Research suggests long-term impacts from COVID-19 learning loss; a Utah school district shares some of the challenges their students face

Academics Amid the Pandemic

AMERICAN FORK, Utah (ABC4 News) – With COVID-19 transforming the landscape of education, research suggests students could face long-term impacts from learning loss, and the Alpine School District shares some of the pandemic’s challenges for their students.  

The educational losses caused by COVID-19 could hurt long-term, a McKinsey & Company study reports. The study looked at knowledge and learning skills lost because of academic disruption from the pandemic.

If U.S. students are back in the classroom by January, students would have about 6.8 months of learning loss.

If schools wait to welcome students back until fall 2021, students will experience 12.4 months of learning loss.

“Although students at the best full-time virtual schools can do as well as or better than those at
traditional ones, most studies have found that full-time online learning does not deliver the academic results of in-class instruction,” researchers said in the report.

The report then calls Americans to action saying, “These numbers are sobering—but they are not inevitable. If the United States acts quickly and effectively, it may avoid the worst possible outcomes. But if there is a delay or a lack of commitment, COVID-19 could end up worsening existing inequities.”

With loss of learning, the study also projects an increase in high-school dropouts, GDP loss by 2040, and annual earnings loss.

“These effects – learning loss and higher dropout rates – are not likely to be temporary shocks easily erased in the next academic year,” the report states.

While the study reports the level of classroom disruption can vary based on access to education, the Alpine School District told ABC4 News how the pandemic is challenging their students.

“If you see learning gaps and changes in schedule and structure, that impacts learning,” said district spokesperson Kimberly Bird.

She said – of secondary students – that the school district is seeing a decline in learning and educational achievement, and term one reports confirm that.

“Last year in term one, 97 percent of our students passed their first terms credit. This year, our face-to-face students passed at 90 percent,” Bird said. “However, our online students, they passed their credits in the 60 percent range.”

Before the start of term two, district officials made changes to the school schedule, and Bird said they will re-evaluate how it’s working in December.

Bird also said ASD student’s social and emotional well-being is negatively affected as well, and the pandemic is disrupting routine.

“We are seeing a fracture in routine because of quarantines, because of schools having to move to hybrid plans,” she said. “A change in schedule it really derails the learning process.”

ASD believes in order to have student achievement, attachment and attendance need to happen. They plan to continue to keep as many students involved in in-person learning as possible.

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