The impact of COVID-19 on academics in the region is believed to be widespread

“I would say most schools have issues,” Pine River-Backus Superintendent Jon Clark said.

“I think what you saw at Pine River-Backus is something you could probably see all over the country, I think for obvious reasons,” said Chris Lindholm, Superintendent of Pequot Lakes.

Those who watched the Pine River-Backus school board meeting at home were probably shocked to learn that 109 elementary school children were referred to summer school, and the students who did not meeting math and English expectations in this year’s Minnesota comprehensive assessment tests increased from about 10% to about 60%.

This scene also took place at Pequot Lakes.

“The recommendations (from the summer school) right now are coming in and letters are being sent,” said Melissa Hesch, principal of Eagle View Elementary School. “We’re significantly higher than last year. I think we’re at around 130 and we’re going to accommodate at least 80 students if not 90.”

Referrals to PR-B summer courses are more than double compared to previous years. In a typical year, Pequot Lakes has between 50 and 70 references.

At Eagle View Elementary and Pine River-Backus Elementary Schools, the referral process for summer school is similar. Teachers are given criteria to determine who should be considered for summer school. Teachers recommend students who meet these criteria and letters are sent to their parents, who decide whether their children attend summer school.

At Pine River-Backus there are currently three classes of 15 students each for a total of 45 students. To ensure that students with the most needs have a chance to participate, PR-B starts by inviting those with the highest priority.

“Any referred child who had some kind of distance learning, whether it was through a quarantine or through parental choice or whatever, they had the first access,” said the head of the PR elementary school. -B, Rick Aulie. “We looked at students who had behavioral references. So if they had a significant number of behavioral references, they were also included on that list.”

Students who were referred to a level two intervention program were also given a higher priority. Additional students will be invited if the first referred group refuses the summer school or if additional teachers offer to teach the summer school.

The impacts of the tumultuous school year also had an impact at the secondary level. The most recent MCA test results might never be officially released because the results are so skewed that they are unreliable as assessments, said Ben Johnston, coordinator of teaching, learning and of technology at Pequot Lakes.

At the federal level, all responsibility for test results has been lifted for this year.

Like Pine River-Backus, Johnston said Pequot Lakes saw an estimated 30-40% drop in skills in MCA test scores, as he suspects in most schools. However, there are so many variables that likely affected these scores that they don’t have the meaning or importance they usually do.

In addition to COVID-19 restrictions affecting test performance, absences also likely skewed the results.

“It’s really hard to compare the numbers to a normal year when you’re talking about over 25% to 30% of a year that does not participate in the test, which would obviously skew all the data,” said Johnston. “That’s not to say that I don’t think our scores haven’t gone down. I think our scores have gone down as well, which I think is expected considering the kids probably missed 70 days. of classroom instruction last year and several days of instruction this year, and many are also quarantined for 10-14 days sometimes throughout the year. “

“I think it would be hard to say that this year’s scores would be authentic, and for different reasons,” said Chris Halverson, Principal of Pine River-Backus High School. “First, we had quite a few kids who didn’t take the test for different reasons, whether they were distance learners or whatever. But then to work on the variables of just experiencing a pandemic. I don’t think so. not that our expectations change for education, but we also realize that there are a lot of social / emotional issues and things like that, that we have to do a trauma first. “

“A lot of students haven’t taken it,” Lindholm said. “And we know that in a regular year, in a school district where you have 100 to 140 kids in the class, each student is almost a percentage point. So when you understand that, and then you say maybe you take out 30-40% of the students who take it anyway. Now you’re talking about every student being 3 percentage points away. And then, of course, we know that students have some learning loss due to COVID . “

It’s probably not surprising what caused these test score changes.

“Distance learning played an important role in this, with students spending most of last spring in distance learning,” said Aulie. “It also has to do with the students who started this fall with distance education. We had quite a few kids behind who couldn’t bridge that gap. And then we have students who even when we were in school and able to deliver a typical curriculum and instruction, they are still struggling and need to be corrected. So we have that in addition to COVID and distance learning. We are trying to fill in. these two shortcomings. “

“We covered the same amount of material that we would normally cover, but it would have been done differently,” Hesch said. “Some of the small group instruction that we’d like to do, we couldn’t do with social distancing in the same way. So I think there are elements of how we like to personalize learning that we don’t. We just couldn’t keep up with it in all aspects. And using learning devices at home is different than when you’re in a classroom with the teacher adjusting and modifying the learning. “

“I think we see it in our math scores. Math is a skill-based subject,” said Johnston. “So when you miss part of this instruction, it may be more difficult to pick up those pieces.”

“I think the change in CAMs has been student engagement and also the fact that we haven’t been able to be in person and have the impact of in-person learning,” said Halverson. “And, of course, we had a pandemic. I wouldn’t give the pandemic all the credit, but I think those factors played a big part in what we saw.”

Both school districts are working on an intervention to help students catch up and stay caught up. Pequot Lakes uses individual progress tracking using class assessments to determine who needs help and how to help. In addition, the district offers students additional options to catch up as well as emotional support after a stressful year.

Pine River-Backus has added a Grades 9-12 Interventionist position in the MEIERS program to ensure that students moving up to Grade 9 don’t fall behind now that their credits count toward graduation . The position is a focused approach to providing personal assistance to individual students whenever they appear to need assistance.

In Pine River-Backus, the summer school will be held August 2–19. Participating students will receive free breakfast and lunch as well as transportation. The Eagle View Elementary School Summer School will be held June 7-25 with transportation, lunch, and breakfast also provided.

Travis Grimler is a writer for the weekly Pineandlakes Echo Journal in Pequot Lakes / Pine River. He can be reached at 218-855-5853 or [email protected]

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