Broadly speaking, learning loss describes the loss of knowledge and skills that students experience when they’re not in school. It’s the idea that learning decays over time if students don’t engage with it regularly.
While learning loss can manifest in a wide variety of ways for a variety of reasons, the following are a few representative examples of widely recognized forms of learning loss:
- Interrupted formal education: Students may experience significant interruptions in their formal education for a wide variety of reasons. Most recently, students across the state shifted to distance learning in response to the COVID pandemic.
- Summer break: Summer learning loss occurs when students take extended breaks in their education during the summer months.
- School absence: A prolonged absence or chronic absenteeism would be another potential source of learning loss.
Learning loss operates from a deficit perspective. The phrase itself implies that students didn’t learn anything at all once schools were closed in March 2020. Worse yet, it implies that not only did students not learn anything, they didn’t retain information they previously learned.
While no one would dispute that most students have experienced interrupted learning, among other disruptions, we believe it’s more accurate to say that student learning trajectories have shifted over the past 16 months. Students didn’t stop learning and developing—but their learning experiences and environments were far different than anyone could have anticipated before the pandemic hit. The losses they experienced were losses of access to their school community, to consistency and routine, to stable learning environments.
But students honed other skills, including flexibility, resilience and creativity. They mastered online classrooms and chat boxes. They figured out how to access homework assignments and ask questions during distance learning.
Every child needs access to quality summer-learning opportunities in order to avoid summer-learning loss — and to be successful all year long.
WHY IS SUMMER LEARNING IMPORTANT?
Summer learning loss is cumulative and disproportionately affects students from low-income families. Watch this video to learn more about the importance of summer learning, particularly for disadvantaged children:
CHECK OUT RESOURCES FOR PARENTS AND PTAS
- Six Elements of Great Summer Learning — A six-point checklist to help parents identify quality summer learning opportunities for their children.
- Five Ways to Keep Your Kids Learning All Summer Long — A five-point checklist of easy, effective and affordable ways that parents can keep their kids’ minds and bodies healthy and active during the critical summer learning months.
Kids can’t learn — and succeed — if they’re not at school. Parents and families are essential partners in promoting good attendance because they have the bottom-line responsibility for making sure their children get to school every day. Just as parents should focus on how their children are performing academically, they have a responsibility to set expectations for good attendance and to monitor their children’s absences, so that missed days don’t add up to academic trouble. This parent handout outlines strategies including:
- Make getting students to school on time every day a top priority.
- Alert schools and community agencies to barriers that keep kids from attending class.
- Ask for and monitor data on chronic absence.
- Demand action to address systemic barriers that may be causing large numbers of students to miss too much school.
Learn more from the California State PTA about the importance of student attendance.
STRATEGIES TO ADDRESS LEARNING LOSS: ACCELERATED LEARNING
Among many strategies by school districts to close post-pandemic learning gaps and bring students up to speed is the concept of accelerated learning. Accelerated learning means that students receive high-quality instruction in the grade-level content of their grade while also providing some supports to fill the gaps in prior learning.
Accelerated learning strategically prepares students for success with a targeted, individualized system of scaffolds and supports that identify and prioritize past concepts and skills in the context of current learning.
Watch this video from the Placer County Office of Education to learn more.
- 10 Things California State PTA Recommends for the Safe Reopening of Schools
- Making Summer Count
- Partnership for Children and Youth
- National Summer Learning Association
- Attendance Works’ 10 Facts About School Attendance