Philly schools measuring academic impact of COVID-19 closures

Part of a four-week series: 'Live and Learn: Education in a COVID-19 World'

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Educators are working to measure the academic backslide caused by the shift to all-virtual classes.

"We know children fell behind," Philadelphia Schools Superintendent William Hite said. He said pivoting to online instruction at the end of last school year certainly caused students to lose ground academically.

A Brown University study projected that students nationwide would begin this year with 63% to 68% of what they would have normally learned in reading, and 37% to 50% of what they should have learned in math. The School District of Philadelphia's chief of academics, Evelyn Nunez, told the school board this month that the city’s most disadvantaged students stood to lose the most from all-virtual classes.

"We have witnessed that the absence of in-person learning has disproportionately affected our most vulnerable children, which are low-income and minority students," Nunez said.

By December, the district expects to have the results of assessments in Philadelphia schools designed to measure the learning loss. And Hite points out there are social and emotional deficits to identify as well.

"In addition to academics, there are socialization aspects that are really important for our youngest learners," Hite said. "There are the relationships that they establish with teachers."

Some students have only begun that process through their Chromebooks.

"Our kindergarteners have not been in person yet," Hite said. "They have started school already, and they haven't had the opportunity to even be in person."

That’s one of the chief reasons Hite’s hybrid plan has students from pre-K through second grade returning to school buildings first, starting the week of Nov. 30.

"These are critically important years, particularly for our youngest learners, that we want to make sure that we are returning to some form of normalcy — albeit, you know, nothing is normal as we work through this pandemic," Hite said.

The coronavirus pandemic has altered life in many ways for most of us, including the way students are learning. KYW Newsradio is taking a look at the impact of COVID-19 on education with "Live and Learn: Education in a COVID-19 World."