How our students are doing academically and socio-emotionally

Posted by Peggy Procter on 1/11/2022 10:00:00 AM

In a recent Parent Association Leadership Meeting and Community Conversation, parents/ guardians asked the Leadership team for an honest update on how our students are doing academically and socio-emotionally in light of the pandemic and the educational disruptions that have occurred in the past few years. While this is a BIG question and one that I don’t believe we can fully answer, we are happy to share some of our observations with you.  It is our sincere hope that we will continue to have a strong home-school partnership in order to support our students' growth and development in these challenging times.  


First, allow me to share with you some of the research out there.  

  • Experts believe that students are an average of 5 months behind in math and 4 months behind in reading. That said, the gaps tend to hit under-resourced schools hardest, so likely the gaps of our EHS scholars who have the privilege of an excellent school with excellent teachers and access to technology are less. 
  • 35% of parents are concerned about their children’s mental health; 35% of parents are worried about their children’s socio-emotional well-being.
  • There was widespread disengagement from students during remote online learning which led to a loss of knowledge and skills.
    • Students may be missing some key building blocks of foundational knowledge
    • Students may be missing some important skills, behaviors and mindsets that are important for success at the next level
    • Students may need a longer transition period to relearn the behavioral expectations of being in a classroom and in a school environment
  • Students depend heavily on their teachers for both academic support and emotional security.
  • Many experts recommend that, for the time being, educators focus less on student academic progress and more on the social and emotional needs of children.


While the above data may seem daunting, the good news is that the issues and gaps appear to be less in the data on elementary age students, as this age group appears to have received more adult support from parents/guardians, caregivers, and older siblings.  The elementary data shows that remote and hybrid learning may have had less impact on reading than on math.  


Anxiety and depression are on the rise with a 5-6% increase in the past few years.  From a socio-emotional and mental health perspective, research is showing an uptick in behaviors like social withdrawal, lethargy, self-isolation, and irrational fears.  Therefore, placing an emphasis on creating a safe, loving, and caring environment for our children is of the utmost importance, and it is something that Echo Horizon excels at. Building relationships, listening to the needs and fears of children, offering friendship and love, and treating others with respect and kindness will help our students to recover from the difficulties they have faced recently.  


At Echo Horizon, we remain optimistic about how our children are doing, in light of the challenges of the past few years.  Our Hawk scholars are resilient, hard working, determined, and kind.  Our Hawk teachers are the best out there, dedicated to the whole child - heart and mind.  We are in it together and we won’t give up - we are committed to giving our all to the beautiful children in our classrooms and school.  


I have asked our Directors and our student support team to share with you some thoughts and observations about the “state of our students”.  


Observations on academic progress:

  • Struggles with independence - we are seeing increased difficulty/lack of patience with waiting for help - our students seem to be less resilient when they don’t know an answer or need support.  They are more likely to interrupt and demand immediate support from their teachers. 
  • Additional practice and support may be needed to build fluency in foundational skills (math, literacy development, etc)
  • Engaging with the “group plan”: cooperative learning requires different skills and behaviors than when students were isolated at home, students have less experience asking for help in the classroom setting
  • Amplified disparities in students’ individual resources to approach new challenges
  • Complaints about inability to focus; our students need to rebuild the stamina school requires without distractions that might have been available at home
  • Students give up more quickly when things get hard - we are seeing this most in math.  


Observations on socio-emotional progress:

  • During recess and lunch, students appear less resilient when they need support.  They are more likely to interrupt and demand immediate support, and less likely to utilize problem solving strategies they may have used in the past
  • We are seeing an increase in attention seeking behaviors   
  • Conflict resolution - at recess, students struggle to handle conflict situations on their own without adult intervention
  • Social and relationship skills, such as sharing and taking turns, need consistent practice and review
  • Students benefit from the continued development of their own “SEL toolbox” for how to help themselves when they are feeling overwhelmed, anxious or frustrated
  • Students struggle with making negative assumptions about other childrens’ motivations or actions. They appear less likely to give each other the benefit of the doubt and to have less tolerance for others making mistakes.  
  • Students may struggle to come up with creative play or games during recess, causing them to rely more on adults.
  • Students are more easily overwhelmed by challenges, whether academic or social
  • We see more sensitivity and defensiveness to feedback from friends
  • We are seeing communication breakdowns. There is an expectation that friends should know what is wrong or what they need without communication.
  • Students are afraid to share how they really feel / ask for what they need for fear of hurting others’ feelings
  • Students need lots of practice in using “I-statements,” when asking for what they need
  • Students need practice respecting boundaries
  • Some students appear to suffer lower frustration tolerance.


In summary, while students grasp these concepts really well intellectually, they’re having a harder time implementing this knowledge into daily interactions. After a few years of less interactions and some isolation, they need practice in real-time to make different choices.


Thank you all so much for reading these observations as we continually assess where our students are and how the school can best support their growth and development.  We are committed to continuing to partner actively with our parents/guardians to support student improvement. As we said, our Echo Horizon students are incredible scholars and humans, and we have no doubts that in partnership, we can layer in consistent practice and messaging so that they thrive and excel despite these societal setbacks.  


With gratitude,