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Smith uncertain about impact of break on education
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Nathan Smith

Generally the longest amount of time a student is not active in school is summer break. The learning setbacks that schoolchildren commonly experience over a summer vacation can easily wipe out one or two months of academic growth. 

According to an article from The New York Times, “The learning losses that are likely to result from more than 50 million children in the United States being shut out of school for weeks or months because of the coronavirus pandemic could well be catastrophic by comparison.”

Nathan Smith is a concerned middle and high school math teacher at Covenant Academy. “The fourth quarter is in my opinion the second most important quarter during the school year. The first quarter lays the foundation for the whole year, but if the first three quarters have gone as planned a teacher should be able to go faster during the fourth quarter and finish the year with the most important things that are needed for the next year,” said Smith.

“My thoughts are prejudiced toward mathematics and viewed as one of the most important subjects that we need to concentrate on. I was raised with the three R’s of education being the core. Math is a constant building block and each quarter, as well as each year, is constantly getting more difficult as we go forward,” said Smith.

According to a study by Northwest Evaluation Association, mathematics often shows the steepest losses over summers and time outside of school. This does not suggest reading support is not important: research consistently finds that income-based reading gaps can grow over summers as well.

Smith said most teachers and parents worked really hard to give students what they needed to finish this school year and be ready for next year. “Students that took the ‘Extended Spring Break’ will need to do some work over the summer or go into next year behind, which in math can be really bad. I’m very proud of some of my students that are voluntarily choosing to work over the summer to boost their understanding of mathematics before next school year.”

“What made this situation more difficult was that we didn’t plan for it. Seems like we plan for every kind of disaster that could happen to a school, but didn’t see this coming. So teachers, parents, and students had to learn a new way of teaching/ parenting/ learning. Through Zoom, Google Classroom, YouTube videos, Khan Academy, FaceTime, etc. we figured out a way to communicate. We made the best lemonade we could with what we had,” said Smith.

“If it happens again, then I think we will be better prepared, but I really am concerned with the K-5 grades if we don’t start the year off in August in the classroom. I just can’t imagine how difficult it will be trying to start off a year learning how we had to at the end of this year? The start of the year in those grades is vital to establishing EVERYTHING!”