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Bridging the post-pandemic learning gap

UFT Teacher Center, Positive Learning Collaborative provide support
New York Teacher
Blue hexagon with symbol of a book reading UFT Teacher Center

Helping students rebound from the pandemic, both academically and emotionally, is a union priority as all students return in September for in-person learning. The UFT pressed the city Department of Education to do diagnostic screening of all students, and the UFT Teacher Center and the Positive Learning Collaborative will provide a support network for members as they begin this assessment of student needs.

Literacy and numeracy screenings for students in kindergarten through 10th grade will be a key part of the effort to measure learning loss that occurred during the first 18 months of the pandemic.

“Every child will get a diagnostic test,” said UFT President Michael Mulgrew.

The basics of the literacy and numeracy screenings are:

  • Screening will begin on Sept. 27 and be completed by Oct. 22.
  • Students in K–2 will be tested in individual 15-minute question-and-answer sessions.
  • Students in grades 3–10 will take computer-based tests.
  • The last week of October will be reserved for make-up tests for those students who missed the screenings.

Ten new instructors with expertise in literacy and academic screening will be joining the UFT Teacher Center this school year to work with schools citywide on administering the tests.

Academic Intervention Teams, which already exist for special education students, will be established in every school for the general student population. The new teams, composed of teachers and other school members to be determined, will examine the data from the literacy and numeracy screenings and other learning measures to determine the appropriate interventions to help students make up lost ground.

Professional Learning Teams — half of the members will be selected by the principal and half by the school chapter leader — will identify the professional development that teachers need to assist students. These teams will be merged with the Instructional Leadership Teams that already exist in each school.

Positive Learning Collaborative logo

The Positive Learning Collaborative, a joint initiative of the UFT and the DOE, will be offering additional webinars to help teachers identify trauma in students and determine the age-appropriate strategies best suited to their needs. Thousands of educators attended these webinars in the spring.

The process of identifying students who need social and emotional supports will not begin until the end of October.

“We need to see kids for a couple of months to identify trauma,” Mulgrew said, explaining that some children do not outwardly exhibit symptoms of trauma until later.

The program has also made sensory tools that are more commonly used in special education available to the general student population.

Teacher Melissa Curto works with a student, wearing headphones to block noise, as he completes a math lesson in her self-contained classroom at PS 45 on Staten Island.

From fidgeting to focusing

Sensory tools that have long helped special education students calm down and stay alert in the classroom are now helping general education students ease back into in-person learning.