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Warrensville Heights Schools Plan To Deal With 'Significant' Learning Loss

Warrensville Heights City Schools will extend the school year by three weeks and has already begun targeted "intervention" to contend with pandemic-related learning loss. [Jenny Hamel/ ideastream]
Warrensville Heights Schools

The Warrensville Heights City School District has a plan to get students caught up after a year of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Superintendent Donald Jolly, who added that “there’s been significant loss.”  

In February, during his regular coronavirus briefing, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine called for local school districts to devise a plan by April 1 for how to address lost learning in each district and school, in part so the state could allocate enough funding to address the issue.

Warrensville Heights Schools went fully remote in the spring of 2020, when DeWine first ordered all schools to close due to COVID-19. Jolly said nearly a year of being fully remote has taken a toll on his students academically.

“More on our younger students, our kindergarten students, first grade students, who have these large gaps in their learning because of just not being in school, not being with a teacher, not being among peers, some environments are not conducive to learning at home,” he said.

Warrensville Heights teachers recognized quickly and became “very concerned” once students were back in the classroom in late January, according to Jolly, recognizing that there had been “a significant impact” while students were learning remotely.

“Especially our younger scholars. They’re developmentally in November instead of being almost in April,” Jolly said.

“Where we normally are, the kids are sounding out words and are able to articulate and write their names. We see some significant developmental issues with that because they haven't done it,” Jolly said. “Now we're working through that, you know, the spacing of the letters, the neatness of the letters. The reading. Where we should be at in their developmental reading, we're not there.”

Between the 2019-2020 and the 2020-2021 academic years, the number of first-grade students not on track to achieve grade-appropriate reading skills increased by ten percent, and the number of second graders not on track increased by 19 percent, according to the district’s Reading Improvement and Monitoring Plan data.

Additionally, the district shared with ideastream, “only 34 percent of all third-grade students are projected to test at proficient levels for the Spring [Ohio Standardized Testing] according to fall MAP projections.” 

The Warrensville Heights School District has been working on its learning loss plan since November and is already implementing some intervention strategies, according to Jolly.

“We’ve extended our school year to June 30,” Jolly said. “So we want to give our students an extra three weeks of school to help our kids catch up.”

And the district is already moving to dedicate the fourth quarter of the school year to intervention, he said, looking at every child and creating individualized instruction plans.

“Basically, our whole school is going to be intervention-based on students’ needs,” he said.

Warrensville Heights schools received an F on its annual state report cards for the 2015-16 and 2016-17 school years. The district improved to a C over two years. The district worked hard to improve students’ overall performance, according to Jolly. He is worried that despite Ohio legislators announcing that this year’s standardized test scores will not count against schools, lower test scores this year might still mean less money for his district if parents decide to send students to charter schools.

“We understand how school choice goes and we understand that they use three years of data to determine who gets school choice,” Jolly said. “The 2021 year will be part of the equation, which is a very serious concern of ours, because there was a pandemic. We were not in school because of health reasons, so to use data when it was a pandemic is unfair to districts like ours who fight school choice on a yearly basis.”