How to address unfinished learning now that kids are back to school?

By: Jenny Manrique

The COVID pandemic has deepened education divides for children. Millions have fallen behind in reading and math levels. This learning loss, which experts suggest calling “unfinished learning”, have resulted in the disruption of in-person instruction.

Which programs and strategies will help kids bridge the education gap and get excited about learning again? Speakers convened by Ethnic Media Services said that connecting schoolwork with career pathways and bringing art and music education back to the classroom as well as strengthening the community school model, will inspire children to return to the classrooms.

Louis Freedberg, past executive director of EdSource and veteran education journalist:

“One of the things that happened in most states was more money for schools and for programs that could actually assist students and parents aim and get through the pandemic, but also to help schools work with kids more effectively… This crossed both Republicans and Democrats: the narrative was that schools were important, not just for learning, not just for the three R’s, the reading, writing, and arithmetic, but for a student’s physical and mental health.”

“The key here now is to focus on what can be done to engage students now that they are back to school: There’s something called Project Based Learning, it’s an approach in which students explore real world problems in individual and group projects.” i.e.: https://www.edutopia.org/

“Linked Learning is another way to link middle and high school students to career pathways… It’s a well thought out strategy having career technical education and courses, providing internships and support services in the schools like counseling and supplemental reading.”

“We have to bring other arts and music programs back into the schools. This used to be a key part of the school curriculum and unfortunately, it’s been eviscerated across the country. In California, there’s a big push right now to get an initiative on the ballot this November to invest a million dollars more into arts and education programs in the schools.”

Allison Socol, Assistant Director of P12 Policy of Ed Trust in Washington DC:

“Unfinished learning is what others often call learning loss or learning gaps. We use the phrase for two big reasons: The first is that it’s a more asset frame, that hopes signals that with resources and supports students can absolutely make progress. And the second reason is because we hope it shifts the focus away from blaming students and puts the responsibility on the system education leaders.”

“The strategies that are most effective for addressing students’ unfinished learning fit in three buckets: the first bucket is targeted intensive tutoring, which sometimes gets called high dosage tutoring. The second is expanded or extended learning times. And the third is the importance of strong relationships.”

The federal government has provided a lot of money to support districts and schools in meeting the increased academic, social and emotional needs of students. That total amount is $190 billion,the bulk of which came from the American rescue plan.”

Hayin Kimner, Managing Director for the Community Schools Learning Exchange, and a Senior Policy and Research Fellow for Policy Analysis for California Education:

“Community Schools are not referring to a program or a funding strategy. When we’re talking about communities, we’re talking about a whole school improvement strategy in which districts
and schools are working together with their community, teachers, students, families, staff, and
partnering with community agencies and local governments to align their resources behind
improving student outcomes.”

“During COVID, those schools and districts that had strong relationships with families were much quicker to pivot to respond to Distance Learning Technology gaps, and really think through the ways to meet students where they were.”

“All schools can be community schools. This is about reframing and putting forward the central importance of students and relationships as part of doing these programs and strategies. Without those trusting relationships in place, we will not get to where we need to be both in terms of pandemic recovery, as well as public education transformation.”

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