As summer draws to a close, teachers and students everywhere are gearing up to begin a school year unlike any other. Task forces across the nation are pondering the question of how to meet students’ educational needs while also keeping the public safe. These leaders cannot rely on precedent to guide them—pandemic schooling is a brand-new reality. However, Hurricane Katrina is one event in recent history that can provide clues about how to resolve the learning losses caused by a long-term disruption in regular schooling. 

This article, What Post-Katrina New Orleans Can Teach Schools About Addressing COVID Learning Losses, highlights the lessons learned in New Orleans schools following the infamous hurricane. Most kids lost about a year of regular school, but they came back on average more than two years below grade level. It took multiple years to resolve these losses. Post-Katrina educators shared the following tactics for remedying the situation (excerpted from the article): 

  • Schools used conventional diagnostic tests to assess student readiness. Because these were used for placement only, and not as accountability baselines, schools could choose among tests.
  • Elementary schools placed children in courses based on readiness levels, not age. 
  • Some elementary schools assigned students to specially-designed make-up programs for as much as half of each school day to accelerate recovery of reading and math levels. 
  • High schools found that students were bored in purely remedial courses and did not make progress as rapidly as did elementary level students. Students were then assigned to regular grade-level courses.
  • High schools developed “spiraling,” whereby teachers would present regular course materials after re-teaching prerequisite materials that some students had missed.
  • High schools also tried to arrange tutoring for students who needed extra help keeping up with “spiraling” courses.

As educators prepare for the upcoming school year, they can brainstorm how to incorporate these ideas and draw from the insights shared in the article. Read Naturally interventions can support you and your students as you make these important adjustments. Here are some of the many benefits our programs can offer during a school year in which most students will need extra support:

  • We offer several programs to supplement typical instruction and meet new or changing needs for striving readers. Read Naturally Live and Read Naturally Encore are our main programs for accelerating students’ progress toward grade-level reading. Word Warm-ups and GATE are additional programs that support students’ specific needs in automaticity and phonics. (Stay tuned for an exciting announcement about Word Warm-ups Live—a brand-new offering this fall!)
  • Our programs contain built-in progress monitoring to continually measure students’ progress as they work toward grade-level expectations. Read Naturally students are placed into a level that will challenge but not frustrate them, allowing them to make optimal progress. 
  • Current Read Naturally students do not need to be re-placed in the program at the start of the school year, which allows them to get right to work. These students simply pick up where they left off when they last used the program. Then, teachers follow Read Naturally’s detailed progress monitoring guidance, which explains how to use student program data to check the level and goal and ensure that the student is appropriately challenged.
  • Read Naturally’s assessment tools, Quick Phonics Screener and Reading Fluency Progress Monitor, allow teachers to continually evaluate students’ progress in phonics, spelling, and fluency over time. 
  • Our updated Placement Packet also includes a new Phonics Assessment to determine which students will benefit from working in our phonics levels.
  • Read Naturally programs are highly motivating for students of all ages and keep older students engaged with high-interest, nonfiction reading material.

Read Naturally programs are well-suited to address the new challenges that students will bring to this school year, including those identified by post-Katrina educators. During periods of distance learning, students can continue working in Read Naturally Live from home—as described here. Even with this massive disruption in typical classroom learning, we believe our students will thrive if given the appropriate tools. We hope you will consider us a partner this school year as we work to help each and every student read fluently and confidently. Get in touch anytime to let us know how we can support you.