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DESE to create new assessment to look at the impact of school closure on learning

The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education is putting together an assessment to see how the school shutdown impacted students' learning.

DESE announced Monday it would be using $55 million in CARES Act funding to address issues highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Commissioner Margie Vandeven said one of those issues is students falling behind because of not being in the classroom for the last few months of learning.

"Many students and teachers may have thrived in this new environment, but we are also aware many did not," Vandeven said. "Families and educators are eager for schools to reopen."

Of the $55 million, $10 million is to go to the new tool, which will be designed to gauge the level of learning loss or growth students experienced this spring.

The department says the funds will also be used to come up with ways to get students back on track if they have fallen behind.

This loss of learning is something teacher's experience every year during summer, often called the "summer slide," and a teacher at Hickman Highschool in Columbia and president of a local teacher's union said she's worried it will be amplified because of the shutdown.

"Usually we are able to recover that as we go throughout the school year but I think it's going to be worse because it's usually attributed to the fact they haven't been in school for those three months, and now that's going to grow to five months," Steinhoff said.

DESE said the assessment will not be used for the accountability of students and school districts. The department plans to be able to have results returned to schools in just one week.

Steinhoff said when she first heard about the assessment, she had concerns about how the state could make a standardized assessment of students learn free from cultural bias. She went on to say she is optimistic that since it is not being used for accountability, it will benefit both teachers and students.

"The fact that it's not meant to be an accountability measure and but really, truly is a way to assist teachers and finding out what it is their students know and don't know," Steinhoff said. "And even further being able to provide some support to catch students up."

Even with support, Steinhoff is worried about the long-term impacts the school closures could have on students.

"I don't know how it couldn't have an impact long-term on our students," Steinhoff said. "I guess the one thing is they are all in it together so it's impacting an entire generation of kids."

When asked about the potential resurgence of COVID-19 in the fall, Vandeven said the department isn't planning for another full shutdown but understands some areas may see larger impacts than others.

"Everything we are doing right now is based on multiple scenarios so always trying to again plan for the worst and always hoping for the best," Vandeven said.

Steinhoff thinks another shut down could be likely and could have lasting impacts.

"I don't know what we can do to help it," Steinhoff said. "I know people with good intentions are working like crazy to try to find a way to get students back in school in the safest way possible, but then there is a lot of research out there that says it may not be safe."

Coronavirus / Missouri / News / Top Stories / Top Stories

Connor Hirsch

Connor Hirsch reports for the weekday night shows, as well as Sunday nights.

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