School districts across the country are rolling out policies to help students who have fallen behind academically due to the coronavirus pandemic. But there is disagreement over which policies will actually help kids.
Chicago Public Schools is considering automatically bumping up all middle and high school students to the next grade. The plan is to do that regardless of academic performance. In other words, even if a seventh grader failed his courses, he would still move to eighth grade. Advocates say this will avoid undermining students’ confidence. They argue that students can make up for what they missed next year. That’s when in-person learning will resume.
But other districts are offering extra school this summer. They hope to help struggling students to meet normal standards. They are also nixing some requirements to ease the way. Both Guilford County Schools in North Carolina and New York City schools are offering a so-called “fifth semester” this summer.
Early research indicates COVID-related disruptions limited some students’ ability to learn. For example, the education research group Brown Center Chalkboard found that growth in math declined for students across grades three to eight from fall 2019 to fall 2020, when much schooling was virtual.
Many districts, including New York City, the nation’s largest, have said they will hold normal in-person school in the fall. Federal health officials and one major teachers union have endorsed that.