CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Parents, educators, and community groups are providing tools to help children who experienced learning loss during the past three months.
Read Charlotte, a community-wide children’s reading initiative, partnered with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools and other 60 groups to provide a free online reading checkup.
“We are very concerned about what our community can do to help our children, not only overcome learning loss, but to get back on track to being proficient by the end of the next school year,” Read Charlotte Executive Director Munro Richardson said.
The website allows parents to know the areas their children need to improve on and lists at-home learning activities.
“What we want to do is help level the playing field by making sure that all families in our community can understand where their children are at in their reading and then to be able to know what they can do to move forward,” Richardson said.
Kara Landers, a teacher at Northwest Cabarrus High School and a mom of two elementary school-aged children, says she plans to use the free online tool for her rising third grader. She says she helped her children navigate virtual learning during remote learning this spring.
“While they were watching the videos of their teachers instructing, within five minutes, my children had checked out,” Landers said. “I would find the books that may be the teacher was reading. I had a dry erase board where I would break down examples for them. Anything I could possibly do to help simplify the information so they could understand.”
Even though Landers says she tried her best as a teacher and a mother, she still worries about potential learning loss her children and her students.
“It requires kids to be really organized. It requires them to be motivated and it requires them to manage their time and a lot of young kids don’t know how to do that yet. That is self-taught in the classroom,” Landers said.
According to an analysis from consult firm McKinsey & Company, COVID-19 school closures may result in the average student falling behind seven months.
The report estimates learning loss is even greater for Hispanic, Black and low-income children.
The analysis also lists home support and access to remote learning could be some of the factors leading to learning loss.
Cabarrus County Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum & Instruction Dr. Crystal Hill says the impact of poverty on a child’s education during the school closures is a concern.
“It makes a big difference when parents during this time have to go out and work during the day. There may be older siblings who are taking excellent care of their younger siblings and families are doing the best that they can,” Hill said. “ We do know we are going to have to work smarter and definitely harder to make sure we close those gaps.”
Hill adds next month, 5,000 elementary school children who needed extra help with math and reading in February, will receive summer learning kits.
“We felt it was really important to get appropriate text in the hands of students,” Hill said.
Students will also take this year’s end-of-year assessments at the beginning of next school year to help identify learning gaps.
“One of the things that we are really going to have to focus on as we begin the school year is not only the academic piece, but really focusing on the social and emotional needs of our students,” Hill said.
UNC Charlotte’s Cato College of Education Professor Drew Polly recommends parents to do active reading with their children and check on reading comprehension.
Polly, who also teaches in the Reading and Elementary Education Department, says there are learning opportunities that are not in a school setting.
“If I’m thinking as a parent about how to support my children, really look for teachable moments and moments to integrate the literacy, the social studies, the science through the ideas of current events, through the ideas of activities that we might do together because learning should be fun,” Polly said.
He also recommended checking out free public library resources.