BRISTOL, Va. (WCYB) — School officials in Virginia say the shuttering of schools during the pandemic led to lasting learning loss for children, especially in grades third through eighth.
"What we know is if a student misses two to four days in September, they are more likely to be chronically absent," said Lisa Coons, Virginia Superintendent of Public Instruction.
Coons says students last year, who were chronically absent, or missed more than 10-percent of the school year, scored 20 to 30 points less on their end of year assessments.
"We know that going to school changes their outcomes in life," said Coons. "It may be hard to get them back into a routine of going to school -- it might be harder now than it was before."
That's why Gov. Glenn Youngkin announced the All in VA Plan to address COVID-19 era learning loss and absenteeism in schools.
It's something local districts are working to combat and say they are putting the focus back where it needs to be.
"Some of our early indicators from screenings we do as the students come back to school do show learning loss," said David Scott, Superintendent, Bristol Virginia Public Schools. "We can see similarly to what the state sees -- we had some increases, but we are not back to where we were in 2018-2019."
Leaders say the All In VA Plan is built on best practices proven to tackle learning loss recovery with high-intensity tutoring, literacy education and school attendance.
News 5 asked: As someone that has been in the education field, why do you think absenteeism is an issue now, compared to what it was maybe, pre-COVID?
"I think that we gave students some tools and some ability to be remote from the classrooms," answered Scott. "I believe that took away some of the urgency for being present in school. I think that is one of the things we are combatting right now, is making sure the students know that in the real world, while there are still some very fine remote opportunities, most of the work is still being done face to face."
Local administrators saying it's important to work with parents when it comes to encouraging kids to come to class.
"We know with our goals that we want to really pay attention to absenteeism and make sure that we are staying on top of those numbers and in contact and engaged with parents, right from the start of the year," said Scott.
"It's important for them to be in school because we see the difference when our kids come to school every day, we see the opportunities in their lives and we all have to work together," added Coons. "Our families have to work together to get our kiddos to school and our communities have to support the opportunities that our educators and our school are providing for children."
The following is a press release from the office of Gov. Glenn Youngkin:
Governor Glenn Youngkin announced All In VA, a comprehensive plan to support Virginia's students facing the continued detrimental impacts of COVID-19 learning loss, declining academic performance and absenteeism. Virginia's Standard of Learning scores demonstrate that student achievement remains well below pre-pandemic levels. The Youngkin administration is taking further, aggressive action to ensure all Virginia students get the academic support they need to recover learning loss, boost their attendance and academic performance.
"The shuttering of our schools led to lasting learning loss for our children. Especially in grade 3 through 8, we must redouble our efforts," said Gov. Glenn Youngkin. "All In VA focuses on the foundational elements of education, attendance, literacy and learning, and provides a playbook to school divisions to meet the needs of our students. The All In VA plan fosters collaboration and partnership between school divisions, our Department of Education, community leaders and most importantly, students and their parents. I challenge all of us to work together with urgency to create a brighter future and deliver the education our students in the Commonwealth were robbed of for far too long."
"The All In VA plan is built on proven best practices in learning loss recovery, literacy education, and school attendance. We know what works, and Virginia's students will benefit with high-intensity tutoring built into students' day by school divisions investing this money in proven models that get results. Our students deserve nothing less," said Secretary of Education Aimee Rogstad Guidera.
"Grade 3 through 8 Virginia students are still struggling to recover the learning loss from the pandemic and are not performing as well as their pre-pandemic peers," said Superintendent of Public Instruction Lisa Coons. "The 2022-2023 SOL data demonstrates just how important school attendance is for students' academic success. VDOE recommends school divisions allocate this $418 million in learning loss resources to proven programs that will achieve the greatest student impact -- approximately 70-percent for high-dose tutoring, 20-percent for Virginia Literacy Act implementation and 10-percent for chronic absenteeism response."