After 10 months of the COVID-19 crisis, educators and parents are worried about the academic slide that is occuring to their students and children across the nation. An abrupt change in the environment of learning from classroom-based to remote learning shifted everything we think about in education. From location to modality, from instructional context to engagement, it is a brave new world in K-12 education.
Brave New World
The academic slide is most often associated with summer learning loss. During the normal 10-week break, originally organized as time needed to work the farms, students use to go home to work but now are more likely to play outside rather than read and learn inside. This year of COVID-19 has been different and many children were more inside than out, so learning should have continued. For some students it did, but for the majority, the slide was on! Additional set backs were experienced when students returned to school in the fall with the uncertainty of the spreading pandemic and the hybrid system of having some on campus and some at home. The slide is hard to calculate but the threat of it is already being attended to by schools and colleges. In this brave new world, educators are stepping up to find the learning loss, prescribe the academic fix, and catch students up to current academic expectations.
Disrupting Educational Inequality
However, the part of the pandemic that negatively affects family and therefore affects student learning, is the inequality that existed before the pandemic. Before all of this started, the poor families in our country were already struggling. Before this started, families that did not have access to a high-quality teacher and an effective learning curriculum were suffering. And now with the pandemic, previous disadvantages in schooling are only exacerbated and the same disadvantaged families who were struggling before the pandemic, are now worse off. And the number struggling families grows. New families who were keeping their heads above water but find themselves slipping under the sea have joined the food insecure, the almost evicted, the hunkering down. The need to disrupt the regular educational inequality and attend to the newer and larger inequalities has to be one of the most important priorities for governmental actors, policymakers, and community-sustainers.
Strategies for Disrupting Educational Inequality
Strategies to help us in this time of need would come from government for financial stimulus, policymakers to organize new policies for a long-term education recovery plan nationwide, and educators who will need to look at two or more years of student recovery. These broader strategies will need to be grounded in school-based, tactical education recovery strategies, that are tangible and doable by educators everywhere. From developing Individual Educational Plans (IEPs) that respond to this academic slide for our most vulnerable students with disabilities, to developing individual education plans informally for every student. These plans will help all of our teachers, current and future, who will be able to coordinate these plans for catching every student up to grade-level expectations. These formal and informal plans might include school-based summer plans, home-based year-round plans, targeted reading recovery plans for low-income students, book distribution, tutor assignment, group work, student groups, targeted interventions in school and after school, social-emotional support, the arts, and creative practice not just in the arts but also arts -integrated into content areas.
Regardless of the amount of expected learning loss, strategies need to be formed and plans need to be made now to help our students recover from COVID-19 and resume learning with confidence.