Maria Garcia’s classroom has become a number one competition during the 2020-2021 school year.
A coronavirus pandemic has forced Jackson Street elementary school teacher to teach virtually for most of the school year. Garcia saw himself as opposed to acting figures, pets, iPad apps, video games and other childhood pleasures as he tried to teach his class of dozens of 5-year-olds via Zoom.
“It was almost impossible to keep their focus,” Garcia said.
Garcia was not the only teacher who found it difficult to study on a virtual platform.
The pandemic disrupted classrooms across the country. A McKinsey study found that K-12 students are currently on average five months behind their math expectations and four months behind their academic expectations.
MCAS scores from 2019 and 2021 – MCAS was not presented due to a pandemic in 2020 – showed a decline in almost every class across Massachusetts.
The list of MCAS scores can be viewed here.
Experts attribute the decrease in test scores to the nationwide transition to emergency distance learning in the 2020-2021 academic year.
Commissioner Jeffrey Riley said during a meeting of the Board of Primary and Secondary Education, where the scores were revealed, “Drops were seen throughout the Union of Massachusetts, including around our wealthy cities.” “These are drops we haven’t seen in decades.”
The social and emotional development of students also slowed down during the emergency distance learning model, with students not interacting effectively with their classmates. Teachers value peer-to-peer communication, especially in elementary school classrooms, such as Garcia’s kindergarten classroom.
For months on the virtual learning model, worried parents said their children hated going to school.
“My daughter, who was happy now and loved school, is sad and hates it,” a Worcester parent told MassLive.
“It’s a mistake that young children suffer more than older children. Everyone of all ages suffers, ”said Worcester’s other parents.
Parents are now trying to understand who is to blame for the loss of learning and social development that occurred during the transition to emergency distance learning.
‘The best thing they could have done together’
Dr. Torry Trust, an associate professor at UMass College of Education, said he did not blame the teachers.
“Teachers have had little training for online learning in their teacher training programs,” Trust said. “They just, you know, did their best with their resources and tried to replicate the person’s learning. And I think a lot of them made mistakes there.”
The education expert believes that traditional personal learning practices have drawbacks, “‘ I lecture and you learn ’is not how learning takes place,” Trust said, adding that translating a typical learning model into a virtual platform. it is impossible. more student engagement and amateurism.
“At school, students seem to pay attention. But I don’t know about you. I’ve been to a lot of meetings or classes where I can see the truth, but I don’t care, ”Trust said.
A training technology expert, Dr. Trust, said online learning can be effective if it is done with an appropriate level of learning.
“I think there is a lot of potential [in online learning] I think this forced transition to emergency distance learning was ruined, ”Torry said. “Where schools and districts and teacher training programs do not prepare teachers to succeed in such an environment.”
Garcia and other Massachusetts teachers were forced to learn how to teach distance learning with little or no guidance from their districts.
“We have to figure everything out ourselves,” the kindergarten teacher said.
Garcia and some of his Jackson Street elementary school colleagues stayed up late into the night, practicing virtual self-learning techniques with each other.
In a survey conducted by Dr. Trust and Northampton High School technology teacher Jerome Wallen, more than 60% of teachers said they were frustrated with the online learning tools and resources available during the transition to emergency distance learning. Teachers trained before the pandemic in distance learning reported fewer problems during the transition.
The survey also found that student engagement and parent communication were the two biggest challenges for teachers.
Dr. Trust said to combat competitive interests in the child’s room, teachers need to adjust their teaching practices to make them more interactive and engaging.
“Online learning can be done well if it focuses on the humanization of learning,” Trust said. “Trusting social connections, engaging students, making student choices, and using digital tools to create new types of learning experiences that are impossible in person.”
Lack of preparation was not the only reason for the ineffectiveness of virtual learning. Experts believe the pandemic has made existing inequalities in Massachusetts schools clearer and more severe.
The conditions of home study places made it easier for some students to learn and more difficult for others.
“Many families don’t have high-speed internet,” Garcia said, adding that he forces students to often drop out of classroom scaling sessions.
Some of Garcia’s classmates also didn’t have computers, and the Northampton School District provided Chromebooks to students who needed computers.
“Chromebooks aren’t very good,” Garcia said. “They just had things like loading, loading, loading and never loading.”
The students had other problems besides technological ones.
A child who had a parent, guardian, or older brother guided them through a partially independent learning model, was able to engage more, retain more information, and learn more effectively than a child who enjoyed homework and education professionals. did not have. he said.
“The pandemic showed this ugly reality,” said Jeremy Wallen, a Northampton high school teacher. “We even have a big investment problem here in Massachusetts, one of the highest educated states in the country.”
A HireAHelper study conducted in August 2021 showed that Massachusetts has the highest level of education in the United States.
Teachers, legislators and parents are now looking for ways to compensate for academic losses.
In response to declining test scores across the state, the Department of Education said Massachusetts school districts will receive about $ 2.8 billion to help the state and federal pandemic between the 2021-2022 school year and the fall of 2024.
DESE officials said districts could freely spend money to meet the academic, social, emotional and mental health needs of students as a result of the pandemic.
Education Secretary James Pazer said in a statement, “The results clearly show that the disrupted academic year of distance and hybrid education has had an impact on students’ academic achievement.” “We will continue to work with districts to make efforts to restore education that has not occurred and to promote student achievement and academic equality.”
DESE has also published a Roadmap tool for teachers and administrators to support accelerated student learning in the 2021-22 academic year.
Dr. Trust said he was disappointed by the state’s response to the study inequality.
“The roadmap for teachers does not focus on building the technological competencies of teachers and students,” the trust said. “But there is an interest in making informed decisions, even though it has proven ineffective in determining their solution.”
Dr. Trust said funding is typically spent on new technologies, school and summer courses, as opposed to attracting more effective teachers, teacher development and raising teachers ’salaries.
Despite how unprepared teachers were when they transitioned to emergency distance learning, Trust believes it is now good for Massachusetts to continue to develop and invest in teacher training skills.
Garcia said virtual learning has shown many advantages, especially when used to keep a student who cannot be in the classroom in person with the rest of their class.
The kindergarten teacher said she and some of her colleagues are ready to learn more about distance learning in the future.
“With that kind of money and given what we’ve learned from COVID, we can turn education a little more into a more agile enterprise,” Wallen said.
A Northampton high school teacher said she would like to see districts invest in distance learning and learning technologies that could improve classrooms at the same time. He said that in the future, if there is a need for emergency distance learning again, teachers will be better equipped for virtual teaching.
“The most effective way to increase student grades and student achievement is to be a teacher and a teacher,” said Dr. Trest.