The Charter Features
Educators worldwide have been scrambling to keep kids engaged and learning during the ongoing lockdown, with mixed results. New research from the Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA) forecasts that this extended disruption of conventional schooling will create major educational hurdles that could continue to trip students up years down the line.
“NWEA is widely used and proven for growth and proficiency assessments,” notes Michael Lancaster, ACA’s testing coordinator, “…this is the same NWEA associated with the MAP Growth assessments in reading and math that ACA has implemented for two years.”
Lancaster continued, “these predictions were based on testing more than five million students in grades 3-8 during the 2017-18 school year. They looked at reading and math losses that typically occur over the summer and projected what extended time without instruction would mean.”
In the April 9th issue of the NWEA Blog, Doctor Beth Taransawa noted: “Preliminary estimates suggest impacts may be larger in math than in reading and that students may return in fall 2020 with less than 50% of typical learning gains and, in some grades, nearly a full year behind what we would expect in this subject in normal conditions.”
“… students may return in fall 2020 with less than 50% of typical learning gains and, in some grades, nearly a full year behind what we would expect in this subject in normal conditions.”
The researchers modeled two scenarios, the ‘COVID slide’ and the ‘COVID slowdown.’ Taransawa explained that the COVID slide modeled what would happen if students lost proficiency at the same rate they do over summer vacation, until schools reopen. The COVID slowdown, she continued, predicts student outcomes if students “maintain the same level of academic achievement they had when schools were closed.”
Why the best-case scenario– the COVID slowdown– isn’t looking likely:
Maintaining academic achievement throughout the lockdown, Lancaster notes, would require teachers to “maintain rigorous, on-pace instruction and student engagement through the closure”– in other words, the COVID slowdown is only applicable if online education with perfect student engagement continues through the summer.
Ann Heppner, one of ACA’s science teachers, called the lack of student buy-in “very discouraging.” She noted that many of her students “do not seem to be engaged. My elementary reading group is at 30% participation… My biology class is at 52% of students I have heard from… There are some that I have not heard from that I believe are continuing to work and others, I fear, are not.”
Despite the ‘distance learning for all’ policy, academic success is more than ever influenced by family socioeconomic situation, learning ability, and demographic.
Mr. Lancaster noted, “students with learning disabilities still are eligible [for] and may receive specially designed instruction, but that is harder to do over the distance. ACA and other schools have checked out laptops, chromebooks, and hot spots in efforts to keep students connected and lessen the slide… but there are so many variables and lack of preparation that the gaps seem to be widening.”
The COVID slide model may be more realistic.
Learning under the COVID slide:
Distanced learning is just as new as the Coronavirus, so the long-term consequences of a COVID Slide aren’t fully clear. Researchers can, however, turn to history, and observe the effects of normal school closures on students. NWEA forecasts that, under the slide, students may lose 30% of their progress in reading, and up to 50% in math– equivalent to skipping three to five months of the year entirely.
This sort of extended absence hasn’t historically helped kids learn.
Chronically absent students– kids who (for a variety of reasons) miss multiple days of school per month on a regular basis, are at a much higher risk of dropping out– a study conducted in 2005 found that attendance was a better predictor of whether a student would drop out than was state testing.
The academic performance of these absentees is below par, too– the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) found that in some cases “students with more absences have skill levels one to two years below their peers.”
The educational community is calling for strong, sustained action to help students avoid severe learning losses. Lancaster notes: “I’m concerned, but try to remain optimistic… Educators are not only trying to keep their students connected now. They’re looking ahead at ways to make up lost learning time and close learning gaps to lessen the long-term negative impacts. That way, whatever the needs of the future are, our kids will be as prepared as possible.”
The Charter will continue to cover the COVID learning losses and the response in the coming weeks.
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