Opinion

Maxwell: Data shows students are falling behind as COVID impacts schools

Posted 9/14/21

I think we can all agree that COVID fatigue is well entrenched in everyone’s lives.

There is not a single family that has not been affected by the pandemic. Some have paid a higher price …

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Opinion

Maxwell: Data shows students are falling behind as COVID impacts schools

Posted

I think we can all agree that COVID fatigue is well entrenched in everyone’s lives.

There is not a single family that has not been affected by the pandemic. Some have paid a higher price than others, but not one has escaped unscathed.

Here is another item we can all agree on. In-person instruction for students is critical to student success. Expert after expert and report after report tells the same story.

Disruption in in-person learning is taking its toll on achievement. More research is emerging that clearly illustrates the learning gap is present and growing larger in all demographic segments.

Any disruption to in-person learning has a negative effect. No matter if it manifests itself by students needing to be quarantined, infection, or parents voluntarily keeping students’ home.

Here are some numbers to consider. According to research conducted by Curriculum Associates, fewer students are on grade level this spring compared to prior school years.

Fewer students are on grade level in mathematics in all grades, particularly in elementary and early middle school grades. Students have made progress this year across all grades, but they continue to fall behind historical performance in elementary school grades.

Research shows that students are performing below historical grade level in mathematics anywhere from 2% to 8% depending on grade level. For reading and comprehension, the results are similar.

This past spring students are behind historical reading levels by anywhere from 1% to 8% depending on grade. The disbalance is even larger for low-income or minority populations.

All of this illustrates the priority that must be given to keeping schools open for learning.

Last year school districts struggled to have in-person learning without disruption. As the current school year approached SUSD leadership recognized that having schools open was a priority that needed to be met.

All in all, I believe that district leaders have done an excellent job meeting that goal. This past summer, before school started there was a level of optimism that the on-again, off-again in-person learning that we saw in the 2020-21 academic year were behind us. But the COVID variant gained traction throughout the summer along with the new realization that youth who were largely unaffected by the Alpha variant would be susceptible to the Delta variant.

So, the goalposts were moved by medical science and the district took appropriate action necessary to keep schools open.

This is the reality we live in. When so much uncertainty is upon us and the stakes for doing the right thing are high we have to rely on data and reports like this to guide us in our reasoning.

When it comes to preparing students for the future and making them job-ready, priority one must be keeping the doors to education open and prepared.

I support SUSD leadership in these efforts. Any energy to the contrary is counter-productive and will only lead to students falling further behind historical learning benchmarks.

Editor’s Note: Kevin Maxwell is a Scottsdale resident and former City Council candidate.

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