Learn4Life Asks How Can We Help Students Regain Learning Lost During the Pandemic
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New Year’s resolutions to help the U.S. reimagine its education system
LOS ANGELES--(BUSINESS WIRE)-- Educators and parents of all backgrounds are worried about learning losses suffered by their students during the pandemic. It has become clear that teachers can’t effectively serve 120+ high school students a day doing remote learning by trying to replicate the classroom experience through Zoom.
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A Learn4Life student and teacher work one-on-one in a personalized learning setting pre-pandemic (Photo: Business Wire)
Dr. Caprice Young, our national superintendent, offers New Year’s resolutions to guide education reform for a system that best serves students:
Make this a year of grace. Students who didn’t learn the material this year should neither be passed nor failed. In college, when students get sick mid-semester or cannot finish their work for a variety of reasons, they are given a grade of “incomplete” and allowed a year to make up the work. Pushing students forward with academic gaps does them no favors. Calling them failures for events and circumstances that were no fault of their own is unfair and damaging. We need to recognize that academic healing is needed, and allow our students and faculty the grace necessary for everyone to recover.
Every student needs access to technology. This crisis has exposed the extreme inequity in our school system. There is no excuse to not ensure a laptop for every student starting in kindergarten, loaded with the software and communications tools needed to compete with affluent peers and spark their imagination about the world.
Make the switch to personalized learning. Students should progress from grade to grade based on their competency in the subject matter, not how much time they sit in a classroom. Some kids are bored and not challenged, while others are lost and not able to keep up. During the pandemic, most schools have just replaced seat-time with screen-time with the same five and a half hours a day of lecture-type instruction. Students need the opportunity to learn in groups, one-on-one instruction, independently and through strong online programs. Students at schools trying out personalized-learning approaches made greater gains in math and reading than similar students at more traditional schools.1
Trauma-informed education should be the standard. Students and teachers are feeling stress and grief from COVID-19. Even before this pandemic, schools primarily treated the behaviors associated with trauma or stress as disciplinary cases. When youth and adults act out, with short tempers or by becoming withdrawn, we need leaders and counselors to recognize grief and respond through trauma-informed practices which address the underlying causes of disengagement.
Offer life skills and job training. A four-year college degree is not needed for all professions, but advanced skill sets, the ability to navigate the working world and a professional attitude are. Thirty percent of students who do enroll in college drop out after the first year.2 So, what happens to all these young people who are entering adulthood without the skills to earn a decent living? Moreover, the vast majority of jobs in the U.S. are created through small businesses.3 Learn4Life students complete a 10-week professional skills course that includes exploring career goals, basic computing, resume preparation, professional etiquette and time management. Then they move on to a specific career pathway – with options like computer programming, food service, medical, construction, media arts, entrepreneurship and cyber-security. Workforce development and entrepreneurship must become core goals of our education system.
- Expand educational access to students. Schools should offer extended and expanded access to teachers, computer labs, learning materials and tutoring – online and in person.
Read more about Dr. Caprice Young’s ideas on building back better in education after the pandemic.
Learn4Life is a network of nonprofit public schools that provides students personalized learning, career training and life skills. Each school is locally controlled, tuition free and gives students the flexibility and one-on-one attention they need to succeed. Serving more than 47,000 students – including full-time and intersession students – we help them prepare for a future beyond high school. For more information, please visit www.learn4life.org.
Ann Abajian, Learn4Life
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