The Debate Over How to Handle Kids’ “Lost Year” of Learning

| Vox | Anna North

The moment of truth for Gregory Heights Elementary School came last June.

The school in Burien, Washington, had closed its buildings in the spring when the pandemic forced lockdowns around the country. That meant students — about 50 percent of whom qualify for free or reduced-price lunch and about 40 percent of whom are learning English as a second language — traded classrooms for worksheets and Zoom meetings, and saw their teachers a lot less than before. After a few months of this, “we began to just think about how many hours of lost instruction we had,” principal Robin Totten told Vox. “Going into the next year, if that didn’t change, what were we going to do?”

One option was remediation: taking kids back and redoing everything they’d missed. But research from New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina showed this approach didn’t work well — students got bored doing work below their grade level and didn’t make enough progress. So Gregory Heights, along with its district, Highline Public Schools, tried something different: acceleration, in which students keep doing grade-level work but get targeted help catching up when they don’t understand something. Instead of going back and redoing everything with students, it’s about “just giving them those little scaffolded pieces, so that they can tackle the grade-level standard lesson,” Totten said.

It’s still early, but the results have been encouraging: “From fall to winter we saw really great growth” in student learning, Totten said. And the approach could be a model for other schools now trying to help kids rebound from not one but two school years deeply marked by the pandemic.

Read the full article in Vox.

Imali Ariyarathne, seventh-grade teacher at Langston Hughes Academy, stands in front of her students while introducing them to the captivating world of science

Imali Ariyarathne, seventh-grade teacher at Langston Hughes Academy, introduces her students to the captivating world of science.

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