Sarah Lenhoff, assistant professor and Roland Coloma, professor and assistant dean in the College of Education, are quoted in Chalkbeat Detroit, "As teachers brace for student learning losses, many worry about the impact on Michigan’s"

Chalkbeat Detroit, 8/25

As teachers brace for student learning losses, many worry about the impact on Michigan’s most vulnerable students

By Lori Higgins

As schools across Michigan begin an unpredictable new year, teachers are facing what may seem like an insurmountable task: Helping students, particularly the most vulnerable, who’ve experienced learning loss because of the pandemic. There is little doubt that the disruption caused by COVID-19, marked by an unheard-of shift from physical to remote learning, will leave many students struggling academically. That concern runs especially deep in cities like Detroit, home to long-existing inequities and students whose communities have borne the brunt of the virus’s damage. Sarah Winchell Lenhoff, an assistant professor at Wayne State University, says schools offering choices between in-person and remote instruction should have considered the needs of students who may have suffered the greatest losses. Most district leaders left it up to parents to decide between the two. “Parents choose what’s best for them,” Lenhoff said. “But that really leaves it up to chance whether the students who would benefit the most from face to face are the ones who are going to sign up for it.” Lenhoff said it’s “scary, frankly,” to think about the long-term consequences for students from low-income families and students of color who attend economically segregated schools who will “are likely bearing the brunt of the learning loss.” Higher income parents are more likely to put pressure on their schools to provide resources and support, or to invest in those themselves. The term “differentiated instruction” has been a big part of the educator lexicon for many years. It essentially means teachers must adapt their curriculum to meet the individual needs of students. It will become increasingly important in the wake of COVID. Teachers will also have to adjust how they teach some content, said Roland Sintos Coloma, assistant dean in the division of teacher education at Wayne State. An incoming fourth grader, for instance, may not have learned all of the third-grade math curriculum last school year. But the fourth grade teacher can find ways to integrate standards for both grades and “build upon them,” Coloma said. “We’re still in crisis mode,” Coloma said of the start of the school year. “We need to use this as an opportunity to really think about what do we really value when it comes to teaching and learning. What are those metrics we are using to say students are on grade level or not. And how do we continuously engage young people so that they find what’s happening either in school or virtually meaningful for them.”

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