As schools prepare to welcome back students, whether face-to-face or virtually, they must quickly assess just how much progress students lost because of the emergency spring shutdowns and summer hiatus.
Most educators, parents, and students agree that a lot of instructional time and learning were missed. Imagine the reports from the Los Angeles Times that reports Los Angeles school districts said about 15,000 high school students had failed to do any schoolwork in the first few weeks after the spring shutdowns.
Absenteeism was also a problem throughout the country. According to The Boston Globe, one-third of Providence Public Schools' 24,000 students were reported as chronically absent between March 23 and May 26th. Imagine the lost learning opportunities.
Educational leaders have warned that the pandemic could set back an entire generation of children, and without the data from the end of year exams, many share concerns about identifying and closing the educational gaps.
As school systems make decisions on fall openings, many educators and parents continue to have more and more concerns. Some schools, such as Gov. Cuomo of New York announced recently, plan to return to traditional face-to-face learning, some states and districts are planning the remote learning model, while others are considering a hybrid plan. Worldwide we are watching countries making decisions for returning to school, many are being creative by creating outside classrooms, using alternative spaces while some places, such as Kenya, have canceled the school year completely and will require students to repeat their grade level.
So, what can you do to help your students?
1. Start with developing formative assessments, and lots of them! As important as the data is for informing instruction and identifying learning gaps, I am not a proponent for starting the year with a battery of exams, especially under the current circumstances. Students, especially students of color and Asian ancestry, may be particularly anxious in the racial divide happening within the country right now.
Plan on scaffolding your curriculum to accommodate student needs. Review the core objectives, especially of the spring instruction; practice the skills for retention; and introduce the new learning in such a way that students not only retain the information, but they are also able to assimilate and accommodate it for extended learning.
2. Create fun ways to engage students. Formative assessment can be used by creating and adapting games, puzzles, and flashcards. Be inventive and make sure that all students participate.
3. Make sure to keep records that target necessary learning gaps. This can be done with a simple spreadsheet that lists the skillsets for your curriculum area. It will be an essential document and guide your instructional practice.
4. Take the time to have a one-on-one conversation with each student, especially if you'll be teaching virtually. Schedule a Zoom call and have a conversation to assess your students' learning and any gaps they may have. This conversational process will be a huge investment of your time, but it is well worth it to gauge your students' progress. It also helps build relationships with your students.
Do you have any successful formative assessments that you use? Please share any tips you rely on...I'd love to include them in the Teachers to Teachers Tool Bag.
Until next time...