Learning loss is not a new phenomenon or phrase, but you’ve probably heard it more than ever since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. As students spend more time experiencing non-traditional learning environments, the potential for a gap in their learning increases. But how pervasive is this issue, and how will it impact the future of education?
What is learning loss?
Learning loss refers to the possibility that students may experience a loss of literacy and numeracy skills due to being away from a formal learning environment for extended periods. This has become a widespread concern for educators and parents alike as schools do their best to protect teachers and students from the COVID-19 virus.
According to Edsurge, children have not only experienced learning setbacks but have been exposed to fewer social experiences. All this at the same time that their educators have found themselves in worsening working conditions. For example, “stress from job uncertainty and mental health declines.” This is in conjunction with more students learning in a hybrid environment (38%). As a result, their educators have to adjust to never-before-seen challenges.
How widespread is learning loss?
Learning loss is a possibility, but how widespread is it? Is it happening across America or in just a few key states? The answer is more complicated than you might think. Many factors impact the level of learning a remote or hybrid student receives.
For example, UNICEF reports that students from low-income families or those with disabilities were less likely to get the same level of remote learning as their peers. This is because these groups may not be able to get their hands on the necessary technologies and internet connectivity. “The detrimental impact on learning has disproportionately affected the most marginalized or vulnerable,” the article says.
According to a study by NWEA, math and reading levels were lower than usual for third through eighth graders during fall 2021. The study noted that this was most notable for Black and Hispanic students living in less wealthy states. In addition, they found that most students ended the year with lower achievement than before the pandemic, especially related to math.
In a December 2021 Politico article, Michael Petrilli of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute said, “We haven’t seen this kind of academic achievement crisis in living memory.”
What is the impact of learning loss?
Learning loss is not only pervasive in America but its impact will be felt in our education system for years to come. Not only that, but the mounting pressures that teachers, parents, and students feel to play catch-up in a time of isolation and hybrid learning have other implications. According to McKinsey, 35% of parents are highly concerned about their children’s mental health.
The same analysis found that pandemic-related learning loss could worsen current students’ opportunities to attend college and find a job in the long run. In dollar amounts, McKinsey reports that “today’s students may earn $49,000 to $61,000 less over their life owing to the impact of the pandemic on their schooling.”
These past few years have been challenging for administrators, educators, parents, and students. Regardless of the future of learning environments, the impact of the existing learning loss on students, the economy, and America, in general, should not be taken lightly. Experts are already developing solutions, but the wide gap between different school systems within our country complicates its success. As more funding is being given to stopping learning loss, it’s up to education leaders to make the most of what they are given.