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TEA reminds parents of option for students to repeat grade or courses amid 'COVID slide'

SB 1697 allows parents to have a child repeat a school grade, or, if in high school, repeat a course. Experts remind parents to make a decision unique to the child.

DALLAS — A new addition to the Texas Education Code could help parents navigate through disruptions in learning for their children. Senate Bill 1697 allows parents to decide whether their child can repeat a school grade, or, if in high school, repeat a course.

The so-called "summer slide" is the term used for the regression in learning skills. It is very common to see the summer slide as it happens every year. The Texas Education Agency says summer slide results in 2.5 months in education loss. But, the TEA is more concerned about the "COVID-19 slide," which could result in 5.7 months in educational loss.

"The past three to five years there had been a well-documented progression in STAAR scores, and then COVID essentially wiped that out," TEA spokesperson Jake Kobersky said.

David Dillard of KD College Prep knows about these slides very well. He and his wife, a longtime educator, started a tutoring academy with four locations in North Texas and have served more than 72,000 students.

"[COVID-19 slide] is a real thing," Dillard said. "You are going to be responsible for the information and if there's been a foundational loss that is not preparing you to deal for what's coming, you have to find some way to make up that gap."

Dillard says the decision to repeat a school year for your child is huge and should be unique to your child. He says parents should consider overall school timelines, the socialization aspect and extra-curriculars. The TEA says SB 1697 will only last through this academic year unless your child is in kindergarten through the 3rd grade.

"The biggest consideration is, the older you get there is this unfair and unfortunate stigma that repeating a grade is not the best option," Kobersky said. But Kobersky also says repeating the year or repeating a course could also be the best option depending on the student.

Most of the students seen at KD College Prep are prepping for big exams and are avoiding the summer and COVID-19 slides with intense tutoring. Dillard says any decision that is made should involve the child's input.

"That decision needs to be considered thoughtfully," Dillard said.

The TEA says parents or guardians are required to notify the school district or charter school in writing that they elect for their child to retake a grade level or course. School districts will render a professional opinion on whether a child is fit to move to the next grade. However, it is ultimately at the parent's discretion whether a child repeats the year or course.

"I plead for parents and educators to have patience and grace," Dillard said.

There are TEA applications online that parents need to fill out and return to the school before it opens. There is also a FAQ that can be helpful for parents considering this option.