Learning Loss – Part III – How the Pandemic Heightened Learning Loss

Since the official declaration that COVID-19 was a worldwide pandemic in March of 2020, many serious concerns regarding children and education have come to light. Between disturbing gaps in their learning, their inability to socialize with their peers, and the increase of physical and mental health issues our youth have taken a pretty good hit.

With multiple challenges facing us during these unprecedented times, it’s becoming more difficult to understand how to manage and guide kids because the landscape keeps changing..

Administrators, teachers and parents are looking at how the pandemic heightened learning loss across the country.  Understanding what resources are needed, who needs them and how to effectively apply them to ensure educational equity is the million-dollar question. 

When COVID forced schools to shut down and parents had to supervise learning at home, the educational responsibility for each student transferred from the school to the home.  While the curriculum and the setting of homework belonged to the teacher, ensuring the work got done and attention to school belonged to the parent.  Given most students aren’t self-starters and many of them saw the time as their free time, many parents were at a loss around how to build a learning environment with the required structure that forced their kids to focus on school.  For those parents with 2 or 3 kids in school, this problem was exponentially challenging.

The pandemic showed that while most parents did their best to support their children, not all households had the same resources that determined the success or failure of an at home education.

The results of the latest analysis completed by McKinsey and Company have shown:

  • Overall students are 5 months behind in math and 4 months behind in reading
  • Students in schools with a large black or hispanic majority were closer to 6 months behind.  This goes back to our articles around educational equality and equity.
  • Students in low-income districts were closer to 7 months behind
  • The high school dropout rate is increasing

While the results may be shocking, this come as no surprise when looking at the additional challenges certain groups of students faced while learning from home.

Some of the major obstacles to learning included:

  • Food insecurity
  • Job insecurity
  • Internet access
  • Technology devices
  • Special education resources
  • Language barriers
  • A safe home environment
  • Parents in the home ready, able, and willing to assist

In addition to the problems faced by families at home, especially by those from historically disadvantaged backgrounds, other challenges arose for students in certain grade levels as well.

Remote learning was particularly difficult for children in early elementary. Not only do students in this age group typically learn best through play-based activities and socialization, but they also need a lot of supervision because of shorter attention spans.  Students in upper elementary, middle school, and high school are better prepared to do online learning.  The disadvantage for this group was the result of having less direct support from family members and/or not having the right technology and connectivity to effectively produce the work assignments.

All students have been impacted physically, mentally, and educationally because of this pandemic.  Like the old adage says, “it takes a village to raise a child”, it is true for the educational gain of all students.  Support from family members, teachers, school administrators, corporations, local communities and the various branches of government that’s involved in the educational sector will all have to come together for the benefit of students and the future of our workforce.

Strong curriculums, instructional changes to meet the needs of today’s students, using technology to assist in learning and the virtual classroom environment are all ways to be more efficient and effective as we look to close the learning loss gap.