Making Up for Lost Learning: What Was Lost in the Pandemic and How to Get it Back This Summer

June 14, 2021 

After an unprecedented and unpredictable school year that featured Zoom classes at home and socially distanced lessons at school, educators and parents are looking ahead to the summer as a chance to not only bridge learning gaps but also restore students’ social and emotional well-being. However, before a cure for “learning loss” and other side effects of the past “lost year” can be prescribed, it’s important to correctly diagnose the problem.

The Problem

Data presented in a recent article in The Philadelphia Inquirer demonstrates that students have experienced genuine and significant setbacks collectively referred to as “learning loss.” Not only are students “performing worse on assessments,” they are also earning more failing grades, which have “doubled or tripled” compared to last year’s grades. Adam Harris for The Atlantic points to both North Carolina and California where approximately 30-40% of students are failing at least one class. Those fortunate enough to avoid failing grades aren’t immune to the effects of learning loss, as they may be earning grades below their usual standard. Attendance and participation is also on the decline with one particular Philadelphia school reporting only a 44% strong attendance rate that was “falling precipitously.” 

Statistics don’t tell the whole story, however. The problems of “learning loss” characterized by declining grades and attendance rates sounds intimidating, but there is reason for optimism. In a recent article for The New York Times entitled “How to Help Your Adolescent Think About the Last Year,” Judith Warner consulted experts in adolescent development who want to reassure parents that their children will be fine. One expert, Temple University professor of psychology Laurence Steinberg, explains why: “The plasticity afforded by the adolescent brain at this age allows for recovery.” In other words, what was lost can be found again, especially if students are given space to recharge and support to recover.

The Solution

Based in Washington, D.C., Ann Dolin, owner of Educational Connections, encourages students and parents to view Summer 2021 as an opportunity to reconnect with each other and to refocus on assessing and addressing areas of academic weakness. Tutoring can help with both, Dolin advises. Tutors can evaluate any gaps in a student’s learning and execute a plan to either make up lost ground or prepare for challenges ahead. Meanwhile, parents can “simply enjoy [their children] again.”

Making up for a whole year can sound impossible in theory, but it can be done. While some look to summer school as a potential solution, Dolin reassuringly recommends that overwhelmed students and parents use her “one thing” approach. Specifically, Dolin suggests focusing on one subject that would give a student a real sense of accomplishment or on executive functioning skills, such as time management and organization, that are essential to success “in school and life.” The “one thing” approach can be done independently. However, Dolin believes it’s best done with the help of a tutor. Robert Slavin, director of the Center for Research and Reform in Education at Johns Hopkins University, agrees, telling NPR, “We’ve looked at all different kinds of things” to address learning loss, and “what’s striking is that tutoring gets far bigger impacts than any of those other kinds of interventions.”

A+ Summer Review

Rather than dedicate the summer to summer school, students can take advantage of A+ Test Prep and Tutoring’s Summer Review program. This 20-hour program of one-to-one tutoring will focus on the particular area or areas identified as in need of development following diagnostic testing and consultation and will provide all necessary curriculum. 

Furthermore, A+ offers programs for students preparing for standardized tests, such as independent school admissions tests (e.g. SSAT, HPST) and college admissions tests (e.g. SAT, ACT), as well as Executive Functioning Coaching and college essay help. Sessions can be flexible based on your scheduling needs and can be done virtually to adjust to your vaccination or vacation status or in-person at home or at one of A+’s offices. 

Make This Summer Count

A student may look at this past school year with regret and the upcoming school year with anxiety, and he or she wouldn’t be alone. As a result of the pandemic, many students suffered learning loss ranging from an atypically low grade to possibly failing one or more classes. It can be overwhelming for parents and students to confront the possibility that those losses could have a lasting impact. Some have suggested summer school as a solution, but tutoring has been singled out as particularly valuable for students who can narrow their focus to one subject or to executive functioning skills as a means of building confidence and recovering lost ground. If you or a student you know might be in need of extra help, consider taking advantage of the several programs A+ offers to support students during this critical summer.

At A+ Test Prep and Tutoring, our practices are based on the latest developments in educational theory and research. We have an excellent team of tutors who can help you with standardized testing, executive functioning, or achievement in any other school subject. If you want to find out more about our services, our Client Service Directors Susan Ware and Joelle Faucette can be reached at 215-886-9188.



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