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Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2022

A Learning Gap

Change must happen for education to improve

Each year in our country, the president gives a State of the Union address addressing the concerns and the goals of the following year, much like a vision statement. Every year, education is stated to be a concern, but has it truly been a priority or is it just bad implementation?

According to the Center on Reinventing Public Education:

“The system that failed students during the pandemic was also failing them before the pandemic.

• Before the pandemic, America had the most significant academic performance gap between rich and poor students in the industrialized world, according to international PISA scores.

• Rising suicides among youth and soaring mental-health challenges – especially among girls – were on the rise before the pandemic. Surveys showed that students grew more bored and disengaged the longer they progressed through school.

• From February 2020 onward, wildly varied responses from school systems meant every student had a different pandemic education experience.”

The truth is that the educational system was broken a long time before the pandemic and will remain that way unless the parents and people involved in the educational setting step up to take responsibility.

According to The Nation’s Report Card, reading and math rates have shown little to no growth in over 40 years!

This is largely true for Caddo and Bossier Parish schools also. Massive educational gaps broadened during the pandemic that have been gaping holes for a long time. According to Louisiana Believes, the historic enrollment in private schools and homeschooling in the area was the largest in the state, which also shows a loss of almost 10,000 students in enrollment over the last 10 years in Caddo Parish public schools. While there was a surge of student growth in Bossier Schools due to population shift, that has also begun to fall over the last few years. This shift has happened as people started to blame schools and teachers for the product failures when the truth is that it was not only the system that failed. The disengaged parents who sent the children to school expecting the school to be the source of everything from counselor to provider is part of the failure and the lack of responsibility on the part of many players on the field.

Although we have a lot of things to improve, we also have something to celebrate, like the number of schools in our area earning recognition on the state and national stage. Teachers and administrators are also concerned while reaching out to the community for support and resources. It is time for leaders and community support to realize that the pendulum will not shift until there is a hard look at what is happening right and what needs improvement with a clear lens unclouded by perspective and personal feelings. Resources must be dedicated to the underlying causes of these gaps, and an accurate picture must be gained. Partnerships through local businesses and community efforts must quit being about meeting after meeting and begin to be boots on the ground in the classrooms, talking to parents and teachers, genuinely listening and gaining insights. Change must happen.

Where does change start? Change starts by taking one step and putting each foot in front of the other. Change begins by moving in a different direction from where we have been before. Recently, there was a huge shift on the national stage in looking at what the science and data were saying about how reading was being taught. Now, teachers and administrators across our state are embracing and learning the science of reading. The science of reading is a collaborative effort of understanding that it takes certain processes working correctly in the brain for learning to happen. This is a parental responsibility and a community responsibility.

A child who struggles with memory, processing and attention issues must have those issues addressed outside the classroom to thrive as well as inside the classroom. Simply giving them accommodations or putting them in special education settings isn’t enough. Just like a need for glasses, hearing aids or handicap assistance, it is necessary to provide brain training and purposeful help to students who are learning challenged as these challenges affect them outside the classroom in society, too.

These students are not disabled; they have learning challenges that they can overcome with the right resources. It is estimated that 95% of students could read on grade level if given the proper help, training and resources. Currently, less than 25% of students read at grade level by fourth grade, according to the National Reading Panel, and that affects all other subjects, future learning and careers. With 85% of those in jails today struggling with learning issues, addressing this conundrum is life-changing for our communities and schools.

Interventional methods are often not covered by insurance and can be costly. There must be resources designated for this purpose to help parents who cannot financially address these gaps. It is time to step up and partner with local community organizations and businesses to help the school system.

Donesa Walker, M. Ed., is owner of LearningRx of Shreveport and is a master reading/dyslexia specialist and board certified cognitive specialist.


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