NJ Education Department: Schools Must Heal Emotional Trauma Before Addressing Learning Loss

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Yesterday the New Jersey Department of Education (DOE) held its third annual Statewide Equity Conference, with an emphasis on providing emotional support, creating “healing spaces,” and “remediat[ing] this trauma before we can expect any academic results.”

That’s not the advice offered by leading educators across the country. For example, JerseyCAN, in its online hub called “A Time to Act: A Framework to Accelerate Learning,”  identifies emotional support as essential but emphasizes the urgency of schools creating “intensive summer programming and robust plans for fall 2021 with the use of high-quality, inclusive curriculum and interventions.” The DOE’s job, according to JerseyCAN, is to provide “robust guidance and trainings on the strategies that the state has already identified and incentivized with the most recent learning loss grants.” Nationally, the Center for Reinventing Education’s new report urges “educators and policymakers” to “be especially focused on ensuring students have intensive support, as soon as possible, in math and early literacy.”

That was not yesterday’s message.

Discrepancies aside, educators (who participated virtually) are anticipating a continuation of pandemic-interrupted learning. Robyn Klim, director of educational services for the Freehold Township School District, noted that, with the exception of Warren County, NJ students and teachers should wear masks in schools, although Gov. Murphy is leaving that up to individual districts. “The delta variant still continues to haunt us, and we are certainly not out of this,” she said.

Angel Santiago, NJ’s Teacher of the Year, said, “we know that the pandemic has hit our students in so many different ways. Those families and students already struggling have had their health, social and economic situations amplified by this pandemic. We must acknowledge and offer remediation for this trauma before we can expect any academic results.”

The State DOE tweeted,

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