From Superintendent Jacqueline M. Byrd:
“Assessments are important tools in public education, and now more than ever, that’s exactly how they should be used: as tools to gauge learning loss and adjust instruction to meet students’ needs.
It was just over a year ago that I called an emergency press conference to announce schools were closing in response to the coronavirus pandemic. We thought school would resume as normal in two weeks’ time.
All these months later, we are still very far from normal. That is why I am advocating that our state lawmakers use assessment data to measure learning loss and adjust instruction, but refrain from using the data to grade teachers, schools, and school districts.
Some of our students continue to attend school remotely; many have not stepped foot on a physical campus all school year. Distance learning has provided protection from the virus, but it has presented new challenges as well. These challenges run the gamut, from relatively simple connectivity issues to the daunting task of translating in-person curricula to a virtual format.
Our students and teachers have persisted, and over the course of the school year, they have adjusted. Still, they will be the first to tell you that there is no substitute for in-person learning. The classroom is where knowledge is transferred, where connections are made, where ‘A-ha’ moments happen. Learning has been lost while our teachers and students have been physically separated. Will we gain it back? Yes, most certainly, and we will do it by using state assessments to measure student progress and deploy necessary interventions.
The challenges faced by our in-person students have been different, but just as extreme. A single positive COVID case can result in dozens — if not hundreds — of students and staff members being quarantined. When this happens, in-person learning comes to an abrupt stop, and teachers and students must immediately pivot to online instruction. The transition is rarely smooth, hindered by everything from technological frustrations to the sheer workload involved in adjusting in-person lesson plans to an online environment.
Even once the transition to online learning is made, many of our quarantined students struggle. One of our principals, Kyle Windham of Frostproof Middle-Senior, recently shared the story of a student who has been quarantined a half-dozen times this school year. Each quarantine has set the student further back academically. The student recently stated to Mr. Windham that “online learning doesn’t work for me.” Can the learning loss experienced by that student, and by all students affected by quarantines this year, be made up? Absolutely, and we will use state standardized testing data to do it.
Please consider contacting your state representative to share your thoughts on how assessment data should be used this year. Find contact information at polkschoolsfl.com/legislative.
As superintendent, I am doing all I can to implore our state lawmakers to use state assessments as a tool. Let’s use the data to measure where our students stand, build appropriate interventions, and bridge the learning gaps this pandemic has created.”