No one claimed last year that virtual learning was a good substitute for face-to-face teaching in K-12 schools.
The inferiority of virtual learning was highlighted recently when Mississippi released the results of the first state tests administered during the pandemic.
That’s a ton of numbers to digest, and in some cases, they defy clear diagrams. But when you compare the results of this past year to those of 2019, which was the last time the tests were given, a few observations seem clear:
– Pupils’ performances have dropped considerably, especially in mathematics.
– All the children suffered from the disruptions of COVID-19, but those who spent the least time in a physical classroom probably suffered the most.
– As in the years without a pandemic, the test results were highly dependent on the quality of education during the eight months preceding the test.
This last point has been amply illustrated in the districts of Greenwood Leflore and Carroll County.
In eighth grade in Greenwood Leflore District, for example, 45% of students failed the English portion of the test. Nearly twice as many of those same eighth graders, 85%, failed the math section.
In Carroll County, which has tried to stick to in-person learning for most of the year, a few grades actually performed better this year than in 2019. But some have done so much worse than ‘one has to wonder if an investigation has taken place. In 2019, 22.9% of third-grade students in this district failed the math test. This year it has climbed to 85.2%.
Much of the academic regression was predictable, and it begs the question of whether – at least for students – the greatest risk from the coronavirus was not for their bodies but for their brains.
Parents and some educators both expressed concern last year that this country, despite billions of dollars it was spending on distance education, was not getting its money’s worth.
Teaching young children was almost impossible, and many older children didn’t even try. Many families have canceled the year, and it seems some schools have done so too.
Granted, there was a lot of heroic effort to cope with unprecedented circumstances, but you can’t look at these test results and unequivocally say that everyone – students, parents and teachers – gave the year last of its best. If they had, the drop should have been about the same between districts and between classes. Instead, there were big variations, ranging from modest declines to gargantuan declines.
Those who have argued that we do not want to repeat this experiment, no matter how many waves of coronavirus this nation endures, may be relevant. You can’t spend many years with four out of five kids unable to do grade school math before the damage to them and their community is irreparable.
But those same voices in favor of keeping schools open no matter what, oppose a course of action that would make their insistence a safer option: to impose vaccines on teachers and staff, and even on students. old enough to fulfill the required conditions.
It’s possible, of course, that low test scores were also motivated by lower motivation to do well on exams.
Approaching the tests, teachers and administrators both knew the low marks wouldn’t be held against them this year. The tests were only used to assess learning loss, not to determine the responsibility score schools and districts received. No matter how well a school did, he was assured that it would maintain the same grade it had had the previous two years. This could have been the fairer policy, but it also reduced the incentive to do well on exams.
Although the tests were only administered to those in Kindergarten to Grade 12, the results may also contain a warning for higher education.
Universities have been promoting online learning for a few years, but they really turned to this less expensive method of teaching with the advent of COVID-19.
The theory is that as students get older, they develop the self-discipline to master what teachers convey through emails and video conferences as well as they do sitting in the same room with other students and their instructor. .
Mississippi test results do not support this theory. With many schools practicing virtual learning for at least part of the past year, the English test failure rate for high school students was on average 39.1%. No grade 3 through 8 has had such a high failure rate in English.
It doesn’t matter if it’s kindergarten or college. There is nothing that has been designed so far that is academically superior to having the student and the teacher in the same room.
– Contact Tim Kalich at 662-581-7243 or [email protected]