Combating COVID Learning Loss

          Everyone is aware of the health crisis facing the United States in 2020.  As of this article, almost 250,000 Americans have died of COVID while over ten million have fallen ill this year.  Thousands of businesses have been shuttered and millions of Americans have lost their jobs.  There is another crisis happening that most people do not realize exists, though.  Students across the country have been forced from their classrooms into remote learning environments.  Even the attempts by many school districts to launch hybrid learning programs have proven only partially successful due to the insidious nature of coronavirus.

            Despite these obstacles, teachers have made Herculean efforts to provide the absolute best learning experience for their students.  In fact, teachers across the country rose to the challenge of completely rewriting dozens of entire curricula on the fly in order to meet the needs of their students the best they could.  Teachers transformed their lessons from in-person instruction to online instruction with no help, no guidance, and no time.

            Unfortunately, the same problems that American teachers have faced over the last few decades have exacerbated the difficulties students are facing today.  Teachers are overworked, underpaid, and under-appreciated.  Teachers are blamed for the lack of funding they receive and often have to pay for supplies and materials out of their own pockets.  More pressure and responsibility has been placed on American teachers than ever before in educational history, and the current pandemic has only exaggerated the problem.

            Students, however, are still falling behind in 2020.  Many school districts cancelled programs and curricula in the spring while others launched limited remote programs.  By the autumn of 2020, students across the country are exhausted and confused.  The students who need the most attention due to their individual learning needs are often just another face in the Zoom call.  According to some estimations, the average American student has fallen four m months behind their expected growth over the last eight months, in addition to normal summer learning loss.  For students with distinct learning needs, the growing gap is even worse.

            There is a solution, however. According to studies conducted by Dr. Robert Slavin and David Steiner, both of Johns Hopkins University, in conjunction with the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting educational excellence for every child in America, tutoring is the most effective strategy for students to overcome the difficulties they are facing during this incredibly difficult experience.

            Tutoring refers to both one-on-one, private instruction and small group instruction with no more than three or four students.  Tutoring allows teachers to completely adapt their instructional model to the needs of the individual student or students.  Teachers can spend more time on topics that require more attention, give students extra help in trouble areas, and review underlying concepts scaffolded beneath current concepts that students need to master before moving forward.

            Unfortunately, too many school districts are unable to support large-scale tutoring programs on their own, either due to budgetary or staffing bottlenecks.  Private tutoring is a highly successful path to fill the gap for students.  Private tutors can afford to focus on a student’s areas of need without needing to adhere to a predetermined curriculum, testing schedule, or class calendar.

            The research has shown that private tutoring is highly productive and effective both in person and over the internet.  The trouble that many students have with online instruction stems far more from the large number of students in virtual and remote classes than the instruction itself.  The benefit to schools is that a single teacher can have an almost infinitely large class compared to instruction in a physical classroom.  While they may benefit the school, it is terrible for the students.

            In contrast, private tutoring, even online, is very successful because the instructor and the student can make a personal connection, especially over a video chat program such as Zoom, FaceTime, Google Meets, or Microsoft Teams.  For families that are wary of online tutoring or students who are weary from remote school, in-person tutoring, accounting for appropriate social distancing, mask-wearing, and other appropriate precautions, is possible and recommended.  It is better to get the help you need to fill the gaps in your learning that hope to catch up later.