Teachers team up to combat the “COVID Slide”

Combating more than the typical "summer slide," teachers at Diamond Elementary are looking to each other and parents to join them on the front lines.

The “summer slide” is a term educators use to describe the decline in reading and math skills that younger students tend to show when they return to school each fall.

Scholastic says that a study of children in third to fifth grades showed that over summer break, students lost an average of roughly 20% of their school-year gains in reading and 27% in math.

Now, schools like Diamond Elementary are doing everything they can to prepare — and they’ll be the first to tell you — it takes a village.

In her 21 years working in education, nothing prepared Lisa Northup for 2020.

“Well no one took COVID 101, to know what to do in a pandemic,” says Northup. “They didn’t have a class in college that taught us this, so a lot of it is just trial and error.

Now as school starts back up, the third year principal at Diamond Elementary says the typical “summer slide” could prove to be much worse than students are used to.

“I call it the COVID slide. When you compare the summer slide when kiddos aren’t practicing their reading and math skills, and those skills diminish a little bit because they’re not practicing,” said Northup. “We have to think about COVID shutdown was March 13th. So a lot of these kids have not picked up a book, practiced, done anything educationally since the middle of March. So we’re talking several weeks, several months.”

To combat the “COVID slide,” Principal Northup has invested in new teachers — hiring three new paraeducators to provide more one-on-one support for her students — and new technology, since students will have at least one day per week of virtual learning, or A.M.I. — alternative method of instruction.

Regardless of the resources, she says making up for that lost ground will primarily come down to those on the front lines.

“My classroom teachers….I had a long talk with them at the end of last year, and what we had to look at was the standards that those teachers were not able to teach during the school year because of COVID shutdown, and the next year’s teacher is going to have to back that up and try to teach some of those standards.”

One of them is third grade teacher Sherri Austin, who says that communication started months ago.

“I mean I’ve talked with many teachers throughout the entire time of ‘What are you doing here? How did you do this? Hey did you get to this?’ and especially during summer school,” said Austin. “A lot of collbaoration was going on to make sure we could try to push through some of that stuff.”

While teachers will be doing their best to get kids up to speed and keep them on track, Austin says it’s those moments at home that will be the best line of defense against that COVID slide.

“Whether it’s someone reading a story in the car and asking questions about what they’re hearing, or while they’re sitting here fixing dinner, helping with fractions, doing measurements and stuff like that. There’s ways to push that to them and make it fun and make it part of their daily life.”

All while remaining optimistic; reminding them that everything is going to be okay.

“If we can let our kids know that it’s going to be alright, they’re going to meet the goals that we set for them.”

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