Responding to Learning Loss

In June 2020, the management consulting firm McKinsey & Company released “COVID-19 and Student Learning in the United States” a report that outlined the alarming potential impact of school closures on learning. The report’s results were based on statistical models for school reopening timelines given three different epidemiological scenarios. In the worst-case scenarios, students were predicted to lose as much as 12-14 months of learning, exacerbating existing achievement gaps by 15 to 20 percent. This report, among others, has prompted schools to take into consideration potential learning loss when making decisions about their educational environments.

According to The Glossary of Education Reform, “learning loss refers to any specific or general loss of knowledge and skills” caused by “extended gaps or discontinuities in a student’s education.” Learning gaps can be caused by illness, inclement weather, natural disasters, midyear teacher turnover, or summer break. The knowledge and skills students lose manifest as reversals in academic, social, or emotional progress. Most educators have faced this issue before, in one form or another. So, while this challenge is not new for educators, the daunting scope and magnitude are. This moment calls for proven, scalable solutions.

The results of studies like the one conducted by McKinsey & Company may influence schools to prioritize academics as they look to close achievement gaps. However, research has shown that, along with counteracting reversals in students’ social and emotional skills, investment in social and emotional learning can noticeably accelerate the process of reducing academic achievement gaps. In 2011, the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) conducted a meta-analysis of school-based universal interventions using data from 270,034 students across 213 school-based, social and emotional learning (SEL) programs. The results indicated that when comparing these students to a control group, “SEL participants demonstrated significantly improved social and emotional skills, attitudes, behavior, and academic performance that reflected an 11-percentile-point gain in achievement.

As a CASEL select program, Responsive Classroom has a proven track record in helping schools implement a comprehensive academic, social, and emotional approach to learning. For the past four decades, we have worked with schools to create effective learning conditions for every child every day. We look forward to the opportunity to partner with your school as you take on the challenge of addressing academic, social, and emotional learning loss

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