Data indicates elementary students most impacted by school shutdowns due to COVID

Aiken Elementary first-grader Brodie Hall looks back at his mother, Tori Willison, and waves after going through the checkpoint on Feb. 10, when classes finally resumed after having been shut down since March of 2020. First grade students were among the most impacted by shutdowns, according to recent data.

ONTARIO — On June 28, the Ontario School Board of Directors met for its monthly school board meeting; all board members were in attendance. Over the course of the meeting, the board discussed various policies and budget related documents, as well as being presented with assessment related data by District Initiatives and Special Program Coordinator Shelby DiFonzo, and was assisted by Public Relations and Communications Coordinator Taryn Smith.

Over the course of the year, the district performed the state required assessments, and were able to accumulate information they used to present to the school board in a data screening.

All Ontario District schools fully participated in the 2020-21 required state assessments, whereas the Oregon Department of Education decreased the content and testing time for English, math and science tests; decreasing the number of tests for all grade levels, as well. There weren’t any remote testing opportunities, therefore the students were required to complete the assessment on site.

The students of the Ontario School District have always had the option to opt-out of the SBAC assessments. This year, the Ontario schools had between 150-200 student opt-outs, or exemptions were submitted for the math, English and science assessments. These were primarily at Ontario High School.

The Oregon Department of Education will release the results of the assessments in the fall.

DiFonzo mentioned that the data related to the younger generation, such as the elementary students, isn’t normal for Ontario schools.

She continued to mention that, “What we typically see is that by the time our students in the Ontario School District leave kindergarten, they’re reading, and that is a huge celebration that we have in this district.”

As DiFonzo progressed through the data screening, the first grade students represented a similar situation. She mentioned that the data they accumulated is closely related to data from other schools on a statewide and national level, continuing to state that it appears that the first-graders were impacted the most by COVID-19. They lost the ending of their kindergarten year, as well as the abnormality of their first grade year, resulting in the students losing the in-person opportunity to learn how to read and write.

Additionally, DiFonzo stated that due to having access to this information, they have a plan in place to assist those students.

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