3 equity ideas for reversing COVID learning loss

It may be months before educators grasp the full impact of COVID's learning disruptions
By: | March 24, 2021
(AdobeStock/Halfpoint)

Numerous studies have attempt to gage the depth of learning loss—which some educators prefer calling “unfinished learning”—that students have experienced during COVID.

One recent report warned students will have experienced as much as five to nine months of unfinished learning by the end of June 2021.  Studies of students in 19 states, meanwhile, estimate students lost a third to a full year of reading with even larger deficits in math.

And, in a national survey, 24% of school leaders in high-poverty districts said elementary school distance learning focused on reviewing content rather than new material.

Only 12% of leaders in low-poverty districts said the same.


More from DA:  Please don’t say ‘learning loss’ in this Illinois district


All of this means it may be months before educators grasp the full impact of COVID’s disruptions, as administrators considering hwo to conduct assessments to gauge where students need additional supports.

Experts at The Education Trust, an equity-focused organization, are highlighting a series of strategies for reversing learning loss as superintendents and their teams lead their districts out of the pandemic.

Targeted intensive tutoring

Targeted intensive tutoring has proven effective in all grades, with younger students benefiting the most.

The most effective programs tend of focus on skill building, rather than homework help, and take place at least once during each school day.

Students make the most progress when placed in groups of two with a certified teacher rather than paraprofessionals or trained volunteers, according to The Education Trust.

Schools with limited resources should focus tutoring on math—the subject in which students are most likely to have fallen behind.

Expanded learning time

Increasing instruction time during the school day has been shown to help all age groups and types of students, in all academic subjects.

Administrators should consider creating non-academic class periods or extending the official school day to provide students with between 45 and 100 additional hours of instruction during the school year.

One key to success is ensuring the curriculum aligns with regular classroom instruction and that it can be personalized to meet each students’ needs, The Education Trust says.

Extended learnings can accommodate larger groups of students—about 10 to 15—than tutoring.

Importance of strong relationships

Students from all backgrounds and ages benefit from strong relationships with educators. These relationships should be centered on expressing care, challenging growth, sharing power, and expanding possibilities.


More from DA: 3 steps for beefing up summer to counter learning loss


Relationships should be built with an equity lens that supports positive racial, cultural, and ethnic identity development.

Teachers and other school staff—compared to volunteers and outside mentors—will likely form the strongest relationships with students, The Education trust says.

The most productive of these relationships focus on social and academic activities built around students’ goals.