As we near the end of 2022, the pandemic may seem like it’s in our rearview mirror. We can all relax a little bit and focus on getting back to normal, right? But the path to recovery is as of yet uncharted–this is the first pandemic that most of us have lived through, so maybe it’s forgivable that we are all learning as we go.
Sometimes when big life events threaten to disrupt the status quo, adults can shield children from the negative effects. But Covid affected all school-aged children–adults weren’t the only ones that had their schedules and lives upended by the pandemic. Youth of all ages experienced school closures, modified home learning and long quarantines, lost instruction time, and teacher shortages.
All things that contributed to what some are calling covid academic failure led to a massive drop in learning outcomes and school performance. You may be seeing your child continue to struggle with some of the effects of Covid upheaval, but also with mental health challenges. But the good news is that educators are on it, and there is definitely a path to recovery.
The Impact Of Covid On Academics
The impact of covid on education is serious. U.S. Secretary of Education, Miguel Cardona, says recent test scores “serve as a call to action.” Recent national test scores indicate that learning loss due to covid continues to negatively impact students. We are just now beginning to understand the widespread effects of Covid on learning.
To help, researchers at the Center for Education Policy Research at Harvard University (CEPR), in collaboration with Stanford, released an interactive district-level map, called The Education Recovery Scorecard, to compare district-level learning loss during the pandemic. CEPR faculty director, Thomas J. Kane, likened the pandemic to a band of destructive tornadoes that swept across the nation, saying, “The Education Recovery Scorecards is the first high-resolution map of the tornados’ path to help local leaders see the magnitude of damage and guide local recovery efforts.” Recent testing shows that:
• The average U.S. public school student in grades 3-8 lost the equivalent of a half year of learning in math and a quarter of a year in reading.
• Some districts and states fared better than others. Six percent of students were in districts that lost more than a year of learning in math, while 3 percent were in districts where math achievement actually rose.
• The pandemic widened disparities in achievement between high and low-poverty schools.
Research shows that when learning gaps like these appear, they tend to grow and compound over time. If the gap is never closed, the learning loss is never recovered, and this can lead to lower lifetime earnings. Educators understand this dynamic and strive to close learning gaps and were heavily engaged in this type of work even before the pandemic hit.
Armed with knowledge and funding, educators can guide recovery efforts to bring student learning back to pre-pandemic levels. The American Rescue Plan gifted 122 billion to public schools, and out of that large sum, roughly 22 billion was dedicated to helping mitigate learning loss by using evidence-based interventions. The silver lining could be that all of this new money and focused efforts on improving education could have far-reaching effects on student achievement, even potentially creating a system that doesn’t just meet pre-pandemic levels for learning, but exceeds them.
How Are Schools Responding?
The data shows that the effects of the pandemic were inconsistent across America. In some communities, elementary schools and middle-school students tested a grade level or more behind students tested three years ago, but in others, there was virtually no change or they experienced a smaller impact. It might be years down the road before we truly understand the pandemic’s effects on education.
What we do know is that virtually every student from K-12, experienced a disruption in their learning environment, and thus experienced learning loss that must be recovered. How do educators use government funding to bridge this gap? “If there is a sparkle of light during these dark times, it’s our nation’s historic infusion of funds through ARP and ESSER,” said John B. King, president of The Education Trust. Through this funding, schools are implementing a combination of the following to counteract the negative impact of Covid on schools:
- Offering tutoring programs and after-school learning time.
- Considering lengthening the school year to make up for time lost.
- Offering more emotional and social support, including free health screening and opportunities to serve and get involved in school functions.
- Boosting pay for teachers to help bridge the staffing shortage.
- Encouraging in-person learning.
- Implementing Accelerated Education Programs (AEPs) which deliver education in a compressed time frame, cutting instruction time by two-thirds. These programs emphasize literacy and numeracy skills.
- Switching from remedial learning to tailored approaches that identify what a child has mastered (or not), and work with each child to prove mastery rather than having a child retake a class.
What Parents Can Do
Teachers are amazing, but no one has more influence on a child than a parent. You can have a tremendous impact for good. While you may not be the primary teacher in your child’s life, you have a vital role to play in reinforcing what has been taught and plugging educational holes. If you are wondering what you can do, here are some great suggestions:
Communicate With Teachers
Whether your child is trying to catch up from learning lost during the pandemic, or struggling with new content, communicating with teachers is a sure path to academic success. Communicate with them to understand where your child could use extra support and reinforcement, and then take time to play educational games that teach or reinforce those concepts. Your child’s teacher is also a wealth of information when it comes to where you can get extra resources such as tutoring or educational after-school programs.
Prioritize Key Learning Standards
Identify and target key learning concepts that your child has missed or is struggling with. All learning is not equal. Some learning is key for future success, other learning is not. For example, understanding how multiplication tables work is necessary in order to complete Algebra work when using factoring to find the lowest common multiple. When assessing your child’s educational needs, make sure that foundational concepts are rock solid–the rest can wait.
Children often take emotional cues from their parents. Reflect back to them your confidence that they can do hard things. Yes, it may be hard and require work, but let them know that they can do it.
Keep Learning Fun
Be knowledgeable about what your child needs to learn and then just have fun with it. Learning is meant to create joy. As a parent, you get to play games and learn through play with your child, so take advantage of this amazing gift.
Don’t Forget Social-Emotional Health
Like adults, children crave the grounding feelings of calm security. If your child is struggling with a health-related problem, like anxiety or depression, these will undoubtedly have an effect on school work and performance. Take time to talk to your child about what they are experiencing and get them help from a professional if needed.
Covid has impacted more than just learning opportunities. Schools often play a critical role in offering essential health services, nutritious meals, protection and emotional/social support. The overall well-being and development of a child are much more than just their access to and acquisition of knowledge. Schooling is just one step on the pathway toward raising a well-adjusted and independent adult. As a parent, you are the architect of your child’s road to independence, and sometimes this may feel like a heavy load to bear. Shake off that guilt because It’s okay to ask for help!
The Road To Independence: It’s Okay To Ask For Help
The Covid pandemic affected virtually every aspect of our children’s lives, including their families, their mental health, as well as their learning opportunities. To fix it, we need a comprehensive approach to mental, physical, and socioemotional well-being. We know how hard it is to watch a child struggle to overcome obstacles. We know you want to raise healthy, independent adults, but sometimes the road to independence is bumpy and full of unexpected curves.
Even adults can use support during this time, so if you have a child that is struggling, let Pure Life Adventure help. We focus on helping young adults and adolescents through a variety of struggles, including, but not limited to academic failure, depression, substance abuse, trauma, anxiety, family conflict, gaming addictions, mood disorders, and low motivation.
If you’re anxious to learn more, download our free white paper, called Adulthood. This white paper is a great resource for parents looking to empower rather than enable a struggling child. We all have the tendency to prop up a child that is struggling, but this can lead to co-dependence and further frustrate you and your child’s desire for independence. In this free, twelve-page white paper, you will find:
- Signs You (or Your Loved One) Needs Help Achieving Independence
- The Difference Between Empowering and EnablingFor Parents: Helping Your Loved One Achieve Independence
- For Young Adults: How to Achieve Independence
- What is Wilderness Adventure Therapy?
- Why is Exposure to a Novel Environment Key in Achieving Independence?
- What to Look for in an Effective Treatment Program
Whether it’s Covid academic failure or mental health–don’t wait until it’s too late to reach out. We love to consult with parents and explain more about how our program can help your child develop resilience and confidence. The hard task of getting back on track is easier with a trusted partner at your side. Contact us today, or check out the website for more amazing free resources.