Schools, parents gear up to tackle learning loss as school begins

KOLD Chief Investigative Reporter Valerie Cavazos gets answers to the question on most parents’ minds
KOLD News 6-6:30 p.m. recurring
Published: Aug. 5, 2021 at 10:41 AM MST|Updated: Aug. 5, 2021 at 3:53 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - It’s a dramatic shift for this 7-year-old. She’s back in a classroom for the first time in more than a year.

Danielle Valdez kept her daughter Maya at home working remotely.

She feels it took a toll on her and fatigue set in.

“Like she being virtual all day and then if they had homework, you know, she was done by the time she got out of school because she didn’t want to do any more learning,” Valdez said.

Maya is now in second grade, and Valdez is concerned.

“She was super behind and we did what we could, but she still has a lot to go,” she said, “She has a lot of learning loss. And I wonder how the teachers and everyone is preparing for that.”

Maya’s teacher is Juliette Federico, who has been working at Craycroft Elementary for nearly a decade.

It’s her first week back after one of the most challenging years in recent memory.

She said, “It’s a special year coming back after everything that we’ve gone through and are still going through.”

It’s special, she explained, because so many of the kids are truly excited to be back in the classroom.

But still this year is going to take some extra grit to make it through.

Reading benchmark scores for grades first through sixth last school year reveal an upward trend in the high risk group from Fall to Spring.

District records show an upward trend in the high risk group in 20/21 school year.
District records show an upward trend in the high risk group in 20/21 school year.(KOLD)

Students normally ease into the start of the school year, but not this time.

“We have urgency so there’s some relationship building that needs to occur as we’re getting through there, but academically we need to hit the ground running and not wait for a few weeks to get warmed up,” Superintendent Steve Holmes explained.

Federico is indeed hitting the ground running.

“So usually we wait until probably the end of August to see,” she said, “We do a screening to see what level they are in their reading. We focus a lot in their reading and we were told that we’re starting next Monday.”

“That makes me nervous because she is behind,” said Valdez, “I’m like what do you expect of these kids? They’re only learning so much and they’re only getting back in routine.”

Holmes said he’s empathetic.

“I think our teachers did their best to try to capture students’ attention through the time,” he said. “I think there was fatigue for students trying to stay online all day.”

He stressed there is a plan is in place to not overwhelm the students.

The screenings should help put things into perspective for parents right away.

“Using some data to really either support the concern or may show what the issue is really and not that you think,” Holmes said.

He said the screenings will then guide teachers on steps to take to get struggling students caught up.

What Federico doesn’t want to do is widen the learning gap by assuming all students have fallen behind.

“So we’re starting off with teaching them what they need to know in second grade,” she said, “And then we see this gap and that gap, then we’re going to go back and specifically for the students that we see that go back. But we can’t give them a break, but we can show empathy. I mean we’ve never gone through this, so we’re going to say, okay we’re going to take it slow, but we’re going to put all our effort and try our best everyday.”

Despite her anxiety about her daughter’s learning loss, Valdez has faith in the district.

“Sunnyside has been a really good district. I mean, they’ve helped. And so I know they’ll do whatever they can. They’ve always been good since she started,” she said.

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