Learning Loss in the Classroom and How It’s Shaping Legislation – Part I

If you’ve read any headlines or scrolled through any social media accounts this past year, you’ve become familiar with the hottest topic in education—learning loss. Blazoned on the front page of every news website and getting shared around the internet with surprising frequency, learning loss is now weighing on the minds of teachers, administrators, parents, and students around the world.

While certainly not a new issue to be tackled, the COVID pandemic greatly exacerbated the problem of learning loss in the classroom, and it highlighted disparities among certain groups of students who suffer from a greater learning loss than their peers.

While the buzzword often gets thrown around in conversation, the history of learning loss and the legislation that has been passed to combat it are often ignored.

Learning loss is a term describing any loss of information or skills that were previously learned once a student has left the classroom.

And there are many examples of when learning loss can take place. For example,

  • During summer vacation
  • While emigrating to a new country
  • After dropping out of school
  • Due to health-related absences
  • Having an ineffective teacher
  • From course scheduling issues
  • During a pandemic

Learning loss isn’t a new problem, it’s getting front and center attention because it has affected students on a worldwide scale due to the pandemic.

In 1965, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) was signed into law, to provide an equal opportunity for all students and address disparities in education, particularly for students dealing with disabilities, poverty, transience, and for English language learners.

The main goals of that legislation were to make sure that schools were properly funded, to have high standards in place for all students, and to encourage parental involvement in student education.

The No Child Left Behind Act was enacted in 2001 to close the widening student achievement gap so that all students would receive equal educational opportunities. The planned to achieve the equal education opportunity goal by emphasizing four pillars: accountability, flexibility, research-based education, and parent options.

Today, state legislators are working hard to address the more recent learning loss challenges by designing plans of action and passing new state legislation.

If the past has taught us anything, it’s that learning loss can become a huge problem, particularly for students of color, English language learners, and students living in poverty.  All students in the United States deserve to have an equitable education so they get a lifetime of career and financial opportunities. This isn’t the first time learning loss has become a hot issue in the U.S., nor will it be the last. With effective legislation, continuous professional development for teachers and administrators, and parental outreach, the entire community can combat learning loss for the benefit of all students.