Pandemic Era Learning Loss in Students

The pandemic's impact on student learning has been severe, reversing decades of progress. Despite funding, recovery is slow, requiring more resources and time.
Woman reading a book holding her head in frustration.

In a recent publication by Aspen Economic Strategy Group, there was an analysis of the continuing state of learning in students due to the long-term impact of the pandemic. It is amazing to see how the recovery from the pandemic in academic progress has been so slow and has such consequence to our educational processes. Here is a quote from this research brief:

The COVID-19 pandemic created not only a public health emergency but a youth education crisis as well. Decades of progress in math and reading among America’s students were wiped away in two years. The federal government passed three rounds of funding to help school districts mitigate the disruptions of the pandemic, but that aid is set to run out next year even as little progress has been made in returning student achievement to pre-pandemic levels.

Some key concerns are that:

  • Pandemic-induced learning loss has reversed two decades of progress in student achievement.
  • Shifts to virtual learning and a concomitant rise in chronic absenteeism have driven declines in student achievement.
  • As districts around the country resumed in-person instruction, many students did not return to school.
  • If declines in student learning are left unmitigated, millions of students—and the country—will be worse off in the future.
  • In 2020 and 2021, the federal government allocated $189.5 billion in temporary funding to school districts to address pandemic-related disruptions.
  • School districts were slow to start spending this aid but are now on track to spend all funds by next year.
  • Districts need more time, more resources, and more accountability to alleviate pandemic-induced learning loss.

As we learned about the possible consequences of the pandemic in our educational systems funding was appropriated with the hopes that in approximately two years our students would recover academically. This does not seem to be realistic and we need more time, funding and resources to alleviate these academic losses. If we continue on this course our students will struggle for decades which will have impact to their quality of life, their families and even our national economy.

We are not done yet and as the additional funding runs out, we will still be in deficit. It is important that our policymakers reconsider the resources we will need to finish the recovery process and help our students academically and emotionally to recover deficits left from the pandemic. As we elect officials and consider legislation, our students must be considered in our next steps as a nation.

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