Indiana education officials, lawmakers discuss potential solutions to learning loss

Indiana

INDIANAPOLIS — During a summer study committee meeting Monday, Indiana Department of Education officials met with state lawmakers to discuss learning loss during the COVID-19 pandemic and ways to get students caught up.

“We also know that the rates of learning to recover are unprecedented,” said Charity Flores, Indiana’s chief academic officer.

During Monday’s presentation to state lawmakers, leaders from IDOE discussed some of their biggest findings regarding the pandemic’s impact on academics.

Among those findings, math was more severely impacted than English, likely requiring more than a year to get students back to pre-pandemic performance levels, Flores explained. For some students, it could take three to five years to get caught up, she added.

“We know that in order for students to grow to the level that they were pre-pandemic, we must foster new classroom environments,” Flores said.

Indiana Education Secretary Katie Jenner said it’s going to require a multi-faceted approach to get students caught up, involving families, governments and community groups, in addition to teachers.

IDOE is tracking the impact of the roughly $125 million in state grant funding that was awarded earlier this summer to programs focused on this effort, Jenner said.

The Mind Trust’s five-week summer program with the United Way of Central Indiana, which received a grant, improved student performance by an average of 12% in English and 17% in math, according to Brandon Brown, CEO of The Mind Trust.

“We knew that the major impact that we’ve seen in schools over the past year and a half can’t just be completely solved by schools on their own,” he said.

Some other programs that were awarded grants are reporting similar progress.

“We know that statistics show that early learners that fall behind in literacy, they often don’t catch up,” said Linda Rose, academic director for Motivate Our Minds in Muncie, whose summer literacy program also received a grant. “So we were able to definitely meet a need for many students in that way.”

IDOE is also working to ensure federal funding for schools is being used effectively, Secretary Jenner said.

Meanwhile, state lawmakers say learning loss will require several years of discussion in the legislature.

“I don’t think just throwing the money at this issue is going to be effective,” said State Sen. J.D. Ford (D-Indianapolis), who serves on the interim study committee on education. “I also don’t think that testing our way out of this issue is going to be effective. So I really do think that we need take a step back, look at the holistic way of doing this.”

“We heard some testimony on accountability and transparency,” said State Sen. Jeff Raatz (R-Richmond), who serves as chair of the interim study committee on education. “While that’s part of the answer, it won’t be the answer. As we look off into the future, it may require additional funding.”

Another $22 million in state grant funding will soon be available for programs that help students get caught up on their learning, Secretary Jenner said.

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