Indiana senators explore classroom learning loss from pandemic

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Senators want to know how much ground Indiana students have lost by learning from home during the coronavirus pandemic.

Legislators are moving quickly to ensure schools aren’t penalized financially for moving classes online. But Senate Education Chairman Jeff Raatz (R-Richmond) has added a requirement that schools gather data on how many days they spent in virtual or hybrid classes, where they see students falling behind, and how to fix it.

Raatz notes there’s a general consensus that moving classes online has caused learning losses, especially for students who don’t have reliable Internet access. House Republicans have their own bill to create a one-time grant fund for summer school to get students caught up. But Raatz says the state needs concrete data on those losses.

Raatz’s resolution calls on schools to break down learning gaps by grade level, with particular attention to reading and math in the lower grades.

The House has already passed its own bill ensuring schools receive full funding even if they moved to virtual classes during the pandemic. Current law could have cut funding by 15-percent if schools held more than half their classes online. The Senate will vote on its version, including the learning-loss study, next month.

Senate Appropriations Chairman Ryan Mishler (R-Bremen) cast one of two votes against sending the bill to the floor. He says the shift to e-learning has hurt students, and says he’s concerned fixing the funding penalty will give schools an incentive to do more of it.

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