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Researchers find students are still struggling with learning loss from the COVID-19 pandemic

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  • Edwin Viera 

What can be done? What should be done? Leaders and advocates wrestle with uncertain future.

Students are still struggling with learning loss from the COVID-19 pandemic.

A study from the research group NWEA showed 2022 test scores are not rebounding to the same level as they were pre-pandemic.

In New York, math scores declined sharply throughout the state, according to the Empire Center for Public Policy.

Researchers said the issue goes beyond test scores. The study also found existing education inequities were amplified by the pandemic.

Elisa Villanueva Beard, CEO of Teach for America, said the learning loss is also the result of numerous issues coming to a head. She described it as trains on a collision course.

“On one train, we have children who are not well, both from a learning perspective and also from an overall wellness perspective,” Villanueva Beard observed. “On another train, we have a teacher crisis happening where teachers are being asked to do more with less.”

Villanueva Beard argued another issue is having an outmoded system which could not meet the moment. Some solutions she thinks will get kids back on track are hiring and retaining good teachers, and providing students with equitable learning opportunities, but noted a lack of innovation within the current education system could be a challenge.

Students have been facing problems with mental illness, due in part to the pandemic. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 44% of students felt persistently sad or hopeless during the first two years of the pandemic.

Villanueva Beard is concerned it will affect children in the long term.

“We are living in a society where uncertainty is the only guarantee,” Villanueva Beard asserted. “Our children actually need to be able to be creative, have very clear skills around reading and math computational thinking.”

She added a community approach must be taken to ensure kids fully recover from the pandemic, in terms of social emotional health and educational skills.