Over a year into the pandemic, everyone is feeling the impact of COVID-19 in different ways: some have lost loved ones, some have struggled with feelings of fear and isolation, and everyone has had to adapt to fast-moving changes in how the world operates one day to the next. We understand that we’ll continue to experience the consequences of the disruption it has caused in our lives long after vaccinations have been received and children have returned to school.
Disruptions to schooling and impacts on learning from this pandemic experience have many families asking what the long-term consequences will be for their children’s development, academic achievement, and future – and what steps they can take to mitigate those adverse effects. The good news is, researchers have been studying these effects, and offer ways to help students get back on track as quickly and seamlessly as possible.
How has COVID-19 Affected Student Learning?
As a parent, you’ve probably witnessed changes in your child’s behavior, ability to focus, and/or academic performance since the beginning of the pandemic. During the pandemic, parents have struggled to manage their own mental and emotional wellbeing, along with the strain of working from home or continuing to work outside the home in an increasingly turbulent and stressful environment. These factors have caused increased levels of anxiety and stress on family members of all ages.
According to the article “Understanding Learning Loss in COVID-19 and Early Childhood Development,” by Lela Chakhaia, Senior Specialist for Learning Research at Save the Children USA, et. al., children under age nine are particularly vulnerable to the effects of crises due to being at a critical point in their childhood development both physically and mentally. In addition, children under nine are highly dependent on their caregivers both for their physical needs as well as emotional security.
While younger students may be the most vulnerable, student achievement at all levels has suffered in the past year. Even SAT and ACT scores are lower than in previous years. An article in the Wall Street Journal points to math as the subject that has seen the greatest losses, and there has also been a decline in overall scores for reading and writing. Analysis of the study conducted by Renaissance Learning on the academic effects of the pandemic cautioned that we may not even be seeing the full effects in test scores, as it’s possible that children may have received help from their parents while completing tests at home.
What we’ve seen firsthand at our learning center is that students that had difficulties with learning before the pandemic have generally experienced an even greater decline in skills than their same-grade peers. You’ve probably noticed that this academic impact affects students’ beyond schoolwork alone, causing them to suffer emotionally and socially, too. Feeling less supported academically and in many cases even more overwhelmed and disconnected with virtual or hybrid learning, students with learning differences have faced depression, increased anxiety, and a loss of motivation.
How Effective Was Remote Learning During the Pandemic?
Parents, educators, and researchers alike are striving toward understanding learning loss to achieve a common goal: make transitioning back to school after COVID-19 as smooth and painless as possible for families, teachers, administrators, and especially students. As the school year wraps up and we consider how to prepare students for a return to (hopefully!) normal classroom learning in the fall, the question on everyone’s minds is: How effective was remote learning during the pandemic?
A study by the Economic Policy Institute found that distance learning is “effective only if students have consistent access to the internet and computers and if teachers have received targeted training and support for online instruction.” Even when students had access to the technology, the abrupt transition to a new modality meant that many teachers – through no fault of their own – were unprepared and unequipped to provide adequate support to students who were struggling.
Educators at every level were under immense pressure to master new technology at hyperspeed while simultaneously adapting lessons to the new medium, supporting students academically and emotionally, and stay on top of their administrative responsibilities – on top of coping with the personal stressors brought on by the pandemic that we all experienced in our own ways.
What we’ve seen in our students here at LJLW, is that no matter where students attended school – public or private – there was a reduced rate of skill development throughout the school year with virtual or hybrid learning. As students returned more regularly to classrooms in April, we saw an increase in student engagement and motivation, which highlighted the importance of classroom learning. However, even with more face time with teachers and peers this spring, there was not enough time to make up for over a year of learning loss.
Understanding Learning Loss Due To School Closures During COVID-19
In a poll conducted by McKinsey & Company, teachers in eight countries were asked to rate the effectiveness of distance learning from March 2020 (when lockdowns first began) to July 2020. The response was overwhelmingly negative, with an average score of 5 out of 10, and 60% of teachers in Japan and the United States giving scores from 1 to 3 out of 10. The poll also supported broader findings that younger students and students living at or below the poverty line were impacted the most.
While the amount of learning loss appears directly connected to the length of school closure, the report added, “Many students are also dealing with added trauma, including economic dislocation, hunger, and mental health challenges—all of which clearly affect learning, regardless of how it takes place.” Even when students return to school, many will require additional support to get caught up.
While we recognize the negative impact of COVID-19 on education, our experienced, professional educators here at LJLW turned the negatives into positives for their students. In the words of Sarah Gallagher, who graduated with a B.A.Ed in Language, Literacy, and Cultural Studies for Elementary, “The conditions that many of my students experienced during the pandemic have allowed us to develop stronger communication around social-emotional learning. It’s almost ironic that these stronger connections happened over Zoom.”
Similarly, Bree MacDonald, who holds an M.A. with an emphasis on the Teaching of Writing, found that “One change I’ve seen in students since the beginning of COVID-19 is that rapport and connections with their tutor have taken on a new significance. Students struggled with feeling alienated and alone, and the trusted adults in their life took on even more importance than before. I connected with students on a deeper level as we navigated distance learning together.”
LJLW’s success of connecting with students and delivering a quality education experience online through Zoom tutoring has surpassed our expectations. A large part of this success is LJLW’s live one-on-one program which features custom-tailored, personalized learning plans created to suit your child’s specific needs and its selection process designed to ideally match one of LJLW’s highly trained and experienced educators with your child.
Helpful Ways of Getting Students Back on Track for Success
Studies and polls have painted a grim picture of the reality of learning loss due to COVID-19, but the situation is far from hopeless. According to the aforementioned article “Understanding Learning Loss in COVID-19 and Early Childhood Development”, engaging in stimulating learning activities at home has been shown to lessen the effects of learning loss. Activities like reading, playing educational games, and writing or telling stories help children practice skills and retain information.
One of the most significant impacts of COVID-19 has been social isolation. Without daily recess, lunch, and time between classes, children have missed out on regular interaction with their peers. Social interaction is important for your child’s physical and mental health, so part of preparing them to return to school is providing safe ways for them to connect with each other. Talk to your child about participating in virtual study groups, online clubs, and socially-distanced outings to open areas such as hiking trails, parks, or beaches.
Just as learning loss is a gradual process, so is getting caught up. Professional academic support can make that process much smoother. Just like teachers develop a curriculum for the school year with certain goals in mind, professional tutors and learning coaches can help you and your child set reasonable goals and create a personalized learning plan to help your child catch up and continue to succeed. One-on-one interaction means your child will get the attention they need while eliminating the stress of competing with or comparing themselves to others, and regular sessions create a sense of stability and predictability that is conducive to learning.
The struggles of the past year have reminded teachers and students of the importance of education as a daily part of our lives. LJLW’s core value of love of learning has enabled us to help our students meet the challenges and overcome the obstacles created by COVID-19. Our many programs to choose from can minimize the impact of COVID-19 on your child’s education and get your child back on track.
Why LJLW’s Online Tutoring Could Be The Right Fit For Your Child
La Jolla LearningWorks offers highly personalized one-on-one tutoring and educational therapy to help your child get back on track and achieve their academic goals. We believe that every student has the ability to access their inherent potential with the right approach, which is why we begin by assessing your child’s needs, challenges, strengths, and areas for improvement. Our education specialists then create a personalized learning plan to suit your child’s needs. Through regular communication and progress reports, our experienced educators work with families to develop learning objectives and support students throughout their academic journeys and beyond.
The past year has brought particular challenges with consistency and structure in education, which we can help your family overcome. Our support areas include reading and writing, mathematics, science, and social studies, as well as executive functioning/study skills and test prep. We also have experience supporting students with learning challenges and English Language Learners. Our online program provides multisensory instruction to keep kids engaged and excited about learning. Because every learner is different, every session will be different too. Sessions are tailored to your child’s age, learning style, needs, and goals.
Here at LJLW, our innovative educators are skilled at developing creative ways to incorporate multisensory material to appeal to different learning styles. Our virtual classrooms are infused with visually stimulating material to keep students interested and engaged.
As Bree MacDonald also observed, over the past year “students had to learn how to walk themselves through lessons and learn independently”. We recognize the value of students learning metacognitive skills on their own and look for opportunities for students to exercise independence and develop their learning skills. Learning these skills will further enhance your child’s ability to get back on track.
COVID-19 has had a devastating effect on education, with younger students, students in low-income families, and English Language Learners being impacted the most. Test scores have fallen across the board, particularly in math. Even with schools reopening, students are still carrying the added weight of trauma, loss, change, and uncertainty.
Fortunately, there is light at the end of the tunnel. The effects of learning loss can be reduced by engaging in fun learning activities at home and participating in safe social interaction. In addition, professional academic support can help your child rebuild their skills and confidence while providing much-needed stability. Connect with us to learn more about how La Jolla LearningWorks can help your child catch up and continue to excel.