Submitted by Ashley Radder-Renter on Wed, 09/08/2021 - 15:00
<span id="hs_cos_wrapper_name" class="hs_cos_wrapper hs_cos_wrapper_meta_field hs_cos_wrapper_type_text" style="" data-hs-cos-general-type="meta_field" data-hs-cos-type="text" >A Glance At COVID -19’s Impact On Student Learning</span>

A Glance At COVID -19’s Impact On Student Learning

After a full year of disrupted classroom learning, as we continue to experience challenges, we know now that it’s time to take stock of the pandemic's impact on student academic achievement. The 2020-2021 school year seemed to end on a high note for approximately 98% of students and educators because they were fortunate enough to return to in-person instruction. However, we can not negate that the effects of this ongoing pandemic have been devastating to the American school system on many levels. As you might imagine, last year was perhaps the most challenging year on record in the United States for students and educators. According to recent research and analysis from McKinsey and Company, the impact of the pandemic on learning for K–12 students has been significant. The ripple effects of the pandemic have left students, on average, five months behind in mathematics and four months behind in reading, as seen in the following graph. Today’s blog will only scrape the surface of some of the impacts that COVID-19 has left on student learning.   



Students everywhere face unique learning challenges and roadblocks that have left their mark on learning in the classroom and have contributed to significant unfinished and lost learning. These challenges include accessibility, changed routines, schedule changes, reassignment of teachers, connectivity and internet issues, platform glitches, and technology fatigue. These roadblocks have stifled student achievement and created very significant issues for educators everywhere.

What is the impact of the pandemic on education?

The impact of the pandemic on education has intensified preexisting opportunity and achievement gaps and has affected disadvantaged students the hardest. We have learned that high schoolers are now more likely to drop out of school and that our high school seniors, especially those from low-income families, are now more likely to forgo postsecondary education. In addition, significant concerns have been raised, and nearly 35% of parents in the nation are incredibly concerned about their child’s mental health. All of the ripple effects that are taking place due to the pandemic could compromise our next generation of learners’ opportunity to find a fulfilling job that will allow them to support themselves and support a family later on into adulthood.  

Due to school shutdowns and remote learning difficulties, many students suffered from learning loss because they missed much of what they would have learned during a “normal school year.”  After months of no school, many students may have slipped backward or have lost knowledge and skills without the means to make connections and practice what they learned. Therefore, the students who did move on to the next grade this year are unprepared and are missing key building blocks of critical knowledge. In addition, the students who are repeating last year’s grade level are now at an elevated risk of dropping out or forgoing higher education.  A recent news article shared that school districts conducted a survey in the San Antonio area and found that “more than 7,500 students are currently unaccounted for - and that's with more than half of the districts not having final numbers to share”. One possible explanation for this is the mental and social fallout sparked by the pandemic. Parents are afraid to send their children to school, and students essentially are afraid to return to the classroom. It’s not just academic knowledge that students are missing out on, they are also at risk of finishing school without the skills, behaviors, and mindset for college or the workforce. Additional research by McKinsey and Company projects that “unless steps are taken to address unfinished learning, today’s students may earn $49,000 to $61,000 less over their life owing to the impact of the pandemic on their schooling”. 

What can you do about it now?

Federal funds such as; the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act); the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (CRRSAA); the American Rescue Plan (ARP), and the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER) are available to help states and districts respond, however, this is only a tiny part of the solution. The mountain of challenges in our school systems is not new, and many were present before the pandemic started. The pandemic merely heightened the situation and intensified it on a whole new level. States and districts have a critical role in using Federal funds as seed money to usher in sustainable programs that will mitigate many of the circumstances contributing to continued learning loss and integrate programs and solutions that will improve student outcomes. Rigorous implementation of evidence-based initiatives is a need, and new approaches to equity in education are essential to overcoming the devastation occurring in schools across America. Not only do districts need to recover incomplete or lost learning, but they also need to fix gaps in the system that prevent students from achieving their highest potential. These gaps can be mitigated by establishing new priorities that take a look at critical actions, including listening to all stakeholders and designing new programs that meet academic needs and social, emotional, and mental health concerns by developing holistic approaches. 

Call to Action:

Your District and educators now have the best opportunity to help students recover from learning loss by creating new, innovative, and sustainable programs. Taking it a step further, they have an optimal opportunity to address and correct long-standing historical inequities in education. 

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