Learning loss is a topic that nearly every professional in the education system has on their mind. And rightly so, because the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic have only widened the learning loss and education gap across American school systems. Let’s look at the damage that long-term learning loss can have on students in the future and what can be done to prevent it.
Major learning loss
The COVID-19 pandemic was a severe disruption of everyday life, and the academic disruption that student’s across the country underwent is still being felt today. Adapting to “new normals” and adjusting to never-before-seen instructional methods left many students behind where they would be in an average year. According to McKinsey, it did not take long for learners to fall behind after schools shut down. Their study found that during the spring of 2020, many students learned “almost no new math content over the final few months of the 2019–20 school year.”
As of May 2021, students were still about five months behind in their math learning process. Though language arts were also affected, math was the subject most negatively impacted. In addition, already marginalized students were at higher risk of learning loss than others. This includes Black and Hispanic students and children who fall below the poverty line.
Long term impacts
Many students are back in the physical classroom now. Still, the impacts of the past two years will be felt long into their future, even into adulthood. The ripple effect of even a few months of learning loss is heavy. Drop-out rates are higher than before, and there is evidence that high school students are less likely to advance to higher education. On top of this, more than 35% of parents are concerned about their child’s mental wellness.
McKinsey’s analytical research shows that the extended academic disruption will impact students’ future job prospects. The data suggest that they may “earn $49,000 to $61,000 less over their lifetime” because of the pandemic. Pulling the camera back even more, the US economy could suffer as well, amounting to $128 billion in losses yearly when this graduating class becomes employable.
The previous learning loss can not be avoided, but the lasting repercussions can be reduced. There are several methods, but there isn’t a single answer that will work for the widely diverse American education system. However, there are a few possible solutions that many districts are already trying to implement.
One of the essential considerations that administrators and educators should remember is that their students will need long-term support, even years after the pandemic ends, whether this is continued in-classroom assistance, after-school programs, or tutoring. The test scores should also be watched closely, as well as daily performance. Remediation programs should be normalized, as nearly every student could benefit from additional exposure and review of subject material.
In addition, the school districts need to continually work towards building fundamental skills that may have been lost during their remote learning months. Communication is also vital. Students and their caretakers need to feel comfortable returning to school. A strong student-teacher connection is crucial to achieving that.