Pandemic Learning Loss

How do we address the pandemic learning loss?

Educators across the country are noticing that students have lost many of the skills they acquired before the pandemic. In some cases, our younger students never developed the skills we expected them to have. For example, lower elementary school teachers are encountering students who have accidents at school because they are not used to asking to go to the bathroom — they have been at home for the past two years, and it was never an issue. Some students are presenting with speech and language issues that have gone unnoticed during the challenges of the pandemic. Still, other students are not used to waiting their turn, raising their hand, or other simple behaviors that they learn at school. For our older students, we’re seeing crippling cases of anxiety. There has been a significant loss of learning for many students, yet they are expected to move forward as if they have acquired all necessary skills from the previous year. 

There have been several suggestions around this learning regression that give me pause. For example, some parents wanted students to repeat a grade, given that they lost so much learning during the pandemic. The rub is, we’re all in the same boat. ALL students were in the pandemic together. Instead, might it be preferable to assess where our children are and move forward from there? Teachers already recognize that we need to adjust how and what we’re teaching. Instead, it would be prudent for administrators to let teachers do their jobs and give them the freedom to work on the skills their students need to acquire. 

How do we address the learning loss?

The pandemic gives us an opportunity to reset and reflect on the lessons learned. Some students thrived during the pandemic and actually preferred remote learning. Others really missed the in-person interaction and socialization. These differences speak to the larger issue that one-size-fits-all teaching is not effective. Instead, we need to offer students the choice of how they learn and allow learning to be self-paced. We can also incorporate technology into learning in a way many did not pre-pandemic. Let’s invest in smaller classes and give our teachers the tools they need to help our students learn.

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