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North Shore schools to evaluate learning lost in pandemic

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During his portion of speaking during the North Shore School District’s Board of Education meeting on May 28, Assistant Superintendent for Instruction Dr. Christopher Zublionis focused on one key question: What learning and growth have students lost during the coronavirus pandemic?

While most responders to the district’s multiple surveys asking about remote learning over the past three months felt it was generally a success, district officials acknowledge that nothing can replace the experience of learning in a classroom setting. Zublionis said many students may not have been able to learn as much from home, so he said that he and other district officials are working on a formula to determine how much an individual student learned while learning remotely versus what they would have learned under normal circumstances.

Zublionis said the district has been looking at several pieces of research on the subject, particularly one study coming from the Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University. This study, he said, estimates that, come the beginning of the 2020-21 school year, students will have had roughly 63 to 68 percent learning gains in reading and 37 to 50 percent learning gains in math relative to a typical year.

“The study goes on to say, given that number,” Zublionis said, “there’s going to be tremendous diversity in what each individual student has lost.”

Zublionis said there are a number of areas to consider when determining student loss, including curriculum, academic learning, extracurricular activities, physical wellness, social-emotional learning and special education services. Another question the district is asking, he said, is how has learning loss been mitigated by remote learning.

“What we’re really looking at,” Zublionis said, “is the net difference between what students would’ve normally experienced and how we’ve mitigated that.”

Zublionis said he, curriculum heads and principals have met to create assessments that measure the core concepts and skills students should develop for the year in reading, writing and math for elementary schools and in the core disciplines at the secondary level. He said that data will be analyzed by directors to look at where students are falling in terms of meeting standards, and possibly compare them to prior years.

Teacher input will also be used in their evaluations, Zubilionis said, to determine individual students’ needs, as well as surveyed information from students to hear things from their perspective.

As these diagnostics will be designed over the summer, Zublionis said the district will be able to put them into action come the fall along with normal STAR assessments. However, if schools are not yet deemed safe by Governor Andrew Cuomo by the fall and school needs to begin remotely, the district will need to find a different way to accomplish these tasks, something which he is confident the district can figure out.

The district’s mission this summer, Zublionis said, is to develop these data and analyses and plan for possible curriculum modifications.

Trustee Lisa Vizza said she was concerned about the district’s BOCES vocational students and worried about their ability to earn enough credits remotely, as much of their education consists of hands-on experiences. Zublionis said 20 of the 22 North Shore students enrolled in the BOCES program should be receiving full credit. The remaining two students, he said, were already struggling before the pandemic.

Board Vice President Dave Ludmar said the district has seen a lot of growth in its Shared Valued Outcomes, a system of attributes designed to help students develop into effective learners, over the past few years. He said he wants to make sure the SVOs are still a part of the district’s plans moving forward into next year, especially for younger students.

Zublionis said SVOs are an important part of evaluating student progress, something which will not change this summer. However, he said one adjustment being made for younger students is creating a goals report, which would indicate areas of strength and weakness for each elementary student. In addition, he said teachers are meeting with students frequently and reporting their levels of engagement back to counselors.