Filling the gaps | New

Students who were in their sophomore year of high school are now entering their freshman year of college, and the ongoing ripple effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have some educators worried that incoming students — who have received the bulk of their high school during a global pandemic crisis – can be caught off guard.

High school and college administrators have been actively working to mitigate the effects of long-term distance learning. They call it “learning loss”.

“We have implemented many strategies ranging from remediation to after-school tutoring and summer reading camps, but none of these strategies will get us where we need to be overnight,” said the CCBOE Superintendent Shane Barnette in an email. “We grow children and learning increases exponentially. I think one of our biggest struggles has been in the area of ​​social and emotional learning. Humans are not made to be solitary beings. Bringing students back socially and emotionally to where they need to be and dealing with everyday stressors is a challenge.

“Cullman County Schools has a counselor at each school, employs four wonderful social workers, and partners with a mental health organization that comes to campus to provide additional support. Although this is a challenge, we continue to find ways to overcome this challenge.

High School Curriculum Coordinator and CTE for CCS Lindsay Brannon said her district has been proactive in addressing the effects of the pandemic on her students.

“We knew and expected that there would be learning gaps due to this pandemic. Cullman High School has come together strategically at all grade levels to identify skills and knowledge that have not been taught as a result of distance or blended learning,” Brannon said in an email. “Although the skills are within the standards of a previous year, teachers are committed to meeting students where they were and teaching the skills that students have missed due to the pandemic.

“We put a renewed emphasis on teaching in small groups and made sure to address and close the gap in teaching. All of our teachers did a fantastic job of doing what needed to be done to ensure student success! The Alabama Department of Education has done a good job working with university officials to identify critical standards in each curriculum. These essential standards are the skills and knowledge that students must demonstrate to ensure their academic success. Teachers modified their pacing guides to ensure critical standards were taught. The rest of the teaching time was spent remediating students to bring them up to grade level. Cullman High School had to condition our students when we returned to a more structured schedule. We emphasize the development of interpersonal skills by focusing on speaking and listening skills and working together in collaborative groups. We limited screen time and gave several brain breaks. Everything we did was intentional and strategically planned to not only mitigate learning loss, but to support students in all facets of their well-being. This was all a group effort between central office staff, administrators, teachers, and students. »

In part because of these actions taken by local schools, Wallace State Community College Center for Student Success director Whit Rice said the WSCC has not seen any significant drop in the number of students who have taken college-level English and math classes vs. pre-COVID years classes.

“I think these numbers are a tribute to the high quality of high schools in our region,” Rice said.

The WSCC uses a three-tier system for placing incoming students into college-level classes that first reviews a student’s ACT scores before checking high school GPA scores. A student is then able to take a placement exam before being placed in a remedial or development course.

WSCC Title III Director Christine Wiggins said it’s this tiered placement model that concerns her for this year’s incoming students.

“My concern is that high school grades right now aren’t really indicative of a student’s abilities,” Wiggins said.

It is for this reason that Wiggins has developed a publicly funded Summer Bridge program designed to prepare students for fall enrollment. The course offered students who scored below the threshold in their ACTs a three-week boot camp in math and English comprehension. Of the ten Cullman-area students who participated in the program, Wiggins said the consensus was almost unanimous that they felt unprepared for the school year ahead.

“They said that [remote learning] was not what they had come to know as a school. I didn’t really notice any social effects, but they were all very aware that they weren’t academically ready for college,” Wiggins said.

Sixty percent of students who participated in the bridging program saw their placement test scores increase enough to be placed in college-level English and/or math courses. and all students surveyed said they would recommend the program to their peers.

Patrick Camp can be reached at 256-734-2131 ext. 238

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