Educators are also challenged by students who have “disappeared” or moved to different cities during the pandemic.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — One of the biggest areas affected by the COVID-19 shutdown has been education. Students of all ages are still trying to catch up, but teachers, tutors and school administrators everywhere are getting creative to make up for lost time.

“They’re looking at at least 3-5 years to get everyone covered across the board, and I can see that! Because some of these students missed out on formative years,” said Mary Ellen Azanich, the center’s director Sylvan Learning of Columbus.

Azanich manages a busy schedule at both Sylvan Learning Centers in central Ohio and has been doing so since March 2020. The center has seen a significant increase in the number of parents seeking help, especially as students continue to catch up on lost study time.

“The learning gap is a real thing. “The national report card came out last fall and showed the biggest drop in math and reading scores in 30 years,” Azanich said.

This decline is consistent with what curriculum directors in Columbus City Schools are seeing. Many students’ test scores have hit historic lows since the lockdown, and now teachers are tasked with bringing them back.

“Columbus City Schools saw the impact of this, and again, it was significant. So we’ve seen a big drop in our scores, but I’m happy to say we’ve seen an uptick this past year,” said Russell Brown, director of performance for Columbus City Schools.

Educators are also challenged around students who have “disappeared” during the pandemic. Measuring whether students were ready for the real world was more difficult. In fact, the Ohio Department of Education has stopped tracking high school graduates for whether they “primed for success» in the 2021-2022 academic year.

“People moved a lot during the pandemic and didn’t necessarily tell their school. I also think we’ve seen, especially among our older students, that they’ve started to work,” said Shari Obrensky, vice president of the Ohio Federation of Teachers.

In Columbus, teachers at Trevitho Elementary School have seen second- and third-graders struggle when it comes to sounding out words. Many of them learned to read on Zoom, or in the classroom wearing masks.

“So some of the things we noticed were difficulties in reading, in phonics, masks covering their faces. And now we’ve introduced some special features,” said Dr. Keisha Fletcher-Bates, director of Trevitt Elementary.

Students use the mirror to see how they pronounce words in class and match how their teacher does it.

While educators overwhelmingly agree that it’s best to have students in the classroom, distance learning has forced districts to embrace the technology and funding for it.

“We’ve come a long way with technology and students who have access to technology that we’ve never had before,” Obrensky.

As this school year comes to an end, Ohio districts are preparing for graduation from the state Department of Education general marks for schools again in the fall.

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