Teachers' jobs are getting tougher and data shows student performance has dropped dramatically. School administrators say students and educators are having a hard time bracing for the work that needs to be done.
"Every minute that we spend thinking about PPE is a minute we're not thinking about C&I, curriculum and instruction. When you're thinking of the operational of checking temperatures you're not thinking about how literacy is acquired in little humans," said Mike Morath, Education Commissioner, Texas at this week's State of Education Summit in Dallas.
Morath previously said kids are behind at least 10 years, and now he says he was being generous and when you look at Hurricane Katrina, that is the closest thing we have had to this type of disruption. Morath said we never helped those kids fully.
"After four years of intervention they caught up to state averages in reading, they never caught up in mathematics. Our track record of accelerating instruction learning getting kids to learn more than a year worth of content in a year's worth of time at the scale of all kids has not been strong," said Morath.
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Students are back in the classroom, the arguments over mask mandates have calmed a bit, and so have the number of COVID-19 cases in school. So how's it going? Are teachers righting the ship?
"We knowingly and intentionally moved up a group of children who we knew were not fully prepared for the next grade level. When the commissioner said in fourth grade you're teaching third and fourth grade that's what you're doing, and you're doing it to emotionally stressed children and emotionally stressed parents," said Linda Ellis, Superintendent, Grand Prairie ISD.
Education leaders from around North Texas spoke to business leaders at the Dallas Regional Chambers State of Education summit about the stresses and challenges they are facing in the classroom.
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Test scores and day-to-day work shows many students are significantly behind, by massive numbers but teachers say their students are stressed, frustrated with the amount of work that needs to be done and it's making their job even harder.
"They are investing time in social-emotional learning and addressing trauma but they hear that and they have to respond to it, you can't wing that lesson you have to prepare for it with the same rigor you have to prepare a lesson," said Yasmin Bhatia, CEO, Uplift Education. "We're seeing teachers being really tired this year."
Stress or not, the need to achieve is great.
"If I isolate just elementary and middle school literacy levels, I cannot find a measurement point in our state's history as low as the one we had this year. This is the challenge we're facing," said Morath.
Educators asked the business community to partner with them, and help as schools search for ways out of this.