HOUSTON – More than 60% of Texas students are considered low income. Educators and child advocates are particularly worried about the learning loss they’re experiencing during this pandemic.
It’s been significantly magnified with many, in some cases, falling a year or two behind. The Texas Family Leadership Council and representatives from local, state and national nonprofits joined the Texas Federation of Teachers to highlight the pandemic learning loss that Texas children are facing.
When educators and child advocates talk about pandemic learning loss, they are most worried about students in the earliest grades: Pre-K, Kindergarten, First, Second and Third.
“For those kids, once you fall behind, it’s much more difficult to get up to speed. So we are going to have to figure out, what are we going to do in those early grades,” said Dr. Bob Sanborn, president and CEO of Children At Risk.
At a time when resources are stretched thin, school districts across Texas are going to have to try new things with the support of their communities and state education leaders.
“We’ve got to make sure we are locking arms with parents, with students, with non-profits and community organizations moving forward so that we are all able to deliver the very best our kids,” said Zeph Capo, president of the Houston Federation of Teachers.
The concerns around pandemic learning loss go beyond academic achievement. At the onset of the pandemic, Mental Health America of Greater Houston started offering free self-mental health screening tests. Since March, there’s been an exponential increase in the total number of screenings per month. In August, 63% of the youth in Harris and Fort Bend counties and the city of Houston screened at risk for emotional and behavioral difficulties. And 50% of parents showed similar results.
“Caregivers, educators and advocates must collaborate to ensure the mental health needs of our youth are met. we encourage parents to understand the signs and symptoms of mental health conditions,” said Dr. Jamie Freeny, director of Behavioral Health, MHA of Greater Houston.
The Texas Education Agency recognizes the challenges that have been placed on families and school districts including the digital inequalities that exist in many areas. The agency said it will continue to look for ways to support the school systems and students across Texas.