Approaches to Recovering from Learning Loss

May 11, 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic may finally be coming to an end, but the long-term effects remain to be seen. How can we best support our students academically through the return to full time in-person learning?

Some learning loss was simply inevitable in the face of this dramatic and unplanned change. The ultimate effects have yet to be determined, but the statistics we do have are eye-opening.

Renowned research firm McKinsey found that students began the 2020-21 school year about 3 months behind in mathematics. That was after a comparatively brief disruption to the 2019-20 school year (most schools made the shift to remote instruction in March of 2020). We are now nearing the end of a full school year spent in this disrupted state—whether attending school remotely, in-person, or through a hybrid arrangement, it’s safe to say that no one is having a typical school year. No matter where students’ achievement levels were in March of 2020, it is simply not possible for anyone to emerge from this past year and a half performing at the level they should be or could have been attaining.

If we want to help our students get back on track and meet their potential, we need to find effective ways to do so. Perspectives differ widely, but there’s one solution it seems everyone can agree is superior: one-on-one tutoring. Study after study points to frequent, individualized tutoring as the most effective method for supporting students in reaching their potential. As Jill Barshay put it in her May 2020 article for The Hechinger Report , “prominent members of the education research community are enthusiastically pushing for a dramatic increase in tutoring.”

When it comes to personalized support, one-on-one tutoring has many advantages over classroom options like summer school. Johns Hopkins University education researcher Robert Slavin notes that “one of the things that makes it easier to be a tutor than to be a classroom teacher is that you’re doing a specific task with kids with materials that are designed to support that,” whereas “classroom teaching is a much more complicated job.”

Tutors can tailor instruction to individual students. Tutoring allows for flexibility in learning style and in pacing. It lets instructors utilize discovery-based learning methods. Importantly, it includes a social aspect of personal attention from a teacher, something students have certainly missed out on during the pandemic. And, critically, one-on-one instruction lets a qualified tutor assess your student’s current learning level and meet them where they are.

A paper published by the Northwest Evaluation Association in November of 2020  found that pandemic-related declines in learning “were not the blanket declines many expected, but were instead uneven across subjects and across grade levels.” This highlights the importance of understanding where each individual student is now. To support individual students, it’s crucial to get a clear picture of each student’s current achievement. One-on-one tutors have the expertise and the opportunity to do that.

No matter where your student’s achievement level was before the pandemic, one-on-one tutoring with its frequent, individualized instruction can help students meet and even exceed their potential. With the support of a qualified tutor, students can emerge from this time with a new level of confidence in their abilities, setting the stage for their continued academic success. At Summit, we have a long-standing reputation for delivering highly effective, customized one-on-one tutoring programs delivered by smart and caring tutors. To learn how Summit might help your student, please contact us.


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