In my book Teachers are Burdened: Proven Tips to Lighten the Load and Win, I highlighted many challenges educators face in the day to day operations of teaching and learning. My book was published before the global outbreak of the Coronavirus labeled COVID-19 that caused many schools to move instantaneously to a distance learning model and worse to end the school year prematurely.
This dilemma brings into question the issue of student retention; a concept that, under normal circumstances, creates sleepless nights for educators and parents alike. I have served in the roles of teacher and school administrator, so I know the associated emotional and professional issues.
Students are generally retained due to failure meeting expected academics as determined by standardized testing or level of maturity when compared to students within the same age range. The subjective component to making the decision is whether retention will make a difference. Some will argue that extra time will give students time to catchup or mature. Others contend that retention lowers self esteem and could lead to school dropout.
Well, an added predicament is what should happen in this era of a pandemic. School doors closed and distance learning windows have opened. Standardized testing, for the most part, has been cancelled. Many students have home support to supplement online education. Due to problems out of their control, some students are on their own trying to work to the best of their abilities and hoping for adequate technology or WIFI access.
Some schools have given parents the option to retain their child at the current grade level. Having sat at meetings with parents and teachers about a retaining a child, I am not sure how many parents will volunteer to ‘keep back’ their child.
As schools and school districts plan for the 2020-21 school year, I make the following suggestions:
- Provide additional academic support for students
- Initiate co-teaching models so at least two trained teachers will be in a classroom
- Plan ongoing parent education to ensure a seamless approach to learning between home and school
- Provide funds for extended school days
- Hire additional school counselors and school psychologists. Social and behavioral needs will need to be addressed
- Hire me to help teachers deal with the associated burdens