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September 9, 2022 8 mins

Schools are back but they are still dealing with the setbacks and learning loss all due to the pandemic.  Recently we saw Department of Education data showing 9-year-olds are behind in reading and math, the sharpest decline we’ve seen since 1990.  The learning loss was generally worse in districts that kept classes remote longer.  To combat this, states are spending billions on tutoring, expanded summer school, and more individual attention for students.  Scott Calvert, reporter at the WSJ, joins us for more on what schools are doing and how they are tracking progress.

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Speaker 1 (00:00):
It's Friday, September nine. I'm Oscar Rameiras from the Daily
Dive podcast in Los Angeles, and this is Reopening America.
Schools are back, but they're still dealing with the setbacks
and learning loss all due to the pandemic. Recently, we
saw a Department of Education data showing nine year olds
are behind and reading a math, the sharpest declines we've
seen since n The learning loss was generally worse than

districts that kept classes remote longer. To come back this,
states are spending billions on tutoring, expanded summer school, and
more individual attention for students. Scott Calvert, reporter at the
Wall Street Journal, joins us for more on what schools
are doing and how they're tracking progress. Thanks for joining, Scott,
Thanks for having me. Well, we're seeing a lot of

kids going back to school right now. We've kind of
been experiencing all the disruptions obviously throughout the pandemic, even
as in person instruction has kind of restarted a little
bit last year and all that, we were starting to
see some learning law losses. We were seeing kids behind
in a lot of subjects. What we just saw was
the U S Department of Education Data, saying that from

two we saw reading scores down and we saw matt
scores down, and they're saying that it could take years
for kids that are experiencing some of this stuff to
make up those losses. And so what we're seeing right
now is schools pump a lot of money into these
efforts to reverse some of this stuff, but it's it's
really tough. They're they're trying to implement new programs and

also see how all those programs are working. So Scott
tell us a little bit more. It has been apparent
for a while now that the pandemic has caused a
lot of learning loss. And some people don't like that phrase.
They'll say it's actually unfinished learning because the kids, you know,
they never they never had it to be to begin with,
so they didn't lose it, but they just never had
it at all. And as you say, this recent federal

data really kind of underscores nationally kind of where things are,
and they look specifically at nine year olds, and yes,
the reading and math scores both dropped. And for this
story that that I recently for the Wall Street Journal,
we wanted to focus on reading for that sort of
nine year old third grade fourth grade group of kids.
And the reason is that there's just a lot of
research that shows that if you haven't learned to read

by the end of third grade, it's going to have
potentially really long term impacts on your future educational success,
your career earnings, even the risk that you will be
incarcerated at some point. And the way people talk about
it is that you know, until in the third grade,
you are learning to read, and thereafter you're really reading
to learn obviously use reading for math and everything else. Right,

So the this recent data just really put a punctuation
mark on the fact that there has been a lot
of loss and the question is, Okay, what do you
do about it. States have known about this for a while,
and one main thrust has been to really get kids
more time with teachers, instructors, tutors, and so you've seen
a lot more in the way of summer school or
summer learning camps really sort of expanded beefed up. And

then you've also seen a lot more in the way
of tutoring, especially you know low rate shield where you
have maybe one tutor for three kids, and high dosage
where it's not just for a few hours but it's
you know, maybe forty five minutes twice a week for
weeks and weeks and weeks, you know, in in an
effort to help get these kids, you know, caught up
as quickly as possible. Right, Yeah, And the reading part,
as you mentioned, right, is so important because everything is

built off of that. You know, you profile a couple
of kids in your story talking about how you know
they're behind in some of their reading and then they're
struggling with comprehension. So then when it comes to math,
another very important thing, right, that kids are having that
difficulty understanding the word problems, which are you know, a
big part of all that. So back to what states
are doing. They're pouring a lot of money that they're

getting from the American Rescue Plan. So we got about
a d two billion dollars that was set aside fork
to twelve public schools, and at least of that has
to go to address learning loss. And so in that effort,
a lot of states are beefing up those things that
you mentioned more tutoring, this summer school stuff, that individualized
teaching to help kids make up all that stuff up.

So tell us a little a little bit of what
we're seeing with some states, like what they're trying to
do with their programs. Yeah, so, I mean every state
has taken a somewhat different approach, but I'll give you
one example. So Indiana, for instance, last year the legislature
they approved this hundred and fifty million dollar grant program
and it was really aimed at these community based organizations
like the United Way, and they're offering, you know, in
person programs that have extended learning times. So that's that's

one thing they're doing there. They're also creating this um
tutoring program, this incentive where they are offering certain families
that meet income guidelines up to a thousand bucks right
to enroll their kids in private tutoring with a certified educator.
So that's how Indiana is doing it. Then you go
over to Tennessee and they have a really muscular tutoring

initiative that they are using about two hundred million dollars
from the American Rescue Plan, the federal aid money you
refer to, to help pay for that. The state itself
is also thinking a lot of money into that as well.
And again that's this sort of high dosage, low ratio
tutoring approach. In Texas, they passed the law where if
a kid doesn't pass a certain subject a topic on

a standardized state test, then they can get the thirty
hours of tutoring in that subject area. So there's different methods,
but a lot of what it boils down to is
this question of of giving the kids time and more
individualized attention. And when I was in Tennessee recently, I
went to a school outside of Nashville and it was
actually the first day of this reading tutoring program, and

there were there were three nine year old girls from
the fourth grade who were there with the tutor. And
I think, as you as you mentioned, you know, every
kid has it has his or her own challenges or weaknesses, right,
And in this case, you know, one girl was having
a hard time. She was she was skipping words or
sentences that she didn't understand. Another girl said, you know,
she was really reading slowly and wanted to be able
to sort of speed that up. And then another girl

said that she just had a comprehension problem. She would
read it and just not really understand what she had read.
And so the hope is that over in the coming
months and weeks, that the tutor can can can help
each of these kids makes serious improvement. And and the
last part of this is all you know, we're putting
a lot of money to these programs, doing everything we
can try to true methods, new methods, whatever it is.
The other part of it is studying if it's actually effective.

As I mentioned, you know, some experts have said it's
going to take years to make up the losses, and
it's going to take years to know if these things worked.
So that's the other part of it. Education experts will
will basically say, look, you know, tutoring works, low high dosage,
low ratio, tutoring, it works. But the difference, of course
is that we've never been in the situation we're in now,
with this pandemic that has just caused such incredible havoc

for for years now, right, So, so it's sort of
uncharted territory. And as much as states want to know
whether things are working in this context, they also don't
want to wait. They need to sort of make their
best judgment about what they think will help these kids
and then study it as they do it so that
they can make adjustments based on what the data is showing.
And there are some places that are doing this, Like

I'll give you one example. In North Carolina, they have
a whole Office of Learning, Recovery and Acceleration of the
state Department of Education, and so they studied the summer
school program that had two hundred and fifty thousand kids
enrolled in the summer and they found, Okay, this had
small but positive measurable impact in both math and reading.
So that's obviously encouraging results for them in that context.

But you know, when I spoke to the education secretary
in Indiana, she said, look, we're going to have to
acknowledge that some of these things we do are going
to be really effective, some are going to just sort
of help stabilize things, and others just won't work well.
And so the trick is to really measure these things
in real time to make impossible and then again make
these adjustments and in hopes of improving the efficacy. Scott Calvert,

reporter at the Wall Street Journal, Thank you very much
for joining us. Thanks for having me. I'm Oscar Ramirez
and this has been reopening America. Don't forget that. For
today's big news stories, you can check me out in
the Daily Dive podcast. Every Money through Friday, so follow
us and I Heart Radio or wherever you get your
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