Educators are unveiling strategies for the new academic year to help close the learning gap experienced by thousands of students when COVID-19 shuttered Texas campuses in early spring 2020.
Texas schools have been fully reopened for in-person learning during the 2021-2022 academic year. Improving math scores and offering remedial education are on the drawing board, teachers said.
After Gov. Greg Abbott closed schools in March 2020 as a result of the global pandemic, many parents with little or no teaching experience were forced to help educate their kids at home by supplementing their school’s virtual-learning programs.
Virtual learning became almost universal, whether the child attended a public, charter, private or parochial campus.
For too many households, the exercise proved a dismal failure.
Recent statewide test results confirm the shortcomings of remote learning, officials acknowledged.
The Texas Education Agency recently reported, “As a result of the learning disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of students not meeting grade level increased from 2019 across all subject areas and grade levels, with English I and English II being the only exceptions … mathematics reflects the largest decline in proficiency across all grade levels.”
Public schools use the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness to measure student proficiency.
“I think the (standardized test) data is concerning. What we need to be focused on is getting our kids back into school,” said Colleen Dippel, founder and CEO of Families Empowered. “Virtual learning did not work, especially for our most vulnerable kids. Parents should be working with schools to be sure we can get our kids into classrooms.”
Families Empowered is a nonprofit offering free services to families in Austin, Houston, San Antonio and Tarrant County to help them understand and navigate all of the available school choices in the state.
“Parents have the option of redoing (prekindergarten) and kindergarten, if they so choose, but they have to let their districts know in writing before the school year begins,” Dippel added. “If a student failed the STAAR exam, they are entitled to tutoring, paid for by the state of Texas. For kids who did poorly or squeaked by, parents should ask the schools to help those kids.”
For more on Families Empowered, visit www.familiesempowered.org or the Facebook page at www.facebook.com/FamiliesEmpowered/.
This summer, many school districts offered classes for learners who needed remedial help to catch up in math and other subjects.
Area school districts will be doing more for students as the new school year rolls out, including in the Alamo Heights Independent School District.
“Although in AHISD we did not see the degree of learning loss that other districts are reporting, through progress-monitoring efforts this past year, we know we have students in need of remediation and support,” said AHISD Superintendent Dana Bashara.
She added, “In addition to the robust summer school program we offered those students, we are moving forward with plans to hire additional interventionists at the secondary level to support students in reading and math and to get them back on track.”
Southside Independent School District Superintendent Rolando Ramirez added, “At Southside ISD while the focus will be on all subjects, emphasis has been placed on math by the district including math intervention classes and tutorials this upcoming school year.”
Education officials across the greater San Antonio area said as a result of the low STAAR test scores, school districts are united in their commitment to help students climb out of the COVID-19 hole.