COVID education gap: Students struggle to make up lost learning due to pandemic

Over the past year, there has been great loss of life, loss of jobs and, according to many parents, a loss of learning. The question is - how and when will kids get back on track post-pandemic?

Fidgets, Pop Its and puzzles have become big business at Learning Express in Havertown. Parents are trying to find anything to supplement their kids’ education, not to mention stress levels.

"There’s distractions. The dog is running around. Packages being delivered," remarked

Sound familiar?

"It’s so difficult. They fall asleep. They don’t want to do it," stated Laya Maddox.

It’s being called the "COVID Education Gap" – a year of bedroom Zooms, hybrid-learning and quarantines has upended every corner of the education world.

"Especially the younger kids who are learning the basics, like reading, writing, adding, subtracting," Elizabeth Fenelli said.

But, now schools are trying to navigate what’s next in the classroom, starting summer 2021.

"I think educators across Pennsylvania, as well as this country know we have some work to do and we have a sense of urgency to hit the ground running this year," Director, Bureau of School Support of the Pennsylvania Department of Education Sherri Smith commented.

The Pennsylvania Department of Education released an 80-page accelerated learning toolkit. Schools will use the toolkit to help kids get back to speed. They say catching students up can happen, but it may take years.

"Let’s just say you are a third grade student. You just don’t take a second grade curriculum and just push it to third grade because your students missed a third of the school year, or maybe some of those courses. What you do is you integrate lessons that were key skills that were in second grade into grade three," Smith elaborated.

And, for as wide as the gap has become during the pandemic, for students in poorer neighborhoods, that gap gets even wider.

"There are some student groups that have been disproportionately impacted. Including not only younger students, but students in poverty and historically disadvantaged students," Deputy Secretary for Office of Elementary and Secondary Education Matthew Stern explained.

"This is an issue of national security. This is an issue of economy," Founder of Fit Learning Dr. Kimberly Berens said.

Dr. Berens wrote a book on not just the COVID, but the generational long learning gap. "Blind Spots" she calls them, forced by decades of outdated teaching practices. She says there is one thing all parents can do.

"I would highly recommend parents to really take a look at what your kids summer is like and find a way to build practice of essential math skills and reading skills into their life in the summer," Dr. Berens explained.

Most local districts FOX 29 spoke with say they’re making plans to address the gap in learning. Some are offering optional summer schools, at-home coursework. And, a lot are paying for private tutoring.

"Look for reputable organizations that actually use science-based instruction and have outcomes that focus on building mastery and fluency and essential skills," Dr. Berens added.

Educators admit the school and the classroom may never be the same. But, that may not be a bad thing.

"We would tell all of our parents now is the time, first and foremost, to let your children know that there are better days ahead," Stern added.



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