Four Bright Spots for Education in an Uncertain Year: Lexia’s 2021 in Review
By Nick Gaehde, president of Lexia® Learning
It has been a dynamic, uncertain past year following a truly disruptive one. In these times, it’s important to hold fast to the things we know for sure. Here are some truths about education and educators that I believe the experiences of the past year have proven out:
Truth No. 1: Educators will always rise to the challenge
Whether it was over sometimes-glitchy video connections or through plexiglass panels, teachers made students feel seen and secure so they could continue learning. In this critical time, I’ve come to view teachers as superheroes who rose to the occasion and showed themselves to be indispensable. The flexibility and ingenuity demonstrated by America’s educators to adapt instruction and help children maintain forward progress has been inspiring. We’re beyond proud that Lexia products have played a part in giving teachers the tools they needed to make that progress possible.
While this is hardly the way any of us would have wanted to test their strength, educators have proven their ability to handle any circumstance. Knock on wood, we won’t experience another pandemic in our lifetimes. Still, if the last two years have taught us anything, it is to expect the unexpected and prepare for it.
Expecting the unexpected
There will be disruptions to instruction that educators need to handle in the future; weather events, natural disasters, climate dislocations, etc. The experience of the last year has made crystal clear the value of ready-to-implement contingency plans for remote and hybrid learning.
We covered this topic in our white paper: How to Develop Scalable Remote Learning Plans Using Familiar Frameworks to Sustain Instruction in Unfamiliar Circumstances. The four-phase approach we recommend provides a road map for creating these contingency plans and lists the established traits and frameworks that can prepare school/district leaders for such moments:
- Continue emphasizes the importance of continuity of instruction even while schools are closed or in hybrid mode
- Adapt acknowledges that adaptations will be needed for instruction to continue in a distance-learning environment
- Preserve underscores that instructional standards can be perpetuated and high levels of learning can continue with proven online learning solutions
- Monitor highlights the necessity of using data to inform decision-making and gauge progress toward goals
Together, these phases are essential to creating and maintaining a scalable and sustainable remote learning plan for school leaders to have in their back pockets for whatever comes.
Truth No. 2: Students can continue to progress—under any circumstance—with the right plans and tools
Educators returned to classrooms this fall prepared to address the impact of the disrupted year and committed to accelerating learning to bring students back to grade level. How severe that impact would be on literacy was an open question and an urgent one.
Our research team conducted a study to explore how well Lexia® Core5® Reading helped students achieve literacy gains in remote and hybrid learning environments. Across 35 schools, and almost 13,000 students, we saw Core5 not only helped prevent learning loss but also helped accelerate literacy growth for all student groups. More than 10,000 students (80%) using Core5 did not experience interrupted literacy learning during the pandemic. In fact, MAP scores increased more than expected in one year for more than 40% of all students using Core5 in the study. Across all student groups, a significant number of students exceeded their growth targets.
To say this is gratifying is an understatement. We’re proud that Core5 meets students where they are and accelerates their learning whether they are beginning below, on, or above grade level.
When we say we’re “All for Literacy” at Lexia, we mean it. To have had a positive impact at such a critical moment for students makes us immensely proud. All of our instructional programs feature an adaptive, blended learning model and on-demand student data, making them well-suited to support teachers and students during remote and hybrid learning.
Clearly, there is more work to do. We won’t be satisfied until we are closer to a world where literacy is a reality for everyone and we’re committed to doing our part to create that reality.
Truth No. 3: We can create opportunities for every student through the power of literacy education
While equity in education has been a longstanding issue, it was thrown into the spotlight as the pandemic arrived. When in-person schooling was interrupted, enduring opportunity gaps were exacerbated by the uneven access to the technology and bandwidth required for remote learning.
Having a spotlight thrown on those opportunity gaps this year has had a positive outcome: Districts are realigning their priorities to address long-standing inequity, and in many cases have elevated equity to one of their leading concerns. At the same time, Congress’ relief packages have provided direction for improving equity as well as funding support for those efforts.
When all is said and done, we hope to see strong advancements in educational equity.
As the Fordham Institute says, “Any discussion about ‘equity’ in education that is not first and foremost a discussion about literacy is unserious.” Literacy is the gateway to lifelong learning and informed decision-making, improved self-esteem, personal empowerment, greater economic opportunities, and active participation in local and global social communities.
The turbo boost the pandemic has given to efforts to promote and fund literacy interventions in the pursuit of greater educational equity is a very unexpected but a welcome silver lining to this uncertain year and a welcome start to 2022.
Truth No. 4: Literacy is a civil right
As I said before, Lexia is All for Literacy. We are also committed to the idea that literacy can and should be for all. This summer, we refocused our company mission and vision around these important messages and are fully committed to literacy as a civil right and central to educational equity.
Asset-oriented language and literacy
All of our products, literacy and language, use an asset-based approach. They are centered on what students bring to their learning experience and what they can do rather than what they cannot. That’s one of the reasons we use and advocate for the term Emergent Bilingual vs. English Language Learner.
I hope you were able to join us for some of the events of Emergent Bilingual Week this past October. The week was our celebration of these students and the educators who are taking the lead in recognizing bilingualism as an asset. All students bring unique strengths and perspectives to the table, and drawing on them leads to better opportunities and education for all.
We’re true believers
At Lexia, literacy is embedded in our ethos. Our “why” is creating equitable educational opportunities that have the power to change the trajectory of a young life, a community, our nation, and ultimately the world.
Our work is always in service to the teachers who make our mission and vision come to life. Like offering reading programs that are grounded in the science of reading and proven to be effective in helping their students. Or offering LETRS® professional learning that empowers them as literacy and language experts. Or offering an English language program that not only focuses on speaking practice and academic language, but also values students’ accents and heritages.
As this tumultuous yet transitional year draws to a close, I want to leave you with two little words that say a lot: Thank you.
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