The cost and quality of education is a flashpoint topic today around the world. Student debt levels to finance their education have reached record volume (larger than total national credit card debt). With students on the brink of insolvency and schools and universities struggling to maintain extremely high operating costs, we find ourselves assessing how unsustainable the global education model has become. With the COVID pandemic, the stratification of access to education has severely worsened, putting families and students who already have difficulty finding quality affordable education resources at a further disadvantage. Thousands of students across the United States will need help to not only catch up for schooling that was missed during the pandemic but also figure out their path forward to successfully graduate. Below you will find some quotes that show the causes of learning loss during the pandemic, the multiplier effects of learning loss on the most vulnerable students, and a call to action.
“A preliminary report based on surveys of hundreds of districts across the country by American Institutes for Research found that students in high-poverty districts were expected to spend less time per day on instructional activities, more likely to use paper packets and more likely to focus on reviewing content than students in low-poverty districts.” (1)
“A flood of new data — on the national, state and district levels — finds students began this academic year behind. Most of the research concludes students of color and those in high-poverty communities fell further behind their peers, exacerbating long-standing gaps in American education.” (2)
“Separately, data released by multiple school districts show a sharp increase in failing grades this fall, particularly for the most vulnerable students.” (2)
A report published by McKinsey gives an example of the multiplier effect on learning loss in districts that had low-quality or no live instruction in their online learning programs. The following chart demonstrates the correlation between the quality of online instruction and learning outcomes during the pandemic. The students from districts with few resources were hit the hardest because they often had no live instruction provided. The chart below shows learning loss since the start of the pandemic if in-person classes had resumed again in January 2021. Due to the fact that the pandemic went on longer, learning loss is much greater.
Average months of learning lost during the pandemic if students returned to in-person learning by January 2021:
A Call to Action
The McKinsey Report finishes with a call to action: “It is therefore urgent to intervene immediately to support vulnerable students.” (3)
“We should be very concerned about the risk of a lost generation of students,” said former US Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. (2)
A Path Forward
“It will also be necessary to work with parents to help create a good learning environment at home, to call upon social and mental-health services so that students can cope with the pandemic’s stresses.” (3)
The path forward will require two things:
Both an academic component and a mental component to help students get back on track (they will not be able to be academically successful if the mental issues created by the pandemic are not addressed).
A collaborative effort between educators and parents.
This website outlines a scholarship program that is highly effective for students getting back on track with their studies. Due to limited resources, local school districts will not be able to provide them with the necessary support, making the need for a specially designed program more evident than ever.