PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) — After a tumultuous year and a half of pandemic-era education, the pressure is on for students and teachers heading into Florida Standards Assessment tests this week.
Students across the state are taking the exams throughout the month, after working hard all year to prepare for them. But in Panama City and other local areas devastated by Hurricane Michael in 2018, the pressure is even tougher for students who have dealt with the aftermath of the storm on top of the pandemic’s challenges.
“Every teacher in the district knows that they have had gaps,” said Merriam Cherry Street Elementary School 5th Grade Teacher, Kristin King. “We’ve worked really hard to do everything we can to try to fill them.”
Teachers at MCS said on Tuesday that testing comes with plenty of added stress for their students who are no stranger to change.
“Two years in a row of having a pandemic and then Hurricane Michael have definitely added the stress to the students, just in their emotional wellbeing,” said 5th Grade Teacher Lindsey Wallice.
She said that absences have been their biggest challenge, from dealing with Hurricane Michael recovery, to school shutdowns at the start of the pandemic, to hybrid learning difficulties.
“We’ve seen a lot of absences on the rise closer to the end of the school year now,” Wallice said.
Through it all, teachers have done their best to prepare students for the statewide exams which grade students, teachers and schools on their performance.
However, in Bay County, some say it’s difficult or unfair to compare these test results with others across the state with a category five hurricane preceding the pandemic for local counties.
“It’s just hard to base a teacher and a school on a kid’s performance when they’ve missed so much school,” King said, adding that she’s done her best to make up the difference. “Sometimes Bay District teachers don’t think it’s really fair that we are held to the same standards as the other ones, but I can guarantee you that we have done all that we can do to get them where they need to be.”
Fromin-class review and practice tests, to after-school study groups, to parades and even pump-up videos, teachers want their students to know that they’re as ready as ever.
“They might act up in class but when it’s test time, they really take it seriously,” said another MCS 5th grade teacher, Erica Marino. “They really try their best.”
“We hope that we have built those relationships with them throughout the year that they know that it’s just a test,” King said. “We love them no matter what.”