First published in the Sept. 10 print issue of the Burbank Leader.
It has been 2½ years since the coronavirus became a national emergency, and students across the nation are still reeling from the effects of monthslong distance learning.
The Burbank Unified District wasn’t immune to the fallout from the pandemic with a number of students struggling in English and math, but BUSD staff are already working with school administrators to mitigate the impacts virtual instruction had on its students.
Children who suffered a setback in their education as a result of distance learning is commonly referred to as “learning loss,” and the district is identifying those who need help by using an online assessment program called I-Ready that monitors student performance.
Robyn Anders, the district’s coordinator of instructional technology, recently presented to the Board of Education student performance data that showed elementary students were more successful than those in grades 6-8.
“We did have a lot of challenges in 2021-2022, and we responded to those quite well,” Anders said at a school board meeting on Aug. 18.
Through I-Ready, the district saw its elementary children receiving intervention instruction (a strategy from educators to help struggling pupils) improve in the second semester. Early in the school year, only 4.5% of the intervention cohort in grades 1-5 were performing at or grade level or exceeding in English, and that figure grew to 23.2% by the end.
The trend was the same in the subject of math among young intervention pupils. Only 1.2% performed at grade level or exceedingly early on, and by the end of the year, it was more than 17%.
“We need to pat our teachers on the back, our math departments and everyone who contributed to that [coming] out of the year of distance learning,” Anders said.
As a whole, the elementary students performed well all things considered. Among the 3rd graders who took the state assessment exam called CAASPP, only 19% didn’t meet the standard in math and English, and the 4th and 5th graders weren’t far off in their results.
“We’re seeing growth in our students,” Anders said.
Unfortunately, the same could not be said for the middle-schoolers. Intervention students in grades 6-8 struggled in math with the percentage of Fs increasing from 16.3% in the first semester to 22.2% in the second.
“The I-Ready results for middle school aren’t as encouraging,” Anders acknowledged. “What you see is loss of middle ground. So, students either moved up or they moved down, and that’s something to look at. And I think it’s also something for us to know that there’s still work to be done, especially for those students that maybe were struggling at the end of the year.”
Anders assured the board that district staff and site administrators that they were able to identify students who require intervention instruction much earlier in the semester and develop strategies for them thanks to the I-Ready program.
Steve Ferguson, board vice president, requested that staff not only work closely with school administrators but also parent leaders from each site.
“My concern is that communication is being routinely escalated as a problem, and so what I’m introducing here is a possibility to where we could tailor it to allow parents to participate in how we are communicating with them.”