School closures and random periods of quarantine have been common tools in the battle against COVID-19. Yet, their costs and benefits remain relatively unknown. When available for learning, students have often experienced a wide variety of learning environments from in-person, to peer ‘bubbles’, hybrid, and virtual/e-learning. Teachers, parents, and students all feel as if learning gaps have increased between the periods of March 2019 to June 2021. A few research projects are underway to look at these effects, but the real impact of the pandemic and subsequent lockdown is unlikely to be evident for many years.
Early studies are beginning to show learning losses were most pronounced among two main groups of students. 1) Those from disadvantaged homes, and 2) Students with learning challenges and disabilities.
- Students from middle and upper social-economic homes were more likely to have access to additional supports in terms of parents’ availability, and tools and supplies (such as computers). They are more likely to have access to reliable internet, and consistency and stability in their lives.
- Students with learning challenges require more consistency and support from parents and teachers than those without learning challenges. The uncertainty and inconsistency of how educational opportunities were presented to these students most likely hampered their ability to progress. These students are more likely to withdraw, give up, and disconnect from their education. It was already hard enough. Missing assignments, absences, frustration, anger, emotionality, behavioral acting out, and drops in grades are common among this group of learners. As a result, the learning gap increases for these students.
In the Fall of 2021, teachers, parents, and students will have their work cut out for them. First, teachers will need to identify exactly why a student is struggling. Once skill deficits are identified, targeted intervention strategies will need to be implemented to help students catch up. Parents will need to support and encourage their students and work alongside their child’s teachers.
It will be important to remember that this pandemic was an unprecedented event. No one can know how students will rebound from this. However, all students have experienced uncertain and inconsistent learning, and it will take a village to redress this.