TULSA, Okla. — Greg Bilbruck taught fifth grade at Gilcrease Elementary last year. Only five percent of his students were at grade level for math, and eight percent for reading.
"Some of them were rated as beginning readers, like kindergarteners, and they're in fifth grade. Or first graders. And these children, it's not because of a lack of ability," Bilbruck said.
Bilbruck spent last year working with individual students, trying to close the inequality gap for those who struggled.
"I really reward wrong answers, people that try, so that they see that's how we learn. We learn by trying and not quite reaching the mark and then saying "almost got it, let's try again," he said.
At the district level, staff are noticing many academic challenges are tied to trauma. That's why during new teacher induction next week, two days will be dedicated to learning about the mental well-being of students.
"How do we coordinate those supports in really targeted ways and understand that not every one of our students, not every one of our families has the same opportunities, and that we all can work in a concerted effort to really begin to improve those opportunities," deputy chief of academics Danielle Neves said.
The city is also focused on schools as part of the response to the most recent Equality Indicators Report. It shows Tulsa has room for growth when it comes to equality in education.
Bilbruck said working together can help meet students where they are.
"It takes love, it takes relationships. You reach out to these kids and you show them not who they are but who they can become," he said.
TPS also encouraged reading during summer school this year, sending books home with every student.
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