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Early data suggests overall area students are learning better in-person than online

Published: Jan. 27, 2021 at 5:44 PM CST
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) -Early data is suggesting that students with in-person classes are having more success than those forced to learn online. That’s been a prime reason Governor Kim Reynolds has pushed to keep kids in the classroom during the pandemic. This week the Centers for Disease Control and the Biden Administration urged schools to reopen, declaring it is safe with precautions in place like wearing a mask.

KCRG-TV9 reviewed initial data from two school districts failure rates and found evidence in-person learning is more effective.

In an odd school year, the Iowa City Community School district looked online like many other public schools in the area. They offered hybrid options and for several weeks moved all classes online to avoid risks of COVID-19 exposure.

Meanwhile, the Solon Community School District emphasized keeping kids in the classroom, never going fully online.

“You can’t duplicate face to face instruction, plus for the academics,” Solon Superintendent Davis Eidahl told TV-9.

Both districts have seen sharp improvements since the start of the school year but our review of data shows there is a difference.

For example, in Iowa City last school year 14.4% of high school students had an F at the end of the first trimester, that’s pre-pandemic. This school year on the hybrid model about 17% of high school students had an F at the end of the first trimester, an increase of 2.5% more failing grades.

In Solon, last school year at the end of the first semester 3.5% of high school classes were failed. This year at the end of the first semester just 1% of high school classes were failed, that’s a decrease of 2.5% less classes failed despite the pandemic.

Brooke Hanks has two students at Lakeview Elementary in Solon. She believes the structure of COVID safety protocols in-person may be helping her kids learn even better.

“My daughter has always had some pretty substantial issues with reading and this year she is right on it so whatever they’re doing they can keep doing it,” she told us.

St. Francis Xavier Elementary has also never turned to all virtual learning this year. Principal Peter Smith says they’ve seen huge strides in kids grades.

“Fabulous outcome where we’re seeing some of our grades above 90% proficient in reading and math,” Smith says.

“And we attribute that to being here five days a week,” he added.

In Waterloo, students will return to the classroom full time on Monday after being hybrid since August.

“With us seeing kind of where our students are at, we’ve got to bring them back in order for us to prepared for them to go to the next step,” says Kingsley Botchway, Chief Officer of Human Resources & Equity for the Waterloo Community School District.

Trying to close the learning gap from when schools shut down altogether last spring is the same goal in Solon.

“Make up half of it this year and then with that second year next year, close it completely to where COVID, the March closure and this year would not even be evident a few years from now when we look back at data,” says Eidahl.

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