The “Do-Over” School Year

There’s a lot of conversation happening about whether or not parents should be allowed to give kids a “do-over” school year because of the year they lost to the pandemic and remote learning. This is one way parents and schools are hoping to target learning loss due to COVID 19 and the restrictions that were imposed on learning.

Some call it “unfinished learning” but none question the fact that student learning has suffered. The general consensus among parents, students, teachers, and administrators is that course failure rates soared, schoolwork has suffered, motivation has tanked, attendance has bottomed out, and studies have tried to quantify the learning loss students suffered this past school year.

Parents have always had the right to request that their child repeat a grade, or delay starting kindergarten for a year, and every year many choose to do that. The deadlines to make that request vary in each state.

Here are some of the states that are embracing the idea of a do-over:

  • The state of Pennsylvania passed a bill this summer “that would allow parents to give their kids a do-over extra year of school to make up for the 2020-21 year disrupted by COVID-19 pandemic closings and operating changes”. One parent expressed it like this, “Virtual just did not work, he didn’t really have a kindergarten year – he lost a year of school.”
  • The state of Kentucky is putting together a bill that would allow high school students to have a do-over year. Senator Max Wise, sponsor of the bill, says “There’s been everything from frustration, to seeing mental health issues, to seeing opportunities taken away from their child. I look at this with a heart for kids and the year lost, and the opportunities that have gone with that.”
  • In California, students who earned a failing grade are now allowed to retake their grade level and change letter grades to “pass” or “no pass”. Assembly Bill 104 allows students to catch up and avoid penalties for learning loss during the pandemic.
  • Ohio lawmakers are proposing a measure to allow students to retake classes in order to boost their grades and restore eligibility for sports. While this could present funding and implementation challenges for school districts, if the state senate passes the measure, schools would be forced to allow it.
  • Washington state created a bill allowing high school juniors and seniors to stay in school for a “bridge year” to catch up on learning and missed extracurricular activities. That bill is currently with the Senate Rules Committee.
  • New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed a bill that permits parents, guardians, and any other person having custody over a child in grades K-8 to repeat last year’s grade.
  • Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed a bill allowing Florida parents to request to hold their child back for “academic reasons”.

Some of the drawbacks of a “Do-Over” year

Three million students are “held back” per year in the United States and there is a large body of research indicating that holding a child back in school is associated with poorer academic outcomes. Grade retention can be associated with an increased likelihood of dropping out of high school or a decreased likelihood of finishing college. However, other studies found that there were short-term social and academic benefits of grade retention.

These negative impacts have not been studied as related to a COVID do-over year, and the negative impacts are merely “associated” with grade retention. It has not been shown that grade retention causes the negative impacts.

School districts are concerned about the financial impact of large numbers of students repeating a grade, and the staffing requirements to accommodate the change. The American Rescue Plan, however, provides $7 billion in funding, a portion of which is supposed to be devoted to helping students overcome learning loss due to the pandemic. School boards are also proposing budget increases to help pay for the new do-over proposals.

How can Tutoring help?

It’s clear that students improve academically when they are given one-on-one tutoring support. This is even more obvious after a school year like the one we just experienced. The COVID learning loss is real, and the evidence shows that tutoring can help students catch up and excel.

Tutoring may even be the best alternative to keeping a child back in school, or letting them have a “do-over” year. With one-on-one tutoring support, students get the kind of personalized attention they can’t get in a classroom, and that support could make the difference.

Before deciding whether or not your child would benefit from repeating a grade this school year, talk to one of our tutoring specialists to see how our online tutoring with only certified, experienced classroom teachers can help your child succeed.

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