Can Children Recover from Pandemic Learning Loss?


To say that the COVID-19 pandemic was devastating academically for our children and students would be a vast understatement. School closures, remote instruction, multiple quarantines and a return to an educational environment that was foreign to the one they left (barriers, masks, arm-distance walking, etc.) caused educational damage that we are still tallying.

Educators and parents scrambled to provide a sense of normalcy for their children and students. However, even the best educators could not furnish the quality and rigor of instruction they offered in-person pre-pandemic. Many children struggled with online learning, as did many educators, making the immediate shift from the physical classroom to the virtual one. Our students were suddenly living in a frightening new world which led to some having to handle anxiety, depression and/or feelings of isolation. Some children and parents were mourning the loss of loved ones, and some were separated from loved ones. Certainly this is not the best conditions for learning. The rapid changes and upheavals during the COVID-19 pandemic were disastrous for our youth emotionally, psychologically and academically.

The pandemic caused students to lose critical time in the classroom, robbing them of many learning opportunities. Two years later, the results of those losses are in, and the news is worrying. 

What are the findings? 

The National Assessment of Educational Progress conducted a study and found that 9-year-old students scored five points lower in reading and seven points lower in math on average in 2022, than their 9-year-old 2020 counterparts. These scores are “the largest drops in decades.” The commissioner of the NCES, Peggy G. Carr said that the results were “sobering,” and “It’s clear that COVID-19 shocked American education and stunted the academic growth of this age group of children.” 

Another nationwide study conducted by The University of Oregon revealed that early elementary students Grades K-2, the most pivotal years for literacy, had the most substantial losses in reading.

The two groups affected the most by academic losses are the early grades who were learning to read and teenagers, especially in math. According to a Washington Post-Ipsos poll, about half of teens ages 14 to 18 reported that the pandemic had a negative impact on their academics. All of this does not even consider students that were marginal pre-pandemic. 

So what can we do? 

Independent research by McKinsey and Company shows that it is better to keep students in their current grades with their peers and attempt to fill in skill gaps through reinforcement and accelerated learning. Researchers suggest additional learning hours such as one-to-one tutoring, weekend schools, and summer programs. It will take effort, but our children can close their skill gaps. Every child deserves the opportunity to succeed. 


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