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Breaking the COVID-19 slide in K-12 students

Southern Arizona schools tackle math and reading learning loss
Posted at 11:08 PM, Aug 25, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-26 09:01:20-04

TUCSON, Ariz. — Most students are back to reading and doing math remotely.

But many schools and districts are facing a new challenge -- the so-called COVID-19 slide.

It’s similar to the learning loss that can happen during the summer months,especially for disadvantaged and minority students.

The pandemic added a few more months, which is potentially making matters worse.

A new national study predicts a steeper learning loss that will widen achievement gaps.

Pandemic learning is complicated and that's changing the classroom landscape considerably.

A typical scene playing out in countless classrooms is a teacher all alone interacting with 20 or more students on a digital screen.

The disruption in traditional learning is a concern for education leaders, like Sunnyside Superintendent Steve Holmes. "We are a district in high poverty. We are always working with students who have some learning, they are great learners, but also have gaps in their learning instruction.

The Northwest Evaluation Association analyzed 5 million students in grades 3 to 8. The organization is projecting the reading loss will be about 30 percent beyond the normal summer slide and about 50 percent in math.

Sunnyside is trying to prevent a deeper slide by having teachers tackle learning declines in real time — meaning teachers are not waiting for weekly or monthly assessments that determine gaps in learning.

Holmes said, "Students who are struggling are receiving additional full support with the teachers noticing and making sense of what they’re seeing in the classroom and intervene in real time."

He said the district is not using a homogenized, one-size fits all, learning structure, even in remote learning settings.

Teachers are not focused on what students are *doing, but rather, students are routinely asked what they are *learning. "Clarity of learning is so important and I think we found that that really is a fundamental piece to how we start thinking about this work," said Holmes.

The superintendent's biggest challenge is with the youngest students because they’re learning how to read and do math.