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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

22 weeks of lost learning

Remote students’ learning losses are worse than educators are willing to acknowledge, writes Thomas Kane, faculty director of Harvard’s Center for Education Policy Research, in The Atlantic.

Intensive tutoring is the most effective way to help students improve, but it’s hard to scale.

It will be very difficult to get these kids caught up. That’s especially true for those in high-poverty schools.

One-fifth of U.S. students were enrolled in districts that remained remote for the majority of the 2020–21 school year, Kane writes. Compared to pre-pandemic patterns, students at low-poverty schools that stayed remote lost 13 weeks of schooling, at high-poverty schools students lost 22 weeks, about 60 percent of the school year.

How can students regain those 22 weeks?

High-dosage tutoring — which educators define as involving a trained tutor working with one to four students at a time, three times a week for a whole year —is one of the few interventions with a demonstrated benefit that comes close, producing an average gain equivalent to 19 weeks of instruction.

Tennessee is trying to provide high-dosage tutors to 50,000 students a year for the next two years, writes Kane. Georgetown’s FutureEd reviewed “the  pandemic-recovery plans of thousands of districts and found that a quarter had tutoring initiatives in the works.”

But it will be nearly impossible to provide intensive tutoring to every student who needs help, he writes. Adding summer school, “double-dosing” core subjects and extending the school year could help, but are hard to implement.

Los Angeles Unified, which was remote for most of 2020-21 “was able to add only four optional days of school next year” due to opposition from the teachers’ union and some parents, writes Kane.

Federal law requires districts to spend only 20 percent of Covid-relief money on academic recovery, he writes. For districts that closed schools the longest, that’s not nearly enough.

You know what’s easier than providing tutoring or getting students to attend summer school? Abolishing tests that show what they don’t know.

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