Give credit to teachers and students

Published 6:48 pm Friday, September 3, 2021

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It’s been said before, but it bears repeating here: It’s been a long and difficult 18 months for everyone.

Measures such as the stay-at-home order last spring were necessary to protect life, and we’ll never know how many lives they saved. But these measures did have some effect on all of us, and it’s fair to say teachers, students and parents were among those at the top of the list.

These effects are, in small part, quantifiable through a look at the SOL results. Across the state, scores decreased significantly from the last tests given before the pandemic, in 2018-2019, to the tests given this spring for the 2020-2021 school year. No tests were administered in 2019-2020, as they would have been given right after the start of the pandemic.

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However, comparing the two numbers does not in any way represent how Suffolk students and teachers, or those in any other division throughout the state, truly performed throughout the pandemic.

VDOE Superintendent of Public Instruction James Lane said the statewide drops reflect the disruptions to instruction caused by the pandemic, decreased participation in state assessment programs, pandemic-related declines in public school enrollment, fewer retakes and more flexible “opt-out” provisions for parents concerned that in-school testing would further spread COVID-19.

Standardized tests don’t even present a complete picture of teaching and learning in a normal year, so how could we expect them to during a worldwide pandemic? Students missed some weeks of classes right at the beginning of the pandemic and then had to complete that year in less than ideal circumstances. Statewide, students had a patchwork of different options for attending classes last school year, but everyone continues to be affected by the pandemic.

Teachers and students overcame incredible odds and still, we think, had an overall successful school year. All credit goes to them.

The scores reported recently represent a pandemic-era baseline for schools upon which to improve. Identifying students’ unique needs and the best ways for them to teach and learn in any circumstance should be the focus going forward.