Hundreds of students could be held back a grade in South Carolina

VIDEO: Hundreds of students could be held back a grade in South Carolina

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - It’s been nearly a year since hundreds of thousands of students were forced to start learning virtually because of the pandemic and, while the push has been to get students back face-to-face full time, the learning loss from this past year is apparent.

“When it comes to them being virtual, they don’t have that one on one,” Victoria Svihovec, a mother of four, says. “They have teachers who are trying to focus on the kids in the class and virtually and they’re not getting that attention they need.”

Svihovec has four kids in South Carolina schools right now and can see the toll being virtual has taken on students.

“There are things that they didn’t fully maybe comprehend or grasp the concept of and now it’s lingering into this year,” Svihovec says.

It’s a reason she enrolled two of her kids in Reading Partners, a program that places tutors one-on-one with students who need help with their literacy and reading levels. She’s also a part of the organization’s Americorps program which leads the day-to-day operations at their reading centers so she has seen firsthand that students are struggling.

“They would break down saying ‘I can’t do this it’s too hard.’ And, you know, it kind of breaks you,” Svihovec adds. “I’m a mom. I understand kids thinking that they can’t do it. And that’s the thing is like, I tell my students, ‘Don’t say that you can’t, because you can do anything you put your mind to.’”

And while teachers are trying their hardest, there are many students who have fallen behind.

“We’re seeing clearly loss at every grade level and nobody’s immune to this,” South Carolina Department of Education Early Learning and Literacy Director Quincie Moore says.

The agency typically monitors between 2,800 and 3,900 third graders who could be eligible for being held back, Moore says. But this year, that could be more.

“We’re seeing our little people, our kindergarteners are probably hit the worst,” Moore says. “We’re seeing math being more so bad than ELA, or literacy. Those are those are some big over things right now.”

The state hired a company called Education Analytics to compile some data together to see where kids are right now. Of the sample of students they looked at, 46% tested “low” in ELA and 32% test “low” in Math. According to the organization, fall learning loss was especially pronounced for 4th and 5th grade students in ELA and for 4th through 8th grade students in Math.

“We know there’s three big keys to success, one would be a good school leader,” Moore says. “Number two would be a great teacher. But number three is an engaged parent. So I would just ask them to just stay engaged as much as they can and stay in communication with their teachers.”

As of right now, SCDE is gearing up for summer reading camps. They’re also working on rolling out a learning object repository which will be a remote learning website with a ton of resources for students and teachers.

“This is not a quick fix,” Moore says. “The next thing we’re getting ready to ask districts to do is to create a ‘recovery plan,’ which probably at a minimum is about a 36-month plan.”

There are 766,819 students in public schools, grades K-12, 55,954 of which are in third grade. Each year, between 250 and 500 third graders are retained:

District 2015-2016 2016-2017 2017-2018 2018-2019 2019-2020
Beaufort 33 33 27 22 29
Berkeley 37 38 38 28 37
Charleston 72 78 74 59 74
Colleton 19 14 13 6 14
Dorchester 2 38 44 37 37 39
Dorchester 4 7 8 3 3 2
Georgetown 19 19 19 20 19
Williamsburg 22 14 10 9 11

But, this year, that number is expected to increase.

Education leaders say, however, the decision to hold a student back is not taken lightly.

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