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Association of California School Administrators
Association of California School Administrators
Expanded learning partners can help schools recover
February 15, 2021
The following article was submitted by Randy Barth.
In a year battered by a global pandemic, economic shutdowns and widespread school closures, afterschool education and expanded learning program operators have shown incredible resilience and pivoted to meet this moment by supporting school districts, students and families with essential services and meaningful academic experiences.
Since schools closed last spring, afterschool and expanded learning providers delivered STEM education, daytime distance learning support, wellness checks, Spanish-English translation services, meal and digital device distribution, school supply kits, and more to an estimated 1.1 million students in California. In addition, these programs pivoted to provide critical in-person support to the hardest-hit students using learning hubs and small cohorts.
Looking ahead, educators will need to address the avalanche of learning loss coupled with the physical and emotional trauma students and school staff have endured.
As Robert Slavin, director of the Center for Research and Reform in Education at Johns Hopkins University and chairman of the Success for All Foundation, wrote in his open letter to President Joe Biden, we need a Marshall Plan for education to address the crisis of learning loss, and we need to implement the plan now. The plan he proposes is clear and straightforward: “ … a Tutoring Marshall Plan would provide intensive funding to enable Title I schools nationwide to substantially advance the achievement of their students who suffered mightily from COVID-19 closures and related trauma.”
Afterschool and expanded learning providers are equipped to take on the task and are already aligning with school partners on innovative solutions to support small groups of students or conduct 1:1 meetings, either in-person or at a distance, to work with students who are at academic risk in the current environment.
Throughout the state, expanded learning providers and school administrators are touting the success of small group cohorts focused on getting students the help they need to catch up. In Riverside, three students who participate in Think Together’s in-person support program were able to catch up within the first few weeks.
Stories like this are a model for potential success for students in need to mitigate the very real possibility that these students may never again learn at their grade level. Furthermore, an investment into our public education system today will provide job opportunities, a pipeline of new talent into education and the academic foundation needed for our future leaders and our nation’s economic recovery.
Although news of the vaccine becoming available to teachers and school workers provides the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel, the reality remains that the 2020-21 school year will continue to face many of the same setbacks we’re already encountering: distance learning fatigue, inequitable access to education support and active outbreaks among staff and students.
Expanded learning providers across the nation stand ready to support our students and teachers during these unprecedented challenges. There are countless ways these dynamic and highly qualified paraprofessionals can step up during this pandemic.
Randy Barth is the founder and CEO of Think Together, a nonprofit provider of afterschool and expanded learning programs serving nearly 250,000 students in more than 600 programs from San Diego to the Bay Area.
Randy Barth
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