— How Schools Can Tackle Learning Loss
What is Learning Loss?
Learning loss is not a new phenomenon in schools. However, the COVID-19 pandemic produces new challenges, questions, and insights about the future of learning in traditional school environments. According to EdWeek, school closures affected 55.1 million students in both public and private schools. While these closures have an immediate impact on learning gains, the conversation of learning loss transcends immediate solutions. There is now a demand to reimagine these solutions within the context of a post-pandemic world.
The COVID Slide / Slowdown
Given the gap between summer vacation and the next academic year, learning slowdowns are somewhat normal. Knowledge gaps worth two weeks of learning are sometimes called “slides” while smaller gaps of two weeks are called “slowdowns.” However, these learning shifts worsen in pandemic conditions. Teachers and administrators now face the issue of COVID slides and COVID slowdowns, where face experience even more dramatic losses in their learning.
In the 2020 fall academic year, students were estimated to return with 70 percent of overall learning gains compared to pre-pandemic summer slowdown/slide conditions. Since mathematics often shows the largest summer slide learning losses, it has even steeper losses in pandemic conditions. Students were estimated to return with less than 50 percent of learning gains in mathematics than in normal summer slide conditions for the 2020 fall year. In terms of learning periods, this could mean a full year of learning loss for some grades.
Beyond academics, there are other learning losses that result from a lack of in-person sessions. Without the social interaction that comes with in-person classes, students miss out on social and emotional learning.
How Are Slides and Slowdowns Accurately Measured?
Learning loss is often measured through test scores. While test scores cannot account for the entirety of student performance, they still produce valuable insights on skill development to use in comparisons. The breadth and variety of student demographics and numbers also factor into these comparisons.
Generally, school systems use standard MAP Growth tests for skill assessments in reading and mathematics. The difference RIT (Rash unIT) scores between the current and previous years indicate the percentage of knowledge gains or loss.
What Students Are Most at Risk of Learning Loss?
Students in early grades with developing knowledge in basic subjects likely need the most intensive learning recovery. These formative years of school are critical to development in future grades and younger students rely on the reinforcement of early concepts for that development. Likewise, students with preexisting struggles in performance likely require more concentrated learning recovery.
Demographically, students of color are more at risk of learning loss due to a higher risk of attending schools in underserved communities. Critical learning gaps exist between schools with a student color population over 50 percent and those with a population of white students over 50 percent. Prior to the pandemic, a historical disparity between learning loss for white and students of color already exists. Since the pandemic, majority-black schools and majority Latino have seen at least a 9 percent increase in the number of students experiencing winter learning loss in reading. For mathematics, these schools have seen at least a 10 percent increase. Comparatively, 5 percent of white students have experienced winter learning loss in both reading and mathematics.
Students from lower-income zip codes also demonstrate a significant risk of learning loss due to COVID-19. Lower-income schools (less than $50,000) now see an 8 percent increase in the number of students who have experienced winter learning loss in reading and mathematics. Meanwhile, students from higher-income schools (More than $75,000) have seen 3 percent more students fall behind in reading and 4 percent in mathematics.
How Can Students Recover from COVID-19 Learning Loss?
While there are some developing strategies towards learning loss mitigation, teachers and administrators are still navigating these waters.
EdResearch Recovery has produced key insights as to some of these strategies which pose some important questions first. The “central question” raised discusses the process of prioritization for various academic areas that teachers and administrators should consider. Which content has the steepest learning losses, or, which content is most critical to development in future grades?
The study confirms strategies that have the greatest positive impact potential for students K-12:
- Supportive school environments
- High-dosage tutoring
- Extended learning time interventions
- Monitoring systems for student performance warning signs
These solutions are particularly outfitted for students struggling even before the pandemic. In contrast to these positive approaches, there are also identified strategies to avoid. Pre-pandemic learning recovery solutions such as Response to Intervention (RTI) show less potential for positive learning recovery. Other approaches such a compressed content and grade retention also show less effectiveness.
Learning Recovery Solutions Beyond Academic Strategies
Technology has a significant stake in the future of education, especially in a post-pandemic world. UNESCO recognizes mobile broadband as one of the technologies that drive sustainable development in education. Since it is the fastest growing technology in human history according to UTI, the telecoms industry spearheads the search for realistic technology solutions in academics.
Of those emerging solutions, Homework Helpline is one that pairs the convenience of mobile technology with the out-of-classroom learning provisions that students need.
Homework Helpline is an app and LIVE homework assistance service that connects students with their coursework and teachers outside of the classroom. School administrators can implement Homework Helpline to streamline communication and learning resources for students and teachers, as well as parents.
To learn more about it works, check out the full list of features. Or, get in touch to discuss whether it’s the right option for your school.