Playing Catch-Up with Education and COVID-19

Playing Catch-Up with Education and COVID-19

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COVID-19 has generated many “firsts,” as we are all well aware. One long-term impact of the virus is its effect on education. The gatekeeper for the data on this very important topic is called, and they have quite a story to tell. So as we embark on the 2022–2023 school year, it will be helpful to know what our kids are up against.

There were so many upsets to the continuity of the educational process during the lockdown and the ensuing months. Kids faced adjusting to remote learning platforms, having less social contact, dealing with technological shortcomings, and more. As a result, kids nationwide took a big hit to their skill sets.

An older elementary school student stands in a classroom behind a small whiteboard easel that says welcome back. Many kids are playing catch-up with education and covid-19.

The National Assessment of Education Process, also known as the NAEP, began its work in 1969. Since then, it has continued to assess how much students in fourth, eighth, and twelfth grade know about various subjects. The NAEP works under the umbrella of the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). In 2022, the NCES tasked the NAEP to perform a special Long-Term Trend assessment in mathematics and reading for all nine-year-old students.

So just how much are we playing catch-up with education and COVID-19?

According to the study, average scores for age 9 students in 2022 declined 5 points in reading and 7 points in mathematics compared to 2020. This is the largest average score decline in reading since 1990, and the first-ever score decline in mathematics.

And these were just the average levels of decline. As one would expect, the students who already struggled with reading and math dropped as many as 10 points in reading and 12 points in mathematics, an even more significant loss.

How can parents and teachers best help their kids recover?

I asked education expert and shortlisted World Literacy Award nominee Faith Borkowsky for her suggestions about playing catch-up with education and COVID-19.

Here is her response: “Covid learning-loss is real, but I don’t think it is entirely responsible for low literacy rates. Prior to the pandemic, we already knew that approximately two-thirds of students across the country were not reaching grade-level proficiency. Covid just exacerbated a problem that has existed for a while, and not surprisingly, it’s had its most significant impact on black and brown students who have been left further behind. For some families, remote learning opened opportunities for parents to seek help beyond their immediate areas. For the first time, I, personally, was able to meet with children in other states and parents from around the world.

A variety of students sits on a low brick wall at a school, reading open books they each hold up in front of their faces. Many kids are playing catch-up with education and covid-19.

“Parents are now learning that they cannot be complacent. They must take an active role in making sure their children learn to read and write, even if they must do the job themselves. It might not be the parents’ job to teach their kids to read, but parents are dissatisfied; they are fed up with fighting school districts and receiving empty promises. “If they cannot afford tutoring, they are looking for no cost and low-cost options to learn how to do it themselves. I recently wrote a blog about the Hornet and Word Wasp manuals, which offer concrete, workable solutions for children who have fallen behind. I believe that more ‘do-it-yourself’ options are in demand, and this one is very effective. Such programs are structured, cumulative, and explicit, and they allow parents and tutors to use them without intensive training. I started a Facebook support group called Word Wasp USA Support, for anyone willing to give either manual a try.

“There are also some decodable books that are so well written that the instruction can be boiled down to ‘say the sounds and read the word.’ If parents just use the books in the prescribed order, the books would do the heavy lifting. The best ones offer multiple opportunities to engage with the alphabetic code and have built-in cyclical practice.

“Recently, there was a study that shows how parents, when trained, can offer instruction effectively. The research focused on phonemic awareness, but I don’t think the content matters. Most parents would gladly participate if given some guidance. Nobody will ever care about a child’s success like a parent.”

To learn more about how every student best learns to read, you may enjoy Failing Students or Failing Schools? A Parent’s Guide to Reading Instruction and Intervention, by reading specialist and shortlisted World Literacy Award nominee Faith Borkowsky.

Cover of the book Failing Students or Failing Schools? A Parent's Guide to Reading Instruction and Intervention by Faith Borkowsky.

And for a thorough discussion of dyslexia, you may enjoy the second edition of my award-winning book Raising a Child with Dyslexia: What Every Parent Needs to Know, available in softcover, hardcover, eBook, and audio.

Cover of the book Raising a Child with Dyslexia: What Every Parent Needs to Know by Don M. Winn.

Cardboard Box Adventures picture books are great for shared reading and can help parents establish a strong preliteracy foundation for their children. Check out the CBA Catalog for a full list of award-winning picture books, chapter books, and resources for parents and educators. Visit my Amazon author page for more information.