WASCO, Calif. (KERO) — Students across the nation, including in Kern County are testing lower than required for their grade level as a result of virtual learning in the past year and a half.
Teachers said it helps that the students are back in the classroom, but they are doing everything they can to make sure these kids are up to speed.
This year is crucial for students as many risk falling further behind if they don’t catch up academically. A study conducted by The Policy Analysis For California Education looked at 18 districts in the state and found students kindergarten through 2nd grade, English learners, and socio-economically disadvantaged students were affected the most.
“At our school, we have looked at our scores in English arts and math and we did see a dip in scores in mathematics,” said Nicole Bickham a first-grade teacher at Highgate Elementary School.
Bickham who has been teaching for 28 years said the term learning loss really is not fair in this situation because the past year and a half was anything but typical so it is expected to have students, not at the level they are required to be.
“It is hard to build relationships through a computer screen and it was challenging,” said Bickham.
She said although it is amazing to have students back in the classrooms the challenges continue, including getting back into the routine of going to school instead of being at home.
“You know after a year on zoom and a shortened workday. Our stamina had to be built and it was tough, and then just perseverance, getting the kids to persevere through task and problem solve and work together and extend their thinking for a longer period of the day,” said Bichham.
She said they are following small group instructions to give more personalized attention to kids who are at the same level. They are also following the CRA model that uses all teaching styles from pictures to equations.
But Bickham added that kids in upper-grade levels were also affected.
For many sixth graders, the last time they were in the classroom they were still in elementary school and are now having to adapt to being in person again on top of an already difficult transition to a new campus with new people.
Those challenges are something Marcus Ballard sees himself. He’s a Wasco native who attended the school he is now teaching at. He said he has not seen too many of his kids affected academically from last year but attributes that to him knowing learning loss could happen.
“Let’s challenge ourselves to say you know what let’s think differently. You know educationally, we haven't seen this before and that way we can prevent learning loss and we can see learning gains,” said Ballard.
He also said keeping expectations high instead of giving kids a pass was key. He would have tutoring sessions with smaller groups of students after class saying since they did not have any after-school activities.
But just like teachers are going above and beyond, parent participation is very important. Both teachers said parents should reach out and talk to them about how their kids are doing in the classroom.
The Administrator of Instructional Services for Kern County Superintendent of Schools, Krista Herrera also recommended making learning fun at home.
“Really being positive about your students’ abilities, your kids’ abilities and working with them to make learning fun at home.” Said Herrera. “So, I think is there a book that you can read out loud to your child at night and talk about the characters, or, if you have an older child, can you read the same book separately and then on Tuesday nights talk about it, have your own little book study.”
They all agree, the past year has been challenging but are just happy to have students back in classrooms. Now they just know the goal is to set them up for success this year.