Educators push to cover pandemic gaps in student learning

Published: May. 25, 2022 at 8:34 PM EDT
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GREENE & HYDE COUNTIES, N.C. (WITN) - Many parents’ fears are being realized as information from the State Department of Public Instruction shows that students, on average, fell behind their academic pace by two to 15 months after their instruction was interrupted by the pandemic.

“The school is a sad place without all the children in it, and we have them back. We are so glad to have them back, and they are so glad to be back,” said Mattamuskeet Elementary School Principal Allison Etheridge.

Instruction is looking more as it did pre-pandemic. Now on the other side of fully remote learning, data from the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction shows where students have fallen behind in their learning.

The deepest hit came in math education. Students also fell behind in English Language Arts by two months and one week to seven months and three weeks.

“We have gaps that we haven’t seen in many years,” said West Greene Elementary School Principal Phil Cook. “[Teachers] have done such an amazing job, and I couldn’t be more proud of the work that they all do every single day. They are growing those students, and I’m very excited to see the gains at the end of the school year because I know from the data we’re looking at right now, our kids are growing.”

NCDPI says students will need intensive academic intervention to make up for hundreds to even more than a thousand hours of class time they couldn’t capitalize on, if they want to get back on track.

“We had to really take a deep dive into how are we going to teach these skills to our students because we normally don’t have to do that,” Cook said. “We’ve had a lot of professional development, guiding resources, dug deep, and got our hands dirty and started working with our students at the small groups tables on differentiating the work to meet those needs. They’re coming to us with some weaknesses that we hadn’t seen in years before.”

It’s all hands on deck to fill in the gaps for some of the state’s youngest learners.

“You pull a student who’s in need whether it’s your student or if it’s not because ultimately, they’re all our students and the goal is to get everybody where they need to be,” Etheridge said.

The focus isn’t just on academics, but social and emotional learning, too.

“Our second-grade students had never had a normal school year,” Cook said. “We’ve made sure that our teachers knew about that so that when our students came to us, we were very

In order to try to help students catch back up, the state has outlined several upcoming summer programs focused on learning recovery using the Public Instruction department’s pandemic relief funds.

This summer, a “Career Accelerator” program will be geared toward preparing sixth through 12th grade students for careers, either out of high school or out of college.

A “Summer Bridge Academy” will be available for rising Kindergarten, sixth grade, ninth grade, and 12th grade students.

Two weeks before the start of the next school year, those students will focus on math and English, projects, and field trips, among other things.

The state will also direct a math enrichment program for fourth through eighth graders for before-school and after-school programs designed to help students accelerate their math learning and get back on track.

Schools can apply for the program in July.

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