NYC schools: De Blasio budgets $500M for post-pandemic tutoring and assessments

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Social studies teacher Logan Landry looks over the shoulder of seventh grader Simone Moore as she works on a project while seated next to a cutout of Elvis Presley at the Bruce M. Whittier Middle School, Friday, Jan. 29, 2021, in Poland, Maine. With instruction time reduced as much as half by the coronavirus pandemic, many of the nation’s middle school and high school teachers have given up on covering all the material normally included in their classes and instead are cutting lessons. Landry, put up cardboard cutouts to keep up social distancing, where instruction time has been cut in half by the hybrid model.(AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

The past year has been difficult for students, and while a return to school buildings is a work in progress, there is concern of an education deficit or a lapse in progress for students.

A December article from McKinsey & Company using the group’s insights put it plainly: “Most students are falling behind, but students of color are faring worse.”

In his budget proposal released this week, Mayor Bill de Blasio earmarked $500 million to help assess where students are after a year of remote learning, and to help get city students back on track.

“We want to ensure that every school is in the best possible position to do the assessments and then follow through,” he said. “It’s the first time we’re doing this kind of universal academic assessment. We’re going to follow through on that with, certainly, in many cases, more tutoring. When it comes to literacy, for example, we expect to be able to…[train] teachers more in literacy. We expect more direct work, including one-on-one work with kids in the area of literacy.”

De Blasio said more details on that portion of his budget would be released in the coming weeks.

A release on the Recovery Budget described it as “intensive academic recovery for every student to establish baselines with assessment data, core ELA and math instruction, tutoring and teacher planning time.”

The Department of Education supported the cash infusion for the 2022 fiscal year to help mind the gap for students.

“The pandemic has had an outsized impact on children academically, socially, and emotionally, and this historic investment will provide opportunities to accelerate learning and evaluate the unique needs of our students,” said Sarah Casasnovas, a DOE spokesperson.

What the assessments and tutoring will look like is yet to be revealed.

Local education publication Chalkbeat said “some schools labeled as struggling are already required to give their students exams to assess their progress,” and the next school calendar may include some kind of personalized learning.

“I think the notion here is we have to have an extraordinary year,” de Blasio said. “We have to help kids come back rapidly. It’s going to take a lot more direct work with kids. It’s going to take bringing more personnel in to do that. That’s what that type of spending is going to allow us to do.”

And based on at least one recent study, the plan to work with students who’ve lost a year of classroom time may certainly be worth the investment.

A research article published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America discussed examination results for children in The Netherlands as a basis for learning loss. The nation is described as a “best-case scenario, with a short lockdown, equitable school funding, and world-leading rates of broadband access.”

“Despite favorable conditions, we find that students made little or no progress while learning from home. Learning loss was most pronounced among students from disadvantaged homes,” the article said.

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