Superintendent Jeanice Swift Questions Value of Term ‘Learning Loss’, Admits ‘Growth Trajectory’ Affected by COVID
Don’t call it learning loss, says Jeanice Swift, superintendent of public schools in Ann Arbor. (Pexels)
The Superintendent of Ann Arbor Public Schools says students who have been locked out of classrooms for up to a year have suffered the equivalent of a flat tire on a trip to the zoo.
Superintendent Jeanice Kerr Swift made the statement during a Feb. 8 meeting of the Ann Arbor Board of Education. The main agenda of the meeting was “focus on equity”.
Swift said during her presentation:
This idea of learning loss is really a misnomer. It’s a sentence. That assumption that students have lost something they knew – that they no longer know – is simply not true. The idea that a student perhaps knew that two plus two equals four, and he no longer knows it, is not so. We know that growth and catchup in learning is our goal, that our students are moving forward, and that new acceleration is happening.
We know that COVID has caused an impact on that growth trajectory, it definitely has caused an impact. But the idea that students somehow lost is simply not true. It is true that we have to do our job to keep accelerating.
The Education Trust and other academic experts agree that students have suffered significant losses as a result of the school’s lockdown measures. Ann Arbor schools lost 11 weeks of math learning and four weeks of reading learning, according to a calculator from EduLab, a research center at Georgetown University. The calculator, which estimates the cost of lost teaching time by measuring the cost of hiring tutors to help students recover, estimates Ann Arbor’s cost of making up for lost learning will be $14.7 million for math and $3.6 million for the read.
The school district’s average SAT score in 2019 was 1152.4, and 35 percent of the 1,300 students evaluated did not meet the college readiness benchmark. The average score dropped to 1117.8 in 2022, with 45% not meeting the benchmark, according to MI School Data.
Swift told Michigan Capitol Confidential that the quote “demonstrates the nuance” that was at the heart of her speech to the council.
“We are continuing to address the impact on the anticipated growth trajectory through the Ann Arbor Public Schools Learning Recovery Plan,” Swift said in an email to CapCon. “And we don’t find the term ‘learning loss’ an accurate way to describe our students’ learning experience.”
Others in Michigan disagree. Governor Gretchen Whitmer spoke of the need to address the learning loss caused by pandemic-induced school closures.
Whitmer told the Detroit Free Press last year, “understaffing, quarantine, increased trauma, and loss of learning are making this job harder than ever.”