Updated: Feb 22, 2021
While the COVID 19 pandemic has significantly impacted all students' learning, it has been more incredibly destructive to Black, Hispanic, and especially our low socioeconomic children. The more time our fragile students stay at home learning remotely, the more significant the Summer Learning Loss or learning gap will be.
If we take the time to track each student's academic journey and what school districts have done to address the learning gap, we will find that learning conditions in the schools and at home have significantly improved or advanced since the spring of 2020.
Many school districts were prepared to make drastic changes to their operating budget immediately because Rep. Dan Huberty and Sen. Larry Taylor introduced a piece of legislation that allowed the state of Texas to infuse more than $4.5 billion into the public education system back in September 2019. The new structuring of the school finance effectively increasing the basic allotment per student from $5,140 to $6,160. In a district with a student population of 54,000, that amount translates to almost $55,000,000 of the discretionary budget.
Nonetheless, even though the State has poured millions of dollars into the education system, our students still receive an inadequate education. Why are students not learning? Why do students have to give up their summer vacation? Why do we have a problem with the achievement gaps? To answer all these questions, let's take a look at what has happened this school year. First of all, thousands of students started the school year learning either from home, face-to-face, or a combination of both that we will call: the hybrid model. All of these three scenarios were trying to address the need of all students, including low-income children. Despite all those efforts, schools still struggled, and students did not receive the best education possible.
For those students who were or are still remote learners, we are putting a lot of responsibility on their parents and the students because we are either expecting the parents to support the student learning or trusting that students will self-monitor their education and by experience, we can certainly predict what the result will be in most of the cases. On the other hand, the students who come to school for face-to-face instruction are also affected because they have to split their instructional time between the face-to-face and the remote learners. Regardless of the situation, our teachers are making a tremendous effort to successfully differentiate instruction and, at the same time, meet the student learning needs.
To add fuel to the fire, Texas was recently impacted by a massive winter storm that left thousands of families and businesses without electricity. As a consequence, many school districts were forced to cancel school for an entire week. This natural disaster brings us to another learning phenomenon described as a Summer Learning Loss, which indicates that students typically tend to forget the equivalent of up to eight weeks of instruction. Students in the summer months tend to forget concepts and skills mastered throughout the school year. Every school year, we address this issue in about three to six weeks by providing targeted tutorials and remediation.
However, the obstacle that we are encountering is that many face-to-face students are consistently getting sick, or if they come in contact with a COVID 19 person, they are put in quarantine for up to 10 school days. Remote learner-students are not consistently log in to their regular classes because of technology-related issues or lack of motivation and engagement. Students who need tutorials do not participate because they don't wake up on time, and parents are not home to monitor them.
This school year has been challenging for students, teachers, and families. Unfortunately, the most affected are the students who will probably be entering a new school year with significant learning gaps and one or two years behind grade level. We need to change our paradigm and mindset and work closely with our families, students, and teachers. There is no time to spare; we must create a daily learning schedule that builds and provides concrete opportunities for engagement, collaboration, and feedback.