Schools, officials address post-pandemic education

Published: Mar. 14, 2022 at 8:13 PM CDT
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LAWTON, Okla. (KSWO) - During the pandemic, Lawton Public Schools (LPS) stayed on par with the state test averages, but some parts of education which can’t be measured were affected.

The Coronavirus pandemic wreaked havoc on families and industries across the world, but also forced a reinvention of school.

Districts across the country opted for virtual or remote learning to stop the spread of the virus and, two years later, we’re seeing the impact it had on students.

“We know that our kids have learning gaps brought on by the pandemic,” Oklahoma Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister said.

While Hofmeister speaks for the entire state, test scores at LPS shows a slight decrease in performance, specifically citing ACT scores among high school juniors.

For the 2016-2017 school year; Lawton’s average score was 17.8.

The state’s average was 18.9.

Fast forward to 2020-2021 as students pull out of COVID, the state average dropped more than a point to 17.7, while Lawton dropped slightly to 17.1

No data was recorded for 2019 through 2020, because tests weren’t administered at the height of the Pandemic.

LPS Accountability and Assessment Director Joan Gabelmann explains students saw a lot of changes over the course of these five years, starting in 2016.

That’s when the federal Every Student Succeeds Act replaced the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001.

“With the standards change, we had a teacher walkout, we had paper pencil and then moved to online testing in 2018-19,” Gablemann said. “That was a different platform and we did fairly well. Then we had COVID.”

Despite those changes to testing and COVID, Lawton’s average is almost in line with the state’s.

And Gablemann credits that to the programs put in place at LPS.

“We had packets for students, we fed them lunch and breakfast,” she said. “We made sure we communicated with teachers, and we had other online programs students could access besides learning with their teachers, that would help them practice those skills in fun and cool ways.”

There are areas; however, that cannot be measured with standardized testing.

LPS Superintendent Kevin Hime cites the impact COVID had on social-emotional learning.

“Our discipline referrals were way up at the young grades, even the higher grades,” he said. “The Pre-K, K and 1st grade discipline referrals were off the charts when the year first started.”

LPS recently received two grants to help students with behavioral issues.

“The Social Worker Grant or Counselor Corps is in place, we’ve got people hired for it,” Hime said. “Project Aware is just getting rolled out, but its moving fast. We’re excited about what it will look like next year for more support in place for social emotional learning.”

As the CDC loosened restrictions, students are back in the classroom where state leaders said, is the best place for them to be.

“We have to keep the foot on the gas to ensure we have teachers in the classrooms, smaller class sizes, funding to provide more people to support them in the classroom,” Hofmeister said.

More information and a breakdown of each grade and how LPS compares to the state average can be found here.

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