Inconsistent education due to the pandemic has caused concerns for Oklahoma parents- some even considering holding their students back to help ensure they master the curriculum.
Clarissa Nichols, an Enid mother, said her first-grader, Cayliana, might need that extra time, as learning how to read virtually has been a struggle.
“They start to teach reading in kindergarten. So she got robbed of a quarter of that in her kindergarten year,” said Nichols. “So that put her behind learning how to read in the beginning of first grade, and then you take six weeks out of school all over again. She basically just lost a whole ‘nother semester.”
Cayliana’s siblings, one younger and one older, fared pretty well learning from home grade-wise, although Nichols said at times they also struggled to stay motivated.
Nichols even brought her kids with her to the office, where she worked and they learned, but the professional environment was still not enough for Cayliana.
Plus, Nichols’ husband quit his job to stay at home to both help the kids with school and because they could not afford daycare.
“We can’t send her into second grade not knowing how to read,” said Nichols. “So that’s where we come into, ‘should we hold her back?'”
Oklahoma Superintendent of Public Instruction, Joy Hofmeister, said that option is not always beneficial in the long run, citing evidence that retaining students in the past has produced undesirable results.
“In fact, it is so overwhelming that we no longer encourage a repeating of a grade unless there are just extraordinary circumstances. Now, in Oklahoma, during a pandemic and across this country, we have large-scale learning loss that we are anticipating and beginning to see,” said Hofmeister. “But we will be answering that all together. There is not going to be a need for all schools to be looking at something across the board for different grade levels.”
Hofmeister said instead, tailoring an approach to fill in those educational gaps, perhaps over the summer, could be a better option.
Nichols said they have not made their decision quite yet.
Cayliana and her siblings, who attend Enid Public Schools, have returned to the classroom, and maybe in-person learning can help Cayliana catch up.
“We did get her report card a couple weeks ago for the semester and she did have a lot of ‘needing to work on things,'” said Nichols. “When we get her report card for the third nine weeks, we’re hoping to see a lot more threes, and if not, we’re just going to hold her back.”
The Oklahoma Media Center, launched by Local Media Foundation with financial support from Inasmuch Foundation and the Walton Family Foundation, is a collaborative of 18 Oklahoma newsrooms that includes print, broadcast and digital partners. The OMC’s first project is Changing Course: Education & COVID. Griffin Communications is part of the collaborative, and this story is part of that effort.