Learning loss is a growing obstacle as students return to school in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic

Study shows major learning loss for grades K-2


Learning loss is a growing obstacle as students return to school in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic

Main takeaways include:

  • Technology gaps matter: Disparities in digital access impact how engaged students are during remote learning. Students who participated in frequent virtual interactions with teachers will likely have smaller losses than students who did not. School leaders must use their understanding of students’ access to technology when planning instruction this fall.
  • Schools can expect significant losses in reading and math achievement. Research suggests that students are likely to return to school in fall 2020 with less developed reading and math skills than typical at each grade level in prior years.
  • Reading learning loss is greatest among grades K-2: Learning loss in reading is seen across all grades, at a projected rate of up to two months, but is most pronounced in kindergarten. Oral reading fluency loss is most pronounced in grade 5.
  • Math learning loss is present across grades K-5: There are higher rates of learning loss across mathematics in K-5 grades, at a projected rate of up to four months of learning loss. Educators will need to provide extra opportunities for students to practice math and receive additional support when needed.

The report compares prior research about typical learning loss over summer break (“summer slide”) to current analyses to understand the potential impact of the COVID-19 crisis disruption. In addition to academic losses, there are likely to be significant social and emotional effects as a result of COVID-19.

To support students and make up expected COVID-19 learning loss, researchers recommend schools:

  • Conduct fall screening to identify the largest learning gaps and address these through intensified Tier 1 instruction.
  • Focus on strong core instruction within school-wide social-emotional behavior (SEB) supports so that students are mentally and emotionally ready to resume learning.
  • Look to benchmarks as the goal for all students to return to but understand that Rate of Improvement (ROI) is the key metric to focus on when conducting progress monitoring this school year.
  • Front load intervention and progress monitoring as quickly and efficiently as possible for students well below norms rather than requesting a special education evaluation as you might in typical school years.
  • Spend more time focused on reading and math in K-3 classrooms.

Material from a press release was used in this report.

Laura Ascione

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