What should parents do for students who struggled with remote learning?

BOSTON — School districts around the country are receiving $123 billion in federal aid and they must reserve 20% for summer programs and other efforts to address learning loss. Those resources will be needed since almost half of Massachusetts parents said they are not sure if their child learned enough to move on to the next grade.

According to a Pioneer Institute and Emerson College poll, only 58% of Massachusetts parents say their kid learned enough during this pandemic school year to confidently move on to the next grade level.

“We asked them to grade how well that they thought their school had done on an A, B, C, D, F kind of scale, and the plurality of people gave schools a C,” said Charlie Chieppo of Pioneer Institute. “It was not great. It wasn’t horrible, but not great.”

“I’ll give them a B,” said fifth-grader Yofkar Pimentel. “I feel like I am ready for sixth grade.”

While the students may say they are ready to move on to the next level, it will be a tough decision for parents and school districts. What can make that decision easier is a strong summer.

“The guidance from the school and the team of teachers is that my fourth grader is just in the regular curriculum and she’s good,” said Westwood parent Ai Pham. “My sixth-grader is on an IEP so there have been talks of additional help throughout the summer just to make sure that he will be on track to move on to the next grade, so whatever that the school recommends we will follow.”

Related: Some parents would consider holding kids back a grade, poll shows

“One of the takeaways that I take from this poll is that I think that schools should give some serious thought to some real robust summer programs to try to help kids catch up after this,” Chieppo said.

“Kids don’t want to be singled out, parents don’t want to be singled out, educators don’t want to admit that this was a lost year, and what it’s going to do is disadvantage students who are in the margins.

They will have no chance of getting to college if they don’t repeat a year,” said the CEO of Cardinal Education consulting.

He is calling for all school districts to work to remove the stigma of holding students back a year, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic where inequities in education were on the front row.

“We’re just very fortunate that my husband works from home so he can help with the kids, so I do feel like the kids are ready to move forward,” Pham said.

“The reality is any sort of parent who’s dealt with districts is that the districts will kind of dissuade a number of those parents from really pursuing that,” Chieppo said. “But even if it were half of that – 16% who would consider repeating – that would be a very big impact.”

But the impact if they move on without fully grasping everything they were supposed to grasp could be even bigger.

“This is almost guaranteeing that people will either have to go to a community college instead of a four-year college, and it’s also ensuring that some kids who go to community college won’t place into classes that put them on a path to even graduate,” Koh said. “One extra year is painful, but that’s not as painful as 60 years in the workforce in a mediocre career. That could have been prevented had you gotten the right education when you’re younger.”

Among parents with just one or two children, there is more certainty that their child or children are ready to move up a grade, but the more children parents have, the more uncertainty they had on the child’s ability to advance. Only 10% of parents on that poll gave their school district an A. And 18% gave out an F grade.

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