The D.C. Council’s Special Committee on the COVID-19 Pandemic Recovery is getting flooded with recommendations as it considers what the future of education in the District should look like.
As dozens of panelists spoke to the committee, one thing most agreed on is that a one-size-fits-all approach will not work in this situation. That’s because students’ learning was impacted differently by their individual situations during the pandemic.
“In D.C., Empower K-12 found a large reduction in test scores for students identified as at risk relative to pre-COVID norms,” said education researcher and D.C. Public Schools parent Dr. Betsy Wolf. “On the other hand, researchers have found less severe or even minimal effects of COVID-19 on learning for more affluent students.”
She said some research has estimated some students even have gained during COVID-19, relative to prior historical trends, possibly due to parental support, time or a home schooling effect.
In response, she recommends specialized high-dose tutoring for those students who disproportionately suffered learning loss due to COVID-19.
But, she also warned, the tutoring needs to be done correctly.
“We know that tutoring has proved to be effective if it’s offered one-on-one, or in very small groups of students; if it’s provided by a paid adult, such as licensed teacher or professional; if it occurs frequently and is sustained over time with the same tutor; if it is offered in addition to, and not in place of, instructional time; if it has a formal structure where adults are trained and supported; if it’s informed by progress monitoring data on student performance and if it’s offered during the school day when students are most likely to be present at school,” Wolf said.
Other recommendations included extended teaching hours and smaller class sizes.
But, not all recommendations related to classroom learning.
Jess Giles, director of education reform for NOW DC, pointed out while considering what happens in the classroom is important, considering what’s happening inside children’s heads is more important.
“Last July [the Office of the State Superintendent of Education] released analysis from the 2019 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, which found that a third of high school students surveyed felt sad or hopeless almost every day for at least two weeks in the year,” Giles said, and the pandemic has only made matters worse. “Recently, Children’s National [Hospital] has seen an uptick of children with self-harm-related injuries.”
Her organization’s recommendation is for Mayor Muriel Bowser and the D.C. Council to invest $6.4 million to expand the school based mental health program and restore money that was lost in budget cuts to the community behavioral health services.
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