FULTON COUNTY, Ga. — As school systems across the country struggle with opening classrooms safely, one technology entrepreneur is addressing problems with the learning loss recorded among students.
In the Fulton County School System, officials have charted a stall in learning beginning last spring after just a few months of learning disruption.
Grant Hosford is co-founder of codeSpark Academy, an education platform used in schools across the country to introduce and enhance technology skills in younger children.
He says all schools faced similar challenges with virtual instruction, but some did better than others. Those that did better made access to devices and internet a priority for their students in the early days of the crisis.
“Those schools made sure all families had devices with internet access,” Hosford said. “And they prioritized training their teachers on hybrid models, the use of education technology tools, and [virtual classroom] best practices.”
Fulton County Schools recognized the challenges early, and quickly purchased and distributed thousands of devices for students to resume learning at home in March.
Over the summer, the district expanded the bandwidth from 18 gigabytes in March to 40GB by the time school reopened in August.
Learning loss is inevitable, Hosford said, but not permanent if school systems respond appropriately.
“Most students will bounce back if given support and if faced with reasonable expectations,” Horsford said.
The Los Angeles-based education consultant said hybrid models which blend face-to-face and virtual are working better for many students. Therefore, school leaders should reconsider what success looks like in schools, he said.
“I would argue the days of memorizing facts are long past,” Hosford said. “Students should be more focused on communication, critical thinking, data sourcing and analysis, team-based problem solving, etc.”
Data from Fulton County Schools shows the greatest learning loss is occurring in traditionally marginalized groups, including those in poverty and English language learners.
Hosford says this situation is being seen across the country among students who have persistent challenges because of limited resources.
“These students should get extra attention, and there should be a focus on rebuilding confidence and interest in school,” Hosford said.
But it’s not all bad news for education in the midst of a pandemic. Hosford said teachers who previously were reluctant to use technology as a learning tool are now embracing it. And shyer students who may not have participated in their face-to-face classes are feeling more empowered to speak up in Zoom classes.
“We’ve also learned that even 5-year-olds can take more ownership of their learning journey than previously thought,” Hosford said.