Sixty-five percent of teachers in a new nationwide poll favor starting next year with ‘"regularly scheduled instruction” over other options, such as revisiting concepts from the end of this semester, extending next school year or offering students the chance to repeat a grade.
Conducted by the Collaborative for Student Success, the results show administrators — who made up about 12% of the 5,555 respondents — think beginning the next year with April 2020 concepts is the best strategy for addressing learning loss due to school closures. Advocates and policymakers, about 250 respondents in the sample, agreed with administrators.
But those in that group were also the most supportive of extending the current school year, an option only 15% of teachers favor. Teachers represented the largest segment of respondents — 81%.
In written comments, additional suggestions include having students return to their current grade for a month at the beginning of the 2020-21 school year, extending the school day or creating a mandatory “study hall” to work on material missed during closures.
Others recommended trusting educators to differentiate instruction and providing additional classroom aides for support.
“Allow classroom teachers to individualize instruction for students to fill in gaps — based on each student’s need — with no pressure from end of year state testing requirements,” wrote an administrator in Tennessee. “It could take multiple years to ‘catch up.’”
Seventy percent of administrators are in favor of assessing students at the beginning of next year to determine learning loss, while 59% of teachers agree with that idea.
“Despite heroic efforts by educators and parents, the extended lack of in- class instruction has no doubt resulted in significant learning loss that must be diagnosed and addressed— particularly for our most at-risk students,” Jim Cowen, executive director of the Collaborative for Student Success, said in a press release. The survey report says, however, that whatever assessment is used “should be non-punitive and unrelated to state accountability requirements.”
The organization, a nonprofit focusing on standards and accountability, also recommends a public campaign “to provide ‘air cover’ and support for states to embrace more aggressive steps” to make up for lost learning. Those steps could include ongoing remote learning as a supplement to in-person schooling and addressing teachers unions’ concerns over how educators will be paid for adding instructional days.
Suggestions for summer
Respondents also shared some of their ideas for summer learning, even though it’s still unclear how soon buildings will re-open.
An administrator in Indiana said “jump start” programs would be offered for three weeks in July, but much depends on funding for transportation and child care, since a lot of students provide care for younger siblings. A teacher in North Carolina suggested summer school should be targeted to at-risk students and that students should be given summer packets with required reading and math instruction.
“Kids have already lost one month plus these two months of essentially no new concepts learned,” the teacher wrote.
As for the fall, another respondent from Florida recommends having all students start off the year — for at least the first month — with this year’s teachers before moving on to the next grade. That way, educators wouldn’t be expected to teach content from another grade level.
The idea brings up another approach that has received some renewed attention in recent weeks — looping.
“When summer ends and the next school year begins, we can choose to welcome our students back — as their teacher in the next grade level,” Mark Rogers, a 1st grade teacher at Austin Achieve Public Schools in Texas, wrote in a recent commentary. “This year, more than any other, our kids need continuity, our kids need their teachers to know them, and, as a result, our kids need their same teacher next year.”