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5 Questions to Gauge Learning Loss and Aid Student Transition to In-Person and Hybrid Instruction in the Fall

Posted by 
Mitch Weathers
March 27, 2021

“Little is known about the effectiveness of learning at home for the entire student population and what this means for the development of skills. However, there are indications from multiple countries that many children had little effective instruction. For a significant proportion of pupils, learning during school closures was apparently almost non-existent. For example, early tracking data from an online mathematics application used in a number of US school districts prior to COVID-19 suggest that the learning progress of students has suffered a strong decline during the crisis, especially in schools in low-income areas.” OECD

Assessing Learning Loss

Although it is difficult to accurately assess learning losses due to the pandemic we all know it exists. I was told today of a school that serves over 3000 students. Although efforts have been substantial, the school has been unable to make contact with over ⅓ of their students. The principal is hopeful that when they return to in-person learning in the fall that many of these students will come back to school and when they do the school must address the COVID Gap.

Planning To Address Learning Loss

Studies are indicating that the communities that have been most impacted are those that have historically struggled the widest achievement gaps. The recent conversations I have had with school and thought leaders in education, leave us all holding our collective breath. Meaning, we know we must address learning loss but we won’t know the severity of that loss until we reopen schools in the fall of 2021. Even though we cannot accurately gauge loss at this moment, the time is now for schools to put plans in place to specifically address it.

Plan Now Assess Later

Just because we cannot accurately assess learning loss at this moment, that does not mean that we should not begin to establish plans to address it in the fall. It is helpful to infer about the depth of learning loss by considering questions like the following:

  1. Was virtual instruction successful at your school? Was there no major disruptions in the continuity of student learning?
  2. What percentage of students logged on in distance learning?
  3. Of those students who logged in what percentage were actively engaged?
  4. What percentage of assignments were submitted to teachers during distance learning?
  5. Do you anticipate needing major scaffolding to redefine the fluidity of daily successes of learning?

The OECD report above goes on to point out that “…the current cohort of students will be less prepared for further schooling and ultimately for the labour force than they would have been without the pandemic.” The time is now to consider these questions. Although they may not define the severity of the learning loss students are experiencing, they will serve to highlight the fact that it exists and energize schools to focus their efforts on getting a plan in place.

I would love to hear from you! Specifically, what other questions should schools be considering as they attempt to assess learning loss and create a plan to address it. Please add your thoughts in the comments below.

Thanks and be well,


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