The past two years in public education have been some of the hardest on record for students, parents, and school employees. We are all aware of the government mandates that closed schools and the unforeseen consequences that impacted students’ social, emotional, and academic standing. Unfortunately, too many students lost hope and stopped participating in their schooling and put their learning on hold. Additionally, some traditional school districts failed to connect with students, didn’t know how to start a virtual learning program, and support was nonexistent for weeks. That lack of understanding led to gaps in communication, a sense of loss eclipsed communities, and what many expected from their educational organizations was simply gone. Now that we are starting a new school year minus the mask mandates, social distancing requirements, and school closures, there is a shared excitement that is palpable in our community. The craving for normal is finally here, and educators are actually discussing education. Students are back to learning. Parents have returned to supporting their schools and students in numerous important ways. School leaders are immersed in planning, dreaming, and loving their jobs again. What’s the biggest challenge now? The New York Times, Washington Post, Education Week, and hundreds of other publications are screaming about learning loss, the damage inflicted on students’ social and emotional health due to the pandemic, and states’ reaction to closing schools. As with all school leaders, I am waiting patiently for the Department of Education to publish our most recent student test scores to verify what I know to be true. Unlike many schools and districts, the Classical Academies will see gains in learning, and test scores will verify that learning across the organization has happened. Using last year’s student test scores as a guide, I am sure we will see the same gains, and our academic standing as an organization will rise again. What we did within days of the state mandating that schools be closed we pivoted and provided students with new academic content, grading, and access to a credentialed teacher. Those elements took on the greatest importance as we stepped forward to serve students daily when so many schools and districts waited weeks to engage in student learning. In the first year of school closures, the early signs of learning loss were discussed in national publications and among a few government officials. We were up and running and had students back on campus, working virtually. The losses we reported were not academic but rather a loss of some programs, events, and activities that impacted students’ social and emotional health. This year while many of our school leaders tackle the damage done by school closures and profound learning loss, The Classical Academies will be fortifying our academic programs, reestablishing many of our events and activities, and meeting with members of our community to ensure that available support matches expectations. Having students back to normal in our programs is a chance to celebrate their success and honor them for their academic gains these past two years. Our team proved that learning was possible even in the worst situations, and our students succeeded.
CEO, The Classical Academies