Written By Janet Hyzinga, Educator and Mental Health Professional.
Learning loss in students is a real thing. Here are strategies that can help your child get back on track.
We typically hear about learning loss over the summer months, known as the summer-slide. But after 18 months of distance learning, schools are seeing learning loss on a much greater scale. The majority of U.S. schools have reopened for in-person learning, but they have a lot of catching up to do.
During the Covid-19 pandemic students faced a multitude of hardships. Inconsistent schedules, new teachers, Zoom fatigue, and unequal access to technology are just some of the obstacles students had to overcome while learning from home. The educational hurdles on top of the emotional challenges have made learning more difficult than ever before.
The good news is that significant funding has been distributed to schools through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (CRRSAA), and the American Rescue Plan (ARP). These plans have and will distribute more than $200 billion to K-12 education over the next three years. Funding is necessary, but schools need more than just money to support students; they need to take various measures in order to address the academic and emotional needs of students returning to the classroom.
What Exactly Is Learning Loss ?
The term learning loss refers to a general loss of knowledge or skills while students are not regularly attending classes. This is most commonly observed after summer breaks and long absences. Basically, when students don’t study on a regular basis, they tend to forget core concepts and have a harder time starting back up again. This is one reason why many educators encourage families to enroll their children in summer learning programs or link up with a private tutor.
Learning Loss During the Covid-19 Pandemic
Data collected by McKinsey & Company present a dismal picture of academic achievement from 2019 to 2021. Its research shows that the average student in American K-12 schools is five months behind in math and four months behind in reading. They also point towards data that show an increased achievement decline in students of color. Students at majority-Black schools have fallen six months behind in math and five months behind in reading compared to students at majority-white schools, who fell four months behind in math. Students in low-income urban districts also fell further behind compared to their peers who attend high-income rural and suburban schools.
Academic progress isn’t the only thing at risk. Reports from McKinsey & Company also show a decline in emotional well-being since the start of the pandemic. Thirty-five percent of parents reported extreme concern about their child’s social and emotional well-being and increasing cases of anxiety and depression among children. Mental health and academic achievement are not independent of each other; parents whose children have fallen behind academically are a third more likely to report concerns about emotional well-being.
The data provided by McKinsey & Company make clear that if we are going to get students back on track, we need to take measures to support them academically and emotionally.
Measures Schools Can Take
Engage Students and Connect With Parents
Parents are eager to get their children back in the classroom, so it’s crucial that schools connect with parents and are available to answer any concerns parents may have. Schools should reach out to parents and keep them in the loop about what’s expected from students at school and how educators will support students’ learning process. Connecting with both students and parents is an important step in getting students back on track.
Offer Additional Support to Students
Due to learning loss, many students have forgotten the building blocks they need to understand in order to advance in the classroom. Many students will need 1-on-1 support and tutoring sessions to counteract the effects of learning loss. Although 1-on-1 teaching is not always available, schools should do their best to create smaller class sizes so that teachers can give as much attention to each individual student as possible. Summer learning programs can also be utilized to help students work on the skills they need for the upcoming school year.
Address Students Social and Emotional Needs
As stated previously, academic progress relies on emotional well-being. Teachers should talk to their students about healthy habits and how to seek support. Students should know who their school counselor is and how to make an appointment when needed. Teachers can support students’ emotional well-being by checking in frequently with students and parents. A genuine connection with students and family members is crucial for success.
Learning loss can have a lasting effect on students and families. It happens for so many reasons, but never has it been so widespread across Houston and the world.