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Education experts expect slow recovery as school year begins

According to one COVID learning loss calculator, students in three Maryland counties experienced the greatest setbacks. Photo by Getty Images.

As the school year begins, many educators are trying to make up for lost study time in the early stages of the pandemic. Educators expect students to make some progress this year, but say it will take more time for students to catch up.

The Edunomics Lab, Georgetown University’s education finance research center, has released a calculator that estimates the number of weeks students have lost math and reading skills as a result of pandemic-related shutdowns. The calculator also estimates how much school districts will need to spend on math and reading tutoring to recover those losses, and shows how much federal funding each county received, potentially helping in that effort. there is.

In Maryland, three counties, Baltimore, Dorchester, and Prince George, were calculated to have the highest learning losses. In each county, the student lost an average of 20 weeks in reading and he lost 21 weeks in math.

Carroll County did the best, with a learning loss of 9 weeks in math and 4 weeks in reading. It was the only county in the state where both metrics were below her 10 weeks.

Dorchester County Public Schools Superintendent Dave Bromwell attributes some of the county’s struggles to the lack of technology it faced at the start of the pandemic.

Before the pandemic hit, the school system wasn’t connected across the county, Bromwell said. Dorchester is one of the state’s largest counties, and internet connectivity is limited in island communities.

With plans to send computers to more than 4,700 students, the county had to quickly decide how to improve the technical capabilities of the schools.

“I was learning to fly a plane like I was flying a plane, and this was very difficult,” Bromwell said.

According to the superintendent, the county needed to increase its IT department by almost 10 times in three months.

“We are now trying to have IT personnel in every building,” says Bromwell. “Previously, he had one that could handle three or four buildings.”

The superintendent said the school board has used elementary and middle school emergency aid funds to address these issues. Maryland received her $1.9 billion from federal programs, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

Sen. Paul G. Pinsky (D-Prince George) speculated on the three school systems with the greatest learning losses, but said the results were not surprising to him, saying the pandemic was already there. added that it exacerbated the gap

“[The pandemic] Crushed students and crushed parents,” Pinsky said. “It was very difficult for the school staff.”

Pinsky, chairman of the State Senate Committee on Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs, said the legislature is giving school districts a blueprint for Maryland’s future, a 10-year, multi-billion dollar education reform plan. They want to avoid introducing new initiatives at a difficult time, Pinsky said.

For two years, Bromwell said, he and the state’s other superintendents developed a Blueprint “political process.”

“In theory, Blueprints are great,” says Bromwell. “But like everything else, when there are so many different politicians and Congresses involved, you have to dig into the weeds and see how it affects everyone. .”

He said the state legislature and the new governor need to have “serious discussions” about how to help school districts, especially the most economically distressed ones.

Pinsky said Congress is now focusing on addressing teacher shortages across the state. Pinsky says it’s hard to tell where states are on the blueprint because the world of education is changing so much, but he hopes it will help the school system. .

“The legislature doesn’t create magic, but we’ve come up with some good plans,” the senator said. “We want to give them time to work.”

Bromwell said he expects students to continue making progress from last year and that their success won’t be limited to Dorchester County alone.

“I am very optimistic that we will see some progress, not just in our county, but in all counties.”