The pandemic has brought the world closer together. People are now more willing to help others in need and support causes that may have been unpopular before, but it’s going to take time for society to heal from this event. Much like how people needed a wake-up call after 9/11 when they were unwilling or unable to empathize with those who lost loved ones, we’re experiencing an awakening today as well.

The “assessing student learning gaps resulting from disruption in educational services caused by covid-19” is a tool that can be used to assess the impact of the pandemic. The tool was developed by the University of Washington and it has been used to evaluate student performance before, during, and after the pandemic.

Many Teens Missed Out on Challenging Academics Before the Pandemic. Here's How We Can Change That.

Many-Teens-Missed-Out-on-Challenging-Academics-Before-the-Pandemic

 

The emptiness of the 2019-2021 school years is palpable among America’s adolescents. Friendships, proms, graduations, sports, and — perhaps most cruelly — a clear route to their educational future were all missed by high school students. Students are still concerned about the long-term repercussions of missing out on these wonderful years, such as missed academic scholarships and disruptions in college applications, a year later.

All of this is wearing them down, with 46% of parents reporting indications of a new or worsening mental health problem in their adolescent since the epidemic started. The youngsters aren’t doing so well. 

As we prepare for another school year with trepidation and worry, we also have a massive amount of relief assistance in front of us, providing a once-in-a-generation opportunity to reinvent education in America. And, as educators plan how to spend almost $190.5 billion in federal assistance from Congress’ Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund, it raises the question: What else have kids lost out on, even before the epidemic disrupted their formative adolescent years?

We asked 820 public high school principals to describe the strategies that they think contribute to their success in preparing students for life beyond high school. The College Success Award, given by GreatSchools.org to public high schools that excel in preparing students to enroll and stay in college, was given to 40% of responders. The remaining 60% of schools are those that have not yet earned the honor.

Leaders from both successful and losing schools emphasized the significance of good connections and a supportive school climate in assisting kids in getting to and through college, with many discovering creative methods to engage students and families that they intend to continue doing for years.

Disparities in access to advanced courses — a major predictor of college readiness — appeared when we disaggregated answers from higher- and lower-income schools (measured by the proportion of students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch).

While 97 percent of school leaders said their school provides at least one advanced academic program such as Advanced Placement (AP) or Honors courses, schools serving lower-income kids, regardless of their award status, were less likely to do so. In higher-income schools, for example, 90% of award-winners and 71% of non-winners offer at least one AP subject. These percentages decrease to 75% and 70%, respectively, in lower-income schools, indicating a disparity in access to challenging courses among children from low-income households.

Students who are able to take such challenging courses in high school are exposed to intensive academics, which is a prelude to what they may anticipate in college. This implies that just expanding access to advanced classes may enhance college results for disadvantaged students, who benefit from exposure to these programs even more than their higher-income classmates. The College Board has reported on the advantages of taking one AP course, even if the student does not achieve enough college credit on the final test.

As we examine what students have lost over the last two years, we must also consider what we, as a society, will lose out on if we do not invest enough in the future generation. By 2027, it is expected that 70% of occupations would need a college education. Is it true that we are properly training all pupils to respond to this call? 

Schools should take advantage of this chance to spend ESSER money in proven strategies that expose more children to rigorous academics. The addition of more difficult courses, such as AP, Honors, or International Baccalaureate (IB) programs, is a crucial first step. More significantly, schools should guarantee that pupils have equal, early (9th grade) and wide access to them by easing financial worries about test costs and enrolling kids in difficult courses automatically.

On the other hand, the cost of doing nothing to challenge the minds of our high school kids — particularly students of color and those from low-income families — is too great to bear. We may well lose out on the next great virologist, doctor, teacher, poet, activist, and more if we don’t.

Adobe Stock-licensed photo by Monkey Business.

The “addressing learning loss due to covid” is a subject that many teens are dealing with. The pandemic has caused some students to miss out on challenging academics, but there are ways to change this.

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