Columbia Central Tackles Learning Loss With Summer Session


Students at Columbia Central High School in Maury County participated in a traditional summer school, meeting in small classes with instructors, taking tests and completing class projects.

The only summer program of its kind offered at MCPS gives students the opportunity to tackle learning losses through an in-person alternative to the computer-based recovery courses typically offered each summer.

Participating students say the option gave them a “second chance” to improve their academic performance next year.

“Really difficult to do from a distance”

For many of the more than 50 participating students, the program marked a second chance to complete the lessons required to keep up with their classmates.

Matthias Ward, a junior, spent three quarters of the school year learning from a distance.

Ward said he didn’t pass a single class.

“I really didn’t do anything,” Ward said, explaining that his home environment left him surrounded by distractions. “It was my worst year in any class. I was distracted by doing other things, cleaning my room or playing a game.

Entering his senior year, Ward said the summer program prepares him for a successful final year at MCPS.

The summer session marked the first time Casey Mynes was able to safely return to class, after living with her grandparents, both of whom have pre-existing conditions.

While learning at home, missed homework quickly started to pile up.

“I slowly started to lose my motivation,” Mynes said. “At Christmas, I lost all motivation. It was hard. You are stuck alone in your room for eight hours and you have distractions – family and work. It’s really hard to do it from a distance.

The Brookings Institute, a US research group, estimated that students would potentially start fall 2020 with about 70% of learning gains in reading over a typical school year.

In math, students were expected to show even lower learning gains from the previous year, coming back with less than 50% of typical gains.

In September 2020, Gov. Bill Lee Lee and the Tennessee Department of Education released data projecting a 50% drop in reading proficiency rates in grade three and an expected 65% decrease in math skills. , or 2.5 times the normal rate of learning loss in summer. .

Junior Casey Mynes works on a presentation about gangster John Dillinger as she attends a history class at Central High School during a special summer study session in Columbia, Tennessee on Tuesday, June 29, 2021 .

Building trust

Now, back in the classroom with teachers and classmates, Mynes said she was able to concentrate again.

While working on a 1930s gangster project in a US history class taught by Greg Szydlowski, she said the summer program option was much better for her, instead of continue on the path of computer lessons.

She said she can now start the new school year with confidence.

“It gave me a second chance,” Mynes said. “It was great to have this experience in person. I have my credits. I got the job done, and now I can do whatever I want for the rest of the summer. I am truly grateful that the teachers took the time to teach instead of sticking us behind computers. I really appreciate it very much.

“I’ve learned more in the last few weeks than I’ve learned all year. It has been really great.”

Junior Matthias Ward attends a geometry class at Central High School during a special summer study session in Columbia, Tennessee on Tuesday, June 29, 2021.

Mitigate learning loss

Dr. Whitney Kovach, a former school counselor and behavior facilitator at McDowell Elementary School, was instrumental in delivering the program to students at Columbia Central High School.

“We are working to mitigate the negative impact by offering a full-fledged summer school,” Kovach said.

Participants in the program followed a comprehensive program offering courses in English, geometry, algebra, history and foreign languages.

The program was funded by the Maury County Board of Education in addition to a traditional summer program offered to students in kindergarten through eighth grade.

The special session is funded by the Emergency Relief Fund for Elementary and Secondary Schools.

“These are structured, credit-based courses,” said Kovach, taught by a highly qualified certified teacher.

Kovach said the program is necessary regardless of the effects of the recent pandemic.

“I think students benefit better from being in front of a teacher,” Kovach said. “They are able to commit and are held to a certain level of expectations. This allows us to educate the whole child. We raised our expectations, and the students were able to meet them. “

Students have earned over 250 half credits by participating in the program with the potential to earn a total of four credits.

“My goal is to watch and see that we’ll be able to do it next year because it’s something that’s really needed,” Kovak said. “They haven’t done a traditional summer school for years. Giving a student a teacher and a classroom is always better than sitting in front of a device.

According to data shared by the Tennessee Department of Education, Maury County has received more than $ 10 million in additional funds to help students amid the pandemic.

Earlier this summer, the MCPS Education Council considered and approved a $ 1.8 million budget amendment to support summer programs, aimed at improving reading and math across the district.

Junior Christian Monsieur, 18, prepares for a presentation as he attends a history class at Central High School during a special summer study session in Columbia, Tennessee on Tuesday, June 29, 2021.

More attention and time with educators

Szydlowski said the small class size of the program gave him the opportunity to work with students one-on-one more than in a traditional classroom environment. He said his students had the opportunity to spend more time working on in-depth class projects.

Szydlowski, who also runs the soccer program at Central, is a faculty member in the high school social studies program.

“It’s not just in Maury County, it’s all over the United States,” Szydlowski said. “Everyone has had a difficult year. I am happy that Maury County is offering it.

“It gives them the opportunity to mend what they may have lost.”

Contact Mike Christen at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @MikeChristenCDH.

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