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'We are far behind': Educators weigh in on Ohio students learning loss throughout the pandemic

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Posted at 7:00 AM, Feb 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-11 07:00:54-05

CLEVELAND — As an educator, there’s a state standard of what each teacher’s curriculum should be each year, but this school year those guidelines are tougher for teachers to reach than in years past.

“I might be teaching the standards, but you have kids whose internet cuts out or you have kids who have to watch other kids in their families, so they hear every 5th word that I say. So, we might be teaching the standards, but they might not even be getting them. We are far behind,” said a northeast Ohio high school teacher.

She didn’t want to be named, but said that she is worried about how students will fare when things return to normal.

“We are nowhere, in some of these classes, where we should be,” she said. “Some of the teachers are choosing to skip over curriculum standards, some are trying to reinforce things that didn’t get taught last year.”

Her concerns are warranted. Results from Ohio’s 2020 Kindergarten Readiness Assessment shows nearly half of Ohio’s kindergartners are not on track when it comes to readiness. It also shows 3rd-grade English language arts assessment scores dropped by 8 percentage points.

“If you have a child in 3rd grade who is not meeting the 3rd-grade reading level, what are you going to do with that kid? Are you going to hold that child back? That is a serious conversation that a lot of districts are going to have,” said the teacher.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine wants districts to start having that conversation, asking them to come up with a plan to address learning loss by April 1.

“My concern about April 1 is that if you rush the process, then you're not going to fully engage the people who need to be engaged in the conversation,” said Scott DiMauro, the president of the Ohio Education Association.

He said there’s no one answer to the problem.

“It doesn't make sense to say that just simply by adjusting the calendar, or adjusting the school day, or things like that, that that's going to solve the problem,” he said. “ If we've had a hard time getting kids to connect during the school year, how successful is it going to be to just think that summer school is going to going to magically solve the problem?”

He said what is clear, is that there needs to be funding on a state and federal level to make sure schools are equipped to deal with the disruptive learning opportunities the pandemic created.

“We need the resources. We need leadership from the state, not just to point out that there's an issue here, but to make sure that that the dollars are there so that we can have what's needed to meet the needs of our students, in terms of staffing, in terms of programming, in terms of materials and supplies and facilities to make sure that schools are safe and vibrant, to make sure that we have a well-rounded curriculum,” said DiMauro.

The teacher News 5 spoke to said she hopes the solutions will come sooner rather than later but said it has to be a community-driven approach.

“You can’t keep kids out of school for a year or more and expect them to be where they should be. It’s not going to happen, us as teachers cannot do that for them. Us as families are going to have to support this effort,” she said.