Shelby County Schools Must Provide More Resources to Reduce Lost Learning Time

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  • Robin Brice and Maya Perry are members of 90ONE Organizing Network for Equity, a local group of over 400 members who are educators, activists and student advocates in Memphis, Tennessee.

The inequalities highlighted by COVID-19 are too numerous to list and addressing them will require the tireless efforts of community leaders, activists, organizers, policy makers, elected officials and concerned citizens.

As educators, we have seen with our own eyes the unfair ways in which thousands of students are losing ground due to school interruptions, technological challenges, and time spent away from their teachers.

We’ve also been on the ground floor of conversations about how to use the additional available state and federal funds to support student success as we move out of the pandemic.

As instructors of exceptional students, we are particularly aware of the challenges faced by students with special needs.

Before COVID, they already faced inadequate learning opportunities and numerous reports have highlighted the failures of school districts and local governments to provide adequate support to our students.

New funding available through Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Aid, ESSER, is a powerful tool in addressing the inequalities that have long held back promising students with different learning needs.

As community organizers, we collectively call on Shelby County School leaders to support and address these issues as we return to the classroom for our families and students.

For this to happen, we believe it is imperative that our specialist educators have the capacity to meet the needs of students with disabilities and student English learners, ELL.

In order for our students with disabilities to thrive during in-person schooling, they need:

  • Smaller case loads per special education teacher
  • More interventionists (hired to provide direct level 2 and level 3 instruction to students).
  • District-run sites across town to resume one-on-one speech therapy, physiotherapy and occupational therapy services for students with disabilities, including additional teachers and support staff for the summer session .

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We deeply believe that in order for our ELL students to benefit from in-person tutoring, we need:

  • Additional bilingual support staff for ELL teaching
  • culturally appropriate courses with linguistically diverse interpreters to create family and community bonds and provide full service to families with students enrolled in ELL courses
  • Prioritize more interactive and practical evidence-based learning opportunities that aim to close the achievement gap for ELL students.
  • District-run open sites across the city to provide students with cohesive access to refine and develop academic skills lost during the pandemic.

Shelby County children need the support of their community to recover from the traumatic effects COVID-19 has had on their education and development.

So let’s work together to create a district-wide plan to specifically address the lost learning time needs for our SPED and ELL students. Our students deserve their wasted time.

Robin Brice and Maya Perry are members of 90ONE Organizing Network for Equity, a local group of over 400 members who are educators, activists and student advocates in Memphis, Tennessee.


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