Illinois School Districts Discuss Learning Loss From The Pandemic

Many school districts are back in the classroom this week, and today Valley View School District 365U and Plainfield School District 202 begin school today.

Illinois school districts are in catch-up mode after the COVID-19 pandemic set back the development of many students.

During Wednesday’s Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) meeting, several school superintendents provided updates on methods being used to address learning loss.

Last fall, ISBE reported drops of 17% and 18%, respectively, in the number of students achieving grade-level standards in English and math between 2019 and 2021.

Unity Point School District 140 Superintendent Lori James-Gross said the pandemic and remote learning affected the younger grades more than others.

“We too, coming out of the pandemic, realized that the students that were most profoundly impacted by the pandemic were our most vulnerable students, specifically our pre-K and kindergarten students and families,” James-Gross said.

Paris Union School District 95 Superintendent Jeremy Larson said his district has partnered with Illinois State University on a high-impact tutoring program. Larson has recruited individuals from the Paris area to tutor 125 students. The tutoring pool includes college students, student teachers and parents.

“We see this is as a great way not only to increase our students’ learning but also to increase the labor force in our own community,” Larson said.

Federal funding for the tutoring Initiative was released in fall 2021, and tutors began working in some schools the following March. The program allows tutors to meet one-on-one or with small groups of students in one-hour blocks several times a week.

Officials say interim assessments will be used to get a sense of where students are today and help guide instruction for those students in the future as the recovery continues.

Last March, ISBE announced a $17 million grant to create the nation’s first state-funded Freedom Schools network. Officials said the grant aims to close the opportunity gap and learning loss experienced by low-income students caused by the pandemic.