Arkansas

Report: Catholic schools recovered faster from pandemic – Arkansas Catholic

School leaders say COVID is giving teachers and parents credit for academic success

Published: November 14, 2022

Chris Price

Aaron Tong follows Samantha Beggs, seventh grade science teacher, in a class at Immaculate Conception School in North Little Rock. Catholic schools have recovered faster from the COVID-19 pandemic than their public school counterparts, according to the National Catholic Educational Association.

Catholic schools have recovered faster from the COVID-19 pandemic than their public school counterparts, according to the National Catholic Educational Association.

Officials from the Diocese of Little Rock Catholic Schools Bureau and administrators across the state said they were not surprised by the results of the National Assessment of Educational Progress, known as The Nation’s Report Card.

The NCEA called the US Department of Education’s biennial report “the most consistent measure of US student performance over time.”

The NCEA said Catholic schools’ scores have almost returned to pre-pandemic levels, with the exception of eighth-grade math, which is still five points behind eighth-grade public school scores but 15 points higher.

“We learned that we can do difficult things that we didn’t know we could do. I am grateful that we are on the other side of the pandemic and I hope we never have to go through anything like this again.”

Theresa Hall, superintendent for Catholic schools, said teaching students through the pandemic has been a challenge, but she credits schools’ staff with taking action to ensure students are getting the best education possible.

“When schools closed in March 2020 due to the pandemic, principals and teachers quickly worked together to decide how best their students could continue their education for the remainder of the school year,” she said. “Throughout the summer of 2020, our office continued to communicate with principals through regular Zoom meetings where principals shared ideas and best practices that worked and some things that also didn’t.

All schools in Little Rock Diocese were virtual from March-May 2020 and reopened in August 2020 with options for in-person or virtual instruction. In-person learning returned to full-time in all schools in August 2021.

“During the 2020-2021 school year, most of our schools operated with synchronized home and school instruction, even when students were traveling with COVID. Although not everyone was present in person, the teachers taught and the students learned.”

Kathy House, principal at Christ the King School in Little Rock, said she is proud of her students who have worked hard despite the distractions of wearing masks, sitting six feet from their neighbors and eating lunch in their classrooms. to continue their education as normally as possible.

“I think the kids were so happy to be at school with their friends,” she said. “They cooperated with any form of social distancing and followed all rules. They kept working and learning hard.”

She said the teachers also deserve a lot of credit and recognition for their efforts.

“The teachers are definitely the heroes of the story,” House said. “We were open daily from autumn 2020. We offered a virtual option where our teachers had to teach in person while having the kids zoom in at home. The burden really was on the shoulders of our teachers. It was extremely difficult for them to come to school every day, tutor children in person and at home, travel from class to class (instead of students changing classes) and still be responsible for the health and safety of their families, theirs student, to wear and himself.

“I can never thank these teachers and staff enough for the heroic efforts they have made to continue the mission of teaching our children amid a global pandemic,” she said. “They remained positive, loving and devoted to the children. They set a good example. They wore their masks; they didn’t complain. They just kept teaching.”

Subiaco Academy principal David Wright said he was not surprised by the NCEA report.

“Catholic schools stayed open and were better equipped to rotate if the need arose,” he said. “We had several days and weeks where our teachers were teaching face-to-face classes while also using Google Classroom for these isolated or quarantined students. It was really amazing.”

Support from the students’ families was critical to their success.

“Through a very robust communication plan, our families were ‘all in’ and understood our goal to remain open to personal learning,” he said.

Wright said the only tough area for Subiaco Academy during the pandemic has been math.

“Because the curriculum in this subject is more linear, it makes sense that even a slight break in learning would have a lasting effect,” he said.

Amber Bagby, principal at Our Lady of the Holy Souls School in Little Rock, said schools were also struggling with the social and emotional impact of the pandemic, particularly in the elementary grades.

“When you have 4-year-olds who have been housebound during the developmental years of building social skills, you have quite a bit to do,” she said.

Bagby said the community-oriented nature of Catholic schools is “a critical variable.”

“I truly believe that component alone is what sets us apart from our public schools at all times,” she said. “When teachers know the families and their obstacles, they are better equipped to meet students where they are. As a community, we take care of each other.”

Lee Ann Owen, principal at St Mary School in Paragould, said student achievement was impacted by the pandemic in the spring of 2020 but recovered quickly the following school year.

“We went back to face-to-face classes and didn’t offer a virtual option,” she said. “It helped a lot to keep the lessons consistent. My faculty was very helpful in keeping the learning gap to a minimum. They went out of their way to teach and teach when needed.”

Another bright spot in the NAEP and NCEA reports is that for the first time in two decades, Catholic school enrollments in the United States rose by 62,000.

Catholic schools in Arkansas saw enrollment increase 2 percent, growing from 6,320 in the 2021-2022 school year to 6,451 students this year, Hall said.

“I believe the rising enrollments in Catholic schools is partly due to what parents have been sharing with other parents about what our schools were doing during the uncertain times,” she said.

Hall credits not only the schools’ staff but also the parents for successfully managing the pandemic.

“Parents, especially those with younger children, often had to help their kids log on to devices and needed more help than they would during a normal school year,” she said, “but everyone adjusted and made the most of the time.”

“We were blessed to get through this difficult time,” House said. “We learned that we can do difficult things that we didn’t know we could do. I am grateful that we are on the other side of the pandemic and I hope we never have to go through anything like this again.”


Please read our comment policy before posting.

Article comments powered by

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button