South Carolina elementary students fall behind in core subjects during pandemic

Grand Strand

HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WBTW) — Parents in Horry County say virtual learning was manageable earlier in the year, but students quickly became overwhelmed.

“This second semester has just been absolutely insane. The workload is unreal,” said Melissa Whittington, a parent of a fifth-grader enrolled in Horry County Schools.

Whittington says the demanding schedule has caused her student’s grades to drop and she is not alone.

“What we’re seeing is that the earlier grades, the younger grades of students, have a higher impact. That’s particularly true in math,” said Ryan Brown, chief communications officer for the South Carolina Department of Education.

According to state benchmarks or interim formative assessments, elementary students are experiencing more than three months of learning loss during the pandemic.

Compared to years passed, Brown says students are behind two months in math and more than one month behind in English and language arts.

“We’ve had weeks where we’ve had to go into the school to do testing. Normally when they’re in school, they have a little bit less work that week. Well, in virtual they don’t. It’s still the same workload,” said Whittington.

The state says many districts will need to offer summer and after-school programs to catch up.

“It’s not something we’re going to overcome in a few months or even one year. This is going to take a much longer time,” said Brown.

Brown says outside of student and staff safety, recovering from learning loss will be the state’s focus over the next year.

“We have a handful of interventions that we purchased on the state level,” said Brown. “20% of the federal funding that we just received from the American Rescue Plan has to be used by districts to address learning loss.”

The state says all districts will be required to submit plans for recovery, which will be reviewed in the upcoming weeks.

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