Lexia Learning’s Chief Learning Officer, Dr. Liz Brooke’s steadfast determination to ensure students of all abilities can become successful readers and confident learners, is the driving force behind all of her work.
According to Brooke in a recent edWebinar, during this time of remote and distance learning, “There have been various levels of implementation, fidelity, and various levels of learning happening.”
She points out that researchers, educators, and district administrators won’t have any empirical evidence until student assessments reveal learning gaps due to the so-called COVID slide and summer learning loss.
Predictably, most–if not all–of our students have had some slides in their learning and will have gaps that they need to close. Some students had gaps even before this interruption, but their needs are more urgent for populations that are historically more susceptible to gaps.
Due to the uncertainty of what schools will look like over the summer or in the fall, school districts need instructional programs that have the flexibility to work in the classroom setting and easily transition to a remote situation.
Programs that offer a blended approach with both online and teacher-led components may provide the most flexibility and most easily transition from the classroom to the cloud or remote environments. Research has shown that blended programs with teacher-led elements allow for continued connections and relationships between teacher and student.
There have been multiple studies to prove that the summer slide is a real thing. Based on evidence with both elementary and secondary school-aged students, a summer slide can typically equate to one month of learning loss. Students from families classified as low socioeconomic status are often more impacted by that summer slide and have more significant learning gaps.
Why, what, and how
Effective and equitable instruction should meet each student’s needs and close the learning gap at the intersection of three essential components: Data/Students (Why), Content (What), and Delivery (How).
Understanding why it is taught focuses on data derived from assessments that maximize the data. Brooke emphasized that it is critical when reviewing programs and assessment tools to determine if the assessment elements can be given remotely, given to large groups of students, provide data quickly that is accessible to teachers and administrators remotely, and answer questions about risk, growth, and skill gaps.
Whatever programs school districts use and will use to close the learning gaps caused by the COVID slide should include rigorous content based on reading science.
The most pivotal part, especially in intensifying learning and transitioning to remote education, should consist of structured literacy elements such as phonology, orthography, morphology, semantics, and syntax.
In a remote world, we’re focused on getting students the learning they need. One way we can do this, if we don’t want to increase the time, is how we do it. Using evidence-based interventions with positive outcomes should include fundamental principles including explicit (directly taught), systematic (logical order of skills and concepts), cumulative (new learning building on prior knowledge), and multisensory/multimodal (use of multiple sensors or modalities).
The last thing to consider regarding accelerating student learning during these unprecedented times is for schools and classroom teachers to partner with parents, guardians, and caregivers. Schools should set realistic expectations for families and provide activities and ideas that can be done with items readily available at home that don’t necessarily involve screen time.