We have learned 6 things about how the epidemic has disrupted education

Thomas Kane of Harvard University’s Center for Education Policy Research says that even the students who spent the shortest time learning distance from the 2020-21 school year – just a month or less – missed the equivalent of seven to 10 weeks of math learning. .

Much of that missed learning, Ken says, was probably a hangover from the spring of 2020, when almost all schools were remote and remote instructions were in the worst condition.

Kane is part of a team of researchers from Harvard, the American Institute for Research, Dartmouth College and school-testing nonprofit NWEA, who are ready to measure how much students have missed learning during the epidemic.

And notice that we are saying “missed”, not “lost”, because the problem is that when schools move to remote areas, children do not learn as much as they could personally.

We try not to say ‘learning loss’, because if they don’t learn it, they don’t lose it, “explained Ebony Lee, an assistant superintendent at Clayton County, Ga.

Not everyone agrees. Some parents who have seen their children struggle while trying to learn from a distance believe that the “learning loss” is justified – because it captures the urgency they now feel to make up for lost things.

Sheila Walker, a parent in Northern California, said, “It would mean a lot to parents if someone admitted it. ‘You know, we’ve had learning disabilities,'” “Like our board, they don’t use these words. The damage has been done, so how do we fix it? “

Kane and his co-researchers compared the growth they achieved between the fall of 2019 to the fall of 2021, the fall of 2019 to the fall of 2019, and the growth of the epidemic to more than 2 million primary- and middle-school test scores. Studied.

Although the researchers focused on math, the instructional time that students missed while reading was “comparable,” Ken said.

A quick warning: Clearly, test scores can only tell us so much about what students have actually learned in a given year (for example, it is difficult to measure socio-emotional skills). But they are a start.

2. High poverty school students were the most affected

High-poverty school students felt academic double-hammered: their schools were more likely to be remote and, when they were, students missed learning more.

Let’s break that down.

First, high-poverty schools spent about 5.5 weeks on distance learning in the 2020-21 school year compared to lower- and middle-poverty schools, the report said. Researchers have found “higher incidence of distance schooling for black and Hispanic students”.

And second, in high-poverty schools for most of the 2020-21 school year, students have personally missed the equivalent of 22 weeks of math learning.

This is more than half of a traditional school year (about 36-40 weeks).

In contrast, students at similarly remote, low-poverty schools have missed out on a fairly low education: about 13 weeks, Ken says, and he warns that it could take years to close these gaps.

This new information backs up what many teachers and school leaders are saying

“It’s very worrying,” said Sharon Contraras, superintendent of North Carolina’s third-largest district in Guilford County. “Because we know that all the students who were most at risk saw the greatest amount of learning loss and they were already lagging behind.”

Why do high poverty school students miss learning more in the distant future? A recent U.S. Office of Accountability Office survey of more than 2,800 teachers offers some explanations.

Teachers in remote, high-poverty schools were more likely to report that their students lacked workplaces and the Internet at home and were less likely to have an adult to help. Many older students became isolated because the epidemic forced them to become caretakers or get jobs.

To make matters worse, as NPR reported, high-poverty students were also more likely to have food insecurity, homelessness, and the loss of a loved one in COVID-19.

“These gaps are not new,” said Becky Pringle, head of the National Education Association (NEA), the country’s largest teachers’ union. “We know that there are racial and social and economic injustices that exist in every system … just as the epidemic has done to everything: it has made it worse.”

3. Different states have seen different gaps

Kane and his co-researchers found that learning gaps were most pronounced in states with high rates of remote instruction as a whole.

For example, states where students spend the most time learning remotely, including California, Illinois, Kentucky and Virginia, “high-poverty schools spent an additional nine weeks (more than two months) on distance learning than low-poverty schools,” the report said. .

On the other hand, Texas, Florida and a quarter of states with a host of rural states where the overall use of remote instruction was lowest in the quarter, the report said, high-poverty schools were still more likely to be remote ”but the differences were small: 3 weeks remote vs. low Poverty is 1 week away from school. “

“As long as the schools were private throughout 2020-21, the gap in math achievement between high-, middle- and low-poverty schools has not widened,” the report said.

Kane says he hopes that, instead of reconsidering districts ’preferences for staying away, politicians and academics can use this data as a call to action.

“It’s no surprise that student achievement is declining,” Ken said. “Rather, we should think of it as a bill for a public health system that was taken from us. And now our obligation, whether we agree with those decisions or not, is to pay that bill. We cannot make our children harsh.”

4. The graduation rate in high school has not changed much

Another study, from Brookings, looked at what impact all of this epidemic-driven unrest had on high school graduation and college enrollment rates.

As it turns out, for the 2019-20 school year, when graduation ceremonies were canceled and students finished the year at home, the high school graduation rate was actually Increase A little

“The message was clearly ‘just shown,'” said Douglas Harris, lead researcher and director of the National Center for Research on Education Access and Choice at the University of Tulane.

“So it has become quite easy,” Harris says. “Anyone who is on the margins of graduation at that time is going to graduate because the states have officially relaxed their standards.”

For the 2020-21 school year, Harris said, states and school districts have largely returned to pre-epidemic standards and, as a result, high school graduation rates have declined somewhat.

5. Many high school graders have chosen to delay college

While the epidemic seemed to have little effect on students’ ability to finish high school, it did seem to have the opposite effect on their will. The beginning College

Harris said recent four-year colleges have seen a 6% drop in enrollment for high school grades and a worrying 16% drop in two-year colleges. Why?

Harris has a theory: “I think it was a nonstart for anyone, regardless of age, to start something new, to try to build new relationships in the epidemic.”

6. Schools can do something about it

School leaders are now rushing to create programs that they hope will help students fill some of this missed learning. A popular method: “high dose” tutoring.

“For us, high doses mean at least 30 minutes two to three times per week, and … no more than three students in a group,” said Penny Shoin, Tennessee’s state education commissioner.

Shuin led the creation of TN ALL Corps, a broad, statewide network of tutors who, Shoin hopes, could reach 150,000 primary- and middle-schools in three years. High school students with a busy schedule can access online tutoring at any time as needed.

In Guilford County, Contraras says the benefits of their tutoring program go beyond the recovery of learning. Their new tutoring corps attracts a lot of attention from graduate assistants at North Carolina State University of Agriculture and Technology, a regional HBCU.

We want to continue to increase the number of black and brown teachers in the district, “Contraras said.

Multiple superintendents, including Contraras, stressed that the purpose of this tutoring effort was to look back, not on old material, but to support students as they move forward through new ideas.

“We don’t want to remedy,” Contreras insisted. “We want to speed up learning.”

Kane said adding makeup for missed learning should also be considered by adding more days to the district school calendar.

“Schools already have teachers. They already have buildings. They already have bus routes,” Ken explains. Extending the school year can be logically easier than hiring and scheduling hundreds of new tutors.

But that doesn’t mean extending the school year is easy.

In Los Angeles, where students spend most of the 2020-21 school year learning from a distance, Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said he would like to extend the next school year by 10 extra days to help address the “unprecedented, historic learning loss.” “But, he said.”[that idea] There was a lot of opposition from parents and teachers.

So Carvalho had to set four additional student learning days the following year.

Kane admits that adding time to the school year is asking many teachers and some families and that teachers will probably need to pay more than the usual weekly rate.

“Everyone is eager to get back to normal. And I can appreciate that,” says Ken, “but normal isn’t enough.”

If there is a silver lining for districts rushing to create new learning opportunities, it is that many school leaders – and politicians – realize that they feel better in the long run as well.

In Los Angeles, Carvalho says many students in high-poverty schools were “in crisis before COVID-19,” academically speaking. And he hopes these new efforts, forced by the epidemic, “can actually wrap up their learning experience.”

All of Tennessee’s corps is “now more permanently funded,” Shoin said.