Millions of kids nationwide are spending hours at home now completing lessons online at their own pace or in virtual class settings. But could this interruption in traditional learning lead to a significant loss in skills?
Gina Garcia has been teaching high school French and Spanish for 35 years. When classes first went virtual about 18 of her 30 students would attend. But for some students, there was a challenge getting access to computers or internet service while others had new family responsibilities.
“My students are working a lot of hours. They’re working at Walmart. They’re working at H-E-B. Because if their parents have lost their jobs somebody has to bring in a paycheck,” Garcia explains.
Past research shows students in under resourced communities tend to enter school with fewer academic skills and they often lose more skills during summer break than their well-off peers. School attendance narrows these gaps, but lower-income students without access to resources outside of school experience a “summer slide.”
“We can see up to a 20 percent loss in reading and a 30 percent loss in math. Take summer slump or slide, put it to the extreme, and you have COVID slump,” said Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, PhD, professor of psychology at Temple University.
Hirsh-Pasek also says parents and students shouldn’t stress if online learning isn’t going as planned. But parents should encourage their children to stay in regular communication with their teachers about any challenges they are having.
Parents can also help younger kids by engaging them in activities that stimulate creativity. Read books and stage a play. Plan a scavenger hunt. For teens, let them get hands-on and create. Public libraries are good resources for do-it-yourself projects.
Some schools have distributed tablets and computers to students who need devices for online learning. Other districts have created paper packets of work for students who don’t have access to the internet.
Hirsh-Pasek says because of the unprecedented nature of this pandemic, it’s impossible to know exactly how much of a learning slump COVID-19 will create; however, new research suggests that by the start of the next school year, some students will lose the equivalent of a full year’s worth of academic gains.