As one of the most unconventional school years in recent history winds down, teachers, students, and parents are breathing a collective sigh of relief. The obstacles presented in education this year were formidable. School districts scrambled and mobilized to keep kids learning by any means necessary, but will it be enough to prevent the “COVID slide” that so many are predicting for 2021?
How Bad Is It Really?
The good news is that recent testing and surveys have shown that the loss of learning was not as significant as originally anticipated. Star Assessments given to students grades 1-8 all over the country have revealed students’ progress and the areas where they’re lacking.
The student growth percentile (SGP) median score, which is typically around 50%, dropped to 45% in reading and 35% in math. Illustrating what many in education have already discovered, reading skills were not as significantly impacted as math skills during the pandemic.
It also appears that children in lower grades were able to stay on track a bit better than students in higher grades. According to eSchool News, the loss of learning may require teachers and students to play “catch up” next year.
“Translated into terms of instructional time, students in grades 4–7 will need on average 4–7 weeks to catch up in reading, while grades 1–3 and 8 were already on track,” eSchool News reports. “Students in grades 5 and 6 were more than 12 weeks behind beginning-of-year expectations in math, and students in grades 2, 3, 4, 7, and 8 would need 4–11 weeks to meet the expectations for the beginning of a typical school year.”
Is Your Child Behind?
The truth of the matter is you may not be able to determine if your child has lost out on learning this year. Standardized assessments may only reveal part of the story. The social and emotional effects of the pandemic have interfered with many students’ learning process.
“Teachers are certainly in the strongest position to identify this,” Deborah Bradley-Kramer, Head of School MUSE Academy in Brooklyn tells Parentology. “But this is a unique year and the goal of teachers is not necessarily to define who is behind based on a highly unusual past year experience, but to support the children in creative and engaging ways as they enhance their current learning experiences, and bring them back into the nurturing school community.”
Even if your child may be a bit behind academically, meeting them where they are and trying to get them re-engaged in learning activities is most likely the best option. To that end, there are many resources available for parents and students to help them continue to build on what they’ve learned.
“One of the unexpected benefits of this Zoom-centric era has been the emergence and the refinement of myriad online (and on-site) learning platforms,” Bradley-Kramer notes. However, she offers a warning. “Anyone can put out a virtual shingle and offer instruction, but look for teacher credentials, stated class objectives, and expected outcomes before signing up. There are many wonderful tutors as well, and most schools can point parents in the right direction if they are seeking this type of support.”
She suggests checking parent reviews of the classes or tutors as well.
COVID Slide 2021 — Most Impacted
The students who will be the most impacted by the “COVID slide” in 2021 are underserved students. Students of color, lower-income families, and students living in rural areas are more likely to be impacted by this loss of learning.
There is also a group of students, mostly from lower-income families, that have just stopped attending school. Unfortunately, the standardized test scores don’t reflect this group of students that many teachers and social workers are trying to get back into the system.
The long-term impact for both the students who have simply missed a year of instruction, and educators who will be tasked with re-integrating them, remains to be seen. Indeed, the impact will likely be felt by teachers, students, and parents in the years to come.