‘It’s very discouraging’: Louisiana teachers grapple with challenges of ongoing pandemic

Published: Dec. 21, 2021

By: Margaret DeLaney, Olivia Varden and Chris Langley, LSU Manship School News Service

In fourth-grade teacher Laura Spurgeon’s class, the students who attended school in person during the pandemic sit in one area, and those who were online last year sit in another. A third group, the students still working from home, join on a screen.

“It’s like I’m teaching three different levels instead of one,” Spurgeon said. “The students who still stay at home ‘sick’ and have to join via Zoom, the ones that opted for online last year and didn’t learn as much, and the kiddos who have been in person the entire time.”

With the COVID-19 disruptions, standardized test scores for students in grades 3 through 8 have fallen in 69 of 72 Louisiana school districts. State performance scores for schools and school districts, released in early December, fell overall as well.

Teachers, administrators and counselors are trying to figure out how to help many students catch up and get K-12 education back on track. However, they must determine how to reach students who are now performing at different levels while also dealing with the psychological fallout on children who had limited social contact during the shutdowns.

What makes this even harder is that many schools across the state are facing a shortage of teachers. Older teachers are opting for retirement rather than face health risks, and new college education graduates are passing on jobs they view as offering too little pay. 

And the teachers who are still on the frontlines are working harder than ever and reaching out to parents of struggling students through phone calls or emails.

Morgan Story, a high school teacher at MSA West Academy in Plaquemine, said most parents have been understanding and are working with her to help their children.

“They really just needed a voice of a teacher being like ‘All right, I know we’re struggling. This is where we’re at with it, too. This is what you really need to focus on.’ And that helped a lot of parents.”

Read more at Town Talk

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