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'It's about empowerment' | School hosts curbside checkups to assess learning loss due to COVID-19

As the pandemic and remote learning are causing more students to not perform on grade level, parents are pulling up for a key tool to close the achievement gap.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — At Windsor Park Elementary in east Charlotte staff and volunteers offered curbside, drive-up check-ups Thursday afternoon that had nothing to do with doctors.

The school is partnering with organizations that perform “reading check-ups” on students from Pre-K through 3rd grade.

“By the time they get to 3rd grade that reading level is so important,” kindergarten teacher Maria Barnes said. “Those foundational skills from pre-k to 3rd grade are so important to be successful.”

Barnes said this year in particular, because of COVID-19 challenges and the struggles of remote learning, she is seeing more students who are not performing at their grade level.

“I’m worried,” Barnes said.

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The check-up gives parents and caregivers information about an online program that assesses and addresses learning loss. Parents arrive curbside and receive information about how to register for the program, along with three free books, and a learning kit with markers, notepads, and other school supplies.

Credit: Tanya Mendis

The site is powered by READ Charlotte and a number of non-profits in the Charlotte community, including the Black Child Development Institute.

BCDI had volunteers performing the check-ups at Windsor Park Thursday.

“With all the learning loss that children have experienced over the past year to remote learning, it is critical that families understand exactly what their children need,” BCDI President Dr. Devonya Govan-Hunt said. 

The site gives families targeted activities that can be done in as little as five-minute increments and are specific to a child’s individual needs.

“So we can try to close that achievement gap as much as we can before they get to third grade,” Barnes said.

According to Barnes, the last 12 months were especially challenging for the youngest students who have trouble paying attention in a remote or virtual learning environment. 

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“When we started remote learning last year, we left off in a very vital part of our year,” Barnes said. “Some of those foundational skills that they needed, they didn’t get.”

Barnes said she is seeing the same learning loss with a new set of students this year and worries about the children who will be in her classroom next year.

“It takes a village,” Barnes said. “This is our village, and if we can start reaching out to the village to teach these children, to teach the parents to be an advocate to give them a voice, then they can support their children at home.”

Govan-Hunt said teachers like Barnes need all the support they can get. She hopes the reading check-ups will “empower families” to play a role in their child’s literacy and development.

“We cannot depend on our school systems to close to the gap because they just can’t do it, they just can’t do it,” Govan-Hunt said. “You absolutely have the power, you absolutely have the power in the palm of your hand to help determine what your child’s trajectory looks like.”