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Unpacking Research on COVID Learning Loss

Originally Posted: eSchoolNews

According to an Education Week survey, classroom teachers spent the first six weeks after school closures troubleshooting connectivity and software issues, resulting in a 75 percent drop in instruction. Even as late as into the spring, classroom instruction was still less than 50 percent of pre-COVID numbers, with district staff and educators challenged to reengage students with sound instructional practices from a distance.

In a recent edWebinar sponsored by FastBridge Assessment System by Illuminate Education, Dr. John Bielinski, Senior Director of Research and Development, Dr. Rachel Brown, NCSP, Senior Academic Officer, and Dr. Kyle Wagner, NCSP, Research Associate, explained that unprecedented events like COVID-19 create a vacuum of knowledge.

According to the presenters, district leaders and teachers need reliable data to guide them to determine how learning has been affected and remediations to recover critical student knowledge.

Implications of learning loss

Through its studies of summer reading programs and data collected from FastBridge Assessment, Illuminate Education reports that summer learning loss varies by household income. Students from low-income households lose about 1.0 to 1.5 months of learning.

Learning losses also vary by reading domain, with minimum losses for reading, comprehension, vocabulary, and more considerable losses on early reading skills, including phonics and fluency.

Illuminate Education usually estimates learning loss across the summer by comparing the spring scores from one grade to fall screening scores from the next grade for the same students. This fall, due to the loss of learning for at least four months last spring, all of the skills that students were starting to acquire in the winter and the spring of the school year vanished.

Addressing instructional loss

Three main components critical for addressing instructional loss include conducting the universal screening, adjusting core instruction, and considering additional resources and remediation.

Universal screening in reading, math, and behavior establishes a baseline for all students. The logistics are significant, so steps such as selecting the assessment, creating a schedule, and reviewing data will ensure a holistic group-level approach rather than addressing piecemeal student by student.

The next step in providing support to students is for districts to examine core instruction using the 80 percent rule. If fewer than 80 percent of students have met the learning benchmark, which is more likely to be the case this year, the presenters strongly recommend intensifying core instruction.

The way to strengthen instruction includes using widely used strategies and tools that look at the frequency of instruction, the number of instructional days, the duration of lessons, and the practice opportunities students have during and between lessons.

Key recommendations

Fall screening is essential to ensure that school leaders and educators understand where they are when returning to school. The presenters caution that the primary grades’ most significant anticipated losses will require several months of remediation and intense instruction.

The more aggressively school districts decide to address gaps and provide accelerated instruction, the less the long-term effect of the loss of learning due to COVID-19 will have on students for years to come.


Published inCovid

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