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Opinion: Bridgeport schools must do more to prepare for fall

Bridgeport Public School students were in trouble before the pandemic shuttered schools in March. Each year, BPS students take the “Smarter Balance” state tests. On the 2019 test, not a single BPS school recorded 50 percent of its students meeting or exceeding expectations for their grade level in reading, with the exception of two select enrollment magnet schools.

At seven BPS schools, fewer than 20 percent of students scored at grade level in reading, with just 10 percent of students proficient at Cesar Batalla School, and just 9.5 percent meeting or exceeding expectations at Luis Munoz Marin Elementary. Scores in math were no better — in many cases, they were worse.

What does this look like when we turn the statistics into living, breathing children? Well, from those seven BPS schools with fewer than 20 percent of students scoring at grade level, the state counted a total of 3,466 student test scores. Of those 3,466 kids, only 444 of them had learned what they should have by that point in their schooling. The vast majority, 3,022 kids, are behind, and had not learned what they need to succeed at more challenging coursework in the next grade.

This spring, the pandemic closed BPS before students could take the state test, to see if they had done any catching up since the previous year. Since 1906, researchers have been studying the “summer slide,” or, the amount of learning students lose over summer when schools are closed. One of the biggest studies in recent times showed that students can forget as much as 25 to 30 percent of what they learned the previous year over the roughly 10 weeks of summer vacation. This year, if schools really do open as scheduled, BPS students will have been out of the classroom for 24 weeks — a solid six months.

In a normal year, there would be no reason to expect the massive numbers of BPS students who are behind would do better in the following grade without some kind of intervention, like tutoring, remedial work in summer school, and so on. In this very abnormal year, with its huge gap in continuous learning, BPS has a heightened responsibility to marshal every available resource to reach its already-behind students and ensure they do everything humanly possible to give them the attention and instruction to which they are entitled.

Read the full piece here.

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