The official, difficult and heavy decision has been made to close school buildings for the remainder of the academic year. While parents and educators across the state have commendably worked creatively and quickly to adjust to this ‘new normal’ of schooling, some very real concerns about learning loss, continuity of education, and widening of educational equity gaps in the system – which have existed for decades - must be acknowledged and addressed.
As the mom of a 5-year-old and 3-year-old who is juggling working from home while ensuring continued learning for my own children, I wonder as I end my day if they have gotten enough learning, if they are on track and will be ready for their next year at school, and how I’ll be able to be sure there are measures in place for recognition of any gaps – particularly for my 5-year-old who is now very eager to learn to read.
And, I know I am not alone as a parent. In fact, in a recent survey conducted by Stand for Children Louisiana, more than 50% of parents stated that their number one concern at this time – even ahead of income loss and access to food - was seeing their children experience learning loss from which they may never bounce back without clear plans in place to prevent it. Coupled with this concern was the barrier of lack of access to the internet, technology devices, and learning resources particularly in low-income households – creating an even larger educational equity gap for students and families who are traditionally underserved.
This is not the time for a “business as usual” approach. And, while we have examples of districts that have innovated to serve students well, many were underprepared for this unthinkable moment we are facing. While this moment was so unexpected, we must never allow ourselves to be underprepared again and, in fact, should be certain we are overprepared if and when we land here in the future. It is more important than ever that we prioritize the creation and funding – through CARES Act and GEER fund dollars - of innovative district plans that address the growing academic needs of students and that prevent vulnerable students from falling further behind.
It is our belief that district plans must:
- Ensure internet access and technology devices for all students PK – 12
- Ensure that there is daily communication between educators and students
- Ensure that student learning is assessed and individual learning plans are developed for each student
- Ensure that educators have access to high quality, standards aligned curriculum that provides them with guidance to adjust their practice and prepare to greet and teach students well when they return this summer, this fall, and in the years ahead
- Ensure improved literacy instruction for students PK – 5
Where plans do not provide for the above and where a student doesn’t have access to them, students and families deserve the opportunity to exercise choice to gain access.
While no one has been at this moment in time before and many questions remain, one thing that is clear is that our job to serve all students and families well has never been more critical and that will require non-traditional innovations, problem solving, idea generation, and collaboration between the Louisiana Department of Education, BESE, districts, school leaders, and educators across our state. Our students deserve nothing less.