Teachers may have to prioritize subjects, adjust curriculum to account for student learning loss

Online school instruction
Photo credit RJ Sangosti/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images
PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — School districts across the country are still figuring out how to safely reopen in the fall while also trying to account for different degrees of student learning loss, as they may have regressed with online instruction during the coronavirus pandemic.

School officials acknowledge that, for the most part, kids did not absorb the curriculum as well online as they would have in the classroom. There’s no way to know how far behind grade level they will be in the fall, but teachers will certainly face a wider array of student needs.

“Things like social and emotional learning, that kids may not even know how much they’ve been impacted by this loss,” said Jim Cowen, executive director of the Collaborative for Student Success. “There are so many question marks about the overall impact of what this is going to have over a kid’s overall trajectory to learn.”

He said schools will have to prioritize what students must learn and adjust the curriculum as needed.

“Which stuff may not be as critical to get at that time? That we could let go, so we can focus on things that we know they need to do,” he added.

A student’s academic loss will vary depending on his or her support at home and how well a district manages online instruction. Schools should also be cautious not to over-test or over-remediate. 

“Don’t make kids feel like they have to learn something over again that they missed,” Cowen explained. “There’s a lot of research showing that is often prohibitive to kids gaining the confidence to move on.”

It will certainly be a bumpy and uncertain academic year, as kids still have to practice social distancing, and there will likely be a combination of online and in-person education. 

“It’s going to be fascinating to see what happens to education as we know in the world,” said Cowen. “This is a pivoting moment for the educational community to really consider: What is the most important thing that we do to help kids learn?”