Impact of virtual learning being felt

Carleen Wild
Moody County Enterprise

We’ve heard for some time now, over the past year especially, about how much the pandemic and virtual classrooms may have hurt students’ learning. Multiple studies show students who were already struggling fell further behind than their peers, and there were just countless educational opportunities lost.
New local standardized test scores appear to support that information.
Flandreau Public Schools Academic Advisor Josh Cleveland told School Board Members this past week that there are quite a few students in the district right now, struggling because they just didn’t learn well outside of the regular classroom.
“Virtual learning was successful for some students,” Cleveland told board members. The majority of students, he added, struggled. “And we’re going to see that data manifest itself here in the next couple of years.”
His comments come as overall scores for the Smarter Balanced tests were slightly down compared to state averages and as well to 2020 scores. One in five of the local students taking the test were considered virtual learners. That percentage is higher than most other similarly-sized districts in the state.
The test results and other local student learning could potentially be much more concerning, however, than it is. Nationwide, studies show that districts that offered more access to in-person options saw smaller declines in math and reading scores than districts that offered less access. South Dakota’s students returned to the classroom far sooner than many of their peers nationwide.
Board members asked Cleveland and the administrators in the room how best to address the deficits students may have.
“It’s a challenge at every level, because if you missed something two years ago and you need it now, there’s got to be a way to go back into it and re-address some of those assignments. I think it’ll be a challenge for a few years here,” said Board President Tom Stenger.
High School Principal Kristi Fischer, agreed.
“One of the things we talked about is we really need to dig into the data and see what the data is showing us. Then what can we incentivize to close that gap… catch them up as best as possible,” said Fischer.
Of note, national analyses have shown that minority student populations, in large part, experienced greater declines in test scores than their peers. Local test results show however that Native students specifically, scored higher in the English Language Arts section than state counterparts. The same was seeing in math scores.
Also heard at the most recent meeting for the FPS School Board:
Look for fewer students in the coming years to take other standardized and common placement tests such as the ACT, as colleges and tech schools revise admission requirements and may no longer require such exams for enrollment.
Just a few weeks into trying out new in-town bus stops to improve students attendance and being on time for school, School Board members for Flandreau Public Schools learned this past week that tardies actually increased as students started taking the bus. The hope is that once students and parents get better adjusted to the bus schedule and make that work with their own schedules, attendance and students getting to class on time will improve.
A discussion on updating the policy on Electronic Communication Devices for each school.
A motion to take a neutral stance on Social Studies Standards, which was approved. More on this in next week’s Moody County Enterprise.
Notice that homerooms will be moved to the end of the day for high school students. Principal Kristi Fischer said the move is being made to incentivize the students to get to school on time, turn their work in, and ensure passing grades. Only when they meet those expectations can they be approved for early dismissal, versus late arrival. “We have concerns about attendance,” said Fischer. “If we can attack our missing assignments and get our kids to be successful, we want to reward our kids that are doing those things well.”
The approval of Ryan Mallinger being hired as the new head softball coach and Niki Nelson as the new assistant softball coach.

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