Students may enter next year a full grade level behind because of shutdowns


Students may enter next year a full grade level behind because of shutdowns

Here are five things district leaders need to know

Experts have recently coined the term “COVID-19 slide” to refer to the student learning regression they anticipate educators will see this fall and beyond.

As a result of prolonged lost classroom time compounded with the trauma of COVID-19 and the uncertainty of indefinite distance learning, students are expected to enter school this fall almost a full grade level behind. And given the inequities of access to at-home supports and enrichment, district leaders should also prepare for unprecedented equity gaps.

Achievement gap implies that the onus for the disparate outcome is on the student. That is, they failed to achieve something, and therefore, there exists a gap. Equity gap, on the other hand, refers to any disparity in a metric like graduation rate or term-to-term persistence along racial, socioeconomic, gender, or other major demographic groupings. Instead of, “what did the student do wrong?” we’re working together with our partners to ask, “what processes, policies, strategies, etc. did the institution put in place that created or exacerbated these disparities by race, gender, socioeconomic status, etc.?”

As district teams use these summer months to plan their learning recovery efforts, they should keep the following five considerations in mind:

1. Two- and three-month school shutdowns can mean a year or more in lost skills


additional gap between the highest and lowest-performing students across all subjects can be expected as a result of COVID-19 slide
additional gap between the highest and lowest-performing students across all subjects can be expected as a result of COVID-19 slide

Projections of the impact of COVID-19 slide are concerning. Educators can expect to see an equivalent of six months of reading learning loss for students at the pivotal fourth grade milestone and as many as 14 months of learning loss in sixth grade math skills. Despite best efforts to narrow student equity gaps, unfortunately, educators can expect as much as a 20% additional gap between their highest and lowest-performing students across all subjects.

Data from students impacted by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 indicates that four months of lost seat time may require as much as two years of normal seat time to fully recover academic pacing.

2. Increased seat time alone is insufficient to reverse COVID-19 slide—instead, focus on maximizing existing instructional time

Research indicates that, on average, more than 50% of classroom time and curricular content have little to no impact on advancing students to the next grade level. Poor time use in the classroom can yield as many as 11 weeks of wasted instructional time each year.

The most effective teachers can help their students gain one and a half years of learning in just one year. These teachers tend to be more selective with the content they teach and can eliminate wasted time in the classroom.

Plan now to support your teachers in dramatically reducing time spent on low-value curricular content and classroom activities.

Streamline & Reduce

Operational Activities

  • Announcements
  • Attendance and morning routines
  • Transitioning between activities

Low-Impact Instruction

  • Skills students have already mastered
  • “Nice to know content” because it is in the curricula
  • Excessive classwork not informed by skill data

3. Streamline instruction to yield greater learning recovery results

Educators cannot possibly cover all of the content students missed this year in addition to next year’s content.Instead, district administrators can help their teachers focus only on the most essential or high-value standards and content—that is, content that is necessary to succeed at the next grade level. High-value content can fall under any of the following three categories:

  • Prerequisite content not covered at the next grade level
  • Skills not mastered by more than 80% of tier 1 students
  • Remedial instruction for targeted skill needs

Using a standardized curriculum and EAB’s forthcoming instructional audit, districts can help their teachers prioritize the content and the instructional practices that will maximize their time.

4. Elevate the impact of your in-school interventions by adopting skills-based grouping in core academic courses

Further learning recovery efforts by expanding skills-based remediation in reading and math. Grouping students by their distinct skill deficit, as opposed to broad and general grouping measures, can refocus interventions on the underlying skill gap that may have been hindering a student’s progress.

Focus first on scaling skills-based grouping across schools before expanding out-of-school support services.

5. Learning recovery efforts should also include mental health support services


increase in teachers reporting mental health concerns since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis
increase in teachers reporting mental health concerns since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis

Rising mental health concerns were an important issue for district leaders well before the onset of COVID-19. These concerns have only been exacerbated by the current crisis.

One-third of students report being worried about contracting COVID-19 themselves and may be traumatized. Meanwhile, many teachers are feeling burned out. With a 60% increase in teachers reporting mental health concerns since the onset of the crisis, teachers cannot be fully prepared to instruct and students ready to learn without additional support. As administrators work to support the mental wellbeing of their students, teachers, and staff virtually, they must also prepare for the rising demand for mental health services when schools reopen in the 2020-21 school year. Implementing a cohesive mental health support plan will be critical for meeting learning recovery goals.

Mental health concerns significantly slow student learning


more learning disengagement seen in children with two or more adverse childhood experiences


reduction in cognitive processing for students living with poverty-related stressors

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Traditional district summer planning will no longer suffice. Districts and their schools must adapt quickly to conditions as they develop, which means planning for many potential futures. So, while superintendents want answers to the questions above, they are also telling us what they need right now are new ways to plan and execute—to develop what many district leaders are describing as a rapid response organization.

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