Parents are holding kids back in school amid COVID-19: How to help them catch up

Dayan did start the 2020-2021 school year as a first grader, but because of his low reading proficiency, he returned to kindergarten on Jan. 25.

2/23/2021 2:35:00 PM

As some children fall behind in online schooling during the COVID-19 pandemic, parents and caregivers have been faced with the decision of holding children back a grade or search for alternative learning methods.

Dayan did start the 2020-2021 school year as a first grader, but because of his low reading proficiency, he returned to kindergarten on Jan. 25.

, a research and advocacy group focused on equity issues, said the learning gaps emerging during the pandemic can be attributed to things like lack of Internet access and devices for students, to stretched thing resources from schools and to the level of support parents were able to provide due to their jobs or economic hardships.

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"The net impact of all those obstacles is that we’re going to see disparities in learning outcomes," King told"GMA.""There’s a real risk of a lost generation of students if we don’t do the things necessary to support the students."

When students get behind in school, if not corrected, it risks lowering their potential earnings for the rest of their lives, according toBryan Hancock, one of the authors of the McKinsey & Co. study."When we’ve looked at other disruptive events in the U.S. or internationally where students had learning severely disrupted, like from a hurricane, we know that in following those cohorts of students over time, that their career earnings were less," he said."We also know that in the economy we have, that if we don’t have education that is allowing everyone to achieve and everyone to learn, we are not just injuring those individuals, but it provides a drag in overall growth in our economy."

"Addressing these gaps now both helps individuals’ increase their earning potential and helps us as a country be competitive," Hancock added.Liesl Hickey, a mother of three from Washington D.C., told"GMA" that she didn't hold her third-grader back a year, though she did pull her out of public elementary school after a challenging start in virtual learning. The child now attends a religious-affiliated independent school.

"If I would've kept her in [virtual learning] and not had other options, there was no way she would be able to go onto fourth grade," Hickey said."These are such developmental years, academically. You're really learning the core skills--not only reading, but with math. She would not have been ready."

If I would've kept her in (virtual learning) and not had other options, there was no way she would be able to go onto fourth grade.Hickey said her daughter, whose name she withheld for privacy reasons, struggled with navigating tech platforms she used during online schooling.

"And then, to be honest, she had a really hard time learning," Hickey said."Six hours on Zoom is a lot for kids. It's a lot for adults."Hickey said that after a rough start to third grade, her daughter is now thriving and is happy in her new school.

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"There's been little focus on what really matters and that's the kids," Hickey said."Kids are struggling and we've seen the numbers. At the end of the day, we see a lot of damage being done and it's really heartbreaking."

A call for targeted, increased learning for studentsKing and other education experts say they don't think the response to students' potential pandemic learning gaps should be to hold them back in the grade, citing research on grade retention. There is also the strain that large-scale grade retentions could have on schools and school systems.

More than 56 million students attended elementary, middle, and high schools across the U.S. last fall, according to aprojection from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES)."The research on grade retention as it’s called, or holding students back, suggests that it can be pretty harmful to students’ overall academic progress," said King."Students who are retained are more likely to drop out, they often see a psychological toll to being retained."

"Of course that’s in a very different set of circumstances than in a pandemic, but I would fear that we would see some of those negative consequences," he added.King and others are calling on schools and policymakers to focus resources on things they may not have in the past, such as summer school and high intensive tutoring, enrichment activities and mental health services, and making them accessible to all students, particularly those who have been hit the hardest by the pandemic.

"My hope is that this is a New Deal moment where people look at our situation and say, ‘It’s not good enough to just go back to February 2020,’ because we had these substantial inequities before COVID," said King."The goal should be building a more equitable future and ensuring that low-income students and students of color have equitable access to opportunity."

The McKinsey & Co. study found that the most effective response for addressing learning gaps is a combination of acceleration academies -- a week or so long summer academy with targeted instruction in groups of eight to 12 students -- and high-intensity tutoring, which is 50 minutes of tutoring per day with two students per tutor, according to Hancock.

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Jane MinovskayaJane Minovskaya of Charlotte, North Carolina, shares a photo of her nephew's remote learning schedule amid the COVID-19 pandemic.Chris Minnich, CEO of NWEA, anational, nonprofit education testing organization, said their data showing most students are showing slower learning growth versus learning loss reinforces that teachers and parents need to focus on key concepts instead of holding students back for an entire year.

"The important response from the school system is that next year or over the summer we really need to pay attention to kids that might have missed key concepts, like fractions in math and phonics in reading," said Minnich."If we just pretend that everything is normal and we put kids in the next grade and don’t focus on what they might have missed, then we’ll have problems."

If we just pretend that everything is normal and we put kids in the next grade and don’t focus on what they might have missed, then we’ll have problems.Like King, Minnich supports expanding students' time in front of teachers through summer school and tutoring as well as non-academic summer camps at schools, where permitted by COVID-19 restrictions, to get students back in school settings.

He said school administrators and teachers also need to think ahead about possibly reimaging the first few weeks of the next school year to make sure students are caught up on key concepts."It’s not like students didn’t learn anything during this period of time," said Minnich."It’s that they may not have learned key concepts that we need to make sure that they pick up as they go into the next grade."

In the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill that, some of the school funding is earmarked for"learning loss" programs, such as summer school, afterschool programs and extended school year days.President Joe Bidenhas also made reopening schools

in his first 100 days in office a priority. When asked last week whether the president supports a summer school semester, White House press secretary Jennifer Psaki said the Department of Education is doing a study to determine the impact of COVID and remote learning on children, but said ultimately the decision is up to school districts.

What parents can doMinnich, a parent himself, said his first tip for parents is to follow their own instincts, saying,"You know what your student is able to do."And while students who have been doing virtual learning for the past year may need a small break from their computers this summer, once they are ready, jump into doing as much academic instruction with them this summer as possible, recommends Minnich, citing the many educational resources now available online for parents.

Minnich also recommends parents stay in close contact with their child's teacher and make sure they know the key concepts their child should be able to do in their grade.STOCK PHOTO/Getty ImagesStock photo of boy attending classes online."My oldest is going into fourth grade next year and we’re going to make sure we pay attention to the things he should have learned in third grade in the first parent teacher conference," said Minnich."That’s a strategy that I think all parents should be using."

King said he too"strongly encourages" parents to reach out to their child's school to find out their child's strengths and weaknesses and make a plan to make sure they are caught up. The plan should focus on tutoring and extended learning time and making sure it's clear what the instructional experience will be for the student next year to help them quickly make up ground, according to King.

MORE: Pandemic 'learning loss' grows as schools race to reopen"This is one of the reasons it’s so important for parents to have information about how their kids are doing," he said."One of the things I worry about, particularly for the most vulnerable families, is they may not be getting enough information from their schools on how their kids are doing relative to the standards for their grade level."

"That information is crucial so you know if you need to have an intervention plan for the rest of the school year," King added."We still have four months to make a difference." Read more: ABC News »

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Teenagers need to take some responsibility for there learning. People can't learn for them. There more than capable in getting up and signing on. Some teenagers need to start owning up. Parents can wake them etc but can't do the work for them. Now parents see what teachers have to deal with. Yes their children should attend school, but while there’s a pandemic step up as parents and wake your child up to learn! Teachers are not responsible for that part. Tired of these privileged folks.

You can earn €11000 with a little investment of €1000 in 7 working days?....DM me dan_savage_ to get started. Learning in person doesn’t work for everyone either. It works for college students. It took us a while but it all fell into place. It’s great to be able to log off and go nap immediately. Or wake up later since there’s no commute. Saves gas money, food costs. I had to upgrade to make my work space more ergonomic. Make it work!

more like, some parents don't want it to work. parents had the chance to make their kids learning environment the best it possibly could be. comfy, warm, and fun. not much fun when parents don't want to do it though. do not blame the kids or the teachers. this is all on parents Going nowhere, serious matter

Regardless of their relative merits, in person learning doesn't work for everyone either But Joe B wants the kids home. True works spoken from a predator who is commander in chief. Not my President. Grade retention has almost 100% bad effects. Why are the grades more important than the kid? Meet people where they’re at.

Meh. The longer kids are away from govt indoctrination centers, the better. Leave the ‘schools’ closed. I’m virtual I don’t learn shit This is not the first time childrens’ education has been affected by circumstances. During WWII mass evacuations of children out of bombing areas resulted in lack of resources to teach. Everyone is in the same situation. Look to history because this too will pass.

How come there’s kids that do home schooling with no problem and are smart but for the last year no one can manage to do it with actual teachers on zoom sounds like the parents are failing their children Turn on the computer & find a learning program. When my kids vaccinated I'm sending them back to school. I want schools to be open but teachers and students need to get vaccinated first. Once that happens I think most parents would be willing to send their kids back.

Ouch What a quandary. Don't let these quick one off answers satiate your need to be 'right'. Seems there might not be one cure-all answer for this ailment.👀 2020-21 needs a do over. What do you think happens when parents home school their kids instead of school? Parents are involved and teach their kids. That is what happens. I know someone who home schooled her kids and they are have high A’s and is now attending online collage. It can be done

Catch up to what? Standardized tests pushed on them by the DOE. Mine are going to be repeating 9th grade next year because on line has failed miserably for them And I’m not advocating in person until vaccinations are complete Just Cancel School! I teach tennis If the court is wet, I cancel If a child is falling behind it’s not all on the teacher. Most of us parents know we must sacrifice our couch time to teach our children even if it means re-learning stuff we forgot years ago. It really comes down to how much the parent(s) are willing to help their own children.

It's really stupid that in ~2020 we still rely on kids being physically at school, stuck with whatever loser teachers a broken system has to offer. It's a complete waste of time, IMO. The biggest part of actual teaching should be done by professionals. 👍 Good luck trying to hold your children back, we fought tooth and nail with our district in an attempt to hold our son back (8th grade) they would not allow it and even said they pass kids onto the next grade who have grade averages of 30%. Had to pay for private school instead.

Just reopen the fucking schools. It’s stupid the consequences of kids not Learning is worse than slightly more people catching Covid. Democrats are great at covering up lockdowns, shutdowns, casting blames, exploding the deficits, spreading fear like the terrorists themselves...and now the evil empire wants everyone to Unite? Deal.

Lack of access to schools is a problem. I called for months, went on the website of the school my son would have been attending in our old neighborhood, and only got a response when I called other district offices. I wasn't impressed by the admissions office to say the least Private schools are always the better alternative.

How much further behind can you fall? Just a terrible situation for the kids An entire generation is being destroyed. Take these masks off of your children!!! Take ur kids home for safety and let them use zoom for learning. 😰, Whatsy