During the two years of the pandemic, millions of children had to take their classes remotely, which generated a lag in learning, especially in reading and mathematics.
The big question now is how to inspire children to return to school in person, to recover lost learning and close the academic gaps that have widened during the pandemic.
During the videoconference “Children and learning loss: How do we catch up?”, organized by Ethnic Media Servicesvarious experts spoke about strategies to close the educational gaps of minors.
Louis Freedberg, former director of EdSource and veteran journalist from the educational source, said that one of the positive things that has come from the pandemic, is that they have underlined the importance of schools.
“Everyone wants kids to go back to school. Parents and students were desperate to get back to school. Of course, that was tempered by real health issues.”
But overall, he said very few people wanted to be out of the classroom.
“So this enthusiasm for school, it was very refreshing for someone like me who has been writing and reporting on schools for many decades.”
And he mentioned that another of the good things that happened in many states is that there was more money for assistance programs for students and parents during the pandemic.
Also for schools to help students more effectively.
“The other relevant point is that Republicans and Democrats realized that schools were important not only for learning to read, write and arithmetic, but also for the physical and mental health of students.”
But in addition, schools were considered essential to get food and meals to children during the health crisis.
Freedber said that unfortunately with the return to school, learning loss was realized.
“It is very disheartening to see that the statistics show that many students who were already struggling before the pandemic are worse off today.”
Therefore, he stated that the key now is to focus on what can be done to engage students.
“We have to take advantage of the fact that the children are very excited to return to class, but if we continue doing things as before, this is not going to work.”
Of course, he said there are a lot of teachers and a lot of schools across the country that are doing an amazing job and have really been successful with the kids. But he argued that there are too many children who are not successful or interested in education.
“We need to implement strategies that have worked in different parts of the country to engage students.”
The most important goals are to maintain enthusiasm for learning at school, he said.
He cited as an example the case of Project Based Learning by director and producer George Lucas. And to know more details, he recommended visiting the site Lucasfoundation.org or edutopia.org
“It’s an approach in which students explore real-world problems through individual and group projects.”
Allison Socol, assistant director of the organization’s P12 Policy Ed Trust based in Washington DC, explained that they define learning loss as unfinished learning, in order to move away from an approach that blames the students and puts the blame on the system.
He said the pandemic has been an unprecedented experience for everyone, but they have found the most effective strategies for unfinished learning.
“First is focused intensive mentoring from the teacher to work with small groups, extend extended learning time to add hours to the school day; and most importantly, make sure you foster strong relationships.”
She explained that they have to ensure students are engaged in school and progressing academically, but also know what their social and emotional needs are in order to connect them and their families with the right supports.
“The federal government has provided a great deal of money to help districts and schools meet the growing academic, social and emotional needs of students. The total amount is $190 billion, most of which came from the US bailout.”
Hayin Kimner, CEO of the Community Schools Learning Exchange, said that during the recovery from the pandemic, many have heard of school community as a school improvement strategy.
“In this strategy, districts and schools work together with their community, teachers, students, families, staff, and partner with community agencies and local governments to align their resources for better school results.”
It is about, he explained, recognizing that many communities have natural resources and strong relationships that are often not part of the structure of schools.
“Those schools and districts that had strong relationships with families were much quicker to respond to gaps in distance learning technology.”
And he commented that since most teachers were used to teaching students in front of them, distance learning was a steep learning curve for everyone.
“The organic innovation of our educators was really a standout feature of the schools that did so well; and it was also collaborative leadership.”
Kimmer encouraged the state, districts and schools not to think of school communities as a separate funding program but rather as a means and opportunity for alignment and coherence and recharging existing efforts in terms of programs, capacities and financing.