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Wednesday, September 28, 2022
FairfaxOpinionCommentary: Students need community support now more than ever

Commentary: Students need community support now more than ever

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by PAULA FYNBOH, executive director, Aspire! Learning

As students return to the classroom, the lingering impact of the pandemic and lost learning opportunities remain.

Pandemic-related missed learning impacts all students, but has a disproportionate impact on historically underserved students.

At Aspire! Afterschool Learning, students are entering our program much further behind previous cohorts. Our fifth-grade i-Ready data shows 72 percent of students testing two to three levels behind where they should be.

Our students know they are behind, and it gets harder to catch them up each year. At some point, students stop trying because they feel like failures.
We need higher expectations, not just for historically underserved students, but for our entire community. We cannot give up on these students. We cannot abandon our expectations of who can catch up, learn or exceed.

Schools alone cannot do this work, and many parents are working multiple jobs and can’t afford private tutoring.

At Aspire Afterschool Learning, providing students most impacted by the opportunity gap with no-cost, robust and holistic after-school support is what we do every day. We know a community model works and invite you to join us in these solutions:

• Fund no-cost daily after-school and summer academic programs close to where families live, eliminating barriers that many low-income families face.

• Support and retain high-quality teachers and after-school professionals so students receive consistent support, instruction and encouragement.

• Ensure programs include robust academic support in reading and math, as well as social/emotional support so students are prepared to learn, meals so students can concentrate on learning, and project-based learning and STEAM [science, technology, engineering, art and math] lessons to apply their learning. Historically underserved students need access to the same opportunities that challenge their more affluent peers’ imagination, open doors to emerging fields, and develop a lifelong love of learning.

• Volunteer to help schools and after-school programs provide more individualized support.

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