There are times in everyone’s life where when you look back, you wonder how you ever made it through. Whether it’s the illness of a parent or a child, or the estrangement of a dear friend or loved one, these are times that change us and can make us stronger.
The whole world has recently been going through such a challenging time. In Kentucky, we have just passed the two-year mark for first COVID cases diagnosed in the state. Without a doubt, we are all changed because of our experiences during this pandemic.
While the winter was a rough one for many of us, the spring seems to have brought with it a new hope that we have turned a corner in our battle against this disease. While we may just be experiencing a brief lull between waves, I think I speak for us all when I say I hope that the days of massive infections are over.
Without a doubt, COVID also greatly disrupted the education of Kentucky’s children. The last two school years have been unlike anything any of us have seen in our lifetimes. While some children thrived in the virtual learning environment our schools used to limit the spread of COVID, many of our students struggled.
We saw that struggle last fall when the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) released the results of the first round of assessment data since the start of the pandemic. We knew the results would not be where we wanted them due to the challenges our students faced, but it gave us much-needed data about where our students need more help to make up for skills they may not have gained using extended virtual learning.
I cannot express enough gratitude to our educators, who have worked so hard this year to try to get their students caught up. Under a regular year, they would have had a huge job, but this was no regular year, with staffing shortages causing our building staff to scramble to cover duties for sick or absent colleagues every day.
I also want to thank all our families for their efforts during the past two years. Many of you helped your children during virtual learning while trying to complete your own jobs. I know it wasn’t easy. It wasn’t easy for my family and both my wife and I are educators.
As we move into this new phase of the pandemic, I want to remind all our families that you are the best advocate for your students. You know their strengths and where they need some extra help. You also know the best way to help them learn and the things they are passionate about in their lives. I urge you to stay connected with your student’s teachers and your schools. By working together, we can provide more support to Kentucky’s students and help them gain the skills that will allow them to chase their dreams.
I firmly believe that our students can catch up to where they should be, but we must be realistic. It will take more than one year – and possibly up to several – for our students to catch up to where they would have been had the pandemic not happened. It also will take a lot of support for our schools and our educators, which KDE has been and will continue to provide.
Together, we are stronger.