Picture it: Your child’s first day back at school after summer break. They come home writing their S’s backwards and can’t tell you what 2+2 is…this regression is actually very common among students of all ages and is called Learning Loss.
Learning loss is defined as “a general or specific loss of knowledge or skills due to an extended gap or discontinuity in a student’s regular education program (House Bill 1163).”
Learning loss has been commonly seen over summer breaks, but in recent years it has been more of a problem due to COVID-19. With the initial outbreak of the virus, students were out of school from March 2020 to May 2020, then schools were closed over summer break. In August of 2021 and into the 2022 school year, many students were either hybrid (going to school only 2 days a week) or getting their education remotely (online). The COVID-19 stay-cation is a prime example of a loss of skills due to a gap in a student’s regular education.
“Educators publicly debate whether to call the past year and a half a learning loss or a learning disruption. Regardless of terminology, one thing is clear: The impact on kids’ futures is a big unknown, and academic setbacks continue to unfold.” (PBS)
COVID-19 Wasn't Louisiana's Only Culprit
As an educator, I have seen students fall behind in reading, math, and social skills because of COVID-19 related learning loss. Educators have been forced to backtrack and reteach reading, language, and math skills to play “catch up” in an attempt to get children to their appropriate grade level.
Louisiana’s Department of Education (LDOE) issued this statement regarding the 2020-2021 school year: “This school year has been especially trying for Louisiana students, families, and educators. In addition to the pandemic, Louisiana was at the center of a historically active hurricane season — which included landfall of the most powerful wind force on record for Louisiana.”
LDOE also published these startling statistics:
Only 64% of in person students, 14% of hybrid students, and 22% of fully-virtual students showed complete signs of learning during the pandemic school year.
The student to device ratio for that year was recorded as being 8:1, with 27% of students not having internet connectivity at home and a total of 38,992 students receiving connectivity assistance from systems.
Nearly 39,000 students needed assistance acquiring internet in their home in order to receive their education.
Children of Poverty and People of Color are at a Higher Risk
Let’s just think about the detrimental “what if” situation:
What if this funding was not approved and these low income students could not get the essentials needed for remote learning?
Their achievement gap, or learning loss, would be greater than those other students who had the materials they needed. According to PBS.org, “A report from McKinsey & Company estimates students, on average, were five months behind in math and four months behind in reading by the end of the 2020-21 school year. For Black students and low-income students, the effect was greater. Black Students lost an average of six months of math and reading, according to the report.” Our poverty-ridden and minority students are always at a greater disadvantage and risk of falling behind.
So How Can We Prevent Learning Loss Among our Students?
1. Focus on phonics.
Phonics is the relationship between letter sounds and the actual spoken language. For example, the sound /a/ is spelled with the letter ‘a’. The best way to teach phonics is by introducing letters and their corresponding sounds by using flashcards or reading. Exposing children to literature and reading with them to show correct sounds is a great way to close that gap! Reading to your child for at least 20 minutes each night is highly recommended and the best way to expose your children to phonics.
2. Personalize learning.
Learning becomes much more intriguing and easier to comprehend if your child can make a personal connection to it. For example, relate learning and examples to their culture, the current weather, language, land, home lives, etc. Choosing books and worksheets where your child is represented will make them much more eager to learn!
3. Keep up your child’s mental health.
The mental health movement has been stigmatized across the nation for decade, especially among our children. Sometimes we are quick to assume that our children are always "going to be okay." However, that is not always the case. Much like adults, children can become stressed, overstimulated, worried, etc. Check in with your child, have discussions, allow them to take breaks and have “self-care” days. Bond with your child over the things they enjoy such as going to the park, painting, eating lunch together, or just snuggling on the couch while watching a movie. Allow your child to mentally rest. When a child is mentally fit, they are able to focus more on their learning.
4. Tutoring and One-on-One Instruction.
As a caretaker, it is important to know when it is time to get extra help for your child or when your child needs to ask for help. Sometimes, your student just needs to ask the teacher for some extra one-on-one instruction. If this is not effective, your student may benefit from a tutor for individual skill-building and additional homework help. Many high school students and local community programs offer tutoring services and it never hurts to ask around! Don’t let your child continuously struggle, especially if they are behind due to learning loss.
5. Parent and Teacher Communication.
Keep up communication with your child’s teacher so that you can have an accurate understanding of where your child’s learning is at. Close monitoring is important to have a positive relationship with your student and their teacher. Letting them know your child's education is your top priority will not only boost your child's confidence, but also signal to their teacher that you are here to support your student.
Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee. (n.d.). 2022 Regular Session - Amendment 713221/01 to House Bill 1163. Retrieved December 7, 2022, from https://www.mgaleg.maryland.gov/2022RS/amds/bil_0003/HB1163_71322101.pdf
Chavez, R. (2021, November 15). Louisiana Public Schools Grapple with Learning Lost to Pandemic, Surges, and Storms. PBS. Retrieved December 7, 2022, from https://www.pbs.org/newshour/nation/90-percent-of-kindergarteners-in-louisiana-arent-ready-for-school-thanks-to-pandemic-disruptions
Louisiana Department of Education Launches Academic Recovery and acceleration "Comeback" campaign. Louisiana Believes - Louisiana Department of Education. (n.d.). Retrieved December 7, 2022, from https://www.louisianabelieves.com/newsroom/news-releases/2021/08/11/louisiana-department-of-education-launches-academic-recovery-and-acceleration-comeback-campaign