Effectively addressing student performance and learning loss
The pandemic was a tough time for education delivery for schools. We had to learn to overcome new challenges and adapt to a largely virtual learning environment in our K-12 system.
Our teachers and staff rose to the challenge. Still, it wasn't humanly possible to fully mitigate the lost opportunities associated with face-to-face instruction and in-person support, especially for our youngest learners and those requiring special education services.
One of the most significant challenges now is effectively addressing the negative impact of closures and virtual-only learning and what those executive branch decisions have done to the overall performance of our students.
Schools in Washington state were shut down longer than most schools across the country, which severely affected student learning and outcomes.
Across the state, we are experiencing alarming declines in reading and math performance.
This learning loss is broad-based and affects students in every district, every demographic group, and every K-12 grade level.
While each student was affected differently, we need to come alongside our schools and educators so they can meet the needs of each student where they are and tailor opportunities and instruction to those individual needs.
I believe expanded tutoring opportunities and extended learning are the best options for the Legislature to help compensate for this loss.
Washington state received $1.7 billion in federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds. Of these funds, approximately 90 percent was made available directly to school districts and other local educational agencies. A large amount was initially spent on preventing COVID-19 transmission in schools.
Currently, $1 billion of ESSER funds have not been used, and the state is facing a September 2024 deadline to claim those funds.
That's why I sponsored House Bill 1710, seeking to use $46 million of these COVID-19 relief funds on high-quality tutoring and rigorous, extended learning programs to close this gap in learning. The state would use these dollars to match existing, locally allocated federal dollars for the programming.
To meet the bill's requirements for tutoring, the program would require tutoring to be available throughout the school year and offered several times per week to those students most in need of additional support.
Under my bill, the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction would administer the grants. Eligible recipients would include public school districts, public charter schools, and state-tribal compact schools.
Although the bill is not gaining the traction I would hope, there is still time to include this in the state's operating budget. This will continue to be a budget priority for me this year because supporting these students shouldn't wait.
As always, I welcome ideas and participation from residents of the 16th District as I work to develop and work for education policies that are responsive and reflect the families in our state.
Editor's Note: Rep. Skyler Rude, R-Walla Walla, represents the 16th Legislative District.
As featured in the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin
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