The coronavirus pandemic has impacted our lives in numerous ways, from limiting social gatherings to seeing businesses close and even fold from the loss of income. One of the biggest ways it’s impacted us as a society, though, is one that has even greater implications for the future — the movement of education to strictly online platforms for an extended period of time.
In the December 3, 2020 edition of the regional publication “The Light and Champion,” Mike Elswick reported on Shelly Novell’s — the Center Independent School District’s (Piney Woods, East Texas) director of curriculum, instruction, and assessment — comments to school board members at a November board meeting. She indicated that the pandemic has slowed learning for students across the Central ISD, and those especially at-risk are the youngest students, those who would normally be learning the basics of reading and writing.
“I’m going to be honest here, I think we’re going to have to work very hard so we don’t have a generational education problem,” Novell said.
Novell also indicated that district assessment tools screened students in kindergarten through second grade on a variety of reading skills, including letter sound knowledge, decoding, fluency, and accuracy, and the results demonstrated major issues. 41 percent of the Center ISD’s students in this category rated “well below” average, and another 23 percent rated “below” average.
“The biggest impact that we’ve seen in the district is with kids who are in second grade right now. You think about first grade, that’s when you basically learn your foundations for reading,” Norvell said. “That’s when things start to click after Christmas, and they missed that whole last fourth of their first grade.”
Board President Matthew Mettauer asked Norvell if the trends they were seeing locally were reflected across Texas’ districts.
“I’ve talked to a lot of people,” she said. “And … it’s really made it difficult for those kids.” She added that she feels a big difference from the students’ standpoint is when they were taught phonics (usually started early in the first grade), then added that the district has implemented programs to focus on phonics with some indications of progress.
But with many school districts across the country deciding to continue with remote learning during the Fall 2020 semester — and some continuing into the Spring 2021 semester — or starting with in-person learning and returning to remote learning as the coronavirus’ impact strengthened, the big questions that remain are:
- Are our children going to be as fluent in reading as they need to be, having missed a critical time in their education, when they transition from learning to read in the first and second grades to reading to learn in the third grade?
- What does delayed learning mean for these students and for the country’s ability to function in the future, including training our next batch of educators?
- Are we going to see a generational gap in education as a whole and reading in particular moving forward?
- Do we have the tools necessary to recover from this pandemic-induced interruption?
Parents, teachers: What are your thoughts, opinions, and experiences? Please share them with us in the comments section below.
Elswick, Mike. (December 21, 2020). “Has COVID created a generational gap in education?” The Light and Champion. Retrieved from: https://www.lightandchampion.com/news-center-news/has-covid-created-generational-gap-education.