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Solutions that could help reverse learning losses that happened during the pandemic

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YAKIMA -- There's been a huge amount of learning loss that's occurred because of distance learning.

Yesterday, a KIMA special report showed students could have lost up to a full year's worth of learning in just those few months schools shut down. But what are some solutions?

School leaders say they know the amount of learning loss is serious, and they say they’re trying to reverse those losses now.

"Our estimated learning loss is huge," says Dr. Chunping Han, a senior research analyst at Stanford's Center for Research on Education Outcomes.

Researchers say students may have lost up to a full year’s worth of learning in reading and math, and those losses could take years to reverse.

The effects of distance learning were not felt equally across the board.

"The students who are achieving at lower levels could be two years behind their peers because of the situation that we're in right now, so that's pretty amazing,” says Arik Korman with the League of Education Voters.

Dr. Rob Darling, the deputy superintendent at Yakima Schools says learning losses are evident this year.

Darling says teachers are trying to make up for lost time by focusing on the learning that’s most essential in order to move on to the next grade.

“We as a district went in and trimmed off kind of the nice to know standards and really narrowed down what are our priorities standards that if we're going to teach anything this year, we need to get students mastery of these specific standards," says Darling.

Darling recently sent out a warning to parents saying many students weren’t participating or turning in enough work to graduate on time.

“If a student didn't want to engage in the regular classroom setting, it's a lot easier to disengage in a virtual setting," says Darling.

Advocates for equity in education say some things that may help students having a hard time with the new learning formats could be community learning pods either for free or at a low cost, similar to what the Yakima YMCA is offering.

Arik Korman with the League of Education Voters says schools should be offering tutoring if they have the wherewithal to do so.

"It could mean extending the school day a little bit longer so that they can get tutoring. It could mean extending the school year a little bit longer so that the students can make up this particular learning loss," says Korman.

Darling says they’re planning for summer school programs that will target the learning loss that has occurred.

He also suggests parents make sure their students stick to a schedule, that way they can access live office hours with their teachers.

"Having your students be available when teachers are available is going to give them a big up on the learning they're trying to get," says Darling.

Darling says they were preparing to bring the most vulnerable students, ones who weren't engaging, back into the classroom at the end of this month to receive extra attention, but because of a rise in Covid rates in the county, those plans are on hold.

Maria Lucero, the principal at MLK Jr. Elementary School in Yakima says her best advice for parents is to not give up.

"Continue to advocate for your child, and don't give up. Don't let that frustration get you to the point where you’re just kind of throwing your hands up in the air. Work with the buildings, the building staff. We are here to serve, and we will find solutions,” says Lucero.

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Advocates also say if you notice your kids are really having trouble, reach out to your school board members or superintendent, and let them know if you need more support.

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