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Arizona schools act 'with urgency' to identify pandemic learning gaps

Arizona educators are identifying priorities for the coming school year using the most recent statewide data available and district data.

PHOENIX — Arizona schools are playing catch up after a year-and-a-half of quarantines, school cancellations and classes online.

“There is a sense of urgency because we know they (students) are going to have gaps, more than ever before,” said Norma Jauregui, Assistant Superintendent at the Glendale Elementary School District.

School Districts Are Using Incomplete Data

At a recent “data dig” session, principals and vice-principals of GESD reviewed state-standardized test scores to identify where students lag behind. The educators wore matching t-shirts with a quote from public schools author Rick DuFour: “It is time that we act with a sense of urgency, as if the very lives of our students depend on us…”

That task is more difficult for school districts because available statewide data is incomplete. During the spring, standardized testing was optional for students. The previous year there was no standardized testing.

Nonetheless, educators are identifying priorities for the coming school year using the most recent statewide data available and district data.

“We see clearly there is a gap, especially in kindergarten through third-grade early literacy,” Jauregui said. “And we’re prepared to deal with that.”

GESD Addressing Learning Gaps

At GESD, administrators are converting positions to create an acceleration specialist at every campus. Among their tasks: ensure every student is reading every day.

“We know sometimes when kids go home they don’t always pick up a book so it’s our job they are reading daily,” Jauregui said.

The district is also using a program that enlists students to chart their own academic progress.

RELATED: VERIFY: Did COVID pandemic learning lead to drop in test scores?

“That increases a student’s ability to grow. They can grow three years in one year, if they just do that,” Jauregui said.

Superintendent Hoffman: Schools Have New Resources

If you are worried your child has fallen behind academically, don’t hesitate to ask their principal what’s being done.

State Superintendent Kathy Hoffman told 12 News the federal government is giving schools extra money through three federal pandemic aid programs. Parents should ask administrators how that money is being spent.

“A lot of that money is going towards serving our most vulnerable students, academic programs and social-emotional programs to make sure we have wrap-around supports,” Hoffman said.

RELATED: The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends masks in schools, but Arizona schools are barred from mask requirements

In late August, the state will announce the results of state standardized test scores. About 80% of students took statewide assessments in the spring.

“It will really help us in terms of allocating resources and looking at which students at which schools will need additional programs and staffing,” Hoffman said.

Stay with 12 News and 12News.com for more coverage on our "Learning Curve" series.

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