Accountability · achievement gap · coronavirus · NYC Schools · remote learning · UFT

How Will NYC Schools Deal With Learning Loss…. Amidst Claims None Happened?

Last week, we asked parents to weigh in on how New York City schools should spend the federal relief money coming our way.

On Wednesday, March  24, 2021, President Joe Biden urged districts to use the funds to open all schools. However, according to the White House’s parameters, “all” schools are already “open.” 

The federal contribution comes with few strings or requirements for how the money should be spent, and NYC has been vague about where it plans to invest it.

So far, Mayor Bill De Blasio has verbally committed to using a portion for the expansion of Pre-K programs for 3 year olds, something he’s been promising for years, but never previously found the money (not to mention the space or the qualified teachers) for.

Objections to the allocation came from various sources, including those who wondered how the programs would continue to be paid for once the Covid stimulus runs out in 2024. (Of course, by then, it will no longer be De Blasio’s problem. He will no longer be in office. As with so many of his initiatives, De Blasio can bask in plaudits now, then kick the can down the road and leave his successor with the headache of how to make it work long-term – and face the wrath of voters.)

There is one immutable outlay requirement, however: 

One-fifth of the money to districts must be spent on “evidence-based” practices to combat “learning loss,” which amounts to about $900 million for New York City.

The below are three contradictions noted among some teachers and administrators which might make that challenging:

1) There has been no learning loss

To whit:

 Ok, then. Problem averted. Maybe we can redirect the $900 million to the “enrichment” which the Student Advisory Diversity Group (SADG) recommended… but failed to define.

2) There has been no learning loss… and we don’t need testing to confirm that

3) Even if there has been learning loss, teachers will catch all students up as soon as they’re back in the classroom

As far back as June of 2020, The 74 reported:

Before pandemic-related school closures, a single classroom could have students working at up to seven grade levels. New research conducted by the nonprofit assessment organization NWEA predicts that teachers are likely to see an even broader array of achievement gaps when schools reopen…. Effectively reaching all students with such varied learning needs — including children in special education and English learners — in a single classroom is a huge challenge under any circumstances. But now, especially without spring exams to guide them, schools will have no idea on day one of the 2020-21 school year what the array of needs in each class is.

In the past, whenever I’ve floated the idea of grouping children by assessed skill level rather than by age as a way to fix a variety of NYC school issues – from budgetary shortfalls to segregation – the pushback I’ve received has come down to:

An educator took offense to that viewpoint, writing,“Teaching multiple ability levels in a classroom is an integral part of any teacher’s education and training. Plain and simple, it’s our job.”

My response was that getting students to grade level was also a teacher’s job (though President Obama’s former Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, did open my eyes to how that’s not the case). However, seeing as over 50 percent of seniors graduate not college-ready, that job is obviously not getting done, pure and simple.

I wrote the above in November of 2018.

Before the pandemic.

Before the learning loss that either did or didn’t happen, but we shouldn’t do any testing to find out, in any case.

If NYC teachers were having trouble “catching all children up” before a year and still going of disruption, remote learning, and “lost” students, then how can we possibly assume they’ll be able to do it come September 2021 – and beyond?

NYC will be receiving $900 million to “combat learning loss.” How can we allocate that money without first admitting that loss has, in fact, taken place, measuring how much learning was squandered for every child, and admitting that the documented failure of business as usual, where next year’s teacher is thoroughly capable of making up for the shortfalls of the previous one so that gaps don’t continue to build upon themselves into complete incomprehension, cannot be allowed to continue?

What do you think?

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