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Carroll schools addressing student recovery; COVID-19 disproportionately affecting certain groups, official says

Carroll County Public School staff are dealing with the aftermath of schooling during a pandemic with recovery programs and compensatory services.

Instead of presenting on state test and Maryland Comprehensive Assessment Program grades (there were none) for the January board of education update meeting, board members heard last week what the system is doing to help students who fell behind and struggled during virtual and hybrid learning.

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Last summer, 1,087 students were participating in recovery programs. The number grew to over 1,200 students in the fall and staff anticipates that number could grow in the spring. Recovery services include virtual summer programs, small group learning, virtual tutoring, learning pods, individual education plan meetings, compensatory and recovery services for students with IEPs and credit recovery.

Judith Jones, equity and inclusion officer, said during the Jan. 13 meeting that everyone has to look at the recovery through multiple lenses to understand the “why.” Socio-economic status, race, language and family structure could be factors for why students are not succeeding.

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“And we have to constantly ask ourselves, what are the new and existing barriers,” she said.

In the first quarter 6,000 more failing grades were given compared with last quarter. Jones said they must peel back the layers to see why students are not learning and it’s deeper than not turning on their devices.

COVID-19, Jones said, can have a disproportionate impact on some groups more than others. The fear of getting the virus and spreading it to others can cause anxiety in a household, which could result in students being unfocused. She added that some families could be struggling financially, which could have an effect on students learning, and both students and staff are grieving the traditional learning structure.

Jones said staff also needs to break down which students are suffering the most. One group are the students in the English as a Second Language program, or ESOL.

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Pam Mesta, supervisor of ESOL, said her team, with the help of other school staff, have made 259 home visits since September to English Language learners. They service about 380 students in the program.

Board president Marsha Herbert said on a list of students who received F’s, many of them had “Hispanic names,” and asked what staff was doing to engage that population.

Mesta said 70% of the English learners speak Spanish and noted the home visits. She said language is not always the barrier when it comes to learning and her team works to meet the basic needs of students as well as address the building blocks that some students are missing.

She said earlier that 100% of English language learners who were seniors graduated last year. And that the ESOL team works to create a graduation plan for students and sets a pathway to a career or industry certification.

Jason Anderson, the chief academic, equity and accountability officer, said in a December meeting 940 students were invited for tutoring on the elementary level and 69% took advantage. Over 2,000 kids in middle school were offered tutoring but only 16% accepted. And of the 650 students in high school who were offered tutoring, 38% took advantage. Anderson also said at the time students in ESOL were impacted the most by failing grades.

For students with Individual Education Plans, or IEPS, staff needs to be creative with recovery services, according to Nick Shockney, director of special education. He said those students will be identified in the spring and recovery and compensatory services is expected to start in the summer and could continue for multiple years.

Board member Donna Sivigny said that attendance isn’t the problem but engagement is. Attendance was at 95.5% during the first quarter.

“Hybrid is the first step to a recovery plan,” she said.

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