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Longer days and Saturday classes: States explore costly ways to heal learning loss

A December analysis of McKinsey & Company concluded that American students could lose an average of five to nine months of learning by the end of June. Analysts concluded that students of color could be six to 12 months behind schedule at that time, compared to four to eight months of lost learning for white students.

“Sometimes a storm really hits, and it demolishes buildings and it literally takes years to rebuild a community or a city. That’s what we are now, ”said Eric Mackey, Alabama state superintendent of education.

“It’s not the kind of thing where we’re going to come out of the cellar, pick up a few sticks, and life is going to get back to normal,” he says. “It’s going to take a long time.”

For now, states are looking to a mix of federal and local funding as they develop plans to support struggling students.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee this week called state lawmakers to a special legislative session aimed at tackling falling reading and math rates.

Even before the pandemic, the state estimated that only one-third of third-graders in Tennessee met reading expectations at their grade level. Now the national education department is planning a new literacy program, backed by $ 100 million in federal stimulus and grants, to close the gap.

Legislators chew a trio of tickets pushed by Lee and State Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn who include a creation proposal after-school and summer learning camps for at-risk younger students, create a statewide network of tutors, and launch a pilot test program to help teachers measure l student learning.

“When we look at extending the school year and the school day, that’s a version of that,” Schwinn said.

“We not only have an opportunity, but the responsibility to reflect five and seven years later,” she said. “We have to think about how we are going to accelerate, knowing that we have more challenges than ever.”

In Illinois, state education superintendent Carmen Ayala has urged administrators to consider longer school years and summer learning opportunities with their share of more than $ 2 billion in stimulus financing.

“Start planning now to rethink the school calendar and expand the school day to ensure that students are given every chance to grow up,” Ayala wrote to school principals this month.

A bill introduced this month to the Washington state legislature also sees federal money as a potential source of funding for a proposed school year extension to dozens of local school districts.

According to recent calculations by the nonprofit Education Resource Strategies, a massive effort to solve seven to eight months of wasted learning time would cost between $ 12,000 and $ 13,500 per student over a period of five years. This could generate a prize that is well over $ 300 billion to reach about half of K-12 students.

“The fear here is that everyone is thinking, ‘We’ll get there this summer, and from the fall of next year we’re good,’ said Michael Griffith, senior researcher and analyst at the Learning Policy Institute. “When really, it’s more learning lost than that. This is something that for many children a summer cannot make up for.

Biden’s new relaunch pitch send $ 130 billion to K-12 schools, plus an additional $ 5 billion that governors could spend on elementary and secondary schools – and even more money for colleges and universities. His plan notes that the aid could help pay for extended learning time, tutoring, and counselors, although the money could also be spent on additional staff, technology, or other expenses.

If approved – and it is far from guaranteed – this money would bolster about $ 13 billion in aid to K-12 schools that Congress already set aside in the CARES Act last spring, followed by An additional $ 54 billion in a second stimulus package approved before completion. from last year.

So in Alabama, officials are preparing for a long drive.

“I think we have to dig in and understand that it’s long term. It’s not something that will be resolved by the fall, ”Mackey said. “I think we will fix this problem in 2024.”


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