For most students and teachers, it has now been well over a year since their school experience changed drastically due to the pandemic, and while there are plenty of encouraging signs that schools are returning back to normal again, educators and students will be entering the upcoming 2021-2022 school year with many, many questions.
From early on in the pandemic, experts have been ringing alarm bells about the level of learning loss or a 15 month long summer slide that students are likely to experience. In particular, NWEA released a study in April of 2020 that showed that some students might be expected to be nearly a full year behind where they were expected to be by September 2020, even before the continued disruptions of this school year.
While NWEA's predictions are now more than a year old, more recent studies have backed up their forecasts. Research from McKinsey, NWEA and Renaissance Learning have all shown that even by the end of the fall, students were already a few months behind where previous years' cohorts of students had been. Additionally, the studies indicated that learning loss in mathematics was more significant than other subjects. And even more confronting, the pandemic has only served to further increase inequities in the education system, with low income students and students of color showing a higher level of pandemic learning loss than their peers.
For students with this level of learning loss, options may include credit recovery or credit retrieval programs, summer school, or more specific, targeted intervention in the upcoming school year.
But what does this mean for teachers? If our students will be showing even more academic variation than historically, how can we meet our students' needs and support them in the ways that they deserve.
Thankfully, many governments and organizations are providing grants for districts, schools and individual teachers to support student outcomes, address learning loss and contribute to education research at a time when there is so much we are still learning about the impact of the pandemic on our students. If you have an idea for a way to support your students, but you're struggling to secure funding, here are a few grants available that you may consider applying for or sharing with your administration, either for the upcoming school year, or for more immediate credit recovery or summer school programs.
- NCTM Grants: With a varied target audience of teachers, coaches and teacher leaders, NCTM offers grants up to a value of $8000 for diverse topics like classroom resources, professional training, content development. Their current grants open August 1 and are due November 1, but the application information and the rubric are currently available.
- Knowles Teacher Initiative: Targeted towards new and beginning career teachers, this fellowship program provides teachers with financial support and professional development opportunities across multiple years.
- National Science Foundation: The NSF has many different grants, but one in particular that may be of interest is the Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers (ITEST) Grant, which is targeted towards providing STEM teachers resources to support innovative use of technology in their classroom.
- Federal Funding: There is a lot of funding available, and this article from Chiefs for Change and District Administration provides some great advice for district leaders looking to spend this money efficiently and effectively.
Unfortunately, simply throwing money or a shiny new tool at students is not enough to address the complex needs that students will be experiencing. And in some cases, if learning loss is not approached the right way, it may cause more harm than good.
As Ron Berger astutely points out in an interview with Stephen Merrill for Edutopia, “We fall into this trap of thinking if a kid misses three months of math content, that’s a crisis. The truth is that if your kid was sick at home and missed three months of math content, but got her confidence back, it wouldn’t be a big issue in her life. But if her confidence as a mathematician is destroyed because of labels that were put on her, it’s a lifelong issue for her. She’ll never be confident in math again.” It is important to be able to identify where students may need support, but it is equally important to foster in those students a growth mindset, and an ability to celebrate their own progress and growth as learners of mathematics.
Earlier this year, Mathspace released a tool called Waypoints, which is designed to do just that. Completely free for students, Waypoints provides students with short, bite-sized check-ins, covering content from 3rd grade through Algebra 2. With student-friendly, "I can..." statements, we celebrate student learning and growth. Teachers can also access a 30 day free trial to identify student areas of need and areas of growth, with the option to access the data longitudinally over the course of an entire year, or even many years. Learning loss won't be solved overnight, so Waypoints was built to track growth throughout the year, on a continuous basis, not just at one moment in time.
Click here to learn more about Waypoints and how it can help your students over the summer and into the upcoming school year!
In our research for this piece, we came across a number of additional grants which are listed below. If you know of any that you'd like us to add, don't hesitate to reach out!