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Digging Deeper: Learning in the Pandemic

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Learning in the Pandemic

(WSIL)---Since March of 2020, schools and parents across the country continuously adapt to the ever changing world of online, or remote, learning.

Marion resident Cassi Steinsultz has four children, ranging from pre-school age to high school, and online learning has been a challenge to say the least.

"I have very brilliant and bright children so I know they're all doing great. But, it comes at a cost," said Steinsultz.

Concerned parents like her are not alone.

Nationally--there is no official assessment tool on how to gauge whether educators are on the right track during the pandemic.

The MAP Growth Assessment - One test across 46 states saw math scores for the Fall 2020 semester drop five to ten percentile points compared to the year prior.

Local administrators don’t use that test but they discovered early on they needed to more creative in other ways to get students engaged and succeeding academically.

Vienna High School

Vienna High School guidance counselor Rhiannon Slife said less than 10% of students are now fully remote, up from 100% last year, and those students have seen a degree of challenge.

"Every student is different. In a way, it's a learning curve for all of us," said Slife. "But our end goal is not to harm these students but to make sure they're engaged in school whether that's here or at home."

While current failing grades are not available Slife tells News 3 anecdotal evidence is clear.

"We did see a pretty big decline in grades for students that were in remote learning," said Slife.

They started making other changes.

In order to get students back online, Vienna adopted a new attendance policy for online students.

This policy made sure students checked in class period, not just at the beginning of the day.

"The big thing is, we did that because we wanted them to contact us. That was our main goal, we wanted every student to contact every teacher, every office in this school building to make sure they had what they need to work at home," said Slife.

This new policy improved attendance at Vienna, and more students began logging in than they had the previous semester.

Trico School District

Trico School District is making improvements after a year of virtual learning taught them a thing or two about their own policies.

Trico initially started on a hybrid schedule, but switched to an elected remote learning schedule with all other students attending in person learning four days a week.

"But we've had to increase the layers of support for those at home remote learners," said Superintendent Larry Lovel.

As of January, 76 students in the Trico School District were still in remote learning.

"They students that were full remote, you could divide right down the middle. We had students, about 50%, that did amazingly well. They were self motivated, actually built some of those organizational skills, especially middle school and high school," said Lovel.

The other half of the students began falling behind.

“Mainly intermediate students were having trouble with that and early junior high," said Lovel.

Lovel said something had to be done for the students who were falling behind.

"Because there are those that became complacent during the remote format," said Lovel. "Attendance is really truant because they're not engaged. They're physically not here but they're not physically tuning in to our classrooms."

Trico hired a part time Attendance, Truancy and Complacent Learner Coordinator and a Coordinator for Student Success.

These coordinators would check in not only on the student's academics, but on their emotional well being.

"Those layers of support have been incredibly successful for that small group that have kinda fallen to the wayside," said Lovel.

But safety is still key for students and teachers, and until schools can open completely, they will keep learning along with their students.

"We still are here for you. And it's not just learning, it's also your social and emotional well being. You're our kid whether you're at home or you're at school," said Lovel.

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Madeline Parker

Madeline Parker is a Multimedia Journalist at News 3 WSIL. Madeline joined the team in 2020 and graduated from Southern Illinois University Carbondale with a Bachelor’s in Electronic Journalism and a minor in Communication Studies.

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