BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) — Thousands of Western New York children are returning to full, five-day a week, in-person learning.
And while studies have shown the pandemic negatively affected academic growth, school leaders say holding children back to repeat a school year, known as retention, is not the answer.
In a 7 Eyewitness News virtual Superintendent Roundtable, three area district schools superintendents weight in on how students will catch up academically.
“Are we going to see more students being held back another year or will they be able to move forward?” Buckley asked.
“Retention is not the solution for students who have struggled over the past year and a half,” replied Kimberly Moritz, superintendent, Springville-Griffith Central School District.
“Move the student forward and then you increase the support around them. You give them additional reading support — additional math support — social emotional support and they keep measuring and seeing if you are closing that gap,” stated Sean Croft, superintendent, Starpoint Central School District.
“Great teachers are going to respond to what the students know and can do — who enter their classrooms and adjust their curriculum and instruction to meet the needs of those students,” remarked Moritz.
“We’re acknowledging I think across the board as superintendents that retention isn't the way to go, but where do the other parts of school fall into place — it’s really past time to have those conversations,” stated Mark Laurrie, superintendent, Niagara Falls City School District.
“That student who's struggling now in third or fourth grade — you've got to picture them they're going to be 17 years old in 9th grade classrooms surrounded by a bunch of 14 and 15 year olds — they're probably going to drop out,” Croft replied.
“We have very few retentions — we've had a few parents request it — it would be less than a dozen,” Laurrie noted.
“Some of our teachers, and I have had that discussion, and they've said you know I’m not as far behind where I would have been as you would think,” Moritz remarked.
School districts are not being required to provide all remote learning for students who want to stay at home in the new school year.
The superintendents from the city of Niagara Falls, Starpoint and Springville-Griffith tell me it is only for those who are immune compromised or considered medical fragile.
The leaders say it is not sustainable for districts to continue to run two-parallel programs for in-person and remote learning.