Students across the country have missed months of school due to COVID-19 and are entering another year that’s shaping up to be anything but normal. While the full impact has yet to be determined, the fear is that the COVID learning loss experienced during the pandemic could widen achievement gaps for those students furthest from opportunity.
While the education system strives to provide all children with fair, equitable access to high-quality education, the sudden switch to distance learning during the pandemic has turned the spotlight on persistent inequities among students.
Some schools had ongoing interaction with families from day one. Other schools had little or none at all. Some families had internet access, computers, and the ability to work from home while supporting their child’s online learning. Others did not. Some schools provided packets for distance learning. But any type of learning – virtual or with a packet of materials – left to untrained (but well-meaning) parents is less effective in supporting students who are already behind and need targeted support.
The Collaborative for Student Success estimates in its report “The COVID-19 Slide” that U.S. students will return to school in the fall of 2020 with only 70 percent of the learning gains in reading relative to a typical school year. Additionally, in mathematics, students are likely to show even smaller learning gains, returning with less than 50 percent, and in some grades, nearly a full year behind what we would observe under normal conditions. While we will not know the full implications of COVID learning loss until after the crisis ends, these early projections are alarming.