Most of us probably remember the return to school after summer holidays as a roller coaster ride of emotions. We scaled peaks of excitement at the thought of seeing friends again, tumbled down into regret that the holidays were over, and swirled around anxiety over what the next grade may bring.
We hit classes coming down the proverbial “summer slide;” the previous year’s lessons flung into the recesses of our minds.
This September, students all over are facing a new kind of academic ride – the so-called “COVID slide.” Add to these past two months of summer the previous three months or so that students weren’t in school due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The lockdown has super-charged the annual summer slide, and many students will be struggling to keep up.
Dr. Paul Bennett, the founding director of Schoolhouse Consulting and a respected education professor and policy researcher, claims the rapid and unplanned transition to distance learning “turned the Canadian school system upside down and disrupted the lives of some 5 million children and families, and their teachers.”
Educators were virtually scrambling to master new technology, while the majority of children were left to cope with “a vague and changing set of home learning guidelines.”
Sure, classes continued online during the latter months of the school year, but it’s debatable how engaged the students were in their lessons. Reducing the number of expected hours of work didn’t help motivate students to knuckle down either. “In actual practice, these programs took on a crazy-quilt pattern ranging from high tech to low tech to no tech, highly dependent upon a student’s school district, individual school or classroom teacher,” according to Dr. Bennett.
Nor did guaranteeing students their March grades, which, Dr. Bennett says, “removed most of the incentive to work until the end of the year.”
And he’s not the only one to recognize if not sound the alarm over the situation. A CBC News investigative report concerning the Maritimes indicated an estimated one out of four students in junior and senior high schools went missing or were completely unaccounted.
While the New York Times education reporter Dana Goldstein reported on June 5 that by September , most students would be “months behind” with “some losing the equivalent of a full year’s worth of academic gains.”
And the global non-profit, non-partisan think tank, the Rand Corporation, which is based in California, highlighted a CNN report that losses could be particularly problematic for grade school students who should be in the process of laying critical foundations of reading, writing, and math skills, potentially robbing a generation of students of vital stages of learning.
Back to school – with a plan
Scary stuff. Though it’s comforting to know that at least the Nova Scotia’s Department of Education and Early Childhood Development also has recognized the issue. “The lengthy at home learning, followed by the summer break, will have created a variety of different responses, needs, and strengths for students,” reads its Back to School Plan.
Highlighting the Mi’kmaw word kinu, meaning “all of us together, inclusive,” the province plans to emphasize “the importance of reaching out to students who were disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 and by this year’s school closures to understand the gaps in learning opportunities they may have experienced.”
How parents can help
So what can parents do outside the school system to give their kids the added momentum they may need? Various volunteers, including students, have jumped into the education arena offering informal tutoring services, which could be looked at.
On the other end of the scale, organizations such as Halifax Learning can go a long way toward bridging the education gap with professional private assistance. Founder and CEO, Sarah Arnold, is a strong advocate of the SpellRead program, which was developed by Prince Edward Island’s Dr. Kay MacPhee and is widely referred to by psychologists, speech therapists and educators alike.
Sarah has channeled the organization to meet the current demand for online instruction in SpellRead. But she remains a strong advocate of basic techniques such as parents simply reading together with their children on a regular basis. And it needn’t be lengthy home lessons either; frequency rules here, she says.
Clearly, as we swing into September, educators everywhere are recognizing the importance of learning routines – at school and at home -- in navigating students away from the COVID slide.
At Halifax learning we continue to offer our free reading assessments, we are offering these online and in person.
In less than 1 hour you will learn how your child, process language and comprehend text. Our assessment is not a product of the SpellRead program, but an independent standardized assessment that provides benchmarks for the foundational skills identified in research required for efficient reading.
You will also receive a digital copy of the report within two business days with no obligation to enroll in our programs. This information can help access school support as well.
Our SpellRead students are assessed three times over the course of a full registration to ensure progress and success!