Fisher tracking success with Extended Day program

Fisher tracking success with Extended Day program
Posted on 12/13/2018

The sky may stay pretty dark in the early-morning hours of winter, but the learning brightens up the before-school opportunities for a group of about 40 students in the Extended Day program at Fisher Elementary School. 

Open by invitation only to students who need extra English proficiency lessons, the third, fourth and fifth graders ride the high school/middle school bus and come to Fisher an hour before school starts for individualized small-group instruction with access to a unique software program, which Fisher principal Courtney Ross calls “highly engaging and individually leveled for each child.” 

“What is very powerful and unique about this program is it becomes a rite of passage when kiddos come to third grade,” Ross says. Students in Kindergarten through second grade receive in-school English proficiency assistance, but by having the older elementary students add an hour to their day four days a week all school year, they can cover more content without taking them out of a regular classroom. “It provides access to English-language development without them missing anything,” Ross says. “It keeps closing the gap for them.”

And it absolutely works. 

Fisher tracks the progress of the students and continues to see an increase in the number of students reaching proficiency sooner than when they started the program four years ago. This year, of the 38 students, only four are fifth graders, a number that has dropped each year. Ross says those in the school have started the discussion of extending the program it to second graders in the future to close the gap even sooner.

Two para-educators, a computer tech coach and an intervention specialist run the Extended Day opportunity, which has expanded beyond just the software program. Small-group instruction is based on skill development needs. “Now what we are really targeting is where they need additional support in language acquisition” Ross says. “That can include phonological awareness, sentence structure, vocabulary development or reading comprehension.”

The buzz around the program starts to build in second grade. As the school — which uses testing data from its English Language Proficiency Assessment to get the cohort up and running by the first week of October to last through May — forms the program, Ross says students look forward for the opportunity to be a part of it.

Ross says that even as students exit the program as they gain proficiency, they advocate to remain in the program because they see the value. Students also have a group of peers learning similar content that helps them be comfortable as English language developers, as they don’t get singled out of their school-day classes for the proficiency help.

“The group becomes a close cohort,” Ross says. “There is a real energy around being selected to it.” And a real success for those who are in it.