Undeniably, 2020 has been a year of uncertainty. While great strides are being made with a COVID vaccine, what is going to happen with the education system? A year full of unprecedented occurrences has led to a year of unprecedented school changes. Schools have opened, closed, and are now working at 50% capacity. In this world of inconsistency, a lot of time has been lost and the fear is that students aren’t learning as much as in past years. According to the Northwest Evaluation Association, “MAP Growth percentile scores for math were considerably lower, between 5 and 10 percentile points, on average, for children this year as compared to same-grade children last year”. The next step is asking, how do we fix this?
Hybrid and fully-remote learning have definitely made this year unlike any other. With half the school at home at all times, lessons feel very different in the classroom. However, at-home lessons are feeling less like school and more like a casual zoom call. “I learn much more when I am in person,” says David Reynolds, a junior. “I’m less distracted in the building and the teachers are not as good at teaching online, especially with tricky topics.” Isadora Sotero, a fellow junior, seconded David’s opinion, stating that “for my harder classes, I learn better in person because I do need the teacher there for questions, examples, and in-person communication to understand the material.”
However, students are not the only ones struggling this school year. Parents across Fairfield are upset with the course this school year has taken. Arguments have broken out on social media, such as Facebook, over inequalities between hybrid and remote learning, whether or not students should all go remote or in person, and how much learning they feel has been lost in this pandemic. Parents of students of all ages are stating their opinions about the curriculum this year. Many feel as though while students may be learning at the same pace as past years, they are not deeply understanding and learning the necessary material per grade level. Many feel action should be taken, whether that be opening schools to 100% capacity or 100% remote learning to ensure equality between students. “I don’t think two or three days a week in the school will ever compare to five days a week in the building,” says Lisa Quirindongo, parent of two FPS students. “One of the many ways, and there are several ways we can compensate for this, is to extend the school year. Maybe a couple of extra weeks in school can help for any deficiencies that might have occurred over the school year.”
When interviewed about this proposition, teachers and students were quick to show their distaste for the idea of extending the school year. Cries of “No!”, “You are kidding, right?”, and “I would cry” were most common among students.
Teachers had very similar reactions, but in a more refined manner; all that were interviewed were not in favor of extending the school year. “You want to work smarter, not longer, You have a certain time of where you want to learn. Think of yourself at the start of June. Most people are cooked. To think of extending that another month to make education better? I’m doubtful,” said Mr. Pollex, an English teacher here at Warde. Mr. O’Brien, a History teacher at Warde, had the same point of view, stating that ¨If you look at the way school is now, or how comfortable you have been with it in the last three months of last school year, do you think that by June you will be emotionally prepared to extend into July? I won’t.” However, they had their own ideas of how compromises could be made. Mr. O’Brien brought up the idea of making “more of the time we do have. Instead of extending the school year, maybe we should extend the school day.”
As illustrated, this is an extremely controversial subject. Everyone believes their opinion is correct, and that their plans are what should be put into action. The constant variable of this whole situation is that change needs to happen. At the end of the day, it is the Superintendent’s decision.
“Learning during COVID-19: Initial Findings on Students’ Reading and Math Achievement and Growth.” NWEA, www.nwea.org/research/publication/learning-during-covid-19-initial-findings-on-students-reading-and-math-achievement-and-growth/.