What size shoe does your student wear? I’m sure it seems like an odd question from someone seeking to be an advocate for you and your child as a member of the Puyallup School Board.
When your child turned eight years old, they weren’t automatically given a pair of size eight shoes. They might not have needed new shoes yet, or they might have been overdue for a new pair. When the time was right and they actually needed new shoes, you probably took them somewhere to have their feet measured, or used what you knew about them to find the size that seemed most likely to fit. They tried them on and you then had a chance to see if the new shoes fit, or if you needed to try something a little different. Knowing their age might have given you a small clue about where to start, but finding the right fit was much more complicated than that. Even if you could find the right size, there was still no guarantee that you’d find the right style or color, or that what they picked would fit into your budget. Our kids are more complicated than that.
Our schools generally operate under the idea that if your child is eight years old, they should be in the third grade. For some students, that’s likely to be a good fit. Some students might not quite be ready for it. Others might be ready for more. We do have standards that our educators can use to evaluate whether a student has mastered the concepts expected of that grade level and is ready to move on, but mastering math skills and mastering reading skills can happen at different times. Our teachers differentiate instruction to try to ensure that each student gets what they need to progress. A student who starts the year needing a little more help in one area might make more than a year’s worth of progress in that area by the end of the year. Maybe they’ll match that level of growth across several areas of learning. Maybe they won’t.
I’m an advocate for each child. One size fits all solutions are a compromise. I appreciate the plan that the Puyallup School District is making right now to address the issue commonly known as “learning loss” as they prepare for the beginning of the 2021-2022 school year. They plan to have additional staff in place and additional attention paid to ensuring that each student gets what they need to succeed going forward. Our students experienced the end of the 2019-2020 school year and the whole of the 2020-2021 school year in different ways. Some did well with remote learning. Others did not. I don’t like the phrase “learning loss,” as it implies that once missed, that opportunity is gone forever. Our schools are teaching our children to be life-long learners, and learning doesn’t follow a predetermined calendar any more than does the growth of a student’s foot.
It’s going to take more than a year to make up for eighteen months of disruption. It’s going to take additional support from counselors, and in the area of social-emotional learning. It’s going to take additional differentiation in the classroom to make sure that each child gets what they need. It’s going to take creativity. It’s not going to be easy for our students. It’s not going to be easy for parents. It’s not going to be easy for teachers, staff, and administrators. Some of those additional supports will come with a price tag, and we’ll need to decide how to allocate our scarce resources. It will be even more important that we can all work together to find solutions that fit each student. I want to hear from you, too, because it will be my role to be your voice on the School Board. I’m excited for the opportunity to be a part of that conversation.