Fund Our Schools!

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The losses of the past year are incalculable. Students have lost in-person connections with friends, teachers and staff and have missed out on experiences such as field trips, concerts, theater performances, proms, graduation, sports, band, robotics competitions, other extracurriculars and more. Isolated until recently, some students at all levels now have experienced at least a few weeks of in-person instruction after nearly a full year at home.

The introduction of the hybrid learning model has restored some of the joy school once brought our students and staff pre-pandemic, but it is not enough. The Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) recently released data showing conclusively that more students failed core classes at all levels during the second marking period this school year compared to the second marking period last year. The numbers are staggering. According to MSDE, nearly three times as many elementary students earned a failing grade in English and more than 2.5 times earned a failing grade in math. The data is equally troubling for middle and high school students. The tables below are taken from a presentation given to the Maryland State Board of Education by Dr. Karen Salmon, Maryland superintendent of schools, during a March 22 meeting.

So how do we recover? What will it take?

First, let us continue to open schools as much as it safe to do so. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recently released guidance which states, in part, that three feet between students whilst properly masked is just as safe as six feet during instructional time. While there are significant hurdles and logistics to overcome regarding the six-feet requirements still in place while eating as well as no change to current social distancing and capacities on buses, I trust our school administrators will make decisions that best meet the needs of their students and communities while ensuring that every CDC guideline is adhered to. Schools should first maximize the number of two-day-per-week hybrid students by working through waitlists before opening a school four days a week for in-person instruction. I also do not believe in an all or nothing approach when it comes to further reopening. If a school has space, it should not be limited from implementing a four-day in-person instruction week, even if other schools are unable to move from two to four days.

Secondly, the trauma our students have endured over the past year is real. We are all now painfully aware that the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is not just a global health crisis. Students and families have also suffered economically, and the stresses of distance learning and lack of child care have compounded parents’ ability to return to work. As students return to buildings, our focus should revolve around healing the whole child. Building relationships and trust and providing support all matters. Academics will return as students get their bearings again and feel supported by our wonderful teachers and staff. While teachers have moved mountains over this past year, fully making connections with students have been hampered by e-learning. Reading, writing and arithmetic are all crucial to our students one day becoming productive adult members of society, but let us not lose sight of their mental and emotional wellbeing.

Finally, funding our schools could not be more critical to our students’ recovery. We need our veteran teachers now more than ever. Yet to be made whole from docked or frozen steps brought on by the last economic downturn, if we do not address this problem now, we run the risk of losing them to better-paying counties. Since September 2019, roughly 21% of the hundreds of teachers who resigned from Anne Arundel County Public Schools cited teaching elsewhere as their reason for leaving. I implore our county executive and county council to make good on their promises to take care of our teachers and solve our teacher retention problem once and for all.

We simply cannot afford to lose experienced teachers while focusing on educational recovery. Please ask County Executive Steuart Pittman (spittman@aacounty.org), and the Anne Arundel County Council (www.aacounty.org/departments/county-council/councilmembers) to fully fund our schools! As always, I can be reached at dschallheim@aacps.org.

Elementary School Students

Source: MSDE

Number of elementary students earning a failing grade in English in the second marking period of 2020-2021

1,506

Number of elementary students earning a failing grade in math in the second marking period of 2020-2021

1,131

Number of elementary students earning a failing grade in English in the second marking period of 2019-2020

509

Number of elementary students earning a failing grade in math in the second marking period of 2019-2020

445

Middle School Students

Source: MSDE

Number of middle school students earning a failing grade in English in the second marking period of 2020-2021

1,825

Number of middle school students earning a failing grade in math in the second marking period of 2020-2021

2,130

Number of middle school students earning a failing grade in science in the second marking period of 2020-2021

1,829

Number of middle school students earning a failing grade in social studies in the second marking period of 2020-2021

1,767

Number of middle school students earning a failing grade in English in the second marking period of 2019-2020

1,127

Number of middle school students earning a failing grade in math in the second marking period of 2019-2020

1,485

Number of middle school students earning a failing grade in science in the second marking period of 2019-2020

1,346

Number of middle school students earning a failing grade in social studies in the second marking period of 2019-2020

1,085

High School Students

Source: MSDE

Number of high school students earning a failing grade in English in the second marking period of 2020-2021

3,390

Number of high school students earning a failing grade in math in the second marking period of 2020-2021

3,473

Number of high school students earning a failing grade in science in the second marking period of 2020-2021

2,840

Number of high school students earning a failing grade in social studies in the second marking period of 2020-2021

2,643

Number of high school students earning a failing grade in English in the second marking period of 2019-2020

1,942

Number of high school students earning a failing grade in math in the second marking period of 2019-2020

2,511

Number of high school students earning a failing grade in science in the second marking period of 2019-2020

2,210

Number of high school students earning a failing grade in social studies in the second marking period of 2019-2020

1,672

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