A new report from the University of Wilfrid Laurier is confirming what many families have experienced first-hand – students have learned less in the last two years than they would have if the pandemic hadn’t happened.

Professor Kelly Gallagher-Mackay helped author a report about pandemic recovery when it comes to educational and developmental harms associated with COVID-19.

She also worked on a Science Table Brief that tracked educational disruption in Ontario and internationally.

“There was a big survey done by teachers across Canada that asked, ‘do you think students have fallen far behind and may have trouble catching up?’ Seventy per cent of teachers said, ‘yes we think there’s a big problem here,’” Gallagher-Mackay said.

STUDENT PERSPECTIVE

Kitchener student Sophia Alleyne said the hardest part about learning during the pandemic has been the inconsistency with lockdowns.

“Going back and forth between online and back in school. It was kind of hard,” Alleyne said.

Her mother said it’s been a challenge for her as well and she’s considered tutoring next year.

“As you may know, tutoring can be quite expensive, so that has been a concern of mine,” said Melanie Alleyne.

WHAT SUPPORTS ARE AVAILABLE?

There are free options out there, like Prodigy – a game-based learning platform created by University of Waterloo alumni.

“Once you have students engaged, then you can get them learning,” said Alex Peters, co-CEO of Prodigy. “Once you get them learning, you can start reshaping their attitudes and get them to catch up.”

Prodigy came out with a math platform more than 10 years ago but just released an English tool this month.

“Every student gets their own village and gets to customize it,” said Peters. “All the activities they need to complete… require that they enter answer English questions.”

The Waterloo Region District School Board (WRDSB) said it wants to help students get back on track and has put supports in place.

“The Waterloo Region District School Board has put in place a Junior Kindergarten to Grade 12 strategy to ensure adequate supports with before and after-school tutoring, summer programming, and day camps,” the board said, in part, in an emailed statement.

“The tutoring supports are being put in place to assist students, to help them cross the finish line successfully and set them up for success as they move into next year,” WRDSB continued.

The Waterloo District Catholic School Board (WDCSB) said its staff are working to creatively support students that experienced learning setbacks.

“Collectively our math coaches and early literacy support teachers have directly supported upwards of 4,500 of our students this year and the data gathered thus far indicates students are making gains,” WDCSB said, in part, in an emailed statement.

The Catholic board said it is also developing individualized plans for disengaged students in Grade 7 and Grade 8 and has implemented a “re-engagement team” to collaborate with students and staff at local schools.


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