The academic landscape—permeated with teacher shortages and lower attendance rates—is still reeling from the effects of the pandemic. With in-person instruction returning after 2 years of pandemic-induced remote learning, many students are struggling to catch up in school. Online school has caused many students to fall behind academically. The pandemic has exacerbated this lost instructional time by creating challenges to a safe learning environment, like increased staff shortages and student absentee rates. Many parents have expressed concerns regarding their child’s performance in school and how schools will address the unfinished learning. Schools should be held accountable for keeping students on track academically, but as parents, it is important to pick up where schools have left off.
Statistics Behind Student Performance
According to a report by McKinsey & Company in 2021, students were on average, 5 months behind in mathematics and 4 months behind in reading. Scores from 1.6 million elementary school students across more than 40 states (pre- and post-pandemic) were analyzed to draw these conclusions. Students struggled with math curriculum immediately upon pandemic school closures in March 2020, learning very little new content. The initial effect of online learning was not as drastic when it came to reading, as students continued to progress slowly. It is also worth noting that first and second graders were projected to be two or more grade levels behind.
Another report published by NWEA concluded that it would take at least 3 years for elementary school students to catch up to their pre-pandemic learning levels and 5 or more for middle school students. School, especially for younger children, is essential to laying an academic foundation in critical skills like math and reading. A weak foundation can make it harder for children to succeed in subsequent grade levels because they are unable to build on top of the knowledge they already have.
Unfinished learning can lead to long-term consequences for this generation of students. McKinsey & Company estimates that this learning setback can reduce lifetime earnings for these children by an average of $49,000 to $61,000. This, in turn, can cause a decrease in economic productivity that will have profound negative effects on our economy—an estimated loss of between $128 billion to $188 billion. So not only does this learning gap have negative outcomes at the individual level, but at the national level as well.
How Parents Can Help At Home
Here are 5 ideas on how to help your child catch up in school:
- Give them time to adjust to in-person classes: Just like how your child needed time to adjust to remote learning, they will need time to adjust back to in-person classes. The pandemic disrupted children’s way of learning, forcing them to relearn how they approached their academic environment. With the excessive amount of screentime children were exposed to, their attention spans have drastically decreased; this can make it more difficult for them to focus in a classroom, especially for hours on end. Surveys conducted by The 74 found a 42% increase in the use of cell phones, computers, and other electronics in schools.
- Communicate with your child’s teacher: Your child’s teacher would be able to tell you how your child is performing in school, as well as provide personalized recommendations and next steps on how your child can improve. As the eyes and ears of the classroom, they will have insights about your child that you might not get at home. Thus, it is important to not only attend parent-teacher conferences, but to also follow-up with teachers when you feel that your student might be struggling.
- Look into tutoring resources: Whether it is private tutoring or a school-funded after school program, tutoring has proven to be the best way to bridge the learning gap. By having dedicated time for particular subjects, your child will be able to gain a deeper understanding of those subjects. Not to mention, tutoring sessions are usually held in smaller groups than traditional classrooms, which allows the tutor/instructor to devote more time and attention to each individual. Summer school is also another option to consider to help your child catch up. With a school day’s worth of lessons in a particular subject, your child is bound to improve. If none of these options fit your schedule, you—as the parent—can also take the time to work through the curriculum with your child at home. Tutoring does not need to be from an outside source; you can be your child’s tutor.
- Encourage your child to collaborate with others: Study groups are a great way for your child to connect with their peers and discuss the work at hand. Sometimes, children can feel more comfortable asking their classmates for help than their teachers. By working with others, children can learn the values of collaboration and teamwork. One person may not know the answer, but when joined together but a few others, they might be able to figure it out.
- Provide a supportive environment for your child: School is already stressful—add on top the pressures of being behind academically and that can place a strain on your child’s mental health. Therefore, while it is important to encourage your child to do well in school, it is also important for you to empathize with their situation and communicate that to them. Children best thrive when they feel supported and believed in, so using words of encouragement and affirmation can motivate them. What you don’t want to do is place the blame on your child for falling behind; there were many factors involved in the disruption of learning, many of which were kick-started by the pandemic.
How Student Hires Can Help Students With Unfinished Learning
Here at Student Hires, we believe that every student deserves a great education. We understand the importance of educating students and equipping them with the proper resources. We partner with schools, districts, universities, and employers to create experiential K-12 after-school, summer, and youth educational programs led by local college and university students. Our vision is to transform communities—and that includes providing support to parents, who play crucial roles in a student’s development. We hope to provide educational articles for parents that will help them understand their place in their student’s development not only in school, but in life as well.
A good education is the backbone to student success. While unfinished learning was an unprecedented ramification of the pandemic, it is one that needs to be addressed. The government has provided schools with significant funding to bridge that learning gap, which is a step in the right direction. However, parents should be proactive in their child’s education and fill in the gaps where our education system is failing.