The Importance of Learning Loss and Why It Needs to Be Addressed

Rebecca Gray About Thimble, Education, Homeschooling, Parents, Teachers

The word learning loss is being tossed around by teachers, administrators, and even the federal government.  Rounds of Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funds have been steadily flowing from Washington DC to every qualifying school in the nation.  These funds are intended to prepare schools for safe re-entry, but also to combat learning loss through summer programming, materials, technology and enrichment.

Photo by kyo azuma on Unsplash

What is Learning Loss?

The term “learning loss” refers to the regression of knowledge or skills, or the loss of academic abilities during significant gaps in instruction. 

The truth is – learning loss is nothing new.  Researchers have repeatedly attempted to measure student learning loss over the summer months.  These estimates are usually confirmed to some extent with end of year (spring) testing scores compared with fall testing scores from the next academic year.  That estimated loss creates a linear trajectory.

Early in the pandemic, NWEA’s Collaborative for Student Growth used that previously established trajectory to make predictions about the severity of COVID-19 learning loss.  They called this phenomenon the “COVID-19 Slide”.  Their report included an easy-to-understand visual representation of what’s happening. For more clarity,  review their report.

Trust us when we tell you – the predictions are a little scary.  What’s even more concerning is that the learning loss and achievement gap are likely to be even more pronounced in students who are coming from disadvantaged homes and lower income school districts.  Those students were already markedly behind, and are now falling through new cracks.  The achievement gap is widening.

Why is Learning Loss a Concern Now More Than Ever?

Photo by Steinar Engeland on Unsplash

Almost every student in America experiences summer learning loss.  Schools often set aside the first 4-5 weeks of the school year for review – to remediate the summer’s loss before moving on to new material. 

In the early spring of 2020, schools nationwide closed their doors, and went into survival mode.  Many transitioned to a watered down, online version of what students had been receiving during in-person learning.  Those months of online schooling combined subpar teaching, low student effort, missed hands-on opportunities, and lowered expectations.  It created a perfect storm for learning loss, and that has stretched on for over a year.

The 2020 – 2021 school year started with remote and hybrid learning models in most districts.  The disjointed school year was then littered with failed attempts to return, emotional trauma, and social isolation – all piled on top of a major gap in instruction.

It doesn’t take an expert to recognize the hot mess express coming down the education track. Toot Toot!

So What Can We Do?

Mathematics and STEM learning are projected to be some of the hardest hit subject areas.  Imagine the challenges of bringing hands-on science and engineering labs, experiments and project-based learning to students at home.  Most schools let all hands-on learning fall by the wayside, because the logistics were almost impossible – unless you’ve got Thimble. 

Thimble, and other online STEM learning companies, have maintained relevance during this fluid school year.  We’ve managed to bring coding and engineering instruction that sets the bar for school districts nationwide.  Our ability to provide live (and on-demand) instruction, professional development, and enrichment disguised with fun projects makes us a perfect solution.  

How Can YOU Get Involved?

Many are concerned, but few feel like they have the power to make a difference. 

Truth Bomb: Everyone can contribute in some way to the massive undertaking necessary to catch our kids up.  As Thimble grows, we hope to venture into programming that specifically engages K-4th grade learners.  Bringing quality STEM curriculum across all grade levels is an end goal we can only reach with the grace and confidence of concerned public investors.  Help us tackle learning loss today.

Learn more about our progress as an organization, and the ways Thimble has been helping hundreds of teachers and thousands of students by visiting our Republic Campaign site now.