Charleston Co. schools may need 2 years to catch up students because of pandemic

VIDEO: Charleston Co. schools may need 2 years to catch up students because of pandemic

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Some Charleston County students may not catch up to where they should be in math and reading for two years, Chief Academic Officer Karolyn Belcher said.

The district’s new Measure of Academic Progress (MAP) scores show a dramatic drop from this same time last year, particularly in math for elementary school students.

“It was expected that we would see some learning loss given the long gap between in-person instruction plus the usual summer learning loss, but we saw greater than expected gaps," Belcher said.

In fall 2019, more than half of the county’s second graders scored above the national average in math. The median percentile was 54. This fall, however, the number dropped dramatically for the now-third graders. The median percentile is 41, meaning more than half of those same students now scored below the national average.

The impact appeared in almost every grade level from second through eighth grade. The biggest drop was for this year’s fifth graders whose median percentile dropped 18 points from this same time last year.

“What the research is saying it might be two years to get back to where we were and beyond," Belcher said. “I think the good news is math tends to move faster."

Belcher said the district has “strong” math curriculum that will help accelerate learning. Her plan is to close the math gap by the end of this school year. As for the gap in reading, she hopes to close half of it by next summer and all of it by the end of the 2021-2022 school year.

“In the upper grades in middle school where we have MAP results, we have the reading gap not be quite as scary as we worried it would be in terms of where they lost learning," Belcher said. “If a child doesn’t read by third grade, it is very, very hard for them to catch up, and on average they don’t. So, that gives us a nice clear bar in the sand on what we need to do.”

Belcher added the focus is on kindergarteners, first graders, and second graders, because that is where kids learn the foundations of both math and reading.

MAP tests are given three times a year. The first was at the start of the school year, the next ones will be in December or January, and the third ones will be given at the end of the school year.

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