Reflections on “Learning Loss”

Nancy White

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Student To Learner

I’ve been reading a lot lately about concerns over “learning loss” among our school-aged children and teens due to school “closures” because of COVID. (Side note: when school buildings have been closed because of COVID, I assure you, teaching and learning have continued. Teachers have been working harder than ever before to meet the needs of each learner in their care –online and in-person.) As I write this column, we are finally beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel. The number of COVID cases are on a downward trend, vaccinations are ramping up, and teachers have been added to the list of “essential workers” and are being vaccinated now. Schools should soon be able to get back to “normal.” But is it too late? Will this generation of K-12 students be left behind?

The first thing that comes to mind is the fact that our children’s peers worldwide are all in the same boat. When there is talk of “falling behind” – I always want to ask, “behind who?” However, I suspect that in this case, “behind” is meant to be in the standards and curriculum that is supposed to be taught in a “normal” school year. Curriculum and standards that determine the content of standardized tests and college entrance exams. Results that we fear have the power to mark our children forever, and that during this pandemic, our kids are not learning what they need to know to do well on these tests.

Here is some good news for you: Grade point averages are a much better predictor of success at college than standardized tests. (Morrison, Nick. (29 Jan 2020) It’s GPA, Not Standardized Tests that Predict College). In fact, this 2020 study involving 55,000 students goes on to suggest that teachers are better judges of their students’ ability than standardized tests.

I infer one key idea from these facts. Kids’ relationships with their teacher(s) can and will help carry them through this time of crisis, because students’ relationship with their teachers is shown to be a vital element to their ability to learn.

This suggests there is one simple thing we can all do to prevent a loss of learning. We need to come together with the education community and surround each student with the love, support, and commitment needed to see them through this pandemic. Model the respect for and rapport with our educators who are so important to your children’s’ future success. Together, we can help these students persevere, and through perseverance, they will be one step closer in making the transformation from student to learner.

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