Louisiana schools faced all kinds of hurdles in 2021 – rebuilding from old and new hurricanes, an unprecedented winter storm, and the first results of standardized tests since COVID-19 made its mark. Here is a look back at some of the biggest education stories in Acadiana this year.
How to cope with learning loss
With the kids returning to school in 2021, teachers and administrators were working twice to close the learning gaps that have widened over school closings and quarantines, in addition to trying to keep things low. disinfection protocols.
Data released in January painted a grim picture for education in Louisiana, with nearly three-quarters of the state’s fourth-graders not rated “proficient” in English or math. And 60% of children are below grade level when they start kindergarten.
The results of last spring’s LEAP test only reinforced this, showing that learning loss was significant in math. Only 21% of eighth-graders in Louisiana have graduated with a master’s degree or higher, state standard education officials set themselves to indicate they are ready for the next grade level, in the spring standardized test 2021.
School schedules now include time spent using online programs like Amplify to help with reading or Zearn and iReady for math, in addition to teaching these core subjects. During this time, kids can work on their individualized learning plans on the computer or receive in-class tutoring called Accelerate. Many schools also offer private after-school lessons.
Some, like Grolee Elementary in Opelousas, have designated âlearning centersâ to help students determine the need for targeted interventions based on diagnostic tests, and many have figured out how to reach students who have had to stay away. home due to COVID issues. Vermilion Parish teacher Darlene Humble sang and clapped with 4-year-olds all connected via Zoom before talking about the letter B, the color brown and the star of the week.
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“Not your typical summer school”
Between the learning loss and federal dollars in COVID relief, the Louisiana Department of Education pushed for revamped summer school programs to help all students gain traction.
St. Landry Parish expanded to more venues and more seating and provided transportation, inviting everyone to come to Camp Accelerate, not just those who didn’t make it. It had a summer camp vibe, with outdoor games and craft time in addition to English and math lessons.
Vermilion Parish aimed to âboostâ student academics with hands-on experiences like music, robotics, and 4-H projects. The Boost Vermilion summer program has also focused on supporting English learners to best prepare them for fall.
“Not your typical summer school”: Acadiana Districts Make Plans to Address Learning Loss
Hurricane Ida, a winter storm, and no good, very bad weather
While some school districts in southern Louisiana were still rebuilding after the storms of fall 2020, another major hurricane swept the coast in 2021. Hurricane Ida caused the closure of schools in many Many of Southeast Louisiana’s hardest-hit districts and school systems have been closed for weeks due to extensive damage. and lack of water and electricity.
The Category 4 storm struck in August, just weeks after the start of the school year, and displaced about 300,000 students in Louisiana, according to Education Superintendent Cade Brumley.
That number declined as power was restored, but many families in the parishes of Terrebonne and Lafourche were left homeless and unable to return to class even as schools reopened in October. Many of those who have returned are sharing facilities, as some buildings are too damaged to reopen this school year.
In February, most families spent Mardi Gras week in the snow, with power outages and water cuts following two back-to-back winter storms.
Acadiana schools closed for several days after the scheduled vacation. Classes have been canceled rather than virtualized, despite a push this year to equip districts for distance learning in the event of a COVID-19 outbreak, as many families were reportedly unable to access learning virtual, school district leaders said.
Kids couldn’t be expected to log into their Google classrooms while facing blackouts – that is, periods with no heat or light – not to mention wi- fi – for students and teachers. Many families were also faced with other effects of the extreme weather conditions, such as broken pipes, which prompted superintendents to decide “to press pause then the restart button” the following Monday.
The year was peppered with other extreme weather conditions, closing some schools and prompting shelter-in-place orders for others across Acadiana in March and October.
Following:Vulnerable students still face obstacles three months after Hurricane Ida
Schools are facing shortages of teachers, assistants, bus drivers, counselors …
Employee shortages, especially in hard-to-fill jobs like bus drivers and substitute teachers, are issues that school districts face every year. The pandemic only complicates the task.
Vermilion Parish deputy superintendent E. Paul Hebert said the district’s supply pool has shrunk, leaving them with fewer people to fill shortages for all positions. The shortage has gone from manageable before COVID to critical this year, Hebert said.
The most important need is for bus drivers, regular and substitute, as well as cafeteria workers, janitors, bus supervisors and teachers.
One of the reasons behind this could be that fewer people seem to be entering education in Louisiana. Most do not stay for long terms, which are not new issues or related solely to COVID.
Enrollment in education programs at Louisiana’s public colleges has fallen by nearly 8,000 students over the past 20 years, including significant losses in recent years. Statewide enrollment data has shown that the number of students enrolling in education degrees at public colleges in Louisiana has been declining for years.
The 2020 figure (12,597) was up to almost 400 students, marking the first increase in enrollment in these programs since fall 2010.
There is another element in this pipeline. While fewer teaching candidates can enter the profession, more are leaving.
In Louisiana, 60% of teachers leave after 10 years and 50% within the first five years, Brumley said. One in three new teachers left the profession in their first year before the pandemic.
The state is therefore taking a personal growth approach to tackle its problem of the teacher shortage, which educators say will require a change in the message about the profession.
The work involved in making the classroom a place where people want to be and stay starts early, such as the creation of Educators Rising clubs in middle and high schools as well as a pre-educator journey. It allows high school students to take dual enrollment education courses before entering university.
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