Student retention levels remain consistent in Southern Indiana

·2 min read

Sep. 23—SOUTHERN INDIANA — Although the pandemic caused issues with learning loss, several school officials in Southern Indiana say they have not seen major changes in the number of students being held back a grade since COVID-19 hit.

Lisa Hawkins, assistant superintendent and curriculum director at Silver Creek School Corp., has not noticed a rise in retention in the school district compared to pre-pandemic levels. Since the pandemic, the focus has been filling in gaps in learning through interventions and programs.

"We're really prioritizing meeting students where they are using intervention time at school to help fill those gaps," she said. "We're definitely still providing that strong core instruction to make sure we're continuing to move forward even as we fill in those gaps."

Hawkins said retention occurs more often at the younger level at Silver Creek Primary, since it doesn't take as much of a toll on younger students as it does for students in upper levels.

To consider retention, the district has to go through a series of parameters to see whether it is needed or is appropriate for the child, she said. The district has updated pacing guidelines for students in response to the pandemic.

"We know that having a kid repeat is going to be a substantial life thing for them, and we want to make sure that we are consistently identifying why a child is struggling and determine whether retention is really going to benefit," she said.

Hawkins believes the increased need for mental health services related to COVID-19 has been greater than the academic needs caused by the pandemic.

Tony Duffy, New Albany-Floyd County assistant superintendent for elementary education, also emphasized the school district's focus on helping students overcome learning loss through summer school, after-school tutoring, intersession programming and other interventions, including programs supported by federal COVID-19 relief funding.

Like Silver Creek, NAFCS has not faced a significant increase in the number of students who have repeated a grade, he said. Sometimes parents are in favor of retention, and the district meets with them to talk about their concerns.

"We work with parents in those situations and at all times," Duffy said.

Rather than student retention, NAFCS has seen a more significant increase in parents who have delayed sending children to kindergarten, he said. This trend was particularly prevalent last year.

Some students missed out on PreK, causing them to be less prepared for kindergarten. He notes that the district has increased preschool offerings at NAFCS elementary schools in recent years.

"Kids who typically would have gone to preschool didn't get to go to preschool, because it was closed or they didn't come in due to COVID-19 issues," Duffy said.