The administrative offices of the Guam Department of Education in Tiyan in May 2017.

HAGÅTÑA (The Guam Daily Post) — It's going to take time to make up for learning opportunities that have been lost in the last 2-1/2 school years, education officials acknowledged.

"Recovering from this loss of learning is going to take time, quite possibly years," said Joseph Sanchez, deputy superintendent of curriculum and instruction at the Guam Department of Education.

He said for GDOE, it's not a question of how much learning was lost, but a matter of determining where students are now so teachers and administrators can help get them where they need to be. And that process, though recently disrupted, is ongoing.

There are two levels of assessments, Sanchez said: classroom and districtwide.

In the classroom, teachers are watching students' performance and are using homework, quizzes and tests to determine if, as an example, their students are reading or doing math problems at a level defined by district standards.

"At the classroom level, the teachers will adjust their instruction to help much as possible...learn the skills (they should know) for that grade level," Sanchez said.

He said classroom assessments would have started within a week or two of students and teachers getting settled into the new school year in August. Unfortunately, that process was disrupted when schools were forced to shut down again with the surge in new Covid-19 cases across the island.

The districtwide assessments are standardized tests and schools are typically given six weeks to complete them, he said. That process also would have been disrupted, Sanchez said, and there's a discussion to determine how much more time schools will have to administer the standardized tests.

What's learned with the districtwide assessments will help determine how various programs, such as the after-school programs, can be tailored to help students catch up and get where they need to be, he said.

Aimsweb is GDOE's interim assessment for students in kindergarten through eighth grade in reading and math.

The aims system is currently available but use of it has stalled because it has to be conducted in person.

There are several thousand students who have opted to attend classes online, and part of the process of testing them includes scheduling them to be on campus for the test, Sanchez said.

"Because the teachers have to see them do the work, one of the tests the student has to read out loud and the teacher gauges the mistakes, speed and all of that. It has to be face-to-face," Sanchez said. "Once they take the test, the data gets uploaded. But I have to find out where we are in terms of that progress because we did get disrupted with the face-to-face being closed down," Sanchez said.

Balancing learning with safety

Since March 2020, GDOE hasn't had a typical school year with students meeting teachers five days a week, never mind seeing them in class or completing 180 instructional days a year as required by Guam law.

Even as GDOE schools resume classes, the department's 26,000 students won't be attending face-to-face classes five days a week. The school populations are divided into two groups — and they take turns going to school in an effort to reduce crowds and the possibility of spreading Covid-19.

Learning loss is an issue that many school districts across the nation are struggling with. Several public high school students are concerned with lost learning opportunities — particularly those who are preparing to graduate and are looking to attend college or joining the workforce.

"Face-to-face learning is the ideal," Sanchez said. He noted, however, that GDOE, in creating a schedule that divides student populations at schools, is addressing the current Covid-19 situation the island is facing.

"We have to protect the health and safety of the students and the staff as well," he said.

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