February 15, 2021

Longer days and Saturday classes: States explore costly ways to heal learning loss

A group of governors and state education officials are pressing schools to lengthen their days, boost summertime instruction and upgrade tutoring in the coming months to help offset the pandemic’s toll on learning.

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam suggested year-round schooling for his state earlier this month. Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey dedicated part of his Jan. 11 “State of the State” address to call for longer school days and one-on-one tutoring. In Alabama, some school districts may add 20 days to the 2021-22 school year, bulk up summer and after-school programs, and possibly launch Saturday classes for select middle and high schoolers.

Educators and state policymakers say recovering from a year of disrupted class time will be costly and time-consuming, and local governments may not be able to fully finance ambitious recovery plans themselves. Though schools have already received billions in federal dollars over the course of the past year to cover Covid costs, advocates say more is needed, putting pressure on President Joe Biden to quickly push his proposed $1.9 trillion stimulus package through Congress.

A December analysis from McKinsey & Company concluded American students could lose on average five to nine months of learning by the end of June. Analysts concluded that students of color could be six to 12 months behind by that time, compared with four to eight months of lost learning for white students.

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