Combatting COVID learning loss: Update on 2021-2022 school year
Since announcing our Pandemic Education Response in early 2021, KidsVoice has implemented a focused effort to address the needs of our school-aged clients whose education progress has been most significantly impacted by the pandemic. We have devoted a team of attorneys to research, identify, address, and—when necessary—litigate cases where clients have not received required services and supports.
The 2021-2022 school year was a crucial time to ensure that our clients did not fall further behind their peers due to pandemic learning loss. Our clients—children who have active dependency cases in juvenile court due to allegations of abuse and/or neglect in their home—are among some of the most vulnerable students in the country.
Our Pandemic Education Response team, in collaboration with other KidsVoice education attorneys, provided pandemic-related reviews and advocacy for nearly 450 clients. We prioritized clients with special education needs, students in school districts that struggled to respond effectively to the pandemic, and students with complex educational needs, such as autism.
Pandemic learning loss isn’t over — KidsVoice addresses overdue services
Many of our clients experienced prolonged periods of remote learning during the pandemic due to socioeconomic disparities. These vulnerable students missed out on crucial in-person access to their teachers, special education services, school nurses, mental health counseling, reliable meals—and a sense of safety and stability. Pandemic learning loss has hit them hardest.
This academic year, as schools transitioned back to in-person learning, KidsVoice advocacy shifted as well. We aggressively advocated for state-mandated COVID-19 Compensatory Services (CCS) on behalf of hundreds of students who experienced learning loss due to missed or delayed services, fewer supports and accommodations, and loss of instructional time that special education students rely on.
In addition to addressing the needs of existing clients, when KidsVoice receives new clients, we assess whether they have pandemic-related special education needs so that we can address those needs proactively.
As KidsVoice has grown our pandemic education response, strengthened our relationships with schools districts, and litigated more cases, we are seeing that our clients are getting more positive results, more quickly.
For example, when high schooler Kristina* struggled in her return to in-person school after a year and a half of social isolation from remote learning, KidsVoice worked with an assessment and training team to create recommendations to address her mental and physical health as well as academic needs. These were implemented in the classroom and helped Kristina finish the school year strong.
John*, 8, has experienced significant abuse and his school is required by law to provide therapeutic support. He did not receive these services during remote learning and suffered a mental health crisis. This year, KidsVoice advocacy led to compensatory services encompassing a year-round support plan that is helping John catch up academically, address his mental health and emotional needs, and enjoy classic childhood experiences through an emotional support summer camp.
Observing her 15-year-old grandson during remote learning, Marquan*’s grandmother realized he was severely behind his peers. When his school district said it would be at least six months before they could do an assessment, KidsVoice knew Marquan couldn’t wait that long and arranged for an independent evaluator. As a result, Marquan was able to attend a specially equipped supportive school program for students with autism months earlier than he would have otherwise. Now, Marquan feels successful in school for the first time in his life.
*Client names changed to protect confidentiality.
Why educational advocacy is critical for foster youth
Youth in foster care face many educational challenges.
When children enter foster care, many are already behind academically due to no fault of their own. They may have chronic absences because there is no one else to look after younger siblings. They may be sleeping in homeless shelters or couch surfing and can’t make their bus. When they are in school, it may be hard to focus as they worry about instability or abuse in their homes.
Many children in foster care also have unaddressed learning disabilities before entering care. Among KidsVoice’s school-age clients, 35% receive special education services, more than double the national average.
Other setbacks can include disruptions to education because of changes to where the child is living—changing schools can result in up to 3-6 months of lost educational progress.
These challenges often lead to poor educational outcomes: only about 50% of foster youth will successfully graduate from high school. Less than 5% will earn a bachelor’s degree. Disrupted education can also affect their lives in other ways, creating gaps in social and life skills and limiting career opportunities.
KidsVoice is dedicated to defending the right to a high-quality education for all our clients. In the 2022-23 school year, KidsVoice will continue to advocate for our clients with disabilities to receive the special education services and accommodations they are entitled to, recoup learning losses, and get back on track to receive the education needed to reach their potential.
Education is just one part of KidsVoice’s multi-faceted approach to advocacy. Learn more about KidsVoice and our work in the About section.
Courtesy of KidsVoice