Governors, school leaders offer look at how states will address learning loss

The National Governors Association (NGA) in partnership with the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) shared a white paper Thursday that highlights “trends and notable strategies” states are using to address COVID-19 learning loss.

The paper was prepared by Education First, a national strategy and policy organization.

“One year after the COVID-19 pandemic forced state and school leaders across the nation and around the world to immediately close school buildings, the lasting impact on students is increasingly evident: Months of online learning and limited in-person interaction with educators, coaches and mentors have led to gaps in learning, and unknown emotional impacts on millions of K12 students and educators,” the paper said.

Here’s what the report said about North Carolina’s summer learning program:

“North Carolina will require districts to offer at least 150 hours of summer instruction in addition to offering sports and enrichment activities through the Summer Learning Choice for NC Families bill. Students are not required to attend summer school, but districts are expected to target programs toward students who are performing significantly below their peers. The new effort includes funding for transportation and lunch to make it easier for families to participate.”

The report refers to legislation approved unanimously by the North Carolina General Assembly that requires school districts to offer at least 150 hours or 30 days of in-person instruction this summer to help students who have fallen behind academically.

The summer program will focus on students at risk of failing academically. However, attendance is voluntary, and any student may attend if space is available.

The State Board of Education met Monday to approve guidance for the summer program. The law requiring it, House Bill 82, was unanimously approved by lawmakers.

“This summer is a critical opportunity to provide immediate academic recovery for our students, as well as to lay the foundation for strategic, structural and long-term improvement in our state public school system,” State Board Chairman Eric Davis said during the called board meeting.

School districts will use federal coronavirus relief money to help pay for the summer programs. The state board will also seek state funding for the program.

“While we’re thoughtfully using these federal funds, we look forward to partnering with the General Assembly to provide state funding from our strong and resilient North Carolina economy to ensure maximum impact of all of these resources,” Davis said.

The NGA/CCSSO paper identified four major steps states are taking to address COVID-19 learning loss.

Those steps include:

  • Using creative tools to communicate proactively and engage key stakeholders about emerging plans, such as task forces and partnerships. State leaders also are providing school districts with planning frameworks and tools to streamline the process and ensure critical issues are considered.
  • Developing a variety of summer activities designed to boost learning and enable students to reconnect with one another. With support from new federal funds, states are helping to stand up tutoring programs, learning and enrichment camps, community service, apprenticeships, and more traditional summer schooling.
  • Ensuring students have access to targeted help for both their academic needs and overall well-being. Again with new federal funding sources, states are examining potential partnerships to address specific academic needs, including efforts to provide more learning time during or after school.
  • Planning ahead to address other difficult issues, even as states roll out implementation details and work to address the pandemic’s many harms to students, families and educators. These longer-term issues may include how to use one-time federal funds smartly and strategically; how best to target resources and programs for the students who need them most; finding creative and effective ways to support educators as they are asked to continue to do more; aligning state policymakers and agencies on a common plan; and taking stock of lessons from the pandemic — what worked and what hasn’t — to re-evaluate long-standing structures and approaches in the K-12 system.

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