroom setting were free to continue their studies via Zoom. This resulted in a hybrid style of learning in which half of Kepler’s children were meeting in-person while the other half remained remote. The school provided further help by giving them access to the IXL learning site.
“This meets students where they are and helps them progress,” Rodriguez said. “We also hired staff for intervention. They meet with students in small groups to help fill in gaps and deficits.”
The measures seem to have worked well. In a recent round of tests, their Kindergarten to 1st Grade students saw an average improvement of 20 points in math and 16 in reading, while improvements in at least one of these subjects were made across the board. The test used was the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) issued by the Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA).
“The staff is very proud of the progress of the students are making even during this unprecedented time,” said Rickie Dhillon, chief business officer at Kepler. “Because we are a small school, we are able to know our families and work directly with them to support students.
Kepler Neighborhood School currently has 400 students enrolled.