Roanoke City plans for catching students up from months of hybrid, online learning

New testing software and tutoring will enable individual student plans

Many students are returning to school this year behind. Hybrid learning or all online learning was difficult for many kids last year during the pandemic. A recent report says students are on average five months behind in math and four months behind in reading.

ROANOKE, Va. – Many students are returning to school this year behind. Hybrid learning or all online learning was difficult for many kids last year during the pandemic. A recent report says students are on average five months behind in math and four months behind in reading.

“We all know that if you’re not able to read you’re not able to make progress in any subject area,” said Archie Freeman, Roanoke City Schools Chief Academic Officer who expressed reading and math are of equal concern as kids head back to school. “We’ve got to know the strengths and weaknesses of all our students tailored to the specific student. We have to realize it’s an individual plan for each student we have to work on.”

There’s a new assessment all students in the district will take this year, after piloting it over the summer with kindergarten through eighth-graders. It’s called MAP, short for measures of academic progress.

“We’re trying to make sure we look at where our learning is, what we need to target moving forward,” said Freeman.

They’re expecting to spend about $3 million to supplement instruction with tutoring, including for the first time hiring part time and full time tutors to support students one-on-one or in small group instruction. This would happen before and after school, and in some cases Saturday school.

They’re also taking a look at chronic absenteeism rates. The percentage of students missing 10% or more of the school year, regardless of the reason. It was higher than normal at all Roanoke City schools, with leaders saying COVID impacted some.

“We must have students in school in order to teach them so the focus will be what do we need to do to make sure every student is in school, safely,” said Freeman.

In six schools, chronic absenteeism rates were 40% or higher last year.

  • Hurt Park Elementary 54%
  • Lincoln Terrace Elementary 52%
  • Westside Elementary 49%
  • Roanoke Academy for Math and Science 48%
  • Fallon Park Elementary 45%
  • Morningside Elementary 43%

Freeman says it’s hard to say how long it will to take to get most students back where they should be when it comes to learning.

“Everybody learns differently. Everyone has a different pace at learning,” said Freeman. “This year will be one of those where we’re really monitoring, adjusting and will actually see. I think with this new assessment it will give us some data at the end of the school year even before we take our SOLs on where we really stand and what we really know that our students know.”

They are still looking for tutors and you can find the link to apply here.

Chronic Absenteeism Rates for Roanoke City Public Schools in 2020-21: defined as the percentage of students missing 10% or more of the school year, regardless of reason, whether the absence is excused or unexcused.

Chronic Absenteeism Rates: defined as the percentage of students missing 10% or more of the school year, regardless of reason, whether the absence is excused or unexcused. (Courtesy: Roanoke City Schools)

School districts across the Commonwealth are receiving an influx of funding from the American Rescue Plan. Now, school boards are left figuring out what to put their money towards. The plan must be submitted to the state’s Department of Education by September 1 and the ARP funding must be spent by 2024.

We ask school systems across southwest and central Virginia how they will make sure students are caught up from the last year and half of learning during the pandemic.

Botetourt County

We operated a more robust summer program this summer. Additionally, a lot of our focus for the coming year will be to measure academic growth of all students from the beginning of the new school year to the end. These are decisions we are currently making and will continue to plan as the summer progresses.

Be flexible and patient! Support your child’s teacher and school by being engaged in your child’s learning. For our early learners, the most important thing a family can do is help develop a love for reading. This can be done by reading to your child, or having your child read to you.

Carroll County

We plan on doing growth assessments at the beginning of the year to gauge student progress and develop individualized learning loss plans for students to help them continue to get back on track.

We will provide tutors both throughout the school day and after school to help provide individualized instruction to all students. We will also provide paid internships to seniors interested in the field of education to work with students and teachers to both provide remedial services and help our school system recruit quality teaching candidates.

We will focus on student social/emotional learning through a variety of means and programs at each school to meet the needs of students in the division that may be struggling with issues they find difficult to cope with.

We help prepare 4-year-olds for Kindergarten by offering a quality early learning experience in an expanded Pre-K program in every elementary school.

Franklin County

Franklin County School District will receive over $14.7 million from American Rescue Plan funding. Leaders are talking about programs like virtual tutoring options, school-based literacy teams and alternative education structures for students with special needs. “There are mental health concerns. There are students that really lost a year of instruction so there is no better way to have those supports in place. But we did not spend all the funds that way because we know those positions will be short term,” said Assistant Superintendent Sue Rogers. They say this plan is fluid and they’re still open to suggestions from students or parents. Find the full plan here.

Henry County

We anticipate expanded enrichment programs and look forward to supporting students this year as they work to both meet and exceed learning goals. Our teachers are prepared to differentiate instruction to meet the needs of all students so that we are able to ensure that they have the essential skills they need to be successful. Much of their planning will be determined by their assessment of students’ knowledge at the beginning of the year and they will be working with their colleagues, parents, and community partners to offer remediation and enrichment as needed for each student.


We will use the assessment data from spring SOL testing and our universal screening to determine where students are in their learning, and we have built in time during the school day for students to receive personalized learning. Also, we plan to take the technology skills that our students and teachers developed last year to personalize learning and address any learning gaps.

One of the biggest concerns will be addressing the social and emotional learning needs of our students, staff, and families. The social curriculum is as much a part of school as the academic curriculum.

We have built in Intervention and Enrichment time in the master schedule for the elementary and middle school. This will be a time that teachers can work with students on any academic gaps, and students have an opportunity to participate in club activities such as art, yearbook, robotics, etc. We are excited about expanding our programs and opportunities for students.


We are grateful for the federal and state grant funds we have received that allows us to hire more staff to help with the learning loss our students experienced last year due to the Pandemic.

We have really worked hard on providing more personnel, particularly in content areas of reading and math, to support both our students and teachers. We will definitely need to assess our students in order to know where they are and what we need to provide to them in order for them to achieve at high levels. Even though we may have a more traditional school year, we would continue to ask for patience, flexibility and grace as I am sure there will be impacts as a result of the continuing Pandemic even as the sense of normalcy is returning.

Roanoke City

Roanoke City Public Schools is excited to continue five days a week of in-person instruction, which we reintroduced this summer. Learning recovery and acceleration is a focus of our ongoing summer programming, and we will continue to work toward mastery of prior-year standards and content during the 2021-22 school year.

One new tool we recently introduced is the MAP (Measures of Academic Progress) Growth assessment. The goal of MAP Growth is to determine what the student knows and is ready to learn next. Students take the test several times during the school year to assess their progress. This helps teachers adapt and personalize instruction to meet the needs of individual students. Parents and teachers will also be able to track students’ growth over time. RCPS+ students finished math and reading tests over the summer, and all K-8 students will test in the fall.

We have also hired — and continue to hire — additional staff to provide additional support, including dozens of part-time tutors. We are adding a math supervisor position, additional gifted teachers and have implemented a “grow your own” cohort of teachers we are supporting toward receiving their reading specialist credential.

Roanoke County

Schools will continue to assess student learning individually and work with them to fill in any gaps. Fortunately, given that RCPS was one of only 14 school divisions out of 132 in Virginia that (1) opened at least partially in person, (2) continued to expand, (3) never had to reduce the schedule, and (4) went to fully in person in March, RCPS students overall are well positioned to move forward. As an extra resource for the upcoming school year, RCPS is implementing a WIN (“What I Need”) Program in schools to provide extra teachers to work with individual students.

About the Author:

You can see Jenna weekday mornings at the anchor desk on WSLS 10 Today from 5-7 a.m. She also leads our monthly Solutionaries Series, where we highlight the creative thinkers and doers working to make the world a better place.