Welcome to Julie Billiart Schools, a family of K-8 coeducational, independent day schools for children with learning differences.


Friday, March 26, 2021

Despite many changes to the school year, Julie Billiart School Akron students doubled their expected year-over-year academic growth thanks to the innovation and commitment of faculty and staff.

When schools across the nation were forced to close in March of 2020 due to the Coronavirus pandemic, Julie Billiart Schools were faced with an unprecedented challenge. Because JB students have learning and social differences, the in-person school setting is critical for their academic, social, emotional, and spiritual growth.

“We know that our students need the structure and support of in-person learning, which is why it has been so important for us to stay open all year,” said Lannie Davis-Frecker, President and CEO of Julie Billiart Schools. “They thrive on the routines, direct intervention, onsite therapies, and the social-thinking curriculum that is central to everything we do. Being in-person this year has absolutely contributed to the growth our kids have seen."

Julie Billiart Schools set to work last spring building a distance learning program to meet students where they were and to bring them back in the fall as safely as possible.

“When we returned to school in the fall, we saw a greater downward slope from the testing period the year prior. Of course, we knew this was because of the spring virtual learning, stacked against general summer learning loss we typically anticipate,” said Jason Wojnicz, Principal and Director of Admissions at JB Akron. “As a team, we knew that we needed to come together to help our students not only regain - but grow.”

Wojnicz and his faculty worked together to evaluate the fall Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) assessments and determine what areas students needed more support in. MAP assessments are administered three times a year at Julie Billiart Schools. They are a norm-referenced measure of student growth over time. MAP assessments can provide detailed, actionable data about where each child is on his or her unique learning path.

“The most important thing to me was how to get the most valid results from our students, so we had to figure out how to remove all of the obstacles including time, environment, preparation, and attitude that might bring a student down,” said Wojnicz.

Teachers worked together as a grade band team to discuss the processes for assessment procedures and develop a testing schedule that would make the most of the three-week window. They sat down with students to set personalized goals and practice for the test to come. During testing, teachers displayed a growth mindset and frequently encouraged students at every step of the tests. They reminded students of the shared goals they’d set for themselves and of their potential to succeed.

“It’s not typical in other schools for kids to be a part of their own academic goal setting,” said Wojnicz. “We wanted to bring a new level of enthusiasm and purpose to testing, which is an extension of how our teachers educate in their classrooms each day. It clearly paid off.”

Recent student scores on MAP assessments are just one indicator that JB students were able to not only recoup but actually advance past spring and summer learning loss from the previous year.

Students see impressive academic growth in spite of challenging year

“We saw our student’s achievement and growth scores increase dramatically,” said Wojnicz. “As a whole school, in both reading and math, our school average percentile went up by 14 percent. This is tremendous growth!”

Students averaged what is considered double the normal or expected amount of growth in reading and math. They were visibly proud of their results and walked away from the assessment with positive feelings and experiences around testing. Many classrooms celebrated with class parties to keep the positive momentum going. Teachers felt energized by the outcomes and were able to see their hard work and preparation shine.

Students see impressive academic growth in spite of challenging year

A core factor in the growth of JB students is the instruction that students partake in daily. Many JB students struggle in different aspects of their academics. These struggles are real and they form a gap between the students' knowledge and what would be considered as “normal” growth. Without the appropriate support and instruction, national data trends display that the gaps continue to grow, increasing deficits. With proper instruction and strategies, students who have learning struggles can maintain gaps and achieve the ultimate goal of decreasing the gaps between their knowledge and the “norm.”

“While maintaining a gap is good to see, seeing the gap close is the most exciting outcome,” said Wojnicz. “This is exactly what we are seeing across the board in all grade levels. As students spend more time at JB, these gaps are closing and our students are attaining new knowledge.”

The key, according to Wojnicz, is JB’s small group learning environments. JB teachers are able to teach at the student’s instructional level and focus on the concepts they are ready for. JB also prioritizes love, acceptance, and belonging in all things - including academics. This environment allows students to feel more comfortable with their teachers, peers, and in the classroom.

“Beyond everything else, there is one factor that is a huge determinant of success - student happiness,” said Wojnicz. “Being happy, comfortable, and welcomed drives student success. We see our students walking into school with smiles. Without this happiness, learning can become very hard, especially for students who are already faced with learning and social needs. We are so proud of our kids.”

open-quote Julie Billiart Schools gave us hope after our daughter was diagnosed with a learning disability. At JB, she thrived in the small classes, received necessary therapies, and developed the self-confidence to ask for help when she needed it. close-quote

JB Parent

open-quote My kids love everything about JB and look forward to going to school every day and seeing their friends and teachers. JB is truly a one of a kind school enriching young lives everyday. close-quote

JB Parent

open-quote Julie Billiart Schools has helped my child become a better version of himself. The teachers and therapists at JB really know and understand how to reach children who learn differently. close-quote

JB Parent

open-quote I don’t think I will ever be able to put into words how grateful I am that you saw my daughter for all that she is today and all that she is yet to become. close-quote

Tammie Sommer

open-quote All of the teachers and staff at JB are patient and willing to take the extra time to make sure we, as parents, understand and are comfortable. close-quote

JB Parent

open-quote They have all the resources necessary, specialized to the individual learning of each child, and the heart that goes with it. I don't think we would have stayed in Ohio if it wasn't for JB! close-quote

JB Parent

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