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ConVal: Unremediated lost learning from pandemic could affect students for years

  • A ConVal School District bus. (Benji Rosen/ Monadnock Ledger-Transcript) Benji Rosen

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 4/8/2021 10:50:46 AM

The ConVal School District is concerned about potential learning losses related to the COVID-19 pandemic, assistant superintendent Dr. Ann Forrest told School Board members Tuesday night. Nationwide, students appeared to be about a month-and-a-half behind in reading and almost three months behind in math, she said. Pandemic-related learning losses are likely to be greater among students who were already struggling in some way prior to the pandemic, Forrest said, and students with a stronger support system are more likely to experience low or no losses.

Learning losses can have long-range impacts, leading to students falling farther behind as years go by, perhaps even impacting the student’s lifetime earnings, Forrest said, citing a long-term study of children who lost several months of school due to an earthquake.

Remote learning last spring did appear to impact student test scores in the fall, Forrest said, with greater losses in math than reading. There are some silver linings, she said. ConVal had Chromebooks ready to go home with middle and high schoolers, a head start on issuing internet hotspots to families in need, and a solid plan that allowed students to learn in-person from the start of the school year. “All of those things came together to minimize the potential learning loss,” she said.

Although ConVal isn’t ready to make specific recommendations for how to combat learning losses within the District, administrators are exploring multiple methods, Forrest said, including expanded learning time via summer or weekend school, high-intensity tutoring in a one-on-one environment, and a focus on bringing students back to grade level curriculum.

“You will get sticker shock,” Rizzo Saunders told Board members, and that a lost learning program “could be more than a million dollars.” The District wants to leverage their federal ESSER II emergency COVID-19 relief funds as much as they can, she said.

This winter, the School Board balked at a proposed $1.25 million summer school program, which ultimately was not included in the budget. That was partly due to the price but also because the Board was unsure there was enough time to effectively organize, Board member Steve Ullman said. Other Board members mulled how best to get public support for the programming, and how best to encourage students to participate. Specific recommendations are forthcoming, Forrest said.


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